The Corker-Flake Combo: GOP Senators Deliver Epic 1-2 Punch

It’s time to Break It Down!

In the world of American politics, yesterday was likely an aberration of the highest order. While the era of #45 has given us many firsts, (including alleged adult day care and eff’n moron, just last week), I have little doubt there will be many more to come. Yesterday stands out as one for the record books. In two separate instances, two different Senators took great pains to offer starkly unflattering depictions of a President, whom at least on paper, is a member of the same Party from which they hail.

In a series of tweets, Donald Trump’s most frequent weapon of choice, the President repeatedly attacked Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. I referenced the budding feud that has been brewing since Sunday before last, in last week’s post. Well, suffice it to say, it ain’t over.

Trump’s tweet salvo included the following:

Donald J. Trump

‪@realDonaldTrump

“Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts….”

8:13 AM – Oct 24, 2017

“…Corker dropped out of the race in Tennesse when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!”

8:20 AM – Oct 24, 2017

“Isn’t it sad that lightweight Senator Bob Corker, who couldn’t get re-elected in the Great State of Tennessee, will now fight Tax Cuts plus!”

9:30 AM – Oct 24, 2017

“Sen. Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, & look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn’t have a clue as…..”

10:13 AM – Oct 24, 2017

“…the entire World WAS laughing and taking advantage of us. People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!”

10:20 AM – Oct 24, 2017

Senator Corker made it clear how he viewed the President’s antics a couple of Sundays ago. The screed above served only to harden his resolve. He is by no means the prolific tweeter that Mr. Trump has come to be. However, to quote Shakespeare’s Lord Polonius in Hamlet, “brevity is the soul of wit.” Ergo, Corker’s response was short, sweet, and cut to the quick. His sole retort was:

Senator Bob Corker

‪         @SenBobCorker

“Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president.” ‪     #AlertTheDaycareStaff

8:48 AM – Oct 24, 2017

If the Senator had been holding a mic, surely he would have dropped it after typing and sending that tweet. Tax reform, healthcare, the Opioid epidemic, Niger, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Puerto Rico, the fate of the NFL, and oh yeah, Russian collusion, will all undoubtedly surface in coming news cycles. Nevertheless, a betting man would absolutely place the electronic Trump-Corker tete-a-tete in the upper range, if not near the very top, of any list of stories apt to claim our collective attention in the coming days. Hey, here’s a novel idea. Perhaps Mrs. Trump should kickoff her (very low key to date) Cyber-bullying Campaign in their White House bedroom. “BOTUS” (yes, that’s B, as in Bully) could benefit from an intervention.

Back on August 2nd, I published a post that discussed Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who wrote an op-ed for Politico Magazine. The piece was a prologue to his new book, entitled, “Conscience of a Conservative.” You might recall that Flake’s thesis is that the GOP is responsible for making Trump a phenomenon of epic proportion when it opted to vehemently oppose President Obama at every turn. As Flake put it at the time:

“It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us.”

That was twelve weeks ago. Yesterday, Senator Flake unexpectedly announced on the Senate floor that he would not seek reelection in 2018, becoming the second Republican in the upper chamber to forgo a campaign next year. Like Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who made a similar announcement last month, Flake has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration. And like Corker, Flake seems poised to use his newfound freedom to warn of the threat he believes President Trump poses to his party and to the country.

 Here is a complete transcript of Senator Flake’s remarks.

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been very much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than by our own values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

Now is such a time.

It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our—all of our—complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order—that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue—with the tone set at the top.

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country—the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that that is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that it is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength—because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, “Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?” What are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes the normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would be better served—we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the Constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal”—Mr. Madison’s doctrine of separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51—held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract with each other, if necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, we Republicans—would we Republicans—meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course we wouldn’t, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do—because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum—when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I will caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe it is my obligation to do so, and as a matter of duty of conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters—the notion that we should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A president—a Republican president—named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.” He continued, “Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by a President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes to look for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly or debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E pluribus unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping those countries who have been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.

I decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party—the party that has so long has defined itself by its belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment that we have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal—but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle. The impulse to scapegoat and belittle turns threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because we have a healthy government, we must also have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that day comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women—none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape the country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career does not mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today. I will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are now no less so in ours:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

Before anyone rushes to what I believe would be the errant conclusion that the GOP Sky is falling, not so fast. Yes, Corker, Flake, and even McCain have thumbed their noses at Trump, and they have all done so on more than one occasion. But the truth is, Senator McCain is ill, and unlikely to seek another term, and both Corker and Flake, who’ve announced they will not seek re-election, would have been improbable victors, even were they to have run. Their anti-Trump rhetoric, especially in Tennessee, and Arizona, didn’t help their prospects.

Conversely, a host of other Republicans, in both Houses of Congress, are like…”What’s the problem? Donald Trump is the greatest President ever.” I don’t believe that, and most likely, neither do they. But they do like their jobs, they want to be re-elected, and they are betting that carrying Trump’s water bolsters their chances. All that may be true. It may also underscore a perfect case for term limits. But this week, at least, we haveThe Corker-Flake Combo: GOP Senators Deliver Epic 1-2 Punch!” I’ll take it.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/24/politics/jeff-flake-retirement-speech-full-text/index.html

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/24/jeff-flake-full-text-senate-speech-transcript-244116

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/24/bob-corker-calls-trump-utterly-untruthful-president-escalating-feud/793559001/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/24/politics/jeff-flake-trump-retiring/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/24/politics/jeff-flake-senate-speech-lines/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/10/24/jim-risch-your-job-call-out-president-trump-tsr.cnn

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/‘dangerous’-‘utterly-untruthful’-two-retiring-gop-senators-sound-alarm-on-trump/ar-AAu0oHt?li=BBnbcA1

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/corker-trump-feud/543801/?silverid=%%RECIPIENT_ID%%

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/republican-sen-bob-corker-trump-leave-professionals/story?id=50675996

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41729586

 

 

A Soulless Coward: Popovich’s Lament

It’s time to Break It Down!

To paraphrase Charles E. Weller, a not particularly acclaimed typing teacher whose phraseology is much better known than he, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” Typing drill notwithstanding, never has a single catch phrase been truer…or quite frankly, more compelling, vis-à-vis the future of our great nation. The United States of America, of it’s own volition, plunged into the depths of governing darkness, when on November 8, 2016, it elected Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States.

Since President Trump was inaugurated in January, countless efforts have emerged to challenge his ascendance. Collectively those efforts are frequently referred to as The Resistance, or simply RESIST. The ongoing national conversation, or more aptly, debate, concerning whether we as a nation should embrace the TrumpWorld philosophy of dissembling, deflecting, and/or distracting, or stand and fight the power, not unlike Republicans of virtually every stripe, conventional, and non-conventional, did for the entirety of President Obama’s two terms, roils our political discourse daily. This trench warfare will almost surely continue for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, every now and then, a voice bursts upon the scene and speaks a clarion truth so scintillatingly poignant that it minimizes, if not mutes, all others. For this week anyway, Gregg Popovich has done that…for me. I admit, last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, nailed it. His alleged “eff’n moron” appellation was acutely forceful, conceptually, yet subtle due to Tillerson’s deftly dancing around whether he really made the comment. San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich left no such lingering question of certitude about whether he said what he said. He did.

Like in virtually every instance of resistance to TrumpWorld antics, the protest or act of resisting was preceded by Trump’s own comments. Sometimes it’s a tweet, at other times it’s remarks, but it’s always something. This time, during an impromptu news conference at the White House on Monday, Trump told the assembled media that he’d personally written letters to the families of soldiers who’d been slain in Niger, and that those letters had either been sent, or were going to be sent later in the day. He claimed to have written them over the weekend, and asserted that he would soon call the families. He insisted that calling is something that he traditionally does, but that he wanted some time to pass, and that he’d do it when it’s appropriate.

In discussing his actions, Trump apparently felt compelled to invent a fictitious contrast between his actions, and those of President Obama and other Presidents, whom he suggested never, or seldom called such families. More precisely, he said:

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls.” He went on to add, “President Obama, I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. And some presidents didn’t do anything. But I like, I like the combination of – I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.”

As you might imagine, such a statement, ubiquitous and nonsensical claims of fake news and alternative facts to the contrary, is easily researchable. This one was quickly proved to be false.

From the standpoint of those inclined to pushback against the never nuanced machinations of Mr. Trump, there is seldom heard a more piercing, probing, or powerful voice than that of Gregg Popovich. He has weighed-in a number of times, and did so again Monday. Popp’s Spurs teams have won five NBA Titles. He is considered a basketball savant by many fans of the sport. In the past he has previously decried Trump’s disgusting tone and tenor, as well as his xenophobic, homophobic, racist, and misogynistic comments. However, according to Dave Zirin, a writer for The Nation, he’d never heard Popovich more frustrated, fed up, tense, and angry than he was about Trump’s comments Monday. In response to the above noted commentary, expressed by Trump, Popovich said:

“I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this President had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just never-ending divisiveness. But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous Presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families, is so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have words (almost).

The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner – and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

Then he said, “Bye, Dave.”

The beauty of Popp’s comments, among other things is, by contrast to those attributed to Rex Tillerson, Popovich, always comfortable in his own skin, owned his comments like a boss. He prefaced his remarks by saying, directly, to Zirin:

“I want to say something, and please make sure this is on the record.”

Perhaps this rant was courtesy of the bald-faced nature of this particular lie, conceivably it was borne of the outrage that sprang from Popovich’s own history in the military; regardless, it was his time to vent…and he claimed it, without mercy.

In any case, there is one final notion, upon which I must place the finest of points. Mr. Trump casts himself as a counterpuncher. And sometimes, it’s true, he applies his rhetorical pugilistic skills in that manner. But as we know, he has also been known to take an occasional sucker punch, such as when he, without provocation, called the smattering (less than 10 at the time) of NFL players who had kneeled during the playing of the Anthem at football games, “SOB’s.” That was not a counterpunch; it was an all out unprovoked assault. His Bob Corker and Rex Tillerson remarks (noted in last week’s post) entailed counterpunching. The distinction is quite clear.

At least two news cycles have passed since Popovich made his remarks. I haven’t seen the tweet storm or heard of a savage rant aimed at him. To be clear, I’m not trying to incite such a reply. Rather I’m citing a trend that Mr. Trump seems somewhat less inspired to clapback in some instances, and/or against certain people. Feel free to read between the lines or make you own inferences. He seldom attacks Stephen Colbert, or Jimmy Kimmel, or Jimmy Fallon, or Seth Meyers, or James Corden, or John Oliver, or Trevor Noah, and most of them satirize him on a regular basis. Who knows, perhaps he has a sense of humor after all. What I can say for sure is, for the moment, Coach stands tall…”A Soulless Coward: Popovich’s Lament!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://www.thenation.com/article/a-soulless-coward-coach-gregg-popovich-responds-to-trump/

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2739038-gregg-popovich-donald-trump-a-soulless-coward-for-comment-on-fallen-soldiers?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/10/16/a-soulless-coward-gregg-popovich-slams-trumps-comments-on-slain-soldiers/?utm_term=.ba3a78da1772&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/politics/gregg-popovich-trump/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/opinions/trump-dodge-on-fallen-troops-was-a-disgrace-begala/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/10/18/frederica-wilson-la-david-johnson-trump-call-intv-lemon-ctn.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/politics/president-donald-trump-john-kelly-obama-phone-call/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/10/18/trump-military-deaths-sot-kth-anderson.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/politics/president-donald-trump-obama-blame-relationship/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/10/17/ac360-ryan-lizza-jason-miller-argue-lc-mobile.cnn

TrumpWorld: You Just Cannot Make This Shizzle Up!

It’s time to Break It Down!

As most of us know by now, there is a new Sheriff in town, or at least a new resident ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Washington, DC). Beginning November 9, 2016, that reality, for all practical purposes, divided America’s political and ideological world into two separate spheres. By January 21, 2017, the day after Inauguration, those opposing spheres had devolved into two full-fledged oppositional camps, and a resistance movement was launched.

The Administration’s first Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, in his initial appearance in the White House briefing room, made an indignant statement, condemning the media’s coverage of the inauguration’s crowd size. Needless to say, this is a tone Spicer, and his two successors and counting, have taken with the media on many occasions. His rant included the following:

  • Accused the press of deliberately false reporting
  • Asserted that the media intentionally framed their photographs to minimize its size
  • Insisted Trump’s was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe
  • Admonished these attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration were shameful and wrong

Journalism Professor Steve Doig, of Arizona State University, has provided crowd estimates at several previous inaugurations. He has a deep and central understanding of the challenges associated with assessing crowd-size at such events. He made several pointed observations, including:

  • There’s no turnstiles; you didn’t have to buy tickets
  • Standard metrics for measuring a contained crowd are not available
  • The fallback is overhead imagery
  • That allows experts to estimate the density of the crowd and multiply it by the area it covers, to produce “a reality-based estimate of the crowd size
  • Based on the photographs available in the media showing the part of the crowd that was on the mall, the claim that this is the largest ever is ludicrous on its face

That of course was just the upshot of the first 24-hours of the Trump Presidency. The following day, as she set out on part of the circuit of Sunday morning news shows, President Trump’s Special Counselor, Kellyanne Conway clashed with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on NBC Sunday over the administration’s false assertion that Trump had the largest inauguration crowd in history. In pushing back against what Todd referred to as a falsehood, Conway told Todd:

  • You’re saying it’s a falsehood. Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts.

After laughing at Conway’s retort, Todd deadpanned a terse reply:

  • Wait a minute, alternative facts? Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods

Just for the sake of reference, the concept of alternative facts was popularized in Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. In the novel, Big Brother, the Party Leader, rules, ostensibly, by tyranny. He apparently enjoys an intense cult of personality, even though he may not even exist. I’m not sure whether Trump’s greatest asset is cult of personality, however, I can attest, he does exist. Sad!

OK, enough reminiscing about the first weekend of the Trump Presidency. Let’s fast-forward to the current dimension, and the fascinating recognition that the phantasmagorical just keeps on coming. Ordinarily, I’d say you have to see it to believe it. However, some of the daily news items related to the President qualify routinely for the idiomatic expression, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The world may debate, for years to come, whether Trump was a great President (though I doubt it), but one thing about which there will be no need to debate is, Donald Trump has done more for Twitter than anyone not named Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, or Evan Williams (Twitter creators).

The double-whammy combo of Trump tweets and bizarre comments is without question the king of the news cycle more often than almost anyone would like, except Donald Trump, and that includes his team. While it certainly keeps his surrogates, spokespersons, and sycophants, some of who are paid for their services, busy, I’m sure even some of them would like an off day.

Just so it’s clear what kind of things I’m referring to, let’s review. A couple of the most recent targets of opportunity actually involve Republicans, either cabinet members, erstwhile allies, or both.

In the first instance, Stephanie Ruhle, of NBC News reported, after stories leaked that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a moron, that, “Tillerson didn’t call Trump a “moron” during a heated argument at the Pentagon; he called him a “fucking moron.”

Not surprisingly Trump called the report fake news, as did his Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Nevertheless, according to Ruhle’s sources, Mr. Tillerson’s comments followed Trump comparing the administration’s Afghanistan strategies to his own efforts to renovate a steakhouse. In retrospect, if Trump really said that, Tillerson was indeed, far too kind.

Of course, Donald Trump being Donald Trump, even if he thought it were fake news (and I don’t believe he did), he is not known for foregoing a pointed comeback, and he wasn’t about to start with Rex’s alleged slam. In an interview with Forbes magazine, published yesterday, Trump shot Tillerson a zinger saying:

I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.” If spelling is a tell of any sort, so could I.

In the second case, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who recently announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 when his current term expires, has been engaged in a tit-for-tat with President Trump. In an interview this past Sunday with the New York Times, Corker, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said:

“The President has treated his office like a reality show, and is leading the U.S. down the path to World War III. He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Donald Trump, the avowed counterpuncher, didn’t disappoint. Upon hearing the Senator’s remarks, he responded thusly:

“Senator Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump added:

“He also wanted to be Secretary of State. I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal.”

A not to be lost bit of irony here is that Corker opposed the Iran Deal, and was instrumental in forging opposition to it. But hey, in TrumpWorld, a world of alternative facts, why not press that button? But this match was not over. In Corker’s next volley, he noted in his own tweet:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

Lest anyone deigns to think, “And that was the end of that,” think again. From the friendly confines of his tweet throne, Trump replied yesterday:

“The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool and that’s what I am dealing with!”

I’m not sure about the purpose of the apostrophe following “Liddle.” By the way, Liddle is the current iteration of the appellation he applied to Marco Rubio during the Republican Primaries. Once again, despite the alternative fact referenced in the tweet, Corker was aware the NYT reporter was taping the conversation, as he was also taping. Just so you know.

From hailing his Inauguration crowd size as the largest ever, to calling Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions beleaguered, to asserting there are very fine people among the KKK/Nazis/white supremacists, to referring to football players who kneel during the National Anthem as Sons-of-Bitches, to challenging Republican Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test face-off, to consigning the appellation Liddle’ to Republican Senator Bob Corker, to the 1,318 false or misleading claims Mr. Trump has been credited with during his 263 days as President, according to yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post (that rounds down to 5 per day, in case you’re counting), this alternative fact-driven President seems locked in his own alternative universe…if not the Twilight Zone. What can I say? TrumpWorld: You Just Cannot Make This Shizzle Up!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inauguration_of_Donald_Trump

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/inauguration-crowd-size/514058/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/10/politics/donald-trump-forbes-interview-rex-tillerson/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/10/politics/trump-corker-liddle/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/10/10/senator-bob-corker-conway-twitter-kth-ac.cnn

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/10/media/jemele-hill-espn-trump/index.html

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2737877-donald-trump-rips-nfls-massive-tax-breaks-calls-for-law-change-amid-protests?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/09/media/jemele-hill-espn-suspended/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/10/opinions/jemele-hill-silenced-pearlman/index.html

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2737889-mike-ditka-on-anthem-protests-no-oppression-in-the-last-100-years-he-knows-of?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/09/opinions/pence-nfl-performative-outrage-tisby-opinion/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/09/opinions/trump-war-with-gop-establishment-opinion-jennings/index.html

https://www.avclub.com/reporter-says-rex-tillerson-called-trump-a-fucking-mor-1819235158

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/10/10/trump-calls-liddle-bob-corker-fool-over-nyt-interview.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-colin-kaepernick_us_59c6846be4b0cdc77331a2f0

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/two-days-later-trump-tries-get-charlottesville-right

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2737889-mike-ditka-on-anthem-protests-no-oppression-in-the-last-100-years-he-knows-of?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial

https://www.yahoo.com/news/kellyanne-conway-cites-alternative-facts-in-tense-interview-with-chuck-todd-over-false-crowd-size-claims-171242433.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-challenges-tillerson-to-an-iq-test-the-white-house-claims-it-was-a-joke/2017/10/10/c58b505a-add1-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.33a746a4327b

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/10/10/president-trump-has-made-1318-false-or-misleading-claims-over-263-days/?utm_term=.4eec7843ffaf

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-calls-jeff-sessions-beleaguered-ag-tweet/story?id=48814293

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Corker

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rex_Tillerson

Nightmare in Las Vegas: Another Episode of American Gun Violence

It’s time to Break It Down!

In the June 15, 2016 Edition of “Break It Down,” I wrote the following as the first two paragraphs of the post:

Before preparing today’s post I decided to make a cursory inventory. At least six times previously, I have written about mass gun violence (in America). In the most recent instance before today I discussed the facts surrounding the June 17, 2015 shooting of the Charleston Nine at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC. Just two days shy of a year later, I find myself impelled to beat the drum once more. In an ironic twist, I visited the Mother Emanuel Church this weekend. As I was completing my exercise regimen, a spin bike ride, early Sunday morning, before my trip to Charleston, I read a news story and watched on CNN the story and gory details about the massacre at a gay club in Orlando named Pulse.

Each time such a tragedy befalls us; we as a society are diminished. It marks yet another cruel and crushing blow to a nation that I certainly wish to see aspire to emulate its better angels rather than the very worst in our human nature. I have ranted and railed repeatedly about the role easy access to firearms plays in the frequent carnage. I’ve discussed the prevailing politics, examined the NRA and its proxies (lobbyists and Congressmen and women), and lamented the lack of reform. Been there, done that, time and time again.

This past Sunday night, October 1, at 10:08 p.m., 64 year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire on an outdoor festival in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard during the closing performance by singer Jason Aldean. By the time the shooting stopped eleven minutes later, Paddock had unleashed what is considered the deadliest firearms assault in American history. Incidentally, it displaced the previous record of 49, attributed to the above-referenced 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting at the Pulse Night Club. The toll: 58 fatalities (including Paddock) and 527 injuries.

The shooter spent three days in a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Using that location as his operations center, he assembled a cache of weaponry that included 23 firearms (22 rifles and one handgun) inside the hotel. Some of the rifles were altered from semi-automatic to automatic so that they functioned with the rapid-fire action of machine guns. As police continued investigating the case, they discovered Paddock had at least 47 guns, explosives, and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Let’s not delude ourselves, or others, by saying he snapped. And…if you are an NRA member, or a hard core Republican, then by all means, let’s not even think of introducing the subject of access to firearms, or improved gun legislation into the discourse matrix.

Paddock used a hammer-like object to break two windows in the suite, from which he launched repeated barrages of gunfire on unsuspecting fans at the concert. The rapidity with which the bullets rained down on the venue created a level of confusion that made it impossible for those taking fire to discern from whence the attack was emanating. If ever there was one, this is an American made tale of woe.

It may surprise some to know, I am an NRA member, a life member, in fact. I maintain an up-to-date CCP…or Concealed Carry Permit, and have qualified for, and held a permit to provide security services. I am not your prototypical “anti-gun” guy. However, I do believe easy access to firearms contributes to the health crisis that is gun violence in America.

Gun violence results in tens of thousands of deaths and injuries every year. There were more than 73,500 nonfatal injuries, and over 33,500 deaths due to injury by firearms in this country in 2013. More than one third of the deaths were homicides, 500+ of those being accidental, and nearly 300 of undetermined intent. As you must know, gun ownership is perennially a hotly debated topic here in America. Approximately 1.4 million people were killed using firearms in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011, the equivalent of a top 10 largest U.S. city in 2016, roughly somewhere between the populations of San Antonio and Dallas, Texas.

Of course, gun legislation is not the only issue that has bubbled up with this tragic event. Another matter, just as controversial, and just as likely to be sidestepped in the mainstream conversation tableau, is what might commonly be referred to as the “white people cannot be terrorists” thesis. Mr. Paddock, like most white male mass shooters before him, has been referred to as many things, including, unstable, quiet, troubled, unassuming, and of course, the coin of the realm, “lone wolf.” One popular newspaper even had a headline that proclaimed: “Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock enjoyed gambling, country music, lived quiet life before massacre.” Just so we are clear, had Paddock been a Muslim, or an immigrant from a Muslim country, he would have been memorialized as a sadistic demon, the likes of which dear old exceptional America had never seen. If Woody Harrelson is available and willing, perhaps he can land the starring role in the movie. Already having immortalized the axiom “White Men Can’t Jump,” he’s had ample time to prepare to shine in “White Men Can’t Be Terrorists.”

Think whatever you like, but I find it virtually impossible to imagine memorializing the dude responsible for the largest mass shooting in American history as a quiet, country music lover who gambled a little in his spare time. Yet, even the President of the United States was reserved (given his acerbic style) in discussing the event. To his credit, he described the massacre as an, “act of pure evil,” which undoubtedly, it was. However, he must have kept his best stuff on ice. He didn’t call him fat or ugly as he did Rosie O’Donnell, he didn’t threaten to date him, as he did “Ivanka if she weren’t his daughter,” he didn’t even call him disgusting, as he did an opposing counsel who needed a break to breast pump, and he surely didn’t call him an S.O.B., as he did NFL players who exercise their First Amendment rights.

It has been asserted that such is the gravity and sway of white privilege. All this is not just relevant, but critically important at this pivotal juncture in our national experience. When an individual identifying as Muslim commits such a heinous act, the right, especially, will assert that Islam is the problem. When an African American does so, racist tropes are rolled out, followed by criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group. The normative experience of these other groups is consistently, if not universally contrasted with white men, who almost automatically get the “lone wolf” card.

For example, USA Today declared in a headline that Mr. Paddock was a “lone wolf,” prior to the completion of an investigation, before a motive was determined, preceding the acquisition of his travel history, his home being searched, or the contents of his computer being analyzed. His family and friends had not been questioned, nor the contents of his social media evaluated. White Privilege!

The lone wolf appellation is commonly applied to white suspects in mass shootings. Such felonious luminaries as James Holmes (Aurora, Colorado movie theater), and Dylann Roof (Charleston, SC – Emanuel A.M.E. Church) were given the label with the quickness when they killed twelve and nine people, respectively. While Paddock’s “act of pure evil” raised the stakes to become the most numerically significant wickedness of its kind, there is apparently still ample room in the big tent of white privilege to absorb the villainous stain and the malodorous stench so that he is not being labeled a terrorist.

We are paralyzed by an inexplicable reluctance, a deficit of courage, and an ideological intractability that precludes us from exercising the necessary resolve to act in our collective national interest by enacting needed responsible gun legislation. Moreover, we must rise to embrace the challenge to speak truth to power and to the meek alike. We must be willing to call a spade a spade, or more aptly, a terrorist a terrorist, when events such as this are foisted upon us. We must do this even when the perpetrator is white! Meanwhile, let us pray as we continue to navigate the “Nightmare in Las Vegas: Another Episode of American Gun Violence!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://theintercept.com/2017/10/02/lone-wolf-white-privlege-las-vegas-stephen-paddock/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Las_Vegas_Strip_shooting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/us/las-vegas-gun-sounds-trnd/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/us/mandalay-bay-hotel-room-what-we-know/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/10/03/las-vegas-shooting-survivor-held-victim-hand-intv-bts-nr.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/entertainment/jason-aldean-vegas/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-shooting-victims/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/10/04/taylor-winston-intv-stole-truck-victims-hospital-sot-ac.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/opinions/mass-shootings-white-male-rage-modan-opinion/index.html