Category Archives: Elections

Name. The. Problem.

No, not racism. For once. Well, kind of racism. Gimme a sec here, Pete. 

Do you wanna know something about partisanship? Partisanship is good. Partisanship is the whole reason we have a democracy. I have no interest in finding common ground with fucking Trump voters or with other assorted white supremacists. I have no interest in making sure those groups don’t feel demonized. I have no interest in making them feel COMFORTABLE when they have made so many Americans, and the world beyond, feel the precise opposite. I’m allowed to be angry at the state of things and I’m sure as hell allowed to loudly call out those responsible for it. I want to vehemently oppose those people, and guess what? I live in a country where I’m free to do that. I don’t like being told I’m out of line for doing so. So you’ll excuse me if I’m not exactly inspired by some South Bend pud who has no stomach for that fight, and doesn’t want me to have it either.

The usual caveats apply here: Pete is not remotely a problem in the way literally any Republican is, and would in fact probably be fine as president, and if he is our nominee I will enthusiastically vote and campaign for him because I’m not a fucking child.

But we are not having problems in this country because we are too partisan. We are not too divided. We do not hate each other too much. This isn’t about our feelings. This is about how we just got laid off and our parents got deported and our health insurance costs $5,000 a month to pay for nothing if we get hit by a bus and we can’t afford to work if we have kids and we can’t afford not to work if we have kids and when are you going to have kids already, you’re not getting any younger, and if you live in the country you’re a dumb hick and if you live in the city you’re a commie and oh, by the way, your street hasn’t been repaired since 1989 because we can’t afford it, vote to cut taxes again please.

Those problems are not “partisanship.” They’re not “division.”

We’ve been told so many times that our society is polarized because polarization just happened, probably because of our phones and social media, as if Facebook magically makes you mean and racist as opposed to exposing you to what your nice Aunt Jean-Marie really thinks. We hear this so many times from so many people we actually think it’s true.

It’s not true.

We’re “more polarized” because for once a whole hell of a lot more of us are being heard and the things we’re hearing about from our fellow Americans fucking suck and we’re feeling the urge to do something about it and the people in charge cannot have that.

So we hear about how bad it is to hear from so many people, about so many things they care about.

We hear that we’re so divided now. But we’ve always been divided and the problems we are having are not because of that that division. They’re because we’re being told any solution to the problem is beyond us and so all that’s left is to get madder and madder. When you let people tell you what’s wrong — and that’s over, cats and kittens, you can’t stop the signal — and then tell them to just, like, sit with that? Because we just, I dunno, can’t, or whatever, you wind up with the kind of rage that we’re seeing now.

And that rage frightens people. I get it, I’m a middle class white chick, I am likely first up against the wall, but my fear isn’t, you know, a thing I get to project on everybody else by telling them to sit down and shut up.

So the next time someone tells you the problem is we’re just too divided, ask them to articulate what that means, what that really means. And if they bring up some cable news asshole or Trump or someone speaking Spanish in the store, or sputter that this is just something everybody knows, then you’ll know you aren’t actually dealing with any kind of problem, and you don’t need to worry about their concerns.

Push on. We’ve got real things to do here. We have a limited amount of time on this planet and spending it worried that the cable news audience is upset is not, shall we say, a good use.

A.

Gret Stet Goober Race Update

I’ve haven’t written much about the Louisiana Governor’s race here for a couple of reasons. First, my Gret Stet ramblings are on display at the Bayou Brief nowadays. Second, the race is depressing for a variety of reasons that I’ll describe below.

In 2015, I was enthusiastic about the candidacy of Blue Dog Democrat John Bel Edwards. Why? He was running against David Vitter who, while good for the satire biz, scared the shit out of me as a potential Gret Stet Goober. When Edwards won, he became a dragon slayer. I am still grateful for that.

Edwards’ record as Governor has been fairly good. He undid some of the damage done by Bobby Jindal to state government with Medicaid expansion being his greatest accomplishment.

As he approached re-election, Edwards has moved steadily to the right capped off by the horrible abortion bill he signed in May. Here’s what I said earlier this month about Edwards and reproductive rights at the Bayou Brief:

I voted for Edwards in 2015 knowing that he was anti-choice. If he was a no-exceptions right to lifer then, I did not want to know: he was the anti-Vitter. I assumed that such a basically decent man would have the same position as former Governor Blanco and other Blue Dogs. I was wrong. These are darker times and the so-called pro-life right believes they can realize their dream of reversing Roe in one fell swoop. Their dream is my nightmare.

In 2019, I am strictly a clothespin voter in the Governor’s race. Team Edwards is so terrified of Louisiana Trumpers that they’ve taken the Democratic base for granted.  That hurt them in the primary: African American voter turnout was low. If they can’t fix that, Louisiana is in a fix.

The fix is Republican candidate Eddie Rispone. His platform consists of three words: Trump, Trump, Trump. He’s an ignorant rich dude who recites the same buzz words repeatedly: conservative, businessman, outsider, and his greatest hit, Trump, Trumpity, Trump.

Rispone is an insider posing as an outsider and a know-nothing posing as a know-it-all. In last night’s debate, he could not explain WHY he wants a constitutional convention. If elected, he will be the most ignorant Governor since singer-actor Jimmie Davis who is best known for buying and slapping his name on the song You Are My Sunshine as well as his staunch defense of segregation in the early Sixties.

The power behind Rispone is contractor Lane Grigsby who my Bayou Brief colleague Sue Lincoln dubbed The Great Grigsby. His goal seems to be to Trumpify, Kochify, and re-Jindalize state government. Rispone is his dim and sporadically genial front man.

Dr. A declined to watch last night’s Edwards-Rispone debate live and, as usual, she was right. I watched it later and found it depressing. The moderators sucked as did the candidates. It was Rispone’s only run-off debate and his performance was dismal. It was the battle of the unprepared vs. the overprepared, Governor Edwards who came off as a smug dick. It scares me that I like former Governor Mike Foster more than either of these bozos. And I never voted for the man that Clancy DuBos dubbed Governor Warbucks.

Eddie Rispone was so bad in the debate that he reminded me why I’m voting for Edwards. Both candidates suck but Rispone sucks harder. His best bet is to nationalize the race by making it about the Insult Comedian. The Governor’s best bet is to keep it local by making it about PBJ. It boils down to Trump vs. Jindal. Is it any wonder that I’m bummed out about this race?

Voting for the lesser of two evils is the adult thing to do but it’s not a helluva lot of fun. I’ll be glad when it’s over.

The last word goes to Wilco with a song that I’ll be singing on November 16th:

 

Why I Didn’t Watch The CNN Debate

The Tweeter Tube was jam packed with complaints about last night’s Democratic presidential debate. Some were shocked that it was set up to maximize conflict and drama. I was not. It was one reason I did not watch.

For many years, CNN has packaged debates as if they were reality shows. Reality shows require conflict and drama to hold the audience’s interest. While that might be true of a debate as well, that’s not what the candidates are there for. Their goal is to get their message out. That’s hard to do when the moderators want the candidates to comment on the other guy’s message.

A three-hour long debate with twelve candidates is simply too long and overcrowded. It’s aimed at filling time on CNN, not informing the voters. It’s also cruel and unusual punishment to force candidates to go that long without a pee break.

I don’t know about you but I’m fine with never hearing from Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Tulsi Gabbard again. The two rich guys have no chance of being nominated and the Congresscritter from Hawaii sounds like she’s planning to run as an independent apologist for the Assad regime. The other candidates are viable until they’re not. Someone else is bound to drop out some time soon.

The biggest problem I have with the MSM focus on debates is two-fold. First, they have nothing to with governing. Normal presidents make important decisions in conjunction with advisers and experts. Second, debates don’t matter in the long run. It’s more important whether a candidate has a strong message and a good organization in the early states. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton were dominant in their general election debates but lost.

I may watch the next time around but if Tulsi is there gabbing, in the immortal words of movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, “include me out.”

Everything is Racism & Sexism and Nobody Will Say It

Look at these fucking contortions: 

Boston’s North Shore seems as if it should be prime Elizabeth Warren territory. It is home to working-class towns, and it’s a short drive from Warren’s own house.

But ever since she entered electoral politics in 2012, she has struggled on the North Shore. When she defeated Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent senator, that year, she lost in places like Haverhill, Peabody, Saugus and Methuen. Last year, when Warren won re-election easily, she performed worse in those towns than Maura Healey, the Democratic attorney general, who was also on the ballot.

As Warren has risen to the top of the presidential primary field, her North Shore struggles underscore the biggest question about her campaign: If she were the nominee, could she win back working-class voters who swung to Donald Trump in 2016?

I can’t imagine why. Maybe it’s because white people have been mainlining Fox News/Sensible Centrist heroin for two decades now and all they’ve learned is that Democrats want to raise Your Taxes so they can give Secret Great Welfare to undeserving minorities while poor white people get Bad Welfare which is No Help At All.

Let’s go to that notorious whisperer of the Average American Voter, fucking CHAIT:

I’ve argued before that Warren has an excellent overall agenda for combating wage stagnation and helping the working class, but that her support for mandatory Medicare and border decriminalization is a politically damaging mistake.

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says that Warren’s policy positions are hurting her with swing voters. “She is a compelling orator with a sympathetic life story and a gift for explaining complex ideas in simple terms. Yet she has spent most of the last year positioning herself as if the general election will never happen,” Chait writes.

Warren’s policy positions. Are hurting her. With swing voters.

Well goddamn, if only she’d bake them some cookies and tell them a story! About her personal life! Stop saying things like “we should quit locking up children fleeing violence and persecution” and “maybe you shouldn’t go bankrupt if you get brain cancer,” Lizzie!

Mandatory Medicare. You absolute jackass.

Warren’s working-class issues also matter in the primary. The political journalist Ron Brownstein coined the terms “beer track” and “wine track” to describe two different parts of the Democratic electorate, and the beer candidate (Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Walter Mondale) usually beats the wine candidate (Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas, Gary Hart). Barack Obama was the exception because he added black voters to the wine track.

No one wants to have a beer with some chick!

Obama added black voters to the wine track? It’s 2019 now. Everybody fucking drinks wine. This isn’t the 80s when American wine was garbage; even box wine is good now and this metaphor is goddamn embarrassing. Stop quoting people still masturbating to the catchphrase they invented 20 years ago.

Are we genuinely, in the age of Donald Trump, still doing this? If so, I’d like to trademark the Crackpipe Track, whereby we all vote for the candidate least likely to make us want to freebase until we go blind.

Right now, based solely on this opinion piece, that’s Warren.

“Liberal college whites are growing as a share of the Democratic electorate, and Warren, in particular, has shown the potential to become a very strong candidate among them, as demonstrated by the huge crowds she recently drew in the white-collar enclaves of Minneapolis and Seattle,” Brownstein writes for CNN. “But many party strategists remain dubious that Warren — or anyone else — can win by consolidating those voters alone if Biden maintains an edge with the party’s other two biggest blocks: blacks and blue-collar whites.”

Well, Lord knows the party strategists have NEVER been wrong about who was the most electable candidate, given that they were all in the tank for Hillz and she lost to a sentient bag of dogshit because they all missed the fact that this is a racist-ass country full of angry old people posting Facebook memes about pressing 1 for English.

This isn’t about Warren vs. Biden. I’ve said before and I’ll say until we’re done here that if Joey the Shark is our nominee I will vote for him and campaign for him and post pictures of him and B. Barry Bamz looking sexxxxxy on the trail because that’s kind of our thing and because I’m not a fucking child, I know what’s at stake here.

But this constant regurgitation of the conventional wisdom of the Clinton years and the conflation of “working” with “white” and the elevating of those voters over all other voters and the goddamn arsing chickenfried refusal to acknowledge voter suppression and Republican misinformation in order to make the case that somehow the Democrats just don’t manage to “connect” with Chait’s imaginary whiskey tango proto-voters down the trailer park makes me want to tear off my own head and eat it.

We have serious problems and there are, lest we forget, parts of the country goddamn underwater, and other parts where there are immigrant kids in cages, so you’ll pardon me for skipping the part where we ask all the Democrats what kind of cocktail they are.

A.

Don’t Spike The Ball

The hot takes are flying about the Israeli election. I’m a Bibi-phobe in good standing but here’s a reminder that what we’ve seen thus far is an exit poll showing the opposition with a narrow lead. Israel has proportional representation and a multi-party system, which means a coalition must be built. Netanyahu is down but not out. He trailed Shimon Peres in the 1996 exit polls and won that election.

Josh Marshall knows a helluva lot more about Israeli politics than I do:

But there is an ocean of tears of Bibi-haters who put their faith in Israeli exit polls. We have seen repeated examples of narrow Likud defeats which overnight turned into narrow victories. This is definitely looking like a tough situation for Netanyahu. But I’ve been Charlie Brown and seen this football teed up far too many times to put much stock in these numbers…

Ever since exit polls showed John Kerry winning the 2004 presidential election, I haven’t put much stock in them. Hopefully, this one is right, but now is not the time to spike the ball. Just ask Charlie Brown:

INSTANT UPDATE: The votes are in and the opposition Blue and White has 32 seats and Bibi’s Likud 31. That will give Benny Gantz the first crack at forming a government BUT bad shit could still happen. What I said about spiking the ball still applies.

Mark Sanford Hikes The Appalachian Comeback Trail

It’s getting crowded and confused on the campaign trail. As the Democratic presidential field narrows, the Republican field expands. The latest entrant is former Palmetto State Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford. He’s best known for two things: an embarrassing sex scandal as Governor and losing a primary to a Trumper last year.

Sanford is challenging the Kaiser of Chaos from the right. Even though he voted for the Trump-Ryan tax scam, he’s running as a fiscal conservative. Perhaps he’ll branch out and discuss the other disasters wrought by Team Trump but right now Sanford is lost in the fog of scandal.

Exploding the budget deficit strikes me as one of the lesser Trump scandals. It’s what Republican presidents have done since Reagan: cut taxes, explode the deficit, then try to shred the social safety. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Sanford’s fellow former “Freedom Caucus” member, Justin Amash, has cited Trumpian gloating after Sanford’s defeat as a decisive factor in his departure from the GOP. The Insult Comedian is not a gracious winner.

A reminder of  Sanford’s hilarious 2009 sex scandal. He went missing as Governor. While he was holed up in Argentina, his aides claimed that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” He was exposed as a liar, resigned as Governor, was divorced by his wife, and married his Argentine lover. One would think the Insult Comedian would identify with a liar and a cheat but apparently not.

The lame Appalachian Trail excuse was in the news again the other day. Without a hint of irony or self-awareness, Trump has taken to mocking Sanford for it but he’s easily confused: the other day he called it the “Tallahassee Trail.” There is no such thing and anyone who hikes in Florida’s capital city in the summer is apt to get heat stroke. Holy trail mix-up, Batman.

If Sanford had a sense of humor, one of his campaign planks would be to save the Appalachian Trail from the Trump regime and the oil companies. It’s under attack and needs all the help it can get.

There are now three primary challengers to the Current Occupant: Sanford, the Other Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld. The more the merrier. If one of the cable networks schedules a GOP debate, it’s easy to imagine Trump impulsively deciding to participate thereby violating the iron clad rule that incumbent presidents do not debate intra-party challengers because it elevates them. His handlers would be wise to place him in a straitjacket so he won’t accept. It’s where he belongs anyway.

In other campaign news, the Democrats are debating on ABC tonight. I’m undecided as to whether I want to watch. I might have better things to do but if I don’t, I’ll file an instant analysis post.

That’s all, folks.

Jay Inslee Is Out, The Other Joe Walsh Is In

Regular readers will recall that I used this image of Harold Lloyd in Safety Last to count down the 2018 mid-terms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.

Since American democracy is hanging by a thread as long as President* Pennywise is in office, it seemed fitting to re-purpose it for 2020. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of the presidential race.

OUTS: Jay Inslee exited the race with the same class, grace, and substance that he entered it. His focus on the crucial issue of climate change made a positive impact and prodded the leaders of the pack to respond. He was always my favorite among the no-hopers. I’m glad he’ll be running for re-election for Governor of Washington state.

Seth Moulton pulled out after I wrote the post title. His impact was minimal. It struck me as a vanity campaign, which like that of Tim Ryan was essentially an extended fuck you to Speaker Pelosi. He can return to the Hill to annoy Nancy Smash. My hunch is that he’ll be joined by Ryan sooner as opposed to later.

The presidential race knocked the former Governor of Colorado for a Hickenlooper so he exited. He just declared his candidacy to challenge the most vulnerable Senate GOPer, Corey Gardner, thereby morphing from a political minnow to a whale.

The last word of the segment goes to Stephen Stills and Manassas, which is in Virginia but the song is about Hickenlooper’s home state. Go figure:

INS: The Other Joe Walsh came to our attention as an unhinged Tea Party Republican. He served one term in the House before losing to Tammy Duckworth who is now the junior Senator from Illinois. Walsh is a strident opponent of Barack Obama turned strident opponent of Donald Trump. His twitter feed is highly entertaining.

The Other Joe Walsh is on the verge of entering the presidential race where he’ll join Bill Weld as a GOP no-hoper. I still think Weld will do fairly well in New Hampshire but I welcome anyone who’s willing take on Trump from the right. Thus far, the Never Trump Republicans have been all talk, no action.

I like what Slate’s Jim Newell wrote about the GOP “race” in The Surge:

Joe Walsh, Mark Sanford, Jeff Flake, John Kasich

Let’s get slaughtered and be legends.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re cheating by lumping four candidates together. But (a) the greatest trick the Surge ever pulled was convincing you there were rules, and (b) each of these four Republicans considering a primary challenge to President Donald Trump amounts to roughly ¼ of a legitimate presidential contender, so the math checks out. As the Washington Post reported this week, “the anti-Trump movement inside the Republican Party—long a political wasteland—is feeling new urgency to mount a credible opposition to Trump before it’s too late.” This “movement,” which appears to be the usual gang of Bill Kristol and a couple of his interns, has been displeased with the lack of enthusiasm out there for the existing Republican primary challenger, boring patrician Bill Weld, and is working the phones for a new candidate to also elicit zero enthusiasm. The idea is that only one of them should run to unify the anti-Trump conservatives. Much like Weld, though, this idea is boring and makes the primary challenge easier for Trump to ignore. All of them should get in, and there should be televised Republican primary debates, tempting Trump to participate.

The Insult Comedian loves shooting off his big fat bazoo and showing off his “very good brain” so that’s actually a possibility. Run, Republicans, run.

The last word goes to the Real Joe Walsh:

President* Pennywise

Image by Michael F.

We recently watched the 2017 movie IT, which is based on the Stephen King novel. I wasn’t terribly familiar with that terrible tale except for the sinister clown Pennywise. I loved the movie and realized that it was remade for two possible reasons: the popularity of Stranger Things and the rise of Trumpism.

Pennywise the evil clown (is there any other kind?) thrives on fear. He gets stronger the more he fearmongers. It’s what emboldens him to get out of the gutter and come into the open. The Insult Comedian never leaves the gutter BUT he too thrives on fear. That’s why I mock him: he feeds off our fear and recoils from our scorn. President* Pennywise is a pussy. He should grab himself.

I don’t see Trump as a figure of fun even though he’s funny. What he’s doing to the country is not funny but he cuts a ridiculous figure as he wreaks havoc. At the risk of sounding like a Reader’s Digest feature, laughter is the best medicine against Trumpism. Their dear leader has no sense of humor unless the joke is on his enemies. That’s why one should laugh at him, not cower, especially when the laughter is provoked by his latest outrageous statement. Remember the Maddow Doctrine:

Words to live by.

I seem to have missed the Insult Comedian’s exchange with California Governor Gavin Newsome during the 2018 campaign. Trump called Newsome a clown, here’s his tweeted response:

SNAP.

Courage is what the resistance to Trumpism requires. I know that many are still traumatized by the 2016 election BUT remember that Democrats won the mid-term popular vote by 9 points. And Trump is running on the same issues that flopped in that campaign.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Trump’s only path to electoral college victory is to destroy his opponent and resort to massive electoral fraud. He will not win the popular vote and has a narrow path to winning the electoral college, particularly with the economy circling the bowl. He’ll try and blame the Fed or Democrats but the voters blame the Current Occupant for economic woes. It couldn’t happen to a “nicer” guy.

Trump’s opponents need to take a deep breath and keep fighting. Remember: this guy and his cretinous followers thrive on your fear just like Pennywise. It’s up to us to look at the big picture and not be pennywise and pound foolish. Laugh at him, mock him, but don’t let him spook you. Victory belongs to the brave at heart. President* Pennywise can fuck off back to Trump Tower in 2021.

The last word goes to Elvis Costello and the Attractions:

 

The Fog Of History: 1992

When Ross Perot died the other day there was a surge of hits on a post I wrote in 2015, Enough Already With The Perot-Trump Comparisons. Thanks, y’all.

I never voted for Ross Perot but he was much better person than Trump. Perot was a genuine self-made man who had “a very good brain.” Perot also knew his way around a folksy aphorism whereas Trump merely babbles and repeats himself; NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION. Additionally, Perot gave freely of his time and money to a variety of good causes and we all know about the Insult Comedian’s stingy ways.

The New York Times obit of Perot is a classic of the genre:

And in 1992 he became one of the most unlikely candidates ever to run for president. He had never held public office, and he seemed all wrong, like a cartoon character sprung to life: an elfin 5 feet 6 inches and 144 pounds, with a 1950s crew cut; a squeaky, nasal country-boy twang; and ears that stuck out like Alfred E. Neuman’s on a Mad magazine cover. Stiff-necked, cantankerous, impetuous, often sentimental, he was given to homespun epigrams: “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”

Timesman Robert D. McFadden also described Perot as a “wiry Texas gadfly.” I’m fond of gadflies. I’m one myself.

1992 was one of the most exciting elections of my lifetime. It had everything: sex scandals, a huge Democratic field, and an incumbent president who was good at governing but rotten at campaigning. Poppy Bush was challenged by wingnut gadfly Pat Buchanan whose insurgent campaign damaged the incumbent enough to doom his candidacy. Thanks, Pat.

And then there was Ross Perot. He entered the race on Larry King Live, exited the race during the Democratic Convention, then re-entered the race just in time to debate Bush and Clinton.

The featured image is of my favorite moment in the first debate: Bush checking his watch. Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?

Perot did well in 1992, winning 19% of the popular vote and his candidacy was the final blow to Poppy Bush’s chances.

Perot was quirky and idiosyncratic. The term eccentric billionaire seemed to have been coined for him. I’d like to thank him at this point for helping to elect the Clinton-Gore ticket thereby breaking the Democrats losing streak in presidential races. It was a helluva campaign y’all.

Perot’s third party candidacy in 1992 showed the utility of such an effort whereas his 1996 campaign showed its futility: he won only 8% of the popular vote and wasn’t invited to debate Clinton and Dole.

I used to do a wicked Ross Perot impression but I lost it after he left center stage. It typically involved the phrase “great sucking sound,” which he used to describe NAFTA but is equally applicable to the Trump Regime.

The last word goes to Patsy Cline with the song Team Perot played as he hit the stage to concede in 1992:

 

 

Instant Analysis: Cattle Call Debate Act One

Nothing that happened on that glitzy stage in Miami mattered all that much. Some candidates performed well and others bombed but in the end, a good ground game in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will matter infinitely more.

Hell, I don’t even think general election debates matter all that much: Hillary and Kerry destroyed their opponents, which is the political equivalent of winning the battle and losing the war.

One jarring thing about the debate was the performative Spanish speaking by several candidates. It started to feel as if it were a Canadian debate where they break into French from time-to-time. You say gracias, I say merci. Let’s call the whole thing off.

I have a few random thoughts about this random group of candidates:

Warren: My candidate performed well as always. There were stretches where she was quiet but she’s the frontrunner in this group so she didn’t need to mix it up with the likes of DeBlasio, Ryan, Delaney, and Gabbard.

Her closing argument was superb. It’s a good example of why I believe she’ll win the nomination and go on to be our first woman president.

Booker: He helped himself. He was strong, forceful, and passionate. He seems to have good chemistry with both Warren and Castro. A good thing since they’re her most likely running mates if she picks within the field of candidates.

Castro: The strongest performance of the night. He’s an impressive guy with a great back story. He’s making a real contribution to the race with his focus on immigration. It’s easy to imagine him cleaning up the Homeland Security Department in the next Democratic administration.

Beto: He’s an outstanding stump speaker but a poor debater. He came off as a nervous windbag who was trying too hard to be a 21st Century Bobby Kennedy.

It finally occurred to me who Beto reminds me of:

Like Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, Beto never uses one word when ten are available. And they both have big, scary teeth.

He should reconsider running against Senator Cornhole in Texas. Running for president was a bad Beto…

Klobuchar: I like the Senator from Minnesota, but this was not her best performance. Her closing argument was a dud: I’m electable yadda, yadda, yadda. Why? At this point in time, Trump looks like a stone cold loser unless his pals in the Kremlin bail him out again.

Inslee: In a word, inconsistent. Gave some good answers on climate change but rambled at other times. His makeup was a disaster. It made him look 20 years older than he is.

DeBlasio: Tall, annoying, and loud.

Delaney: Why was this bozo even onstage? He looks like a wrestling coach.  I halfway expected him to apply a Half-Nelson to one of his opponents.

Ryan: He gave a decent answer early on about guns then became increasingly incoherent. He spent much of the second half giving forgettable answers about the forgotten people. I forget exactly what he said.

Gabbard: Ryan was so inept that he gave Gabbard a chance to shine. I hate to say that because she’s awful and should exit the race, stage left.

On Nostalgia, Joe Biden, and the ‘Shortcomings’ of the Young

God, it’s such good sport to beat up on Joe:

Don’t misread here: He’s being a tool about a lot of things and if he’d just shut his goddamn trap he could likely coast to a primary victory, but he can’t stop setting his brand on fire in the street. Whether that’s good or not is totally impossible to say, since “electability” is for suckers and national head-to-head polls are stupid as hell.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen next spring. Shit, we barely know what’s going to happen next WEEK, so my enthusiasm for wading into this nonsense at this point is pretty limited. I was a Deaniac and still am a Kerry stan, guys. Once bitten, etc. But there’s something going on with Biden that I think is interesting beyond just the usual “here’s a dude running for president.” I mean, there are lots and lots of dudes running.

(We hear about them constantly because it’s either that or talk about the women, after all.)

So, Biden:

“I know how to make government work,” Biden said. “I’ve worked across the aisle. I’ve worked to reach consensus.” It wasn’t just a call back to his time as Barack Obama’s wingman vice president but also to his days in the Senate when, to hear him tell the tale, politicians ruled in the best interests of everyone, regularly struck bipartisan deals, and didn’t shout at or demonize their opponents in the pursuit of scoring political points.

There is, of course, a hunger for what we think of as normalcy, which is really a return to a time when we were happy. When that was depends hugely on what you look like, where you live, and what you want. I remember the late 1970s/early 1980s as joyous because my grandparents were alive and I was five years old. Every day was sunny and we had enough to eat and my dad was stealing cable from the neighbors. It was excellent, you know?

Iranian-American children might not have had as much fun in those years, just for example. So while I would dearly love to go back to a time when I was totally ignorant of the world’s problems, I can understand that for others the lure is less. If you can legally marry the love of your life now, you might not want to return to a time when you could be jailed for such a thing. Again, just for example.

The Biden Administration is unlikely to go out of its way to put immigrant children in concentration camps nor attack loving couples whose adopted children were born in the United States. The Biden Administration is unlikely to nominate an actual fascist to replace RBG. The Biden Administration is unlikely, perhaps, to slap its collective dick on China’s dinner table. And if what we face is four more years of Trump cosplaying the Declaration of Independence BUT AS KING GEORGE then I will loudly, enthusiastically, and downright gleefully vote for the Biden Administration in all its dumbass 1950s glory.

I will post memes. I will quit my job and buy a panel van and follow that shit around like the Grateful Dead. My Jackie-O suits will come out of storage.

That’s not the choice yet, though, so here’s my thing with nostalgia. It’s fucking pointless, and it’s sad, and it doesn’t help anything, and its entire function is to let you off the hook for working hard to keep up with the world and being wrong about it as you try to understand.

Do you know, I run in a lot of totebagger circles. I spend SO MUCH TIME listening to people lament division and partisanship and information silo-ing and how we’ve somehow suddenly developed the inability to tell fact from fiction and listen to each other. We need to build bridges, don’t you know. We need to reach out to each other. We need to come together and remember we’re all human!

WE NEED TO STOP KILLING EACH OTHER, is the main thing I want to scream in response, as white supremacists shoot up schools and synagogues week after week after week, as the price of insulin skyrockets, as kids with cancer beg their friends to run lemonade stands for them. Middle- and upper-class white people need civility because then politics can stop distracting us, but everybody else needs to be able to stop dying.

And in order for that to happen we’re going to have to reckon with the world we created in a way that I know our mainstream media sources, the morning shows and quick sports-radio asides that drive the thrust of our national narrative, don’t have the resources or the intelligence or the desire to do.

So to spend the next two years talking about being nice to Republicans, about “reaching across the aisle,” about yearning for the days when things were simpler and kinder … it isn’t just that the prospect doesn’t appeal to me personally (though of course it could). It’s that all it’s going to do is make us smaller, weaker, more powerless, less able to do what needs to be done.

The cultural fracturing isn’t going to stop; too many new stories are being told. Republican malfeasance, criminality and treason aren’t going to stop. And previously marginalized people who are developing the ability to fight back aren’t going to stop, because it’s not the culture or civility or some idea of their childhood they’re fighting for. It’s their lives, right now, right fucking now, today.

In the face of that reality we need someone who can recognize it for what it is, and greet it warmly, arms wide open, enthusiastic for the tumult and the shouting because burning is the only way anything new can be born. More likely it’s not just one person who can bring the energy we see all around us to our politics. More likely it’s dozens, elected by people who aren’t interested in our yesterdays, who can see the waves coming into the shore and not turn their backs.

Who can greet what we have now with strength and courage, and not deplore the lack of what never was, not for all of us, not even once.

A.

Memories Of The Muskie Administration

The MSM punditocracy hasn’t learned anything from the 2016 election. They’re still fixated on early polling and “discovering” bright shiny objects instead of reporting the campaign. I *had* hoped they’d learned that insider political journalism was bankrupt as declared by Ben Smith last summer. But they haven’t learned a damn thing and continue to focus on the horse race aspects of the “why not me” campaign. Remember the Avenatti boomlet? I’d prefer to forget it.

After declaring Joe Biden’s candidacy DOA, many in the punditocracy now think that he’s the inevitable nominee. They’re wrong in both instances. Frontrunner status has a way of bringing a candidate crashing to earth, especially in such a large field. Remember President Dean?

I have fond memories of the 2009-2017 Hillary Clinton administration. She was the frontrunner that time around and ended up losing the nomination. Secretary of State was a pretty damn good consolation prize. Thanks, Obama.

The ultimate Democratic frontrunner who failed was Senator Edmund Sixtus Muskie of Maine. 1972 was my formative year as a political junkie. It was the first time I was old enough to pay attention. I supported George McGovern but liked Muskie and didn’t understand why he was torn down by a media that had built him up as the inevitable nominee for two years. I was too young to get it then.

Ed Muskie was Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968. The contrast between him and the man I refuse to claim as my countryman, Spiro Agnew, was stark. Muskie was calm, thoughtful, and qualified. The self-loathing Greek, Ted (Don’t Call Me Spiro) Agnew, was the exact opposite: bombastic, shallow, and unqualified. He was also a crook who took bribes while serving as Veep.

One of the best ads of the 1968 election cycle mocked Agnew:

Back to Ed Muskie. He emerged from the ’68 campaign as a national figure. His calm, reasoned reply to a frenetic midterm broadcast by Tricky Dick in 1970 made him a star and the ’72 frontrunner. The tall Senator was called Lincolnesque by many observers. What candidate wouldn’t want to be compared to Honest Abe?

Muskie led in every Democratic preference poll from that moment on. He was frequently ahead of Nixon in head-to-head polls through the early months of 1972. One of his campaign themes was Trust Muskie, drawing an obvious contrast to a president whose nickname was Tricky Dick.

This button is a good example of Muskie’s message:

Muskie was inevitable, until he wasn’t. His frontrunner status made him a target for Nixon’s dirty tricksters and at 6’4″ he was a big target. Attacks on his wife, Jane, caused Big Ed to snap and cry in public, which in the uber-macho atmosphere of 1972 helped doom his candidacy. Nixon and his lackeys had the opponent they wanted in the general election.

Among the many ironies of Muskie’s doomed campaign is that he actually won the New Hampshire primary, but the punditocracy, unaware of Nixonian dirty tricks, declared McGovern the “winner.” Muskie’s campaign might have come a cropper anyway: he was over reliant on big name endorsements and blurred his strongly liberal political views into blandness on the advice of his advisers.

Muskie was also dogged in 1972 by a bizarre and untrue story concocted by Hunter S. Thompson about his use of a hallucinogenic drug, Ibogaine. Thompson later claimed it was a joke and that nobody believed the story anyway. That just wasn’t so. I think of Ed Muskie every time I hear Hunter Thompson lionized as a voice for fearless independent journalism when, in fact, he was in the bag for Team McGovern. Projection thy name is Hunter S. Thompson.

What lessons can be drawn from my memories of the Muskie administration?

It’s not over until it’s over.

Don’t trust the MSM punditocracy and early polls. They’re both eminently changeable. Just ask former media darling Beto O’Rourke.

Insider political journalism *should* be dead, but it’s not.

The last word goes to Alice Cooper with a hit song from 1972:

Tell Me Again How Both Parties Are The Same

Do it. I dare you: 

Can’t transport more than 2 non-family voters unless you fill out a form identifying them and affirming they “are physically unable to enter the polling place without personal assistance or likelihood of injuring their health.”

I dare you:

Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes’ new bill, S. Bill 9, will disallow driving of elderly, disabled, or poor people to the polls. It would ban efforts with vans full of elderly from nursing homes, disabled people, poor people who don’t have cars, would be illegal in Texas.

I dare you: 

A bill currently making its way through the Tennessee legislature would impose new restrictions on groups that hold voter registration drives and subject them to potential jail time and massive fines.
Under one of the provisions, individuals or organizations that submit 100 to 500 “deficient” voter registration applications, meaning forms that are incomplete or contain incorrect information, could be hit with a $150 to $2,000 fine. Submitting more than 500 “deficient” forms could result in a fine of up to $10,000.

When the 2020 elections are a nonstop shitshow we’re going to see a lot of griping about black turnout not being where it should be and “fuck the South” and all that other nonsense, and every internet bro lamenting that the American people just will not RISE UP will have no idea that any of this happened at all.

I was not angry since I came to France (that isn’t true, I’m angry all the time) but motherfucking fucking FUCK these people. People who drive people to the polls or register them to vote take time away from their work and their homes and their kids to make sure people can exercise pretty much the only right they have left and

And not for nothing but if you’re driving busloads of old people from nursing homes to the polls it’s a better than even chance they’re voting Republican or not for the super-liberal Democrat anyway so talk about some counterproductive shitass bullshit.

When this starts disallowing busloads of voters from the megachurch to turn out for whatever regressive chicken-fried cornpone motherfucker as is currently humping Jesus’s leg, look for a real quick reversal and a “we certainly didn’t mean WHITE people” sort of denial.

A.

Quote Of The Day: Bill Weld On Trump

I’m a hardcore Democrat so I’m not supporting Bill Weld, BUT I got a kick out of that slogan when I saw it on the book of faces. As a longtime observer of presidential politics, I’m keeping an eye on Weld’s nascent challenge to the Insult Comedian. In the primary era, presidents who face a serious intra-party challenge lose re-election. By serious, I mean someone who can poll enough votes early on to inflict political damage such as Pat Buchanan or Gene McCarthy neither of whom expected to win the nomination. But Poppy Bush lost and LBJ withdrew. Mission accomplished.

Weld is something of an anachronism: a moderate New England Republican. They used to be plentiful but now they’re as rare as the dodo bird. Weld, however, is no dodo.

Massachusetts pols have traditionally done well in the New Hampshire primary. It’s also one of twenty states where unenrolled voters can vote in a party primary, which gives Weld a chance to bloody Trump’s nose with the help of  independents. And they’re plentiful in the Granite State.

Weld sat down for an extended interview with the NYT’s Jeremy W. Peters. I got a kick out of this exchange:

There’s conservatism and Trumpism. One is an ideology, the other is more of an attitude. But increasingly a lot of conservatives worry that the two have become inseparably linked. Are they?

They shouldn’t be. Trumpism is frankly devotion to Mr. Trump’s megalomania. I mean, he’s got a lot going on in his head. The man is so angry so much of the time. It’s hard for me to see how one single head could contain so much anger, so much wrath.

He says, “I’m a counterpuncher.” He is not a counterpuncher. He will take off with tweets or action after any slight, real or imagined. My read is the guy is terrified maybe he’s a loser, which is why he lashes out at anybody. I don’t know everything that’s going on there. But I do know that I would not want to have the president’s demons. I feel for the guy in a way. They’re not normal.

That reminds me of some venerable Neil Finn lyrics:

There’s closets in my head where dirty things are kept
That never see the light of day
I want to drag them out, go for a walk
Just to see the look that’s on your face
Sometimes I can’t be straight I don’t want to hurt you
So forgive me if I tell a lie
Sometimes I come on cold but don’t believe it
I will love you till the day I die

I guess the last line could be the president* referring to his true love, himself. Hell, the next couplet fits as well:

I believe in doing things backwards
Take heed, start doing things in reverse

That concludes what one could call the sub-quote of the day. I believe I just did.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

Great White Hopes Or Killer Bees?

Everybody’s running for president; every Democrat, that is. Former Veep Joe Biden disregarded my unsolicited advice and threw his shades in the ring. Why not? He’s the polling frontrunner, which is a meaningless distinction at this point, Just ask Ed Muskie, Howard Dean, and Rudy Giuliani. That’s right, the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover was the early GOP frontrunner in 2008. In 2019,  the artist formerly known as America’s Mayor is reduced to being Trump’s mouthpiece. Where’s that rebuttal report, Rudy? Or was it just another lie?

I’m still undecided in the race. I like four candidates and consider them plausible presidents: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar. Note that none of them is a white dude and three aren’t dudes at all. They haven’t received the level of media attention that four white dudes have: Bernie, Biden, Beto, and Buttigieg. I’m uncertain whether to call them the Great White Hopes or the Killer Bees so I gave the two labels equal billing in the post title.

Here’s the deal: I understand the attention paid to Bernie and Biden. The former was the 2016 runner-up and the latter has run twice before and was Barack Obama’s veep for 8 years. They have the name recognition to go along with the white hair of which Bernie has much more than Joey the Shark. They have another thing in common: they’re both septuagenarians, which is not disqualifying but gives me pause.

Mayor Pete seems to have supplanted Beto as the MSM’s darling. They both have slender resumes for putative presidents but it’s the Why Not Me election so they’re running. My preference is to have a nominee who has run and won statewide, which rules out the young gun set of the Killer Bees.

I will support anyone against Trump but the mayor of a  college town with a population of 109K? Really? Julian Castro also has not run and won a statewide race but at least he was a big city mayor and cabinet secretary. What’s the difference between him and Mayor Pete? Ethnicity. The campaign press corps has a hard time identifying with a Latino; even one with such an amazing Horatio Alger-type back story. Julian is just as cute as Pete and would also make history. Beto would simply be the latest white dude to be nominated albeit a white dude who used to be in a band. I was too. Perhaps I should run.

There’s another difference between Castro and the other young guns: he’s running a substantive campaign. He’s thought a lot about immigration and how the system can be changed and reformed. It’s badly needed after the chainsaw tactics of Trump and Miller. Castro is a longshot but he’s making a contribution to the dialogue in a way that neither Beto nor Buttigieg is. Frankly, I hope that Castro and/or Beto will drop out and run against John Cornyn back home in Texas. Winning the senate is every bit as important as retaking the White House. Democrats have been fixated on the latter way too long. We need to multi-task.

It’s still early and anything can happen in the Democratic field. There are two qualities that are being underestimated by observers thus far. First, the 2020 nominee has to be tough: Team Trump’s only path to victory is total annihilation of their opponent. Second, many voters want a restoration of what Gamaliel called “normalcy” and Adrastos calls normality. They are quite simply exhausted by the endless Trump scandals. I’m convinced that many 2016 Trump voters will pull the lever for peace and quiet in 2020.

The post title is, of course, wry and sardonic. None of the Killer Bees thinks of themselves as a Great White Hope although both Bernie and Biden need to do a better job explaining themselves to people of color, especially black women who are tired of being taken for granted. They should be: they’re the backbone of the Democratic base. That’s why the clips of yesterday’s She The People forum were so much fun to watch. Warren killed it. Bernie struggled. So it goes.

One reason I chose the featured Killer Bee image was the sign in the background: Swine Flu Inoculation Center. The executive branch is loaded with swines. We need to stop the disease called Trumpism in its tracks.  Additionally, the Insult Comedian has pandered  to the anti-vaxxers who have brought back measles.  Thanks, Trumpy. We need inoculation from these swines. If it takes the Great White Hopes or the Killer Bees, so be it. Just win, baby.

The last word goes to the original Killer Bees led by the great Elliot Gould:

I’m caught in another last word lie. Does that qualify me for a Trump regime cabinet job?

Let’s shut things down with the musical stylings of the Blues Brothers; some of whom were also Killer Bees:

Mitch Mitch Mitch, OUT OUT OUT

I wrote this back in 2016 and I’m still on that shit, as the kids say. 

In fact, I’ll go one further: The entire Resistance ™ should focus much less on ousting Trump and throw its entire weight behind ruining Mitch McConnell’s existence into and through the afterlife. 

Without Mitch, Trump couldn’t do jack dick.

Without Mitch and his pets in the howler monkey sanctuary we call the Senate, we wouldn’t have Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. We’d have Merrick Garland and yeah, probably some borderline fascist but COME ON.

Get rid of this turtle fuck and a few of his circle-jerking fascist-curious Klan buddies and suddenly Trump’s a neutered dillhole yelling at the TV instead of all that plus an imminent threat to the Republic.

We are spending all of our time yelling at Bernie and Joe Biden and Mayor Pete and I’m not saying who they are, and the media biases inherent in raising them above Kamala and Professor Zero Fucks, should be irrelevant, but Mitch McConnell is the problem.

Defeat Trump and leave Mitch in place and you have Obama’s second term which, in case anyone has blocked it out, sucked second-hand donkey sack.

With Mitch around nothing gets solved. We should be throwing ourselves at him like White Walkers at the fucking Wall. Who’s running against him? WHO YOU GOT? We’ll take anybody. They’re problematic as shit and too conservative? OKAY, HERE’S SOME MONEY THEN.

And like this is nice but I want to see party money, celebrity money, dirty sexy money, not just spent on ads for another celebrity but on voter registration and ground volunteers and GOTV and like-minded issue-oriented efforts like LET’S HAVE A DEMOCRACY AGAIN and I KNOW THIS IS KENTUCKY BUT CAN WE PLEASE TAKE SOME OF THE GUNS and OUR ROADS AND BRIDGES ARE ALL FUCKED UP. I want this fight fought like it matters.

We can spend the next year all of us having yelly angry high dudgeon about Bernie and Kamala and shit, or we can focus for once in our party’s lives and send this foreskin-headed hijo de Putin into retirement or indictment.

I’m not picky. It’s all fine so long as at the end of the day he’s gone.

A.

A Gift From The President*

I knew that Trump would overreach after his “total exoneration” by his hand-picked Attorney General but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly and stupidly. This Daily Beast headline sums it up quite well: “WTF Is Wrong With Them’: Republicans Horrified As Trump Goes After Obamacare Again.

I like it when Republicans are horrified. They’ve been horrifying me for years.

The first four paragraphs of the piece are equally delightful:

Over the past 24 hours, Republican officials have watched in horror as the Trump administration once again fully embraced the repeal of Obamacare, just over a year after the issue proved toxic for the party at the ballot box.

The embrace came in two steps: with the Department of Justice siding with a lower court ruling that declared the health care law invalid in toto, and with the president tweeting that the Republican Party would become the party of health-care reform. And it quickly complicated what had been widely viewed as one of the best weeks of Trump’s presidency. Ebullient over a four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling—a summary that said the president was not guilty of collusion—Trump suddenly found himself back in a debate that has vexed his administration.

GOP officials couldn’t help but marvel at Trump’s inability to enjoy a rare grace period. “They are completely tone deaf,” texted one of the party’s top strategists. “How bout a few more victory laps on Mueller while you can get away with it? WTF is wrong with them?”

But seasoned Trump hands were hardly surprised at the rake Trump had placed his foot on. “And there’s something unusual about him stepping on a good message?” one former administration official said, laughing when asked about the timing of the announcement.

The policy shift was opposed by the two officials in charge of implementing it: the epistolary Attorney General, William Barr, and HHS secretary Alex Azar who, as far as we know, hasn’t written a letter in “total exoneration” of the Insult Comedian.

I’d like to thank the president* for this gift. He seems to have forgotten that health care was the issue that drove the Blue Wave in the midterms. There’s no cure for Trump’s own pre-existing condition, stupidity.

My hunch is that the decision was made after a long day of fuming over John McCain’s “treachery” on the ACA. Policy making by tantrum is a bad idea. I’m not a fan of it. I am, however, a fan of self-inflicted wounds by my political enemies.

It’s good to know that Trump’s Razor is still in effect. I’m glad he used it to slit his own political throat. Thanks Trumpy.

Beto’s Big Getaway

It took longer than usual to come up with a title for this post. I seem to have used up all my Beto puns last year and was reluctant to Beto the ranch on a new one. I consulted with Mr. Google and learned that Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 film of The Getaway was filmed in O’Rourke’s native El Paso. The book on which it’s based was written by pulp icon Jim Thompson and it’s Pulp Fiction Thursday hence the post title.

Another reason The Getaway provides a perfect title for a post about Beto’s belated campaign announcement is that its premise seems to be “vote for the cool kid” and nobody was cooler than Steve McQueen whose nickname just happened to be The King of Cool. Destiny or a fluke? You decide.

I just finished reading Joe Hagan’s ode to Beto in Vanity Fair. Both Hagan and the candidate think O’Rourke is a man of destiny:”I want to be in it. Man, I was born to be in it.”

I’m less certain. As to the tone of the piece itself, I’m inclined to agree with this tweet from Gambit editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman:

The puff piece article compares O’Rourke to Obama and JFK. It even hints at a “LBJ only cuter” analogy with an extended discussion of Beto’s father Pat, a failed politician, with whom the candidate had a contentious relationship as did Lyndon and Sam Johnson. It was the most interesting part of Hagan’s hagiography piece and included this bit of myth making:

One night in July 2001 the two had what Beto O’Rourke says was “the best conversation we ever had,” ranging over family, politics, personal history. “We just ate leftovers and drank a bottle of wine in the backyard,” he recalls. The next morning, his father was cycling along a quiet route outside El Paso when he was struck by a car and thrown 70 feet to his death. “I was at work and my mom called me and I just knew,” he says. “Because her voice was shaken and said, ‘Something’s happened with your dad. You should come to the store.’”

Neither Jim Thompson nor Sam Peckinpah could have concocted a more mythic end to this father-son relationship.

I’m already on the record as a “the more the merrier” pundit. Whoever wants to contend for the 2020 Democratic nomination should run and let the voters decide. I, too, think that the ability to defeat Trump should be an important factor BUT given the slippage in the incumbent’s support and the scandals engulfing him, I think that any plausible Democratic candidate has a good chance of beating him.  I’m concerned about governing: Trump’s successor will have an ungodly number of messes to clean up including the rebuilding of the NATO alliance. Being cool is not enough.

The Beto myth did not start with the Vanity Fair puff piece. After his defeat by Ted Cruz, people started comparing him to another politician who lost a senate election and was elected president in the next cycle. Comparisons to Lincoln, Kennedy, and Obama seem a bit over-the-top and even a trifle overwrought. What’s next? Are they going to trot out the old Todd Rundgren album title: A Wizard, A True Star? Annie Leibovitz took a picture of Beto “jamming” with his kids, maybe they can do their own version of that classic 1973 album.

Here’s the deal: I will support any Democratic nominee against anyone the GOP puts forward. I don’t even dislike Beto in the way I dislike Bernie Sanders who I would also support. I’m just skeptical that the guy who lost to Tailgunner Ted who lost to the Insult Comedian is the right person to become the next president. If you want healing, unity, and love, Cory Booker is already sounding those themes. Thematically, Beto is the white Cory, only the latter’s stage mannerisms are not reminiscent of revival tent preachers. I’ll spare you comparisons to Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry. The Steve McQueen shtick is enough for one post.

Beto brings another liability to the race. There’s a hunger in the Democratic base for a woman and/or person of color to top the ticket in 2020. Women and minorities drove the party to victory in 2018 and many believe that we should follow suit in 2020.  I remain undecided but I’m inclined to agree.

This post is not intended as a takedown of Robert O’Rourke. I just think he should be subjected to the same scrutiny as the rest of the field. One important question is whether or not he’s ever eaten salad with a comb a la Amy Klobuchar. Repeat after me: being cool is not enough.

Being urged to run by Oprah Winfrey is not a reason for non-celebrities to support a candidate. Thus far, all we really know about O’Rourke is that he’s an excellent campaigner and that the media and some voters are in love with him. It’s unclear what his raison d’être for running for president is: “Vote for Beto because he’s cool” is not enough.

It’s obvious that Oprah and former president Obama urged him to consider running because timing is everything in politics, and O’Rourke was the brightest and shiniest media object in the 2018 campaign. He also lost his race to Ted Cruz a man who is disliked even by those who agree with him. Moral victories are not enough: the stakes are too high.

While I wish that Beto was running against John Cornyn instead of jumping into the crowded presidential field, I understand that the adage “when you’re hot, you’re hot” applies to politics. The people who ran The Getaway‘s PR campaign understood that too. This alternate poster for that movie gets the last word:

Instant Postscript: I mentioned to a friend that I was doing a Beto post centered around the Steve McQueen version of The Getaway. He reminded me that there was a unnecessary and even gratuitous 1994 remake starring SNL Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin. Betomaniacs could argue that McQueen would kick Baldwin’s ass hence O’Rourke could whip Trump. It’s not a bad argument as fictional arguments go. Repeat after me: being cool is not enough.

The Big Picture

There was outrage and shock over the light sentence given to Paul Manafort by Judge TS Ellis last week. I was unhappy with the 47 month sentence but not shocked because I followed the trial closely. Judge Ellis was biased against the prosecution and in favor of Manafort throughout the trial. Several times during the trial, Ellis expressed the opinion that Manafort was a stand-in for Trump so the expressions of shock were either themselves shocking or naive. The light sentence was predictable. Not desirable but predictable.

Judge Ellis is the personification of a federal judge who has served too long. He’s been on senior status since 2007 and has served a total of 32 years. Federal judges tend to have a high opinion of themselves and their legal acumen. Ellis may be an extreme example but the system is pockmarked with high-handed judges who act like demigods in their courtrooms.

I’m inclined to agree with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti:

The 47-month sentence imposed on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has drawn widespread criticism that Judge T.S. Ellis’s decision to give Manafort a sentence far below the 19.5 to 24.5-year guidelines range was motivated by Manafort’s race and class or by partisan bias. In fact, his flawed decision is a consequence of the vast discretion given to federal judges to issue sentences without real fear of being overturned.

What you might not know is that federal law permitted Judge Ellis to give Manafort a sentence of anywhere between 0 to 80 years in prison. And as long as Ellis did not go above the 24.5-year maximum called for by the sentencing guidelines, an appellate court would almost certainly not reverse his sentence, given the very deferential standard of review.

Some compared Manfort’s 47 month sentence to the 13 year book thrown at my former Congressman Dollar Bill Jefferson by Judge Ellis. One flaw in that reasoning is that was not a tax case but a bribery case. Besides, Dollar Bill’s sentence was reduced to 5 years after a plea bargain in 2017. As I said on the tweeter tube:

Dollar Bill is a corrupt piece of shit who deserved all the jail time he got as I pointed out in a piece I wrote for the Bayou Brief.

The reason I’m more sanguine than many about the Manafort sentence is that I’m a big picture guy. Ellis’ sentence is just the first bite out of the sentencing apple. The DC judge, Amy Berman Jackson, has already taken a hard-line with Manafort by revoking his bail for violating his plea deal with Team Mueller. I expect she’ll throw a heftier book at Manafort with that sentence running consecutively with Ellis’ 47 months, which could be a total of 14+years.

In addition to being a big picture guy, I’m not a fan of hot takes. It’s easier to spout off on social media than it is to think things through before responding to the events of the day. It’s why I’m not a fan of epic “tweet threads.” I’d rather read a coherent discussion of an issue than 25 often disjointed tweets on the same subject. That’s why I’m a blogger, not a tweeter.

In other big picture news, people are obsessing about the 2020 campaign and why certain candidates should or should not run. I think it’s up to the voters to sort things out. Lack of interest is why Mike Bloomberg and Sherrod Brown dropped out, which is a good thing in both cases. Bloomberg will spend his megabucks on issues and Brown will hold on to  a senate seat that would surely tumble to the GOP. The Ohio senator may still end up on the ticket if the nominee is looking for balance: a Harris-Brown ticket could be formidable.

Here’s the deal. I think that Trump and the Republicans will be so consumed with scandal that the Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite to win the election. For that reason, I think that the ability to govern is just as important as electability, which is why I’m reluctant to support anyone at this point in time. The next Democratic president is going to have an even bigger mess to clean up than the one inherited by Barack Obama, which is why competence and experience are just as important as ideology in 2020.

I’ve seen confident predictions that the Democratic nominee will not be a white man. It’s too soon to tell: who thought an obscure one-term Georgia Governor would be the 1976 nominee? I’d like to make history again BUT we’re the big tent party and need to assemble a coalition that appeals to moderates and independents as well as to the left. Once again, the voters will winnow down the candidates. Whatever happens, the Democratic nominee will be far superior to Trump or anyone else the GOP puts forward.

Former Veep Joe Biden seems to be edging closer to a decision as to whether or not to run. If Biden were 10 years younger, he’d be a prohibitive favorite for the nomination. In his case, experience and likability could trump (pun intended, it always is) ideology. Joey the shark will have to explain some of his past positions but is viewed with personal affection by most Democrats. He’ll also have to rein in his tendency to praise *everyone* including Republicans if he runs. It’s what happens when you’re an epic schmoozer.

I may be a self-proclaimed big picture guy but I’m out of the prediction business. I hope that Trump will be out of office before January 2021 BUT things have been so crazy for the last three years that I hesitate to dust off my crystal ball. All I’m certain of is that it’s going to be interesting on both the legal and political fronts for the foreseeable future.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rainy Night In Georgia

Hummingbirds by Walter Inglis Anderson

The Super Bowl  will be played tomorrow in Atlanta, but ratings in New Orleans will be abysmal because of the infamous blown call. The game is being boycotted by most locals: Dr. A and I are going to two non-watching parties. I’m unsure if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be burnt in effigy at either soiree. One of them is a birthday party so perhaps there will be a Goodell pinata. Probably not: my friends Clay and Candice have a small child and the sight of Goodell is traumatic to most New Orleanians.

New Orleans and Atlanta have a longstanding and intense rivalry. And not just in football. They’ve topped us economically but we have better food as well as charm up the proverbial wazoo. Saints fans are also disappointed not to be Super Bowling in Atlanta because they’re losing out on some trash talking opportunities. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written in 1967 by Louisiana native Tony Joe White who died last fall at the age of 75. Rainy Night In Georgia is a song that proves the adage that the best songs are sad songs: “looks like it’s raining all over the world.”

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the songwriter’s original, Brook Benton’s 1970 hit version, and a mournful 2013 interpretation by Boz Scaggs.

Let’s put away our umbrellas and jump to the break. We’ll try not to splash land.

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