WILL JOE BIDEN'S BIG ANNOUNCEMENT
Illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan district attorney's office ... indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven ... the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.
The news people go crazy, anyway, ignoring the fact that the information comes from the most-documented liar in political history, and that whatever he says, it’s (probably) not true.
So, the familiar game plays out, bolstered by “insider” information that the Big Apple grand jury is winding up it’s work, and Trump has been invited to have his say to the panel, as the New York law allows. The nation waits to see what happens on Tuesday, sort of the way we might when a cult leader predicts that the world will end at a time certain.
TUESDAY, MARCH 21
Trump is NOT indicted.
FRIDAY – MARCH 24
Trump says something awful (quotable).
This is from the Reuters news service:
“Former U.S. President Donald Trump warned of potential ‘death & destruction’ if he faces criminal charges....”
Specifically, Trump writes on his not-the-Truth Social media service:
What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?
Could it be that Trump is again playing the news folks, whipping up attention to his rally in Waco, Texas, the next day, the kind of event where “death & destruction” is usually on the menu?
SATURDAY, MARCH 25
The rally goes on, as usual. No surprises. People have been showing up for 24 hours. Despite this demonstration of loyalty, Trump keeps the faithful waiting in the Texas sunshine for an extra hour or so before speaking.
He e seems tired and almost uninterested as he plods through the familiar liturgy of the stolen election, the rotten news media, the terrible state of the nation and how wonderful things will be after The Restoration.
He mentions that the nation needs more babies. Strange, even for a philanderer. But reading about the rally later, I learn that it’s a racist trope. Trump means that America needs more white babies, more white baby boys, more white baby Christian boys to counter demographic changes which feature too many girls and boys of color and uncertain Christianity.
MONDAY, MARCH 27
This has some personal connections to my wife and I in Rhode Island, because the school is near the home of close friends, who can hear the helicopters hovering over head as they watch live coverage on cable TV.
One of our friends is a retired private school teacher – a past Teacher of the Year in Tennessee – and it’s not hard to imagine her being in a school under attack. Her husband is a retired professor at Vanderbilt University, where one of his former students is related to one of the slain adults.
The latest shooting leads to a new chapter in the gun debate.
Gun control advocates are eloquent, as usual. In some states, game hunters are more closely regulated than human killers, who like the Nashville shooter, are mostly free to hunt children.
Gun extremists say the usual stupid things. Among the stupidest are remarks from a Tennessee Congressman, Rep. Tim Burchett:
It doesn’t matter what state it’s happened in. We’re all Americans. It doesn’t matter the color of their skin. They all bleed red. They’re bleeding a lot. I don’t see any real role that we can do other than mess things up, honestly, because of the situation. Like I said, I don’t think a criminal is going to stop from guns. You know, you can print them out on the computer now, 3-D printing. I don’t think you’re going to stop the gun violence. I think you’ve got to change people’s hearts. You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church — and I’ve said this many times — I think we really need a revival in this country.
- Designed as a military weapon known as the M16 during the Vietnam War, the Armalite Rifle Model 15 was once shunned by gun advocates, but gains popularity as the gun industry finds its next big thing. The AR-15 and its variations is now the country’s most popular rifle, with 16 million Americans, about 1 out of 20, owning at least one.
- You’d think that people would be ashamed to bought one, much less bring it home. Instead, sales spike after massacres like the 2012 killing of twenty 6- and-7-year-olds and six staffers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29
Sending a chill through the anti-Trump camp, the Washington Post reports that the Manhattan grand jury, whose activities are secret, isn’t expected to take up the Donald-and-Stormy case again until late April.
Alarmists like me fear that something is going wrong with the whole thing. What if the grand jury WON’T INDICT?
My favorite line in the Post story: “….the soonest jurors are expected to hear evidence in the Trump case again is April 24, said the two people, who were briefed on the plans and spoke on the condition of anonymity ….”
So much for the inside poop, we find out the next day.
THURSDAY, MARCH 30
Here’s the Washington Post’s version:
NEW YORK — A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict former president Donald Trump, making him the first person in U.S. history to serve as commander in chief and then be charged with a crime, and setting the stage for a 2024 presidential contest unlike any other.
… Trump is expected to turn himself in and appear in court on Tuesday at 2:15 p.m., said a person familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not been publicly announced.
Republicans, as usual, instead of disavowing Trump as a shameful, disgraced criminal, come to his defense. Including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who Tweets:
How can President Trump avoid prosecution in New York? On the way to the DA’s office on Tuesday, Trump should smash some windows, rob a few shops and punch a cop. He would be released IMMEDIATELY!
It’s left to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to bring together both horror stories – the latest development in the Trump insurgency and the Nashville slaughter. Carlson remarks that this is “probably not the best time to give up your AR-15’s.”
SEE WHAT I MEAN?
We’ve been here, seen that, done that, are sitting through the same movie again and again, listening to the same album playing on repeat, watching the same sitcom reruns, driving, hiking, sailing, flying around the same circles over and over.
We’re still talking about, still thinking about, still worrying about Trump, and nothing seems different and that's why I’m tired of and bored by the Trump story.
Which doesn’t mean I and everyone else have a right to ignore it.
In a democracy, being bored by the likes of a treasonous Donald Trump isn’t allowed. Nor is ignoring people who think that an AR-15 is a joke.
In a democracy what happens next still matters, boring, familiar and unexciting as that may be.
JOE BIDEN'S GREAT. IT
DOESN'T MAKE HIM AN
One is obvious. He's too old.
The other goes back to something Donald Trump said after he’d been nominated by the Republican party in 2016:
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
That’s the Indispensable Woman or Man Theory – a delusion common to leaders and their partisans in both democratic and authoritarian governments, and one which is as silly as it is dangerous.
Of 331.9 million people in the United States, only one is capable of defeating whatever terrifyingly awful candidate the GOP will choose to run in 2024? And, there’s only one human fit to govern the United States of America for the next four years?
Give me a break.
There aren't two people out of 331.9 million who could successfully run for president and be a good one? Not seven? Not 15.3; not 26; not 1,257?
Granted, there are few to zero Democrats who currently make me or anyone else I know confident and optimistic about the coming campaign.
The Washington Post recently ran one of its periodic lists ranking the “top” Democratic candidates. Among the Big 10:
• J.B. Pritzker
• Josh Shapiro
• Jared Polis
When I first scanned the list, I had absolutely no idea who Number 4 is, and I am both embarrassed and mad at myself about that. Same goes for the other two; the remaining seven names at least I recognized.
I’ve attached the list to end of this article. See how many you recognize. In any case, it’s not a great list, except for Number 1.
You’d think this would undermine my argument that there is no such creature as the Indispensable Woman or Man, because, if someone is supposed to keep the Free World free, a voter, at Step One, should at least recognize their name, and little pleasure zones should show up on CT scans of our brains when we hear or read their names.
But it should be noted that despite my shameful ignorance of the list, these folks are people who have been in the news lately, and who hold important government positions, backgrounds that qualify them for consideration for higher office.
The "I alone" argument undermines the whole concept of democracy.
ANOTHER ARGUMENT that could reject my No Indispensable Person Theory is Joe Biden.
Looking back on 2020, Joe may have been the only candidate at the time who could unite the Democrats, and pick up enough Independents and a smattering of Republicans to drive Trump from under his Oval Office rock.
In my lifetime, Biden has been the best president, which sometimes isn’t saying much. The fact is, most presidents have terrible flaws, just like the people who vote for them. But some of them have been okay, and a few were better than that.
Anyway, Joe’s been terrific. There’s his fight for the “soul of America;” his vision for huge, progressive spending programs; his ability to run a competent, decent government; how he's set out an inspired foreign policy. These are real accomplishments.
Remember how bad we felt every day that Donald Trump was president? Now, imagine how bad we’d feel today if Trump were overseeing national healthcare, climate policy, education, inflation control, Ukraine’s defense and everything else that a president does, like go to concerts at the Kennedy Center.
But if Joe Biden is the only person whom the Democrats can come up with to defeat the Republican ogre, the Democratic Party and the country is in peril. And I choose to think that's the case.
Eighty is old; Joe is 80.
And news bulletin, when you turn 80 you don’t stay that way - you keep getting older. So, on Nov. 20, 2024, Joe will be 82. He’ll be 82 when he’s inaugurated the following January. When he turns over the keys to the Resolute Desk to his successor in early 2029, he’ll be 86.
This assumes that he doesn’t drop dead in the meantime.
I’m 80, and it's one subject I know about.
A fair number of my contemporaries are in their 80s, and some of them have died. Sure, some died earlier. A reporter friend of mine, who had exactly the same birthday, year and day, as me, died 36 years ago. Some of my friends will live late into their 80s and longer. I’ve interviewed people in their 90s who have crackerjack memories and incisive minds.
But, in general, don't get your hopes up.
Our failure to understand all the things that can go wrong with people in their 80s is just as head-in-the-sand fantasy as pretending that people actually don’t die.
Sure, Joe Biden could surprise everyone and live out his second term, assuming he gets through this one. The Social Security Administration has a table that estimates that at age 80, an American man, on average, might expect to live another 8.43 years.
You could argue that because Joe Biden has been such a terrific president, a good Plan B would be to elect a superior vice president, whom you’d feel perfectly happy, after Joe’s funeral, to fill in for Joe. But if that’s the case, why not have her or him run for the top job in the first place and skip the drama.
In general, the theory that one and only one person can save democracy is fiction.
There are lots and lots of people who can do the job of president.
And they're lots and lots of people who can do it better than Joe Biden has.
That's true, even if, at this point, we’ve never heard of them or don’t remember their names.
* * *
In case you’re in the same pickle as me and don’t have a clue as to who should run for president in 2024, here’s the Washington Post’s complete Top 10 list of leading Democratic contenders, along with their major credentials.
10. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois governor.
9. Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania governor.
8. Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont, who was a contender for the Democratic nomination for president in the last election. Bernie’s 81.
7. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. senator from Minnesota.
6. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan governor and target of a failed kidnapping plot by right-wing nut jobs.
5. Gavin Newsom, California governor.
4. Jared Polis, Colorado governor.
3. Kamala D. Harris, vice president of the United States and former California senator.
2. Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s secretary of transportation, formerly the 32nd mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
1. Joe Biden, president of the United States, former vice president and U.S. senator. His birthday is Nov. 20, 1942.
A PAGE ONE VALENTINE
Marching, speaking for democracy
I HAPPENED ON SOME REALLY GOOD NEWS where I least expected to find it – on the front page of the New York Times, the Valentine's Day edition.
Page One usually isn't where to look if you're trying to cheer up.
Real news is mostly awful news. Anything to do with death; engineering mistakes that blow up the space shuttle; big wars; little wars; church-treasurer embezzlements; lockouts; sewage overflows; people chained in cellars; sinkholes; factory closings; head-on collisions on prom night; and on election night, Donald "The Donald." The kind of stomach-churning stories that make you wish you hadn't gotten out of bed and which punish you the rest of the day so you can't sleep at night.
So, it was a pleasure to have retrieved the Times on Feb. 14 from its hiding place under the front hedge, and to drag it inside for a quick scan at the breakfast table.
There was a piece about the Turkey earthquake, “Collapsed Buildings … sold as safe.” An article about the suspected mastermind behind the Chinese spy balloons. And yet another story scrutinizing the finances of U.S. Rep. George Santos, the nation’s second biggest liar.
None of which are the kind of brighten-your-day stories I’m talking about. There actually were just two:
IN ISRAEL TO HALT
Is Under Fire
For A.P. Class
Why were these uplifting?
Because they were about inspired people pushing back against authoritarian and anti-democratic forces that are threatening America as well as countries across the globe.
It seems to me that the forces of good, which generally are the ones on the Left, aren't as vigorous as their mean-spirited counterparts on the Right. The Right seems so determined, so unrelenting and so unwilling to take a nap, much less a vacation, as it schemes to make the rest of us miserable.
Which is why it’s inspiring when the Left does something more than say “gosh” and “heck.”
LET’S TAKE THE ISRAELI PIECE FIRST:
One thing that troubles me is Israel’s disappearing Left, as the Right gets stronger and stronger, culminating most recently in the election of what news reports say is most Right Wing and extremist government in Israel’s short history.
Especially distressing is Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power. Like many casual observers, I thought “Bibi” was done for when he was ousted in the next to last election, and that possibly the country’s longest serving prime minister might end his public service in the public slammer. But suddenly, like a trick ending to a horror movie, Bibi is back, and working on a get-out-of-jail plan. Which mirrors my home-country nightmare, in which Donald “The Donald” reenters the White House and escapes state and federal prisons.
One of Bibi’s and his fellow extremists’ major goals is to monkey-wrench Israel’s judicial system, making it easier for the government to override Supreme Court decisions, as well as to control selection of judges – upsetting the balance of power that’s so essential to all democracies.
So, I was cheered to read about the huge demonstration the Times reported taking place in Jerusalem. One-hundred-thousand protesters pushing back.
Students skipped classes, workers left their jobs. A caravan of protesters stretched two-and-a-half miles. Transportation systems added trains and busses.
The Times said:
Protesters came by bus from Haifa, train from Tel Aviv and car from the occupied Golan Heights. They carried Israeli flags, megaphones and homemade banners. And they were chanting for democracy, freedom and judicial independence.
“You voted Bibi. You got Mussolini,” one protester's sign said.
“We aren’t so far from a situation were we wont be allowed to protest,” worried one mother, who attended with her son and a partner.
The Times said that polls show 41 percent of Israelis oppose the judicial mischief plan. But 44 percent support it.
Sound familiar? A nation divided; democracy at the cliff.
But the forces of good are disturbed and on the move.
THE OTHER STORY IS ABOUT FLORIDA AND “EDUCATION.”
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” education officials said. Among their objections were sections on black homosexuality, black feminism and Black Lives Matter. Imagine: A contemporary black history review without major discussion of Black Lives Matter.
The Times’ story on Valentine’s Day dealt with anger among experts in black history to changes that the College Board made in the course, which seemed to be an attempt to appease DeSantis and his acolytes.
The College Board has vigorously denied it was swayed by politics. Indeed, the Times story said that some academic experts said they were assured by the College Board that its officials had had “absolutely no communication” with the Florida authorities.
Which turned out to be pants-on-fire wrong.
The story made clear that the College Board from the outset expected push-back from Florida, because of the state's new and obnoxious anti-woke law that forbids teaching anything in a way that might cause students to feel uncomfortable about learning what their misbehaving ancestors did.
So the College Board contacted Florida officials to chat about an early draft of the new course. And, much to the surprise of the College Board folks, the Florida folks turned out to have little interest in a substantive discussion. A College Board official told the Times that Florida's department of education: “acts as a political apparatus.” Duh.
Nonetheless, the College Board’s final version of the course seemed to respond to Florida’s public objections. And worse, the College Board added a preface to the course, which seemed to try to reassure DeSantis' worries about "woke's" bad influence on the young, saying that “A.P, opposes indoctrination … A.P. students are not required to feel certain ways about themselves or the course content.”
If that’s not appeasement, then Britain’s Neville Chamberlain never tried to make nice with Adolph Hitler at the opening of World War II.
What inspired me about this round of the controversy is that the advocates for a full and honest course about black history were pushing back against both DeSantis and the College Board, and willing to have a full-throated, public discussion about it.
“There is no way you can properly teach this material under the rubric of what DeSantis et al are demanding. This is a train wreck,” UCLA’s Cheryl Harris told the Times.
DeSantis, having tasted blood, decided to drink more deeply. He wondered aloud whether Florida should be allowing any College Board A.P. courses, regardless of the subject, according to the Washington Post. As Chamberlain discovered, appeasement not only doesn't work, it makes things worse.
SO, GOOD FOR THE SCHOLARS for putting the screws to the College Board, and not letting Florida off the hook.
Good for Israeli citizens on the march for democracy.
No guarantees, of course, as to how things will turn out.
But it's the effort that counts.
Two Valentines right there on the front page, from those who dare to hope and more: to do something besides wishing things will be okay, by taking to the streets and by speaking up.
THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY
IS ... NOT MY FRIEND
He is not preferable to Donald Trump.
Ron DeSantis will not rescue America from Donald Trump.
They are equally terrible.
As a president, DeSantis would be just as destructive as Donald Trump, just as mean, cruel, racist and divisive.
If DeSantis were to win the White House, the particulars would be different from those of the terrible four years of Trump's presidency.
But the effect would be the same. DeSantis, in his first term, like Trump in his second, would destroy democracy in America – at least he’d give it a really hard try.
There is one major difference between these two worst-case scenarios: there would be no surprise about how a President DeSantis would govern.
When Trump took office in 2017, there was an element of mystery as to what he’d really do.
Since Trump had never held political office, we – I should stop using the “we” word, since I can speak only about what is/was in my brain – I had no idea what Trump would be like once he actually was president..
We – I – knew little about him, other than that he’d been a grotesque candidate.
Up to then, Trump mainly was just a name. A name on buildings, airplanes and other of his “businesses,” some of which weren’t his. A name in the tabloid newspapers, meaning he was a largely fictitious character. He’d been a name in a scripted TV “reality” show; a name as author of ghost-written books; and name without much ideological shape on forums like the Don Imus in the Morning radio show.
But I hoped that, deep down, there might be something of substance. Maybe he’d be better than his various disguises; maybe the awesome responsibilities and traditions of the presidency would weigh on him - in a good way. Possibly, he’d listen to wise women and men in his orbit and turn out to be a pragmatist when the dreadful, unexpected challenges confronted and bedeviledhim, just as they always have, no matter whom the presidents are.
BUT THERE’LL BE NO GUESSING about a would-be President Ronald Dion DeSantis.
DeSantis is just another in a long, long, long line of leader/monsters. History tells us that God – if She exists and does this sort of thing - never creates just one awful head of state.
How do we know– how do I know – if DeSantis is just one more of those?
The proof is the noxious output of Ron DeSantis’ Florida “Laboratory.”
Which he bragged about in his second inaugural address on Jan. 3 following his huge re-election win as governor. He remarked:
It is often said that our federalist constitutional system – with fifty states able to pursue their own unique policies – represents a laboratory of democracy.
Well, these last few years have witnessed a great test of governing philosophies as many jurisdictions pursued a much different path than we have pursued here in the state of Florida.
The DeSantis lab in the last four years has been developing various strains of cultural hatred, such as Florida's attack on transgender kids – outlawing transgender girls from completing on girls’ and women’s sports teams, and Florida's “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars teaching of gender issues in lower grades.
For his work on “Don’t Say Gay,” DeSantis used an actual lab rodent, namely Mickey Mouse, punishing the Disney corporation for its opposition to the bill by revoking the Mouse empire’s privileged control of its vast Disney World theme park.
Sometimes DeSantis has conducted teachable moments outside the lab, to give “sanctuary” communities a taste of Florida's immigration troubles, as he did last September by sending two airplanes to Texas – that’s right, Texas – to pick up about 50 mostly Venezuelan immigrants and fly them to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the deep blue Massachusetts mainland.
IF THERE'S A UNIFYING THEME to the Florida Lab’s work, it's to stamp out the contagious liberal virus known to laypersons as “woke.”
Indeed, in his Second Inaugural, DeSantis explained how non-Floridian jurisdictions, besotted with wokism, have coddled criminals, corrupted public education, burdened taxpayers and practiced “medical authoritarianism.”
Which, thankfully, has not been the case in the Sunshine State:
We reject this woke ideology.
We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy!
We will not allow reality, facts, and truth to become optional.
We will never surrender to the woke mob.
Florida is where woke goes to die!
“Woke” started out as a positive word, conveying racial awareness, consensus and healing. But it's also been repurposed by right-wing alchemists like DeSantis as a racial slur.
Woke entered my brain late in the game – it’s an old brain, and a slow one – during the George Floyd incident, in which a policeman murdered a man in plain view, in plain daylight – and the nation came to an understanding of what it means to be black in 21st Century America.
Woke made it into Florida law as the ‘Stop WOKE Act” - Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, later renamed the Individual Freedom Act – outlawing teaching of racial topics in a way that would make students feel guilt or “distress” about the sins of our forebears. The legislation, partially blocked for now by a federal judge, aims to protect purported victims of classroom brutality in instances of this kind of classroom scenario:
A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
Then there's the recent move by Florida education officials to throw out a new national College Board Advanced Placement course for high school students on African American history, saying that “as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The officials later explained they were offended by discussions of Black Lives Matter, black homosexuality and black feminism.
Last week, the College Board issued a revised version of the course, which included removal of a section on Black Lives Matter from the main “framework” of the course, suggesting only that the Black Lives Matter movement might be a subject of an individual student's research project. College Board officials said the changes predated the Florida assault on the course; but DeSantis’ fellow right-wingers had their knives out much earlier, too, so the College Board’s defenses sounded hollow.
However, the course remained a powerful powerful review of black history – and Florida’s move to cancel the course seemed another example of “where woke goes to die.” You can see the scope of the course at this link to understand what Florida students will be missing if state officials stick to their decision.
But you don't have be woke to realize that’s just camouflage for what’s underway in the Florida laboratory.
On paper, DeSantis has a formidable resume for a practicing political scientist: graduate of Harvard and Yale; legal advisor to the Navy's legendary Seal Team One; federal prosecutor; Congressman, and at 44, not objectionably too young or too old.
Donald Trump's alarming presidency - the only one to try to overturn an election - tempted some people to welcome DeSantis as one Republican who might break the GOP's fever for Trump.
But DeSantis' record says otherwise: it's a warning as to what to expect if Ron outflanks Don in the next race for the White House, and replaces him at the Resolute Desk.
So, there's no reason for wishful thinking, no chance for pleasant surprises if DeSantis becomes The One.
There will be nothing to cheer, and plenty to fear.
LET'S BE HONEST: KEEPING GOVT. PAPERS IS MOSTLY WRONG WHEN TRUMP DOES IT
It’s simple: Joe Biden’s a good guy. And Donald Trump isn’t.
The only real reason that liberals like me reveled in the discovery of secret papers at Trump’s grotesque lair at Mar-a-Lago is that it might be the one and only instance that would get him locked up.
Sort of the way that Al Capone was finally brought to “justice” - for tax evasion, not for the murders and violence that were part of the bootlegger’s vicious business plan.
Other than the satisfying spectacle of FBI agents “raiding” Trump’s Florida home, the underlying potential crime is pretty minor stuff when you consider Donald Trump’s most serious sins.
We’re talking about a man who tried to overturn the election that he lost, working all the angles that he and his slithy-tove crew of advisors could dream up, including the attack on the Capitol in which his own vice president could have been murdered, and the United States plunged into autocracy.
As for Joe Biden’s papers, misplaced after he was Barack Obama’s vice president, that case seems like small potatoes, and doesn’t make a dime’s difference in how we view his mostly superb presidency.
- Point One: It doesn’t matter - probably. It would indeed be surprising if Biden had a suspect motive in hanging onto the relatively small amount of papers that have surfaced, assuming he knew about them in the first place. Whereas with Trump, there were lots more papers and he and his gofers tried really hard to cover them up. And because Trump is always up to no good, it’s always possible that he held on to some key papers because he planned to use them for some Donald Trump evil purpose.
- Point Two: The Biden matter is best appreciated for the fact that it provided yet another chance for us to hear from the “real” Joe Biden. As often is the case with the current commander-in-chief, controversies prompt refreshing “blunders," in which he candidly blurts out exactly what’s on his mind.
"By the way,” Biden told reporters, “my Corvette's in a locked garage, so it's not like they're sitting out on the street.”
A gift from his often-mentioned late father/hero, Joe, Sr., the convertible can do zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, according to a 2020 piece in the Detroit Free Press. It has a four-speed, stick shift transmission and a 350-horsepower engine, which allowed him, he once told Jay Leno, the comedian and fellow car enthusiast, to push it to speeds of 160 miles an hour.
“I love this car,” Biden said in a 2020 campaign commercial, in which he used the car as a prop to demonstrate his bona fides as a regular car guy, while also promoting the U.S. auto industry, along with Corvette-maker General Motors’ plans to produce electric-powered vehicles.
So, sleep tight America, if classified documents were in a garage with the Stringray, they might as well have been in the White House Situation Room, or the vaults of the National Archives, or wherever they are supposed to be.
"Isn’t that liberal hypocrisy, saying mishandling classified documents is a crime when it involves Donald Trump, but mere carelessness when Boy Joey does it?"
Yes. And no.
Yes, if you are Attorney General Merrick Garland, and you decided not to investigate. Instead, Garland, having appointed a special counsel to look into Trump’s paper crimes, now had to do the same thing with Biden, to demonstrate the Department of Justice's impartiality in dealing with politically charged matters.
The same goes with the media. Reporters are professional skeptics. It’s their job to ferret out any less-than-favorable possibilities within the Biden Papers' Scandal or the Trump Papers' Scandal. What's good for the goose... type of thing. Less nobly, it’s the media's chance to show that they’ll write negative stories about Biden, just like they do with Trump, although neither press critics nor Trumpsters will ever take that seriously.
Taking a less jaundiced view of the Biden papers is, in fact, hypocritical for the president's supporters, but the opposite is especially the case for two-faced Republicans, as they play pin the tail on the donkey, while ignoring the elephant in the room.
After all, Republicans are the princes of hypocrisy in everything that they do and say, and in everything that they don’t do and don’t say. They don’t care about the substance of the two cases, just as long as they can attack Democrats.
If there is a lesson for Democrats in the Biden disclosures it’s that presidents are absolutely flawed, and their supporters are always at risk of being disappointed and embarrassed by their leader’s stupid mistakes.
Of course, Biden and his staff should not have put any classified papers in the wrong places, even closeted with a beloved sports car, thus “imperiling" his political future, although not necessarily national security.
And when it comes to public relations, Team Biden should not have violated the first law of crisis management, allowing “bad news” to dribble out day after day, instead of quickly getting the whole story out, so the media people would lose interest and move on to the next crisis in the news cycle.
In the end, we should admit that the secret papers' controversy is small stuff for Biden, and probably for Trump, too, and that bias drives our views in both instances.
A FRIEND recently told me he’ll be disappointed if the Mar-a-Lago paper chase turns out to be the only offense that Garland and his crime fighters come up with. I agree, except that if that’s all that will send Trump to the slammer, I’ll settle for that.
Mainly, we need to relax and smile once in a while.
Let's keep some perspective, hoping that we don’t have to wait too long before Joe Biden, a genuine American good guy and a confessed dangerous driver, gets another chance to tell us what he’s really thinking.
REMEMBERING LINCOLN C. ALMOND
One of R.I.'s great governors.
And the kind of Republican
We wish was still around
He was also the kind of Republican that Democrats could - and did - vote for. Most liberals wish men and women like him were still around to keep the GOP honest and relevant.
In 2002, I wrote a long piece about the under-appreciated politician, for the Providence Phoenix, an alternative weekly. After Almond died, Jan. 2 at age 86, a couple of people remembered that article, so I dug up a copy from from my files. I'm reprinting it here on my personal blog, which has been dedicated to criticism of Donald Trump for the past six years.
It's unfair, in a way, to include Almond with the likes of Trump, but this blog is my only outlet.
So, Linc, If you're reading this wherever you are, please don't take it personally.
-- Brian Jones
THE PROVIDENCE PHOENIX
May 31 - June 6, 2002
Linc: Better than you think
Lincoln Almond has been a pretty effective governor, but his popularity pales in comparison to Buddy Cianci, since he's not entertaining and doesn't get the politics of symbolism
BY BRIAN C. JONES
THE LONG-AWAITED PLUNDER DOME TRIAL, another in the endless sagas of government corruption that have plagued Rhode Island throughout its history, is underway, and there's public fury with a politician. Headlines trumpet the officeholder's blunders: secret lists, hidden contracts, budget overruns.
"I'm getting treated like I'm Richard Nixon," complains one of the politician's top aides.
And a caller to the WHJJ-AM talk show hosted by John DePetro is on the horn, ranting about the politician's shameful ways. This guy, the caller scolds, had a chance to go Ground Zero after hijacked airliners demolished the World Trade Center in New York, and he didn't have the decency to represent Rhode Island at an American shrine.
Who is this rascal?
Certainly not Providence Mayor Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., who, with three Plunder Dome co-defendants, faces 29 counts of running City Hall in Rhode Island's capital as a criminal racket.
Nope, Cianci's ratings never have been better. Several months ago, a Brown University poll showed that 63 percent of respondents believe he's doing a good or excellent job, and political scientist Darrell M. West, who oversaw the poll, believes these numbers remain accurate.
No, the scoundrel of the moment is the governor of Rhode Island, the not-so-excellently-perceived Lincoln C. Almond. Almond's approval ratings are awful, half those of the indicted mayor. Only 34 percent give the governor high marks, while nearly one out of four Rhode Islanders surveyed in the poll say Almond's performance is "poor."
Why? Almond has given voters much of what they've asked for, starting with seven years of scandal-free government, delivered by a man who puts on no airs as he works to adjust the mundane but vital nuts-and-bolts of public service -- such unexciting "asset protection" projects as road maintenance and college dormitory repairs.
By contrast, Cianci spends his days in federal court, where witnesses spin tales of envelopes packed with bribe money, spiteful abuses of public power, and the sale of government jobs. After court, without missing a beat, Cianci crosses to the other end of Kennedy Plaza, where he interviews candidates vying to be the city's next chief of police.
With little more than seven months left in Almond's tenure, a powerful case can be made that he'll be leaving office with a respectable record that contrasts with the widespread scorn he's receiving.
Here's a partial list:
- By one count, there are 41,000 more jobs in Rhode Island than when he took office in 1995. The unemployment rate, which was then more than seven percent, is now about four percent. Big-name companies like Fidelity Investments and Dow Chemical actually have squabbled with each other for the right to build new facilities and boost their workforces (Almond helped mediate their dispute).
- There's a half-billion dollars worth of construction going on at the state's colleges, reversing decades of decay.
- The state is recognized nationally for having one of highest levels of health insurance, thanks to a state program that Almond brought into its own.
- Rhode Island's much-scarred and scorned highways and bridges are under repair and getting smoother and sounder every year.
- The state bond ratings are improved, so less taxpayer money is squandered on interest.
- Taxes are down. Really. The state income tax rate has been lowered nearly 10 percent, just as Almond vowed it would be when he took office. And some other "anti-business" taxes are being phased out, too.
- And most of all, as the squalid details of Plunder Dome are recounted daily in US District Court, the Almond administration's corruption record is as spotless as the gleaming marble of the State House.
In fact, the hurricane of corruption that devastated Rhode Island in the past few decades brought in an era of reform and clean government at the state level, led first by former governor Bruce Sundlun, then by Almond.
"Keep in mind how he was elected in 1994," West says. "After a major recession and the banking crisis, voters wanted a non-politician, and that's what they got."
In largely incorruptible states such as Vermont or Maine, eight years without scandal might be taken for granted. But in Rhode Island, it's worth remarking on, and even Almond's critics praise him on this point.
It was only a few years ago that former governor Edward D. DiPrete completed 11 months in the ACI after pleading guilty to charges of bribery and extortion. Two of the last four state Supreme Court chief justices resigned rather than risk impeachment. Brian Sarault, the ex-mayor of Pawtucket, took to selling cars after completing his prison term for corruption. And a good part of the state's citizens have vivid memories of their life savings being locked away for years after the corruption-caused crisis that forced closing of 45 credit unions on New Year's Day in 1991.
But Lincoln Almond's status as the un-politician of Rhode Island politics certainly hasn't helped his public standing. Although intelligent and genial in one-on-one conversation, the 65-year-old governor is one of the worst orators in Rhode Island history, speaking in a molasses-like monotone that has his listeners glued to their watches.
Almond moves his 6-foot-6-inch frame in such a shuffling way that just his exit from the State House in time for supper stokes rumors that the governor is not only dull, but lazy.
The governor often seems to have a tin ear when it comes to the symbols, and sometimes the substance, of politics - as evidenced by his unstinting and unpopular support for a container port at Quonset Point. When things aren't moving fast enough for his critics, the charge is that Almond is off at his weekend second home, an offense made all the worse because the house is in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, instead of Bonnet Shores.
For his part, Almond expresses satisfaction that he's been able to maintain his private life.
To not do so, he says, "becomes very dangerous. I think we do have some politicians who, because of circumstances, and unfortunately, that's the way they are, they have no life other than politics, and Buddy Cianci is one of them. I mean, Buddy can go out every night because, you know, that's where he is. I just do not want to be a full-time politician. I'm not cut out for it. And I'm not saying I'm not a politician, because all governors are politicians. I'm a politician. I'm not backing away from that. But I don't want to be a full-time politician."
THE UN-POLITICIAN hasn't strayed from his modest beginnings. After he was elected, he still was mowing his own grass at his house in Lincoln, just over the border from where he grew up in impoverished Central Falls. His idea of a night out remains dinner with his wife, Marilyn, at Chelo's. He traded in the state's gubernatorial limousine for an SUV (albeit an enormous Lincoln Navigator) because it was more practical in winter and, he says, better suited to getting work done and accommodating his large frame.
And Almond always makes the neighborly gesture. During a huge April Fools Day snowstorm in 1997, Almond took to the highways to spot check snow plowing, and when he came upon car mired in a drift, got out and started pushing it himself.
Thus, in an era of public distrust of politicians, Almond seemed the perfect cure: homegrown and honest, a graduate of Central Falls High School and the University of Rhode Island, and for more than 20 years, US Attorney for Rhode Island, hounding drug dealers, gangsters, and corrupt public officials.
In federal investigations of Cianci's first administration, Almond racked up 30 indictments, 22 convictions, and 16 prison sentences.
Almond was the first governor to be elected for a four-year term, one of several structural reforms of state government meant to give the chief executive a better shot at deliberative, long-range decision-making, and supporters say he took full advantage of the changes.
He began with two key interests, which he saw as parts of the same goal: improving education, and spurring the state's economy. Get a good education, Almond believed, and you could get a good job. He went to public high school, then to public college. And anyone else could do that if they had the same opportunity.
"Education was a huge part of his life," says a source close to the Almond administration. "For John Chafee, it was Yale and the Marines. For Lincoln Almond, it's URI. It really, really is an enormous part of his life."
So immediately, Almond began pouring money into the state's colleges, and in the past seven years, higher education spending has increased nearly 50 percent, and elementary and secondary education, more than 60 percent.
One of Almond's first acts was to convert the state agency in charge of business expansion into a more business-like Economic Development Corporation (although the EDC was hardly free of questionable practices under former director John Swen, who resigned after Almond criticized the agency's misuse of credit cards), and he started the Economy Policy Council, to brainstorm the state's business needs and economic future.
Almond also dusted off a scheme to invent new Rhode Island-based businesses that was originally proposed in the administration of governor J. Joseph Garrahy: a series of business "greenhouses" that would turn local university research into new industries.
The Samuel Slater Technology Fund, with only $15 million in state money, has created 55 "seedling" companies. In biotechnology alone, five of 23 biotechnology startup firms have raised $60 million in venture capital.
The governor, who had opposed the proposed Providence Place Mall as a candidate, was pragmatic enough to realize the economic and psychological potential of bringing retail business back to Providence. He eventually worked out what he termed a less risky venture for the state to help support the mall, which got built for an overall private and public investment of more than $400 million, with more than 150 stores opening.
Almond worked on very mundane, but critical elements of state government.
One, according to his former budget director, Stephen P. McAllister, is "asset protection," fixing up state buildings, ranging from the State House to worn-out college dormitories and laboratories, but using current funds, rather than borrowing. This, along with early repayment of banking crisis bonds, has helped decrease overall borrowing, and resulted in improved ratings from two of three national bond-rating agencies. This means that the state, when it does borrow, pays lower interest rates.
Similarly, Almond steered the state's gasoline taxes into transportation, bolstering both highway projects and the state's mass transit bus system. He launched a "fix-it-first" approach to highway work, repairing roads rather than building new ones, meaning a quicker, less-costly upgrade of the state's low-rated highways.
At the same time, George H. Nee, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO , argues that Almond has taken a progressive approach to controversial social issues, not acting, as Nee puts it, "like a Republican." Nee credits the governor for funneling millions of dollars into inner-city schools, much to the chagrin of schools in the suburbs, which are perceived to be Almond's home turf (since he's a former Lincoln town administrator).
Another un-Republican development during Almond's administration, Nee says, has been the growth of the RIte Care program, a plan to use federal and state Medicaid dollars to improve the health of pregnant women and children.
Under Almond's former welfare director (and now congressional candidate) Christine C. Ferguson, RIte Care has grown to cover 116,000 low-income adults and children -- more than one out of every 10 Rhode Islanders. It's one reason why more people here are covered by health insurance than in most other states.
Ferguson, who herself was being pushed by welfare advocates and liberal Democrats in the General Assembly, persuaded Almond to back what is regarded as a kinder and more effective version of welfare reform, in which Rhode Island gives mothers more time, education and resources, such as childcare, to help them leave welfare than other states.
Almond also gets high marks for his judicial and cabinet appointments. Some department heads were held over from Sundlun, and some were brought in from the outside, such William D. Ankner, who heads the Department of Transportation.
IT'S HARD TO FAULT ALMOND for his motives in one of his major controversies -- and failures -- a botched attempt to convert the huge former Navy facilities at Quonset Point in North Kingstown into a container port.
His goal was to increase jobs. In the four decades since the Navy abandoned the 3000-acre plot, the state has labored to turn it into a giant industrial base, and, in fact, more than 136 business, employing 6400 workers, operate out of there.
But what generated rebellion not only within North Kingstown, but throughout the state, was the industrial-strength scope of the project: the fact that it called for filling in up to 204 acres of Narragansett Bay.
Almond maintains he never supported the bay-filling idea. But he's clung to the idea of some sort of container port. The issue is so polarizing that none of the current candidates for governor back the port, and most won't even support his plea for an environmental study.
Almond's steadfastness -- call it stubbornness -- on issues like the port helps stoke his critics' anger.
Leonard Lardaro, a URI professor who gives Almond generally decent marks on improving education and fighting a costly repeal of auto taxes, faults the governor for pushing the container port so relentlessly. Lardaro says Almond has generated such opposition that it will be hard for others to quickly develop Quonset Point to its full potential.
Similarly, Almond's persistent opposition to gambling has created many enemies, from supporters of increased slot machines at facilities in Lincoln and Newport, as well as backers of the Narragansett Indian tribe, which wants to build the state's first full-scale casino, as tribes have done so successfully in Connecticut.
Criticism from supporters of an Indian-backed casino has been so personal that one of the state's black leaders, Keith W. Stokes, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, says he has had to defend Almond against charges of "racism."
"To use that term is disingenuous" in regard to Almond, says Stokes, who Almond appointed to the Economic Development Corporation. The EDC itself is headed by Tom Schumpert, an African-American who rose to prominence because of his adept handling of the collapse of the Harvard Pilgrim HMO in Rhode Island when he was Almond's director of the Department of Business Regulation.
ALMOND'S CENTRAL WEAK POINT is the same attribute that made him so appealing to voters eight years ago: his political clumsiness.
Often, the un-politician simply seems clueless when it comes to the sensual, symbolic side of politics.
"He doesn't really do a lot of things that a good governor needs to do in terms of the symbolic dimension of his office," says Brown's West.
Thus, Almond missed the real point of the Quonset Point debate - that filling in even a tiny portion of Narragansett Bay would upset Rhode Islanders from Woonsocket to Westerly. The Bay is untouchable territory in Rhode Island.
When Almond late last year faced big budget shortfalls because of the recession, he proposed slicing off $5 million the General Assembly had allocated to create affordable housing.
Again, he missed the point: that housing advocates had worked for a decade to get the state to allocate a token amount of money for housing. It took weeks of demonstrations -- including the spectacle of police hauling four ministers from the State House -- for Almond to get the message and propose a compromise that eventually doubled the money for housing.
Even on petty symbols, Almond blunders. When there were recent questions about spending for a National Governor's Convention, Almond withheld the names of people who had stayed at a hotel at state expense, forgetting that ever since Watergate even the suggestion of a "cover-up" touches a nerve.
And certainly Almond has trouble missing big symbols. When the airliners struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, Almond failed to understand the importance of symbolic gestures in responding to terrorism. After President Bush proposed increased National Guard patrols at airports, Almond passed on the idea, saying he was satisfied with security at T.F. Green State Airport.
He was right, but missed the point that jittery travelers felt better seeing soldiers at the terminal. (Almond did relent, but Guardsmen still showed up without M-16 rifles.) A month after the attacks, Almond had a chance to join 10 other governors in touring Ground Zero.
Almond, who had been at education "summit" in New Jersey, said he thought it was more important for him to get back to Rhode Island, as the state continued to struggle with the crisis.
Mayor Cianci, of course, did not make that kind of mistake. In a separate trip, Cianci directed a caravan of police cruisers and trucks to Ground Zero, and with his personal photographer in tow, the mayor shook hands with rescue workers and oversaw delivery of supplies to Ground Zero.
It's Cianci, ironically, who may be most responsible for Almond's bad image. The mayor is an entertaining, imaginative speaker. A radio talk show host when he was forced from office in 1984 after admitting he had assaulted his wife's lover, Cianci is the self-appointed spokesman for Providence's -- and Rhode Island's -- renewal in the past decade.
Almond, engaging in private, is inarticulate in public.
"You won't find him on Imus In the Morning," says Kenneth M. Bianchi, one of Almond's closest allies, currently director of the state authority that oversees the Newport and Mount Hope Bridges.
Cianci, of course, can be found on Don Imus's enormously popular radio and many other places.
The ubiquitous mayor can better than hold his own with the show's acerbic host, as was the case when Imus recently brought his program to Cianci's adopted home at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence.
He devoted virtually the entire program to the Plunder Dome trial, with a series of parody songs, and an appearance by the mayor, who is under a judge's gag order not to talk about trial. Imus decreed that a happy ending to the Plunder Dome affair would be an innocent finding for Cianci.
All of which must infuriate ex-prosecutor Almond, who, after Cianci was indicted, demanded that the mayor step down. Not that the mayor was inclined to follow any advice from Almond. Cianci once described Almond on an earlier Imus program as "a tall guy [with] big, big shoes . . . you could put outboard motors on the back of those shoes and head up the river."
Even with his legal troubles, the mayor rarely misses the chance to enthrall out-of-town reporters and expound on the "Renaissance" of Providence.
(Asked about the mayor, Almond says, "If you've got a record like that, you better be out every night, and you better be out Saturdays, and you better be out Sundays, and you better be telling jokes, because you have to deflect as much as you can from the substance of what occurs in your own community. Now, could he ever survive as governor, with that kind of record? No. Of course, he couldn't. He's been able to survive in Providence because of the old model of patronage and political machine and controlling both parties, and you are able to do that. But he was never successful running for statewide office.")
The level of fascination placed in Cianci distresses and mystifies good government types like H. Philip West Jr., director of Common Cause of Rhode Island, whose reform drive helped create the four-year terms for governor and other general offices.
"I think it's a sign of danger in politics that the enchanting mayor comes out with higher ratings," West says.
West, who blames Almond for a change of membership on the state Ethics Commission that he believes has undermined that panel, nonetheless thinks Almond has done a good job, including standing up to the General Assembly over the so-called separation-of-powers issue, in which some people claim that the Rhode Island legislature has too much power compared to the executive branch.
"What Almond has done that no governor has done before is that he has dared to take on the General Assembly on separation-of-powers," West says.
But other observers assert that Almond's lack of political instinct is, in fact, a fatal weak point in the art of running government.
Bill Lynch, state Democratic Party chairman, praises the Republican Almond for being honest, and says that he does not want to be hard on him, since the governor is in his final months of office.
But Lynch says Almond has done little more than put the state on "automatic pilot," and squandered the opportunities of a mostly boom economy to make permanent improvements. Quonset Point, the port debate aside, should be much farther along as an economic resource, Lynch says.
"He became a lame duck much earlier than other governors, and I'm not sure that's a good thing for the state," Lynch says.
John DePetro, the hyperactive host of the radio talk show where Almond received such a pasting from a listener about his Ground Zero absence, believes part of Almond's problem is his failure to master the demands of modern news media.
Not that the media itself is blameless, DePetro says. The media and its audience look to politicians to keep them amused, he says, which is why DePetro thinks Cianci gets so much attention, and Almond so little.
"Cianci remains far and away the beloved one," DePetro says. "I've heard very little anger about him. If anything there is disappointment that the party may be coming to an end."
On the other hand, DePetro says that his show's listeners never call to praise or even defend Almond.
"He's broken the cardinal rule," DePetro says. "He's not entertaining."
ON NEW YEAR'S DAY, HARD QUESTIONS
MAY PROVIDE SOME CLUES ABOUT 2023
If you’re the president, how old is too old?
If you're a liar, should you be in Congress?
I am. I’m sleeping more soundly and longer. I’m reading crime fiction, not scouring news sites for the latest true political crime alarms. In the morning, radio reports that suggest it's safe to get out of bed.
Things turned out so much better than many of us feared. I'm talking mostly politics here. The midterm elections weren’t the disaster that they could have been.
The Democrats control the Senate; the Republican majority in the House is slender; and many election deniers failed in state elections.
What’s more, Donald Trump really seems to be on this way out of our public lives.
His reelection announcement showed him to be dispirited and glum. The January 6th investigation by the House convincingly documented his seditious, traitorous sins committed in service of his desperate, destructive schemes to stay in office. It’s possible – but never certain – that he’ll be indicted. His just-released tax returns debunked the central claim to his fame: that he was a master business guy; the forms suggested that he’s business failure and maybe a tax cheat, too.
So we end the year on this celebratory note:
Democracy fought back, and democracy won.
It’s important to note for a couple of reasons.
The first, obviously, we aren’t as close to the brink we could have been, when the integrity of our elections seemed at risk and swarms of truly bonkers right-wing politicians hoped to to take control of public offices throughout the governmental ecosystem.
Secondly, the election taught us an important lesson: Mean people don’t always win, and nice ones don’t always lose.
That’s critical. We’ll need to remember our victories, large and small, in the months and years to come, because in a democracy, the fight is never finished. Lots of things get fixed in progressive, reform-minded democracies like the U.S.; but lots of things don’t stay fixed.
Millions of people voted for Donald Trump, and they still believe his lies and take heart in his racist, cruel view of America.
Trump’s singular achievement – ensuring a majority right-wing Supreme Count – has upended abortion rights, and now the justices will barrel ahead full throttle to further misinterpret the Constitution. Maybe, for example, they'll soon rule in favor of a wacky legal theory that supposes that state legislatures have exclusive control of elections, with none of the usual checks and balances, namely, review by the courts.
The Republican Party has become a dangerous force, opposed to everything, from Social Security to economic equality, access to healthcare, racial healing, legal immigration, free speech, social and economic justice and, of course, freedom to go to school, go to work, go shopping without being shot to death.
So, we no longer have a functioning two-party system, which is as unhealthy for Democrats as it is for democracy itself.
The environment is increasingly toxic, and it’s our fault. We aren’t trying hard enough to fix the injuries for which we’re responsible. We have the knowledge and tools to reverse the damage. But so far, we are destroying a planet to which we owe our lives and have no right to ruin.
The human world is dangerous and full of bullies, and, one of them is at work trying destroy a neighbor. Ukraine is standing up to Vladimir Putin; but Putin has a nuclear arsenal, some of which is probably operational. China’s itching to take over Taiwan, just as it has done with Hong Kong. The list of malevolent dictators is long.
I could go on. But as 2022 was ending, it demonstrated the practicality of hope. Lots of people up and down the political ladder worked hard and worked smart to keep the country headed in a positive direction.
A good example was in my home state of Rhode Island, where one of the state’s two congressional seats, long held by Democrats, opened up, and the savvy people were predicting that a popular, relatively moderate Republican would take over. The Democratic candidate, Seth Magaziner, said his own polls showed him running behind.
But Magaziner won. And not by accident. The prospect of sending a Republican to Washington startled the state’s Democratic organization, which powered up its considerable resources, while hundreds of volunteers stepped up to make phone calls, ring doorbells, write letters and lobby their friends and relatives to vote.
Certainly it does not mean the country will be okay. Often, just when things are looking up, defeat lurks around the corner.
The same forces that threatened to upend 2022 are still active and ready to do better in 2023. What happens the rest of the year depends on whether progressive forces remain in the game and don’t take last year’s victory as anything more than an object lesson that democracy needs constant attention.
Here are two immediate questions:
The first is whether Joe Biden should run for reelection.
He should not. He’s too old.
Joe’s been a masterful chief executive at home and abroad. I’m astonished by what he’s accomplished, and I’m personally chagrined that I misjudged his potential as a candidate and president. Biden championed and rescued “the soul of America.” He brought reason, competence and common sense to government after the chaos engineered by Trump and his thugs. Biden stood up to Vladimir Putin in his atrocious attack on Ukraine.
But Joe and I happen to be the same age – 80 – so this is one subject which I know about. Every day, I have more and more insight into what it’s like to be very old; it’s not pretty and not something that should be inflicted on a nation.
When you’re 80, death is an everyday possibility, and every time I realize I’ve made it to another day, I wonder if Joe will do the same, to say nothing of whether he’ll get through the next two years, while keeping his brain functioning as well as it should.
If Joe, as seems likely, decides to run again, other Democrats should challenge him. Joe Biden should be proud of his single term; and the Democrats should realize their future depends on not being a one-man, a one-old-man, political party.
We should start by insisting that a man supposedly named George Santos does not take office as a congressman from New York state, or, that if he does, he should quickly be driven from from the House.
One of Donald Trump’s legacies is that he got the country used to his lies, and especially his Big One: that he “won” the 2020 election.
Regardless, the truth matters. Santos seems to have lied about practically everything. He lied about attending a school in New York; lied about graduating from two colleges; lied about working for two high-power Wall Street firms; lied about his grandparents being Holocaust survivors; lied about owning real estate; lied about his mother dying in 9/11 when she actually died away 15 years later. And, according to today’s Washington Post, George Santos has had trouble getting his name straight: he used to call himself “Anthony Devolder.”
Santos/Devolder is an embarrassment, and not just to Republicans. The Big Apple’s vaunted media monolith failed to uncover George/Anthony’s lies until the New York Times finally spilled the beans AFTER the election, with the Times and other news organization’s ignoring early warnings from tiny Long Island newspaper, The North Shore Leader, that exposed some of the fibs.
Robert Zimmerman, who ran against George/Anthony, failed to recognize and exploit a Mount Everest of lies. And, as of this writing early on New Year’s Day, House leaders aren’t trying to block his swearing in, scheduled for Tuesday. Nor are the voters of New York’s Third District taking to the streets, either out of shame or anger, at having been conned.
SO, THERE’S PLENTY TO DO as America begins a new year. It starts with a lesson in first principles: ust because last year turned out okay, it doesn’t mean this year will do the same.
And it’s important to hope for the best of outcomes.
The truth is the truth.
The facts are the facts.
Old age is no joke, and Joe Biden’s old enough to know better than to run again.
A serial liar needs to be shown the door.
Hope is hard work.
HERE'S TO THE BRAVE PEOPLE WHO
NEVER STOPPED HOPING AND CARING
This is understandable, but wrong.
In truth we are almost powerless, with “almost” being the key word.
It’s a fact that there are enormous things that no one of us can do almost nothing about.
We can’t stop Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine. New Englanders can’t stop Floridians from reelecting Ron DeSantis as governor, having proved himself Donald Trump’s worthy alternative by playing the cruel bully to immigrants, gays, transgender kids and Mickey Mouse.
There seems to be no stopping the mass-murdering gunmen, who claim a Constitutional right to kill people who shop and work at Walmart, dance at Club Q and play football in Virginia or who attend school anywhere or who worship in this church or that synagogue.
There’s not much you can do to stop Congressional people who villainize a wise, gentle healer like Anthony Fauci. We can’t stop someone in Warwick, Rhode Island from plastering a “Let’s Go, Brandon” sticker on his street-facing windows.
We couldn’t stop Trump’s multi-pronged assault on democracy. Couldn’t shame him for being a sore loser. Couldn’t stop him from rallying his supporters to attack the most sacred space in American culture, hoping that maybe they'd get a chance to assassinate a Vice President (R) and a House Speaker (D).
Can’t seem to slow, much less stop, the man-made destruction of our own planet despite Biblical-scale warnings of floods, fires, droughts, famine or the worry of scientists who miss the mark only because they keep underestimating the pace and scope of the coming disaster.
Many of us are sleeping better these days; we’re a tad more cheerful; we have other things besides politics to talk about.
It’s because some terrific things happened in the midterm elections. Although Nov. 8 seems fading fast in the rearview, it’s still encouraging that the Republican takeover of local, state and federal governments flopped. Democrats held the Senate. Republicans took the House, but by a small margin.
And Donald Trump declared for president, which is excellent news for Democrats, since he's the one unifying figure that can inspire an always squabbling party, increasing the chances that someone normal will go to the White House.
Although the recent planetary environmental conference ended in disgrace, with no new limits on greenhouse gasses and empty sounding promises by big polluting countries to help tiny, non-polluting countries, there is growing recognition of the danger, and plenty of practical steps underway to do something about it. For example, it seems unlikely the auto companies will reverse their drive to build electric cars.
I think the most important is that millions of people of goodwill have never stopped hoping and caring about making the world a better place.
They do this despite the frustrations of being almost powerless. And despite the pain and strain that are the byproducts of hope and caring; they know and accept that’s the price they pay to stay in the game.
I’m not talking about people who have more power than most of us: the candidates, government officials, corporate chieftains, political organizers, volunteers, media barons, pundits, reporters, broadcasters, podcasters, forecasters.
The people I’m thinking about are everyone else, with just their puny one vote each and their disgust with Donald Trump as he savaged our democracy, having watched almost helpless;y as he got away, and keeps on getting away, with Constitutional crimes, among other, more ordinary, offenses.
I WILL REMEMBER 2022 as the year in which millions of people did not abandon their embrace of kindness, commitment to lawfulness and respect for decency; they kept faith with fundamental, human values of progress.
That faith was a real, if nearly invisible force, one that was impossible for pollsters to measure or for the pundits to recognize.
But, multiplied millions times, almost powerless, but always caring, hopeful individuals formed the essential consensus that held the country together and defined its character.
They are the custodian's of what Joe Biden calls "the soul of America."
I’m not arguing that it’s enough to sit in our kitchens and living rooms and just wish that things will turn out okay. A democracy depends on its citizens doing real things every year, in every election, like voting, following the news, donating to candidates, attending school board meeting and even running for office.
But goodwill – made up of hope and caring – is the core that makes a nation move forward.
I’m in awe of the people who have kept the faith.
I'VE BEEN a reporter and writer for 58 years, long enough to have learned that journalists don't know very much, although I've met some smart ones.
Mainly, what reporters know comes from asking other people questions and fretting about the answers.
This blog is a successor to one inspired by our dog, Phoebe, who was smart, sweet and the antithesis of Donald Trump. She died Feb. 3, and I don't see getting over that very soon.
Occasionally, I may try to reach her via cell phone.