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He Is Who We Thought He Was: End of Story!

It’s time to Break It Down!

In June 2015, Donald J. Trump burst on the scene as a GOP Presidential candidate that few people gave much of a chance to survive the first primary, much less become the venerable Party’s nominee, and certainly few if any expected him to advance to assume the mantel of the presidency. Trump has a long history of prominence as a businessman. But for more than two years now, his forays in the headlines of the national news, or as he frequently says, the fake news, have come primarily as a politician.

Allow me to pivot for a moment. I have read and watched news for most of my life. As a matter of fact, before I began school, my mother taught me to read using the local newspaper. So, I have maintained a nearly life-long, almost six decades, relationship with news periodicals and TV newscasts. I say all that to underscore that from 2009 to 2016, I saw President Obama castigated regularly in news reports almost every day, and called virtually every negative appellation that his detractors could think of and say.

Returning to the moment, I notice that newscasters on most networks are careful to avoid calling Mr. Trump a liar. When there are Trump supporters on the shows, who are either asked questions about Trump’s truthfulness, or are engaged by someone who has the temerity to actually call Mr. Trump a liar, falsifier, or even some less direct euphemism, they quickly push back arguing neither they, nor the “offender,” knows what is in Mr. Trump’s heart, and they insist that it is therefore unfair, and out of bounds to call him a liar. In those instances, when it is flatly impossible to divest him of having spoken untruths, they persist in noting that to lie, one must not only make a false statement, but one also must do so with the deliberate intent to deceive. With that distinction in mind, I don’t know what is in Trump’s heart. What I do know is he speaks untruths on what intrinsically seems like a historic rate.

To put that in terms that have been captured and catalogued, The New York Times (NYT), on June 21st, published an updated list of what the headline characterized as, “Trumps Lies.” Mr. Trump uttered each of the items on the list after he took office. To be clear, those are the words of the NYT. I’m confident they researched and lawyered the list before publishing it. Here is an abridged sampling:

That’s just a baker’s dozen listing of the president’s lying, misleading, and deceptive statements…all since he has become President of the United States of America. But let’s not forget, his political emergence was fueled by a lie; the assertion that Barack Obama was not born in America. I have long maintained he is methodically working to establish a framework in which facts, truth, and even reality is irrelevant. According to the NYT story, Trump lied publicly at least 20 of his first 40 days in office, and made untrue statements for the first 40 days.

Now, allow me to shift gears. If the L-Word (lie) has been discouraged like crosses at a vampire family dinner, the pretend horror and feigned personal offense taken by conservatives about the ubiquitous R-Word (that’s racist, just so we are clear), when referring to Trump, and his Executive Office associates, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, is so great, one would think Obamacare was still the law of the land. Oh wait. It is!

As most of us know, there was a small gathering this weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Jason Kessler, a self-described “pro-white” activist organized a rally to protest taking down a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the City of Charlottesville. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865. To put that in the least complex terms possible, he was a key figure in a war…against the USA. His aforementioned surrender was important for one reason in particular. It meant his side lost!

Saturday’s rally was preceded on Friday night by a group of Tiki-torch carrying members of the above referenced activists who marched across the campus of the University of Virginia. The symbolic scene was reminiscent of Klansmen carrying torches and burning crosses.

By Saturday as the crowd assembled for the protest, the group consisted of the KKK, neo-Nazis, members of the Alt-right, and other white supremacists, or as they frequently euphemistically refer to themselves, white nationalists, many of them armed with long rifles and other weapons, shields, helmets, and other paramilitary gear. To paraphrase Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, they were better armed than our State Police.

The good news is, the available weaponry on hand notwithstanding, neither the protesters, nor members of law enforcement fired a single shot. I did not hear, read, or see that any of the counter protesters bore firearms. However, that was not where the story ended. The bad news is an individual described as a Nazi sympathizer weaponized his vehicle, crashed it into other vehicles, then backed up, and in the process, killed Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, and injured 19 people. In addition to Ms. Heyer’s untimely death, two state troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, VA, and Trooper-Pilot Berka M.M. Bates, of Quinton, VA, perished when their helicopter crashed while they were monitoring the events of the protest.

After these events Saturday, Trump spoke about the matter. He squeezed his remarks into a speech meant to be part of signing a Veteran’s bill expanding a program to allow veterans to seek private medical care. In perhaps the kindest thing he has said about former President Obama since he has taken office, he indemnified Obama, in a backhanded way, by conceding that the hatred and bigotry preceded both he and Obama. He went on to make a false equivalency, lamenting the actions that occurred on “many sides:”

“We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.

It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long time.”

Trump failed to mention the display of white supremacy or Nazi symbols in Charlottesville Saturday. His omission led to considerable pushback among both Democrats and Republicans. It’s not an overstatement to say his lack of citing the racist elements that fueled the events was the top story of the weekend. If anything competed with Trump’s own billing, it was that of input from former KKK leader David Duke, who articulated he was pleased with the protest because it made clear that Donald Trump’s promise to “Take back our country,” will be fulfilled. He also tweeted a poignant reminder to Mr. Trump:

“I would recommend you take a look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

That’s a sobering show of force from a member of Team Trump’s base. Alternately, there was an unquestionable expression of disappointment by numerous Republicans. For a brief time Monday, it actually appeared that the disconnect in his Party may have resonated with the president, and forced him into reflection mode. So much so, that Monday Donald Trump rendered a second statement, one in which he pointedly addressed the role of the negative and racist factions. For one day, he submitted to the influence of better angels…and a lot of concerned Republicans. He stated the following:

“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

This head spinning about-face did not sit well with much of Trump’s base, and ultimately, not with him. Numerous reports noted that Monday’s more fulsome statement seemed scripted and forced. More than a few observers concluded, his heart did not appear to be in it.

Well, much like a weather vane, if one waits a moment, in this case a day, Trump’s point of view and position on the matter changed again. Tuesday at Trump Tower, he came out with a copy of his Saturday comments in his pocket, and he went full-fledged reverse as he delivered statement number three on the subject. He had this, among other things, to say at that time:

“I think there is blame on both sides. What about the Alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the Alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

So there you have it. At one point he drew a fake comparison; at another point he maintained there was a moral equivalency between the purveyors of historical racist and bigoted practices, and those who have been historically oppressed and victimized by such behavior. How can one square that? Well, friends and neighbors, for me, it’s pretty simple. When it comes to Donald J. Trump, just as with the issue of whether he is a compulsive liar, there are those who passionately defend him, and insist that he is not. When it comes to the question of whether he is a confirmed racist, I’m sure the same holds true. You can imagine how his acolytes respond to the compound question, is he a megalomaniacal compulsive liar, who is also a confirmed racist?

You already know…”He Is Who We Thought He Was: End of Story!” It’s really just that simple.

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.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/23/catalog-of-donald-trump-lies/425312001/

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/donald-trump-lies-liar-effect-brain-214658

http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/nyt-lists-every-lie-trump-has-told-as-president-976365123815

http://thehill.com/media/339250-nyt-fact-checks-trump-in-feature-titled-trumps-lies

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/23/catalog-of-donald-trump-lies/425312001/

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

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

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

http://www.businessinsider.com/who-is-jason-kessler-unite-the-right-charlottesville-2017-8

https://www.vox.com/2017/8/12/16138246/charlottesville-nazi-rally-right-uva

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/08/12/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-blamed-for-3-deaths-dozens-injuries.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-to-comment-on-violence-in-charlottesville-over-white-nationalist-rally-live-updates/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/politics/trump-charlottesville-delay/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/politics/donald-trump-charlottesville-lines/index.html

Reversal of Fortunes: Governor Dumps Party, Senator Balks at Party Line

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last week I examined Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s op-ed for Politico Magazine, in which he in effect, took on what has become the GOP Party orthodoxy under #45. Flake’s unexpected revelation of conscience, not coincidentally, coincided with the release of his new book, “Conscience of a Conservative.” The timing of Senator Flake’s rebellion was somewhat ironic in that it followed a week in which his fellow Arizona Senator, John McCain, also rebuffed the President and his Party’s hard driving initiative to pass the so-called skinny repeal of Obamacare by the Senate.

In the normal course of human events, it is all but certain that what goes around, comes around. Often this happens sooner rather than later, certainly quicker than we might expect. This…is one of those times. On last Thursday, at a Trump Rally in Huntington, West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice announced his plans to switch his affiliation to the Republican Party. Three days later, Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin told the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday that he would not be toeing the party line on every issue. Just like that, the Grand Canyon State and the Mountain State completed a game of political musical chairs in a matter of ten days.

At last Thursday’s rally, Governor Justice had this to say:

“Today I will tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor, So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

This isn’t Justice’s first rodeo when it comes to switching parties. He was previously an independent and a Republican up until 2015 when he ran for governor as a Democrat. It is likely this move signals a bigger shift in the state’s political landscape. In Governor Justice’s latest State of the State address, he mentioned Trump five times, and noted his good friendship with the Trump family.

Like Trump, Justice is a billionaire who ran for election as a newcomer to politics, and was elected in November 2016. During his campaign, he took pains to show he was no fan of Clinton. “I cannot be a supporter of Hillary Clinton,” Justice told a West Virginia radio station last August.

After Justice moves across the aisle as reported, the GOP Governorship advantage over Democrats will increase to 34 to 15. Governor Bill Walker of Alaska is a registered Independent.

Although Senator Manchin did not switch parties, he made a much more, shall we say, colorful statement. In his Sunday comments to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he said:

“I don’t give a s–t, you understand? I just don’t give a s–t. Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that? If they think because I’m up for election, that I can be wrangled into voting for s–t that I don’t like and can’t explain, they’re all crazy. I’m not scared of an election, let’s put it that way. Elections do not bother me or scare me.

The bottom line is, if it doesn’t help West Virginia, it doesn’t make sense to me, and just because there’s an election doesn’t mean I sign on or don’t sign on.”

Interestingly, while Justice’s action preceded Manchin’s, the Senator not only didn’t switch parties, he took the occasion of making a statement on the Governor’s move to indicate that he intends to continue to remain in the Democratic Party. At that time he said in a prepared statement:

“I have been and always will be a proud West Virginia Democrat. I am disappointed by Gov. Justice’s decision to switch parties. While I do not agree with his decision, I have always said that I will work with anyone, no matter their political affiliation, to do what is best for the people of West Virginia.”

Senator Manchin is up for re-election in 2018. With Justice’s move, Manchin will become West Virginia’s only statewide elected Democrat besides treasurer John Perdue.

Let’s just say, if it’s not already clear, Donald Trump carried West Virginia by almost infinity, in electoral math terms, 67.9 to 26.2, or 41.7 percentage points. Rewind back to the Arizona results, and the difference is stark. Trump still won, but only by a margin of 48.1 to 44.6, or 3.5 percentage points. While that’s not exactly a cliffhanger, when compared to the West Virginia results, it was obviously close enough to embolden McCain and Flake to rebel, whereas, Justice and Manchin are figuratively praying at the altar of Trump. In fairness, Senator McCain has developed a reputation as a Party Maverick. Still, if Trump’s success in his state mirrored that of the Mountain State, chances are McCain and Flake would be considerably more reserved in their Party pushback.

The point of this post was primarily to point out how quickly the McCain-Flake incidents boomeranged to give us the Justice-Manchin decision and comments. However, another notion I would like to advance and leave with you, especially if you read last week’s action as a sign of the beginning of the end for TrumpWorld, by all means, slow your roll. I closed last week with a reminder of my assessment that Trump-Pence will be around for a while, and at least for the foreseeable future.

I understand why it’s tempting to doubt that. There are a number of investigations, engendering enough smoke to suggest there’s a legitimate fire in our midst. And there may in fact be some fire out there. We’ll see soon enough. In the interim, just keep these sobering data points in mind:

  • The GOP holds a 34-15 advantage in Governorships.
  • The GOP holds a 241-194 advantage in House Members
  • The GOP holds a 52-48 advantage in the Senate (Including Independents who caucus with Democrats)
  • The GOP controls both legislative chambers in 32 states
  • The GOP controls 67 of 98 partisan state legislative chambers
  • Trump won 2,622 Counties – Clinton won 490 Counties
  • Since the election of Barack Obama in 2009, Democrats have lost 919 seats in state legislatures

Those are numbers that should spark grave concern by anyone who leans toward the ideals fostered and supported by Democrats, unless, of course, you subscribe to Trumpist philosophy and just deem it all to be fake news. I assure you, it’s the “realest.” Sad, very sad. And with that I give youReversal of Fortunes: Governor Dumps Party, Senator Balks at Party Line!”

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.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy2cFE3kxAY

https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/71d14817-623d-30cf-894d-748d63f64bf2/ss_senator-says-he-won’t-vote.html

http://nypost.com/2017/08/07/senator-says-he-wont-vote-with-party-doesnt-give-a-s-t-if-it-costs-him-election/amp/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/03/politics/west-virginia-gov-republican-democrat/index.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/west-virginia-governor-jim-justice-trump-rally/535890/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/03/politics/jim-justice-west-virginia-governor-party-switch/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/08/03/west-virginias-democratic-governor-announces-switch-to-republican-party.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-west-virginia-governor-to-announce-hes-switching-parties/

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

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

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

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

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/after-winning-7-more-seats-gop-dominance-state-legislatures-all

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/11/14/1598918/-Republicans-now-dominate-state-government-with-32-legislatures-and-33-governors

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/08/07/34-states-have-republican-governors-most-since-1922/

Newsflash: Four GOP Senators Do/Say The Right Thing

It’s time to Break It Down!

For the past 6 and half months, #45 has been the principal resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia. For more than a year and a half before that, he was a candidate for the highest political office in the world. During that entire period, more than 2 years total, he and his supporters, surrogates, and spinners have actively engaged in moving the goal posts with regard to facts, truth, and even science.

Time after time over the past couple of years I have engaged individuals in conversation that firmly believe that just as he says he’s going to, Trump is indeed, Making America Great Again. Right out of the gate, I concede I am among the first to admit, I sincerely doubt that, it is not just that overarching claim that repulses me, it is the methodical underlying narratives that I find so vexing.

His surrogates and spinners have constructed a pair of cutesy phrases to explain Team Trump’s bogus propositions, and to otherwise defend the ruses that reflect the schemes and conspiracy theories they love to promote…all apparently designed to deflect attention from the many preposterous positions and actions this administration has taken. The two terms I referenced above, fake news and alternative facts, are the exclamation points his acolytes use to attenuate and downgrade any political or policy arguments that do not align with Trumpology.

Until recently, despite the frequency and volume of instances which reason would ordinarily dictate a pause is in order, Team Trump’s position has been to soldier on despite facts, despite science, and sadly, despite countervailing truth. Alas, slowly, but surely, there may just be a glimmer of hope. Last week, in the face of a full court press by the Trump Administration, the GOP Senate leadership, and the vast majority of its rank and file members, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and John McCain (R-Arizona) joined forces to create what journalists deemed a dramatic moment in the U.S. Senate.

This trio of Republicans pushed back against conservative GOP orthodoxy and joined with the Senate’s 48 Democrats to prevent passage of what was euphemistically called the skinny repeal of Obamacare, a cynical bit of legislation that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to squeeze through in the middle of the night without significant debate or review. The bill was ultimately voted down after 1:00 a.m. last Friday morning.

Senator McCain, noted as a maverick in his Party, came back to Washington 11 days after surgery to remove a blood clot during which it was determined he had a brain tumor known as a glioblastoma. In his initial vote after returning, he voted to allow the skinny repeal to be debated. In doing so, he gave a speech that seemed to presage his eventual vote on the actual bill. At least, that’s how it turned out. McCain cast the pivotal vote, and has garnered much of the resulting attention for dealing the ultimate death knell to the bill. Yet, Collins and Murkowski merit equal billing for their late night and early morning work. Had any one of the three defected, the 49-51 vote would have been 50-50, and Vice President Pence would have cast the deciding vote to push the bill over the top.

So, fast-forward to this week. This past Monday, a politician wrote in an op-ed for Politico Magazine. In the piece he said:

“To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties, and tremendous powers of denial.”

Absent any inside baseball knowledge about the above referenced op-ed, especially given the preamble about Team Trump talking points, a logical conclusion is that, at the very least, the op-ed writer is a Democrat. However, that was not the case. In fact, said writer is not only a politician, but also a Republican politician. Moreover, he is a U.S. Senator.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) penned the op-ed. It was essentially an essay, excerpted from his new book, entitled, “Conscience of a Conservative,” released yesterday. In it, he argues that the GOP was responsible for making Trump a phenomenon of national proportion when it opted to vehemently oppose President Obama at every turn. Flake stated expressly:

“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.”

I have argued relentlessly that the impetus for the largely otherwise inexplicable Trump love fest is the raging anti-Obama sentiment held by a key political and ideological segment of the country. I believe without question, there were a number of issues that contributed to the Trump victory, including Mrs. Clinton’s flaws, Wikileaks, James Comey, and Russia. None of them, however, in my opinion, was more impactful that the 8 years of GOP inspired and executed anti-Obama tactics and strategies. Even today, more than half a year into the Trump era, it is common for his supporters to hearken back to President Obama as a standard point of deflection for spates of contemporary Trump Madness. Flake’s op-ed/essay underscores my argument in spades, as he states the following:

“But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president – the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. 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. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued.”

In another passage, Senator Flake quotes conservative columnist, Michael Gerson, who wrote in May:

“The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president…have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”

On many occasions I have explained in minute detail the numerous reasons why I think Trump Season will last at least 4 years, and not inconceivably 8 years. While the actions of these four Senators do not raise my level of optimism for a shortened term, I have allowed myself to hope for an elevated level of accountability. We will see.

So remember, while it’s uncertain whether these actions will permanently change the course of history, they are important. Better than that, they just mightNewsflash: Four GOP Senators Do/Say The Right Thing!”

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.nydailynews.com/news/politics/jeff-flake-bashes-fellow-republicans-essay-trump-article-1.3373977

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/31/my-party-is-in-denial-about-donald-trump-215442

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

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-mccain-murkowski-collins-obamacare-repeal-replace-20170728-story.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasies, Fiction, and Falsehoods: That’s The Real Fake News

It’s time to Break It Down!

There are few phrases more oft repeated since the inauguration of the 45th President than fake news. Few people utter it more often than conservatives who nearly spontaneously combust in their effusive efforts to issue a retort to some statement they feel unfairly debases or attacks Donald The Great.

Last night, #45 asserted that he could be the “most presidential” President in the history of the country with one notable exception. Yes, even our current Commander-in-Chief was able to admit that President Lincoln was better. What he actually said was this:

“With the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president in history.”

This most “immodest” Fantasy was something that Trump and his bigly appointed brain was able to conceive, despite, having served only slightly more than six months in the Oval Office, and without having shepherded one single piece of notable legislation to successful completion, i.e., not having passed a (significant) bill. What in the Sam Hill could have possessed him?

Let me be perfectly clear; Donald Trump is not without a noteworthy accomplishment as President. He is, in point of fact, the first President in American history to win and assume office with no prior governing or military experience. While I do not recall him having drawn attention to that point, if he were to do so, I would be among the first to co-sign and extend praise for that singular accomplishment. Though, I must concede, I’m still uncertain whether that says more about his talent, leadership, skills, and abilities, or the collective malfeasance of an electorate that unwittingly dismissed a 228 year-old standard, I’m content to let you be the judge of that. However, that’s not a point of debate; at least not for this post. Feel free to take whatever side of that particular issue you choose. My single point of emphasis in raising this particular matter is Mr. Trump earned kudos for that achievement.

Of course, almost as soon as he took office, he apparently started looking for the most creative of ways to undermine what could be one of, if not his most important personal accomplishment as President, up to and including the here and now. The day after his inauguration, he trotted out his press secretary, Sean Spicer, who immediately began to spray the American people with not fully formed machinations otherwise known as Trump Fiction. Spicey, as SNL affectionately dubbed him, posited that Trump claimed his was the largest Inaugural crowd ever on the National Mall. Not surprisingly, this ludicrous assertion was immediately rebutted with historical film footage and photographs. The Spiceman would ultimately alter this allegation by amending the claim to include televised and Internet coverage. A couple of days after Spicer’s initial bovine excrement, Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, inserted the term alternative facts into the conversation. If this falsehood had been revised any more, it would have needed to have been replaced by Senior Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner’s, SF-86 Form.

In an Orwellian, post-truth, newspeak kind of world, this probably made perfect sense. Otherwise…not so much. As she has subsequently done with a number of other issues, Ms. Conway maintained that #45 believes his crowd was larger. Apparently, ipso facto, facts, proof, and evidence, notwithstanding, that makes it true. Alas, 2017 is not 1984, but the dystopian propaganda model is alive, well, and thriving in TrumpWorld.

Let’s face it. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the knowledge and wisdom of experts while elevating non-experts who lack relevant experience into important jobs across the federal government. You might even say, apart from muckraking tweet storms and rants, pairing high profile posts with incompetent and undeserving appointees is sort of his stock-in-trade. From Education Secretary to Energy Secretary, to Housing and Urban Development Secretary, to Communications Director, to name just four, the President has forced highly successful square pegs of people into hugely important round holes of responsibility. Mrs. DeVos has no public school experience, nor any reported or apparent affinity, Rick Perry didn’t even know the Energy Department, which he famously couldn’t recall as a candidate, is responsible for our nation’s nukes, Dr. Carson did live near public housing; kudos for that (tongue firmly implanted in cheek), and Mr. Scaramucci, whom to his credit, does have TV cred. Yet, he has no experience managing communications. Alternately, what he does have is a Goldman Sachs legacy. Oh yeah, drain that swamp (Said Trump).

To expand the list of examples for your consideration, here are a few interesting, if not bizarre examples of Trump’s philosophy of “Apprenticing” his appointees:

  • Party planner Lynne Patton, who helped plan Eric Trump’s wedding but had no professional experience in housing, was appointed last month to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s office for the region that covers New York and New Jersey.
  • Trump nominated someone who is not a credentialed scientist to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist. Sam Clovis has described himself as “extremely skeptical” about the expert consensus on climate change. The post he’s been tapped for has been occupied by a string of individuals with advanced degrees in science or medicine.
  • News broke that Trump will nominate a prominent coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to serve as the No. 2 at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, the Trumpists have actively taken steps to prevent experts from doing their jobs. The EPA removed several agency websites in April that contained detailed climate data and scientific information, including one that had been cited to challenge statements made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. One of the Web pages that was shuttered had existed for nearly two decades and explained what climate change is and how it worked.

Recently, Trump’s political appointees at the Interior Department abruptly removed two top climate experts from a delegation scheduled to show Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg around Glacier National Park.

The administration is heavily populated with people who lack qualifications that would have been prerequisites to get the same jobs in past Republican and Democratic administrations. It starts at the top: No one not named Trump seriously believes that the president’s daughter and son-in-law could have gotten their plum West Wing jobs if not for nepotism.

Jared Kushner purportedly proposed to Russia’s ambassador the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin last December, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring by the U.S. government.

The president, for his part, didn’t want any professionals from the government, including the Russia expert on the National Security Council, to sit in on his meeting with Vladimir Putin. The Russians also reportedly recommended that a note taker be present, but Trump refused.

Trump attacked federal judges who found that his travel ban was unconstitutional. Then he criticized professional lawyers in his own Justice Department for pursuing a “watered down” version of the ban that could withstand judicial scrutiny.

The director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, a persistent critic of the Trump administration’s approach to ethics, stepped down last week nearly six months before his term was scheduled to end. Walter M. Shaub Jr. drew the ire of administration officials when he challenged Trump to fully divest from his business empire and chastised Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump products from the White House briefing room.

Trump said he knew more about war than the generals. He cast doubt upon the medical community consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. And he said a federal judge of Mexican descent couldn’t objectively adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because of his heritage. That judge was born in Indiana, by the way. Speaker Paul Ryan called this “the textbook definition” of a racist statement at the time.

Trump’s embrace of experts and expertise is situational. Candidate Trump often claimed that the government’s unemployment rate was “totally fiction,” even though the economists who tabulate it are insulated from political pressure. “Don’t believe these phony numbers,” Trump said at a rally last year. “The [real] number is probably 28 [percent], 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”

But when there was a good jobs report in March, which showed the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, then-press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump now believes the same numbers. “They may have been phony in the past, but they are very real now,” Spicer said.

In a new book entitledThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters,” Tom Nichols describes Trump’s victory last November as “undeniably one of the most recent—and one of the loudest—trumpets sounding the impending death of expertise.” 

“The abysmal literacy, both political and general, of the American public is the foundation for all of these problems. It is the soil in which all of the other dysfunctions have taken root and prospered, with the 2016 election only its most recent expression.

In summation, despite the cacophonous cries of right wing outrage, there consistently appears to be plenty of there, there. To wit, I submit to you, “Fantasies, Fiction, and Falsehoods: That’s the Real Fake News!”

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.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/07/24/daily-202-trump-marginalizes-experts-debases-expertise/597548fc30fb043679543214/?utm_term=.30545b97f504&wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

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

http://www.businessinsider.com/sean-spicer-berates-media-over-inauguration-crowd-size-coverage-2017-1

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/22/donald-trump-kellyanne-conway-inauguration-alternative-facts

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-21/kushner-s-amended-financial-disclosure-shows-sprawling-assets-j5egyvpg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/why-jared-kushner-has-had-to-update-his-disclosure-of-foreign-contacts-more-than-once/2017/07/17/b04e8158-6b05-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html?utm_term=.8b74c3557320

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

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

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/22/donald-trump-kellyanne-conway-inauguration-alternative-facts

http://www.businessinsider.com/sean-spicer-berates-media-over-inauguration-crowd-size-coverage-2017-1

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/25/george-orwell-donald-trump-kellyanne-conway-1984

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/forms/sf0086.pdf

 

Another Day, Another Meeting: From Russia With Love

It’s time to Break It Down!

We are having another frenetic news week. Welcome to 2017. To be sure, in the current environment, that’s not an unusual occurrence. Yes, of course there have been hectic news weeks in the past. And there will be more. However, a lot of people I know believe that TrumpWorld has brought us to a unique intersection in history; one unparalleled by almost any measure, except for those that are irrevocably slanted hard right.

A few of the more notable news stories to hit the airways and newsstands since the weekend include:

  • A Fox News Analyst (Shepard Smith) actually called Donald Trump a liar
  • Sean Spicer fell behind the info curve, claimed Kushner’s meeting was about Russian adoption (a euphemism for removing sanctions against human rights abusers)
  • Trumpcare faces demise as two more senators withdraw support
  • With insufficient support for Trumpcare, Trump says let Obamacare fail
  • Tropical Storm Don weakens in the Caribbean, while Tropical Storm Hilary (one L) emerges in the Eastern Pacific
  • The GOP-friendly Wall Street Journal renders a scathing assessment of Donald Trump’s Russiagate (my term, not the Journal’s)
  • A previously unreported meeting between Trump and Putin revealed

That’s seven separate stories and the week is just halfway over. Any of them would fuel a righteous panel discussion or a spirited debate among folks with opposing views; possibly, among even people with similar views. As for today’s post, I saved the best for last. I will elevate and discuss, briefly, the most recently disclosed meeting between Trump and Putin on July 7th during the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

To frame this meeting, which Team Trump says was really not a meeting unto itself, but just an extension of the previous meeting of approximately two hours that has been reported. According to the White House’s official statement, it was “brief.”

In a grander context, with a different cast of characters, that characterization might just fly. But in TrumpWorld…er, I mean, today, given some of the unusual details we have logged into our consciousness, not so much.

This meeting lasted for nearly an hourly, according to a Trump staffer, and included only three people: Trump, Putin, and a Russian translator. When conceding that Trump’s source for understanding the meeting was a Russian translator, the White House source indicated that the U.S. translator at the dinner spoke Japanese. How interesting!

Now no matter how much one embraces the narrative that Mr. Trump is the master deal maker, and great communicator, it’s worth being reminded of his numerous communications faux pas when left to his own devices, whether on Twitter, or in person. Of course, this is not the first time Trump has pushed the envelope in meeting with the Russians. Back on Wednesday May 10th, he met with top Russian officials in the Oval Office. White House officials barred reporters from witnessing the moment. They apparently preferred to block coverage of the awkwardly timed visit as questions swirled about whether the president had dismissed his F.B.I. director in part to squelch the investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.

The Russians conveniently brought their own media, a largely state-run operation, in the form of an official photographer. They quickly filled the communications vacuum with their own pictures of the meeting with Mr. Trump, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to the United States. Within minutes of the meeting, the Foreign Ministry had posted photographs on Twitter of Mr. Trump and Mr. Lavrov smiling and shaking hands. The Russian embassy posted images of the president grinning and gripping hands with the ambassador. Tass, Russia’s official news agency, released more photographs of the three men laughing together in the Oval Office.

In explaining, and perhaps, more aptly, defending, the circumstances of the meeting, White House staff said the conversation took place in full view (though without translators, probably not understanding) of other world leaders and their spouses at a dinner hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The White House sought to downplay the significance of the “discussion.” Their statement maintained:

“It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders.”

You know what? That’s true. But you know what is not perfectly normal, or heretofore considered part of the President’s duties? How about taking a meeting in the White House with Russian media, while barring the American press? Or, staying off camera while the Russians follow-up the meeting(s) between our two Presidents, by stating that our President accepted the denial of their President over hacking accusations, when our intelligence agencies are the source of the accusations? Or, how about proposing a joint cyber-security initiative with the country the U.S. intelligence community unanimously concludes hacked our systems…in an effort to hurt your opponent, and help you? Or perhaps, reflection on your number 1 son (chronologically), your son-in-law, and your campaign manager meeting with Russians who say they have intel that will hurt your political rival? The Russians, mind you! No, that is not normal, never was, never will be.

I know a number of individuals of the conservative persuasion. Of those I converse with on a regular basis, most of them say Mr. Trump is doing exactly what they wanted him to do when they voted for him. They not only believe he is acting in a way that is sure to Make America Great Again (MAGA), but that it’s actually happening right before our eyes. Moreover, the only people who don’t realize this are Trump-hating Democrats and liberals.

In point of fact, Democrats are resisting this administration on many levels. If you read my post last week, you know that doesn’t concern me in the least. Many conservatives go into apoplexy, or in some cases, at least feigned apoplexy over this resistance. I must admit my cynicism is heightened whenever I can find no similar apoplectic shock at the constant derision and resistance to all things Obama that was a national constant for the previous eight years. One of the fave responses by conservatives seems to be, Republicans were elected to obstruct Obama. Really? The hades you say! In that case, Democrats were elected to obstruct all things Trump. Resist! And so it is, Another Day, Another Meeting: From Russia With Love!”

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/From_Russia_with_Love_(film)

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/18/politics/trump-putin-g20/index.html

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-putin-had-previously-undisclosed-visit-g20-dinner-011956728.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/world/europe/trump-putin-undisclosed-meeting.html?mwrsm=LinkedIn

http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/07/18/tropical-storm-don-moos-erin-pkg.cnn

https://www.yahoo.com/tv/fox-news-shepard-smith-slams-white-house-lie-234505034.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/politics/sean-spicer-russia-meeting-claim/index.html

http://www.koat.com/article/gop-health-care-bill-short-of-votes-needed-to-proceed/10320161

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/wsj-stumped-why-trump-is-hiding-his-russia-connections.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/07/18/trump-says-time-to-let-obamacare-fail-after-health-bill-stalls.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/us/politics/trump-russia-meeting-american-reporters-blocked.html

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-russia-20170709-story.html

Unprecedented Obstruction: The Unmitigated Inconvenience of Karma

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate would forego the first two weeks of its anticipated August Recess. The move was unusual on its face, but the reason offered was sheer partisan political poppycock. Leader McConnell blamed Democrats and their “Unprecedented Obstruction,” for the delay and abbreviation of the Senate’s much anticipated month-long summer hiatus. He then cited a couple of examples of the lack of cooperation the mean old Democrats were foisting upon his genial GOP colleagues.

This post is straight forward, and will be brief. It begins and ends with my observation that Mr. McConnell is either operating with an extreme memory deficit, or he doesn’t believe his fecal excretion is malodorous. Unprecedented Obstruction? Puhleeze!

The GOP instituted an obstruction plan so sublime it inspired a book. I’ll get back to that. First, let’s face it. McConnell’s own fingerprints are all over the Party’s efforts to obstruct President Obama. In October 2010, speaking of the GOP, he famously said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

For a time, many of us thought the Republican Party’s organized anti-Obama recalcitrance started there. It would take a while, but we would later learn that we were wrong, and that the Republican Party’s maleficence started the night of President Obama’s first day in office. Contemporaneous with the evening’s Inaugural Balls, a cabal of GOP Congressmen met for dinner and deception at the Caucus Room, a high-end D.C. establishment about a mile from the evening’s main festivities. Their master plan, devised over several hours, was a plot, not just to win back their recently lost political power, but also to waylay President Obama’s legislative agenda.

The book, referenced above, written by Robert Draper in 2012, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” details the steps the GOP laid out as the way forward. According to Draper, the guest list that night included a proverbial Congressional Who’s Who. In attendance were:

  1. Eric Cantor – VA
  2. Kevin McCarthy –CA
  3. Paul Ryan – WI
  4. Pete Sessions – TX
  5. Jeb Hensarling – TX
  6. Pete Hoekstra – MI
  7. Dan Lungren – CA
  8. Jim DeMint – SC
  9. Jon Kyl – AZ
  10. Tom Coburn – OK
  11. John Ensign – NV
  12. Bob Corker – TN
  13. Newt Gingrich (Former GA Representative and noted GOP intellectual)
  14. Frank Luntz (Event organizer, GOP wordsmith)

Notably absent were then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and House Minority Leader John Boehner R-OH – who, according to Draper, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz. The group devised a four-point plan. The steps of which included:

  • Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it—please?’)
  • Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)
  • Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)
  • Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012. (Despite their best efforts, that White House gambit did not pan out).

You want a blueprint for obstruction Mr. McConnell, I would say, this is it. At the end of the meeting Newt Gingrich said:

“You will remember this day. You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”

It’s instructive to recall, at that time 700,000 people a month were losing their jobs and the American economy was in the most horrible tailspin since the Great Depression.

And the Republicans wanted to keep it that way.

That dear reader is some obstruction for you. McConnell is not alone in grousing about Democratic obstruction. Conservatives often lead with that trite lament. My curt response always is, “Consider the example of the last eight years.” I have been known to express empathy for a variety of reasons, but quite frankly, the temerity of anyone suggesting such a thing strikes me as ludicrous. Particularly if said someone was either a party to snubbing President Obama’s agenda to repair our fractured country, or said someone was supportive of the efforts of those who did so. Quite simply, the current claim is bogus, and I frame it thusly, Unprecedented Obstruction: The Unmitigated Inconvenience of Karma!”

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.msn.com/en-gb/news/video/mcconnell-blames-recess-delay-on-‘unprecedented-level-of-obstruction’/vi-BBEfBN6

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/robert-draper-anti-obama-campaign_n_1452899.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd0fVf5CsCc

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/6/8/1098434/-Eric-Cantor-Paul-Ryan-Kevin-McCarthy-Plot-To-Sabotage-US-Economy-with-Frank-Luntz

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40007802/ns/politics-decision_2010/t/gop-leaders-top-goal-make-obama–term-president/#.WWV2rMbMyCQ

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/when-did-mcconnell-say-he-wanted-to-make-obama-a-one-term-president/2012/09/24/79fd5cd8-0696-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html?utm_term=.fc0d22000c37

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/republicans-had-it-in-for-obama-before-day-1/2012/08/10/0c96c7c8-e31f-11e1-ae7f-d2a13e249eb2_blog.html?utm_term=.09125c210f93

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/the-republicans-plan-for-the-new-president/

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/03/The-Conspiracy-to-Commit-Legislative-Constipation

http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/republicans-are-clearly-happy-destroy-countryif-they-can-get-political-leverage

Independence Day: Free At Last Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

Today’s post is a revised reprint of a blog I originally published July 9, 2008, and then subsequently in the July 4, 2012 Edition of “Break It Down!” Since yesterday was the 4th of July, this redux version is quite timely. I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day, 2017, and that you will enjoy this week’s blog.

So as I approached this Fourth of July, as always, I did so with a complicated panoply of thoughts, a few of which I will share here. Our great country, and yes, by many measures it is great, strives to be all it can be, at home and abroad. It’s apropos to note we have been successful on many fronts. On others, we still have work to do. It’s fair to embrace our successes, and necessary to accept our challenges. Doing both is the only way we can reach our true potential.

As African Americans, we often find ourselves pulled in divergent directions over how to address this day; perhaps everyday. A hundred fourteen years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois framed it thusly in “The Souls of Black Folk:”

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.  One ever feels his twoness, –an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

I endorse his views on the subject.

But lest anyone rush to judge Du Bois, he is not alone; he is not even the first to cast a disparaging eye at the relationship between African Americans and the Fourth of July. On July 5, 1852, fifty-one years earlier, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at Corinth Hall, in Rochester, NY, his home. In a passage of that speech, Douglass said:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Suffice it to say neither Douglass, nor Du Bois was sold on the notion of the Fourth of July as a pure as the driven snow family friendly holiday. But that is not the sole point of this post.

No, history has given us the gift of some intriguing coincidences, as well as some compelling ironies. In observing both, there are times when, even though I hold him/her in great awe, I am convinced God is, if not a confirmed jokester, at least the owner of a genuinely robust sense of humor.

During a number of past holidays, I have addressed ad nauseam, the “principle of incompatibility” that divides holidays from structured endeavors such as reading, studying, and heaven forbid, working. To that end I usually try to ratchet it down a notch or two, or several, during holidays. The fact that today is July 4thAmerica’s official Independence Day, makes that messaging exceedingly apropos.

Looking back at Independence Days past, 1826 probably held one of the more noteworthy coincidences.  July 4th, 1826, marked not only the 50th Anniversary of American Independence, but was also the day two of our nation’s Founding FathersJohn Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died. Yes, they died the same day in the same year. Such an occurrence today would almost certainly serve as a catalyst for rumors of a death pact.

Adams and Jefferson shared more than joint status as two of the fifty-six co-signers of the Declaration of Independence; they also went on to become the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the United States, respectively. It is reported that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson still survives.” However, unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson had died earlier that day.

Adams and Jefferson had quite a concurrent history.  Adams was the first to serve as America’s Vice President, he was the first President to live in the executive mansion (known today as the White House), and he was also the first President to be defeated in a re-election bid…by Jefferson, who had served as his Vice President.

Thomas Jefferson went on to become President after defeating Adams, but not without a bit of what we would think of today, as drama.  Aaron Burr tied Jefferson with 73 electoral votes.  As a result, the election was sent to the House of Representatives to determine the winner. After 36 ballots (that’s right 36), Jefferson prevailed. In later developments, Burr, who served for a time as Jefferson’s Vice President, killed Alexander Hamilton, who was also a Founding Father, in a duel. Not surprisingly, Burr’s career in politics took a precipitous decline afterward, although he was never convicted of a crime for his role in the incident.

Burr’s leaving the office meant Jefferson had to secure another Vice President for his second term as President. After 203 years, P-Funk fans still tip their hat to Jefferson, as he selected George Clinton to hold the second chair. (Funk-a-teers and P-Funk Mythology devotees will know what I mean…see George Clinton, musician, and his anthem Atomic Dog, as a point of reference).  I digress!

The virtually concurrent deaths of Adams and Jefferson marked an intriguing Independence Day coincidence of considerable magnitude. This past Friday July 4, 2008, Independence Day again collaborated with the death of a prominent political figure, this time in what many consider a compellingly ironic twist. Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, popularly known as Senator No, a nickname he appeared to relish, died leaving a legacy that will be debated, by supporters and detractors for many years to come.

It is a fact that there are those who consider Helms a patriot. Others have cited his “courage” to stand against the forces of change, on issues ranging from gay rights to trade agreements, to foreign aid. Many of his most notable tirades focused on issues of civil rights and affirmative action, and funding for AIDS research. He was also a leading Senate opponent of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and he authored and/or approved the infamous, in North Carolina anyway (but highly effective), “white hands” commercial, aired during the first of two Senate campaign battles against former Charlotte Mayor, Harvey Gantt (1990).  For that moment in time at least, Senator No drove the concept of negative campaign advertising to a new and ugly low.

The Honorable Senator No appeared to take great pride in his predictable opposition to progressive ideals, and often needled the media when he felt he had bested their desired interests. He earned the distinction of being North Carolina’s longest serving Senator. That is a noteworthy accomplishment, and cannot be diminished.

However, it must be noted that many of the tributes and editorials that began streaming forth Friday (July 4, 2008) sanitized the bigotry and raw mean-spiritedness that marked so many of Helms’ political encounters; especially his triumphs. His was a divisive, zero-sum brand of politics that often targeted the historically disenfranchised for more abuse, insult, and exclusion. In that light, it is impossible to deny the essence of irony in the events of Independence Day, 2008. He was a bona fide Tea Party hero, before his time. One can almost envision the spirit of King, after having scaled the mountaintop, uttering that famous three-word phraseFree at Last!  Indeed, it’s “Independence Day: Free at Last Redux!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adams

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Burr

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Clinton_(vice_president)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Clinton_(funk_musician)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Helms

http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=h000463

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/1995/05/bates.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7490458.stm

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/04/obit.helms/index.html

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1871

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois

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

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

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

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927.html