Being Classy Matters In Politics

On Friday we observed the two-year anniversary of President Biden taking the oath of office. History will recall that in spite of the lift of the nation for reason and sanity, there was a stark reminder of how it all played out in ways not seen since John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson were alive.

There is a classy way to conduct oneself when turning over power at the White House, and then there are those who act like petulant rubes. As such, two years ago when Joe Biden took the oath of office, we did not see the likes of the photo from 2017 when President Obama and First Lady Michelle welcomed Trump to the White House on the inauguration morning.

Or previously in 2009 when President and Mrs. Bush welcomed the incoming First Couple Barack and Michelle Obama. When class is on display it is clearly demonstrated, and sadly, the same is true when it is severely lacking.

Over the decades of reading history, it is clear that a politician’s character is best observed not when the election victories are secured but rather when defeat needs to be faced. That is when people are made aware of the true nature of someone they otherwise may not honestly know.

We are undoubtedly very aware of who Donald Trump is and what constitutes his character. Showing class would not be one of the words attributed to him.

Politically Motivated Shooting Spree: Losing GOP Candidate, Trump Supporter, Election Denier Engages In Multiple Shootings Against Democrats

Solomon Pena, election denier, arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians

It is not possible to write about each multiple shooting or every instance of insanity that plays out with gun owners and their crimes. Given, however, the deeply fractured nature of our politics and the attacks on our democracy that peaked with the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th, the news over the MLK holiday weekend from New Mexico truly startled me. A staunch Donald Trump supporter and losing candidate for state assembly was arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians.

James Patterson could not have plotted a more sinister and dangerous storyline than what Albuquerque Police stated had occurred when Solomon Pena contracted individuals to carry out at least two of the shootings.  Pena, himself, was present and fired a weapon at one of the other shootings.  Those fired upon were the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators. 

The report from NPR on Monday was, frankly put, frightening in every respect.  In one case bullets ripped into the wall of a child’s bedroom.

The first act of gun violence happened on December 4th when eight shots were sent into the home of County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. That was followed on December 11th when more than a dozen bullets were fired into the home of County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Representative Javier Martinez’s home was also involved in a shooting incident in December while this month the home of state representative Linda Lopez was fired upon.  That is where bullets blasted into a 10-year-old’s bedroom while she slept.

While the danger of such actions on a human level is most evident, it is the undermining of our democratic foundations that also must be addressed.  The notion that violence is considered an option when losing a political race is absolutely disgusting and reprehensible.  It strikes against the very ideas of what constitutes free and fair elections in a democracy. We know that Donald Trump has taught a large percentage of his base of supporters to act recklessly and claim election fraud at every turn.  Police stated that Peña alleged his defeat was the result of election fraud.  Gosh, where did that line of horse rot originate? 

It needs to be noted that Peña lost his state assembly challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.  Or to round out those numbers Peña was defeated by roughly 50%!!   

So, what did the losing candidate do upon having voters utterly reject him?  NBC News reported that two handguns were found by police in a Nissan Maxima owned by Peña during a traffic stop on Jan. 3. One of the guns appeared to have fired shots outside the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez roughly 40 minutes before and 4 miles away, police said in a statement. A shell casing found in the Maxima matched those found at the scene of another shooting, an incident outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez on Dec. 8th.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller correctly summed up the crimes and placement of them into the larger issue at hand.  

“This was about a right-wing radical, an election denier, who was arrested today; someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which in turn that into violence.  That should never be the case”.

There is another factor needing consideration, and that is the Republican Party in New Mexico.  Voters knew Pena was previously arrested and convicted of stealing goods from multiple big box stores as part of a “smash and grab” scheme.  They knew their candidate served close to seven years in prison.  Peña was also ordered to go through alcohol/substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, 90 days in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, and anger management, court records show.

And yet….and yet.  The New Mexico GOP thought him the perfect name to be on the November ballot. What they offered the voters was a terrorist who was not able to grasp that every election has a winner and a loser. Peña was told over the past two years of bombast and absurdity from Trump and his ilk that election-denying is just another part of the GOP playbook.  A 10-year-old could have been a victim of this lunacy.

How many Republicans will now step up and denounce the fascism that has taken hold of their party?

Never Again, Donald Trump, Never Again

This arrived in our mail today, having ordered it as the Old Year wrapped up.

There was an author, Allen Drury, who as a boy in the 6th grade captured my attention with a book about a jointly traveled space mission between the U.S. and the then USSR. I was so desiring to be an astronaut at the time, but instead of space, he alerted me along with other events, that political happenings were perhaps more my mission in life. In high school, I started his Advise and Consent series and the cast of continually captivating characters made such an impression that those 6 books have a special place on my shelves over my shoulder as I type today.

But Drury, a former newspaper reporter before his time as a Pulitzer-winning author, could not have created the plot line for what the series of insurrectionist moves researched and reported in this book (pictured above) did to our nation. Drury would say, without a doubt, that our Founding Fathers warned against raw populism and why the citizens needed to not neglect why virtue is a sign of character that we must strive for when elections are held for top offices. He would also remind us that the Founders wanted an informed electorate. Drury was, and I use this term in the best manner here, an old-fashioned American. I am one, too. I suspect most of my readers on this page are the same.

I still believe that our ideals as a nation matter and our purpose on the world stage is essential. The January 6th attack at the heart of our election process and the continued effort to undermine democracy and sully the faith citizens must have in the act of elections allowing for the peaceful transfer of power, strikes not only anger within me but a profound sadness that I again felt holding this book in my hand. It is our duty to know this series of events, and with a determination that equals the Founders in not kneeling to lesser men, we must have that same fortitude to make sure Donald Trump will not have another chance to further damage and destroy what I still firmly know is the best governing system in the world.

Never again will Americans allow Donald Trump to rip at our Constitution.

Wisconsin Man Continues To Cultivate Anger Over Trump Loss in 2020 Election

Four words stuck out of the news story about Harry Wait, the Racine, Wisconsin man who seems desirous of not moving past the 2020 presidential election.  The words used by Patrick Marley for the Washington Post this weekend to describe why some people are simply not able to accept the election outcome is due to the ‘the strategy of cultivating anger’.

By now most are aware of what Wait did in the summer of 2022 that garnered attention, both in the headlines and the courts.

Wait discovered that a state website would allow him to request someone else’s absentee ballot and have it sent to any address. Election officials, who designed the site to make it easy for out-of-town voters to obtain ballots, have maintained that the site does nothing to diminish election integrity, saying anyone who attempted voter fraud would be quickly caught.

But Wait saw the potential for something nefarious and set out to prove a point. He ordered ballots under the names of two officials with whom he has long clashed — one Republican, one Democrat — and asked that the ballots be delivered to his address.

The point of this post is not to give oxygen to conspiracy theories about supposedly fraudulent elections, as we are well aware that if such chicanery as Wait undertook were to take place anywhere from Ashland to Lake Geneva election officials would become aware of it, and take the appropriate actions to correct the problem.  Rather, what I again pondered while reading the news story is the length and breadth that election deniers will go to continue their quest for something that never can be attained.  It would be as impossible to fall off the side of the earth when traveling to Australia in a ship as for Wait to find the election fraud that he and his fellow conspiracists seek.

While Wait uses his time and resources on such fallacies it needs to be understood that others who want to believe Trump was foiled in his pursuit of another term by rampant election fraud, follow such personalities and buy into every word that is uttered.  The damage this does to our political institutions and the foundations of our democracy is real.

When I come across someone who tries to scam me over the internet via email I often think about what meaningful project might be attained if that person applied themself with something that was logical and above board.  While there are many like Wait who seem at some level to care about the nation, would it not make more sense to foster a commitment to some goal that would actually be able to show a benefit and garner public applause, rather than continual and justified rebukes.

It can be noted too often among a segment of Donald Trump’s base that resentment and anger are driving forces regarding a variety of issues. The election victory of Joe Biden has allowed for some to disregard all the guardrails of common sense and reason. With their ‘strategy of cultivating anger’, the same ingredients used by Trump and his inner circle after the 2020 election which started this absurdity, the cycle of ungrounded accusations has taken on a life of its own. 

Compromising Principles Ugly To See When Pols Cannot Condemn Termination Of The Constitution

If we had a five-dollar bill for every time an elected Republican dismissively told a reporter, upon being questioned about a stunning statement from Donald Trump, that ‘he says lots of things’ we would be surprised at our pile of cash.  Over the years Trump has poured forth angry tweets about the way women look or how he should be reinstated to office, despite his being rejected by millions of voters in the 2020 election.  But this weekend Trump made a statement, that even by his ‘standards’, was supremely troubling.

Saturday, Trump made clear his desire for the termination of the Constitution’s election provisions so to mesh with his unfounded claims of mass electoral fraud in 2020. The words and tone of his comment were a prime example of what must never be allowed to gain a fraction of an inch in our democracy, especially since we already have suffered serious attacks on the foundations of the country. Such recent history only underscores why this treasonous comment merited quick and overwhelming repudiation. But only a few Republicans found their love of country and self-respect moved them to a microphone. Congressman Mike Turner from Ohio and newly elected congressman Mike Lawler from New York are to be applauded for knowing their high school civics still resonates.

But while watching ABC’s This Week Sunday morning I was truly taken aback by the guarded hesitation of the chair of the Republican Governance Group, Congressman Dave Joyce.  The exchange with George Stephanopoulos was one of those moments when the viewer is not sure whether it is best to cringe and keep going forward or look away and hope it ends soon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to ask you a question about Donald Trump’s statement yesterday talking about suspending the Constitution. Your reaction?

JOYCE: Well, you know, when President Trump was in office, I didn’t make a habit of speaking out on his tweet du jour. I don’t know what came out on is – whatever his new social platform is. But, you know, people were not interested in looking backwards. The people who gave us the majority — and, again, we – we – we barely won it. We barely eked it out. So, let’s be straight about where we’re at. They gave us an opportunity, and we need to perform. And we need to care about the issues that they care about, which is, how do they lower the cost at the pump?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Donald Trump was your nominee in 2016 and 2020. You voted for him in 2016 and 2020.

JOYCE: Uh-huh.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now he’s talking about suspending the Constitution. Can you support a candidate in 2024 who’s for suspending the Constitution?

JOYCE: Well, again, it’s early. I think there’s going to be a lot of people in the primary. I think, at the end of the day, you will — whoever the Republicans end up pick, I’ll fall in behind because that’s –

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it’s Donald Trump and he’s called for suspending the Constitution?

JOYCE: Well, again, I think it’s going to be a big field. I don’t think Donald Trump’s going to clear out the field like he did in ’16.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking you, if he’s the nominee, will you support him?

JOYCE: I will support whoever the Republican nominee is. And just don’t think that, at this point, he will be able to get there because I think there’s a lot of other good quality candidate out there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a remarkable statement. You just – you’d support a candidate who’s come out for suspending the Constitution?

There is a lot to unpack from that dispiriting display by a member of the GOP who knows better than he allowed the nation to witness. The wish-washy pablum is a weak and dangerous response to the party base that requires some tough and honest conversations so to move the needle away from the lies and utter fabrications designed to smear the electoral process of 2020. Joyce makes the case for what is wrong with a huge portion of the Republican Party.

It is clear that Joyce does not subscribe to the lies about voter irregularities or massive fraud as purported by Trump and yet is willing to support a potential presidential candidate in spite of blatant and provable lies. A democracy can not abide this type of unreasonableness. Such tactics by Trump and his supporters are a direct assault on the foundations of the county and its political institutions.  So, yes, it is more than galling to hear the casual dismissal of Trump’s rant on the Constitution which then allows for his base to continue to claim ‘that’s just Trump being Trump’.

The former president of the United States said portions of the Constitution should be terminated, an open attack on American democracy.  Trump’s behavior over the past 6 years has allowed the GOP to become a cesspool of anti-democratic beliefs.  That was bad enough when he was the one fanning the flames. But when there is an allowance made for his dangerous rhetoric without an absolute and resounding rebuke to Trump’s rhetoric about the Constitution further alerts the majority in the nation that we have even more cause to be worried about our democracy.

Small Town Wisconsin Needs To Know We Have Been This Way Before

We have been this way before.  That is the message we need elected officials and politicians to impart to citizens from coast to coast.

After reading the excellent reporting from Tim Sullivan of the Associated Press, featured above the fold on the front page of Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal, it goes without saying there is a lot to unpack.  Since 2016, I have been trying to better understand what very conservative, Trump-type people, are thinking and more to the point, why they view government and society as they do. The AP news story was insightful.

This is not the first time that citizens in our nation yearned for Washington to rise to the challenges of the time. If we put aside the notion that some on the far-right fear government and disdain it at every turn, it is safe to say that the majority of people, including Republicans want their government to function at a higher level than what we have witnessed for several years. Voters want pols to be reasoned and wish the buffoonish ones would give way to effective representatives in office. We have long had political and legal scandals, though the Jan 6th insurrection was an event without parallel in our nation.  There is nothing new in racial reckonings or having splintered and highly politicized and partisan news media. The idea that elites rule or are too well connected or wealthy as opposed to the masses of workers striving to just get along is as old to our national dialogue as anti-immigrant rants. What I just wrote in a few sentences sums up the tensions of the time which followed the Civil War.

We have been this way before.

Failed reconstruction, economic turmoil, pols not rising to the demands of the time and a sagging enthusiasm about our role on the international stage was part of the decades that followed President Lincoln’s assassination. Over the years, just to press down on the latter point, I have read several books where it was stressed no real foreign policy success came to the U.S. between William Sewards’ famed Alaska deal and the construction of the Panama Canal. Our current mood as Americans is not new. 

We have been this way before.

What we never reflect upon in these rancorous and often highly bombastic times is that we succeeded as a nation after a long period of upheaval, and triumphantly so. Railroads and oil and stronger governmental institutions and stronger financial systems added layers of credibility. 

We must be reminded of having been this way before with rebounds and great national success.

While economics as a science confounds me, economic history is rather compelling.  By looking backward as the national story of our advancements, be they canals or trains or the industrial revolution, is examined comes a bottom line of truth.  One that is playing out today with the information revolution. We know how fast and seemingly abrupt certain new innovations have landed in our workplace or home, from how x-rays are now read from afar, or how technical assistance via phone places our call to Southeast Asia. Changes come fast as do the implications and side effects from jobs, wages, or cultural impacts, while the political institutions make slow and stodgy adaptions. This leads back to one of the complaints from the Civil War generation who also yearned for pols who would more readily address the needs of their time.  

I can understand how the people in the AP story think they have lost faith in technocrats.  I would argue that if a litany of ‘internet news’ from podcasts and those who push conspiracy theories is how one gains a view of the nation and world the issue may not be with skilled and educated bureaucrats or elected pols but rather by not accessing credible news sources. The world might look less dim if the lights were turned on with sound journalism. Without a foundation of facts and data from which to start a dialogue with the rest of the nation, we are witnessing populism running amok.  

So, what hope can we give to the voices from the front page of the WSJ? History says there is always a need for new thinking and modern political designs and solutions, whether in banking, diplomacy, or law. Consider that if the WSJ had printed a front page after the Civil War about farmers, and the numbers needed to feed the nation, they would have been frothing at the mouth to know their numbers in the nation would be narrowed to the single digits, percentage-wise, their land sold for urban sprawl, and the industry transformed beyond their recognition.  Change is always tumultuous, and we are in such a time now.

We need to be reminded we have been this way before. 

Another Low In American Politics, But We Now Expect Such Behavior From Donald Trump

Once again America was lowered to the basement of human depravity.  

While most of the nation spent days leading up to Thanksgiving making pies and perhaps polishing some silverware Donald Trump was rubbing shoulders with Nick Fuentes, a Nazi sympathizer, and holocaust denier.  When not chatting it up at his Florida home with someone who has equated 6 million exterminated Jews with burned cookies in the oven, Trump was breaking bread with another dinner guest, Kanye West, who is an acknowledged antisemite.  

It does not take this little site on the internet to remind readers that President Jimmy Carter built homes in his post-White House years. Or that his fellow officeholder, George Bush, takes an empty canvas and creates painted art, while Bill Clinton focuses on world problems, and Barack Obama works to create his presidential center as an engine for economic gain on the South Side of Chicago. All that is in sharp contrast to Trump intentionally stirring the vilest stew of violence, hatred, and bigotry that was unleashed in the 20th century.

When I heard the news over the holiday weekend, I wish able to say I was stunned.  Or surprised.  I wish there was a reaction other than feeling, well, this is the latest bizarre and tragic consequence of elevating Trump in our political culture. The thought that came to mind upon hearing the NPR news report was recalling a book published this summer that reported about Trump’s desire to have generals like the ones who had answered to Adolf Hitler.  The following quote comes from “The Divider: Trump in the White House,” by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

“Why can’t you be like the German generals?” Mr. Trump told John Kelly, his chief of staff, preceding the question with an obscenity….”

I pondered the impact of Trump’s dinner last week on the nation.  What it says about our citizenry where there is still a very sizable and energized segment who would follow him off a cliff if he said to do so.  (No one should assume he would lead the way, however.) Historians will long study how so many susceptible people were lured into the bizarre cult of Trump.

Trump’s base supporters over the past days in rural America are deflecting from his actions, trying to spin them into an event where he was hardly even aware of it having happened. It is absolutely perplexing how Trump can still command their allegiance when it so sharply flies in the face of a chapter of history that is devastatingly painful.  Yet for Trump, it just was something else to cheapen with his disdain and low-brow character. It is almost chilling to consider that Trump would not even know how to talk about the memories and messages of those who walked to their deaths in places like Auschwitz or Dachau.  

I still believe in a political class that is defined by character, ethics, morals, and values. I guess that results from when I was born and the history I read and better try to understand. We can have sharp clashes over fiscal policy and the size of our footprint on the international stage, but when we witness the vilest and most absurd behavior from a pol as we did last week, and especially one who sat in the Oval Office, there is no other path the majority of the populace can take than one of complete and utter repudiation.

A few notables within the Republican Party found their resolve on Monday and spoke to the deplorable behavior of Donald Trump. We need an avalanche of their fellow party members to do the same, Every reporter needs to press elected officials to go on the record and speak about an ex-president sitting for dinner with a holocaust denier.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy stated: “President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.”

“There’s no bottom to the degree which he’s willing to degrade himself and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting”, said Utah Senator Mitt Romney.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune said of Trump breaking bread with a Nazi and Holocaust denier: “Well, that’s just a bad idea on every level. I don’t know who was advising him on his staff, but I hope that whoever that person was got fired.”

Many in the nation will wonder why an aide needs to be upbraided when we all know the only reasonable reaction Trump need to have taken upon seeing a Nazi sympathizer in his home was to point to the door and say, “get the HELL out!”

Thanks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi!

By the time I was a high school freshman Speaker Carl Albert was the first House leader I was aware of, but it would be Speaker Tip O’Neill who I simply adored. When it comes to where policy and political acumen hit the road at just the right speed and location, however, none was better in my lifetime than Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I reveled in her being a strong woman at a time when too many mostly white men thought it was still their time to always be in power. What rankled them even more, when it came to Pelosi, was that she was successful over and over and over again.

On Thursday, Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues she would be stepping down from the leadership of the House come January.

With Pelosi in a leadership role, Democrats challenged President George Bush over the invasion of Iraq and thwarted his plan to privatize Social Security. For me, the most powerful moment that will have a historical memory always associated with it was her skills and relentless attitude to win the approval of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It will always be her supremely greatest legislative achievement. She helped steer the nation through a grave economic crisis in 2008 and this session racked up the much-needed climate change legislation. Pelosi proves what an educated purpose-driven life can achieve, and we are all the better for it.

Pelosi well-knew a key rule of politics is to never enter a battle without knowing the next possible hands to play. During Donald Trump’s one term in office, we soon realized that he was unaware of how to play the long game. He was a transactional personality, often referred to contemptuously as a ‘day-trader’, and not known to think strategically.  In January 2019, the federal government shutdown continued, the economy was suffering as a result, and the polls proved Trump along with the Republicans in congress were paying the price.

But Trump wished to head to Congress anyway and give his State of the Union Address.  Speaker Pelosi, citing the government shutdown, told Trump in so many words to either reschedule his upcoming address or to deliver it in writing to Congress.  Left unsaid was that he was not going to be allowed to stand before the nation from the House to spout lies about the shutdown. That was not happening on her watch.

In a pithy and perfect comment, Pelosi said, “He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants.” 

I will miss her strength and common sense. And what we know is most vital in politics.  Perfect timing.

Thanks, Speaker Pelosi.