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An interview with Gavin Newsom, Part 2

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SH: Governor, now that you have got the nomination, how has your life changed?

GN: I don’t think it dramatically changed the concentration or the schedule, meaning being overwhelmed, which is the number of folks that we needed to reach out [to] after the primary. When you go from a scrum with 27 candidates and come down to two, you want to build back a cohesive framework, encourage those who opposed you to come onboard, to get those who may have been on the sidelines onboard, and begin to organize a narrative for the Democratic Party overall, since you are in essence the nominee of the Democratic Party.

SH: You had a sole police officer one time when we met at Whole Foods and you were Lieutenant Governor.

GN: Yeah. Certainly, as we discovered in our week-long bus tour, we [now] have a lot of “new friends” that are not necessarily very enthusiastic, so as a consequence, you have a few extra people around you, because there’s a few more folks with red hats.

SH: You mean MAGA hats?

GN: Make America Great! [laughs] They call me “traitor.” They’re showing up. So it requires a few more [security] folks around me.

SH: I get death threats.

GN: Oh yeah?

SH: For my blog, because of…

GN: So you get a sense of it.

SH: Where does your sense of social idealism and justice come from?

GN: My father. He was, I mean, social justice, racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice were [on the] tip of his tongue, part of the conversation, and it was also demonstrable, meaning it wasn’t just the words or the stories he shared, but it was the example: his leadership, his advocacy, and his engagement with me, despite being divorced and not raising me. All of my time with my father was spent cause-related.

SH: That’s a whole other—I feel like we could talk for an hour about your father.

GN: Yeah. But just on that, substantively, it was river trips, it was hikes, but always around some cause he was connected to. So that’s where it comes from.

SH: How’s he doing?

GN: I was literally just on the phone with my sister. He’s in the hospital again, so hard.

SH: I do wish your father well. Let’s go to the red hats. When I interviewed you last time, we had a bit of a contretemps, because you said, quote, “I wish Trump success.” This was shortly before or after the inauguration—

GN: You were so angry with me. [laughs]

SH: I was.

GN: That was sort of in the spirit of what Feinstein said.

SH: I was just going to call it Feinstein-esque.

GN: But it was also, it was a point, and I believe it. Look: I don’t wish other people ill. I wish people success. And I believe if you’re representing a country like ours, his success is our success.

SH: But your rhetoric has changed.

GN: Has it?

SH: I think it has, from reading the papers and T.V.

GN: Yeah. I don’t know that it has.

SH: You’re much more—

GN: I’ve been very consistent and constant, in terms of my critique and condemnation. But I’ve never deviated from a fundamental belief that I want to see—Look, someone who represents me and has the influence and power over the lives of so many people, not just here in the country but the rest of the world: I don’t want to see them trip on themselves. I don’t want to see them fall on their own face. I don’t want to see them fail. Because all of us suffer. I don’t want to see people suffer. I want to see someone elevate. I want to see someone meet the moment, and I wish that on everybody, including my worst enemies. I really do. I want them to change. I want them to be better.

SH: If the House reverts back to the Dems, do you favor impeachment hearings?

GN: I think we’re on that course.

SH: Do you favor it?

GN: I want to read the—look. I think obstruction of justice is pretty evident. I don’t know what more evidence you need of that, including what just happened. [He refers to Trump declassifying those intelligence documents.]

SH: With the release.

GN: There’s just more and more obstruction. I think on the collusion it’s more of a question. I do look forward to the Mueller report. But I think there’s an inevitability to it. That said, do I think it’s healthy for the nation to spend the last two years of an administration on impeachment hearings? I don’t think it was healthy for the nation during the Clinton years. I don’t know that it’s healthy for the system now. I don’t necessarily know that it will enhance our ability to work together and collaborate together, but I think it’s a necessity if indeed the Mueller report is as condemning as I think it will be, and obstruction of justice is in and of itself arguably impeachable.

SH: Do you think the House will flip?

GN: Yeah, unquestionably.

SH: And the Senate?

GN: I think that’s still open. There’s a new poll showing Cruz up nine points [over Beto O’Rourke]. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Other polls have Beto slightly up.) That’s disappointing. But that said, there’s a chance, an opportunity. Every single day, I feel more optimistic, more hopeful, more expectant that the Democrats are going to have an extraordinarily successful November. And by a significant margin beyond the 23 seats [in the House].

SH: Let’s continue on that. I was watching Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC yesterday. She had Jerry Brown on, and she asked him, and he said he does not see, quote, a viable Democratic candidate for 2020.

GN: Except in the mirror.

SH: In the mirror?

GN: Yeah. He sees it every morning in the mirror.

SH: Do you see a viable candidate for 2020?

GN: I think Jerry Brown was the antidote to Schwarzenegger. In many respects he’ll be the antidote to Trump. I think we’re gonna dust off an old sage, someone that calms the nerves, that has a real history of execution and also a quality of imagination. I think in so many ways Jerry Brown is prototypically the answer. Now is it Jerry? Is it Biden, by extension? Perhaps. I don’t think we’ll go for another novelty. I don’t think we’re gonna go for something untested, because our nerves are too frayed. I think we need to calm them. Elections are often [about] contrasts. That’s why it’s a bit of an anomaly, if I’m successful as governor, then you have a two-term Democratic governor followed by another Democratic governor. I don’t think that’s happened in at least modern history, if we are successful, and I think Brown would tell you it’s unique, because he’s unique.

SH: So is that an endorsement?

GN: I think Jerry Brown would be—I don’t think there would be a more compelling candidate for President of the United States. By the way, I don’t need to say that. I’m not paid to say that. But I do think he has a unique set of skills and a record that few people can compete with.

Monday: Newsom on Trump’s base, Kamala Harris, his own Presidential prospects, the difference between Obama and Clinton, and why he gave me this interview


An Interview with Gavin Newsom

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Part 1: Introduction

(The full interview will appear over the next few days)

The hair is a little greyer, the face more lined than when I first met Gavin Newsom nearly 30 years ago. But at the age of 50, he’s still trim and handsome. And there’s something striking there now that wasn’t earlier, or at least I didn’t see it: gravitas.

He was, in the early 1990s, just a private citizen, starting up a wine shop in San Francisco, with some help from his father, William, a judge on the California Court of Appeal, and the billionaire Gordon Getty, to whom Judge Newsom was a close advisor. Gavin’s subsequent success in building up his PlumpJack Group empire of wine shops, resorts, restaurants and bars got, at the very least, a considerable boost from wealthy and powerful people who loved him and wanted to help him.

Yet it is unequivocally true that everything that Gavin Newsom has achieved—not just the business empire but his political success as he sits on the threshold of being Governor of California– has come about through Newsom’s vision, hard work and inner focus. (Newsom himself would say that his greatest achievement has been his family, which includes his wife, Jennifer, and four kids.) The drive that was so palpable to those of us who knew him in the early 1990s is, if anything, even stronger today.

The political biography is a matter of record. In 1996, San Francisco’s mayor, Willie Brown, appointed him to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission, a tedious sinecure that could not have held much interest for the young man, but it was a start… A year later, again with Brown’s help, Gavin found himself on the Board of Supervisors, the city’s legislative body, where, as has often been pointed out, he was the only straight, white male.

By then the trajectory was clear. He was re-elected to the Board several times before being elected, in 2003, Mayor of San Francisco. He had begun, by this time, to forge the political relationships that would be so important to his future career: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, environmental activists. He was re-elected easily four years later.

As Mayor, Newsom was largely—not entirely—successful. His number one issue was homelessness, which he promised, if not to end, then to reduce. That he did not do so is obvious from the state of the city today–although he argues, not unpersuasively, that this was the fault of subsequent mayors for not following up on his lead. And what mayor, anywhere in America, has solved homelessness? Newsom at least made a concerted effort.

And yet, on another issue, Mayor Newsom made his mark, in the national media, in the history books and, in the minds of some of us, in the annals of moral courage. In 2004, he began presiding over same-sex marriages at City Hall, in violation of state law—the first mayor anywhere to do so. It was an audacious (some said outrageous) move. Newsom says he inherited that sense of justice and social equity from Judge Newsom; indeed, he inhaled, from his earliest days, what Republicans derisively call “San Francisco values,” Democratic ideals that inform his thinking to this day.

And then there were the two terms as California’s Lieutenant-Governor. Probably, from his point of view, the less said about that, the better: Newsom made no secret of his boredom with that largely ceremonial post. Probably he would have run for Governor in 2010, except for one barrier, and a formidable one it was: Jerry Brown. After two terms, he wanted the job again. It was a coronation for the popular Brown: the best, most graceful thing Gavin could do was smile and be the “heir and a spare.” He knew his day would come. Now, eight years later, it has.

He won, to no one’s surprise, the Democratic nomination for Governor last Election Day, and immediately hit the ground running. The position papers, the hustings, the interviews and fund raisers: the routines of a candidate. (Gavin Newsom no less than Barack Obama has mastered the art of fund-raising from an army of small supporters through social media.) Of all the times I’ve interviewed him over the years, this was by far the hardest to arrange, as I knew it would be. Getting an interview with a Mayor or even a Lieutenant-Governor is relatively simple. I had Gavin’s email. I would send him a request, he’d get right back to me, and we’d figure out where to meet. The last few years when he was Lieutenant-Governor, we’d meet in his San Francisco office, which he chose to be, not in the State of California building, a dreary, ugly complex in Civic Center, but in a shared workspace, a South of Market hive near AT&T Park. Newsom clearly preferred to spend his time with bright, creative twenty- and thirty-somethings rather than be stuck inside a drab office surrounded by bureaucrats.

But this time, getting an appointment took more time and effort. At first his people offered me a 15-minute telephone interview. I said, with some petulance and irritation, no. They told Gavin; he intervened and gave me thirty minutes in his new offices, in the Financial District. The half-hour extended to closer to an hour as our conversation kept on going and Newsom’s scheduler’s anxiety mounted.

Newsom is heavily favored to beat the Republican candidate, John Cox, whom he’s crushing in the polls in blue-blue California. As soon as he becomes Governor of California, the photogenic Newsom will be short-listed as a future Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate; as he points out, that goes with the territory of being Governor of the fifth largest economy in the world.

I began by asking Newsom how winning the primary has impacted his life.

 Tomorrow: Newsom on his father, campaigning, Trump, impeachment, the November elections, and a surprising suggestion for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate


Wine Reviews: En Garde

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En Garde’s Csaba Szakal has sent me his new wines for review. (I have not been paid for this.) The Pinot Noirs in particular are very good, providing plenty of cool-climate acidity and delicacy, as well as Russian River Valley fruity intensity. And they’re ageable. If there’s a criticism–a minor one–it’s that they’re all rather similar to each other. But En Garde wouldn’t be the only producer of boutique Pinot Noirs to deserve this critique. Producers still have got to rationalize their fetish with vineyard and other special designations. En Garde’s wines are costly, but the prices are fair, considering what California Pinot Noirs of this quality cost these days.

2016 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), $60. In many ways this is the best and most delicious of En Garde’s new Pinot Noirs. On entry the palate is just delighted with the array of ripe fruits: red raspberry mainly, also persimmon, pomegranate and plenty of spicy clove and orange zest, with a tannic, tea-like grip. There’s a sweetness throughout, yet the wine isn’t sweet at all, but finishes nice and dry, with good balancing acidity. The oak is modest, bringing subtle, inviting vanilla and smoke notes. This is the lowest in alcohol of the winery’s new releases, with only a modest 14.3%, and a mere 175 cases were produced. Absolutely addictive, a beautiful, lithe, supple, succulent Pinot Noir with such a silky texture. My favorite of the whole bunch! Score: 96 points.

2016 Pleasant Hill Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley), $60. Delicate and silky. It’s quite translucent in color; you could read through it. But there’s nothing thin about the flavors. Opens with a blast of wild raspberries, pomegranates, cranberries and rosehip tea, with subtly pleasant notes from oak. There’s also a nice earthy component: dried mushrooms, spicy cloves, a touch of crushed white pepper and cinnamon. The finish is dry and intense. Makes me think of lamb chops or beef tacos or even paté or, if you’re vegan, a rich wild mushroom risotto. Very nice now, elegant and refined, if a little tannic and youthful. I expect it to continue on a good glide path for eight years, at least. I’d love to be around to try it in 2036, but I probably won’t. A mere 98 cases were produced, and the alcohol is 14.7%. Score: 94 points.

2016 Pinot Noir Reserve, Russian River Valley, $80. Only 121 cases were produced of this Pinot Noir, which is a selection of the winemaker’s best barrels (as a Reserve should be). The wine, in its youthful exuberance, is simply delicious. It is, as my friend, Allen D. Meadows (Burghound.com) describes certain Burgundies, “big and robust, though always with breed and class.” Opens with a blast of essence of ripe, succulent raspberries. Oak brings notable but subtle notes of smoky wood and vanilla. But it’s really the flamboyant fruit that’s the star of the show, with great supporting performances from acidity, soft tannins, a silky texture and a minor but scene-stealing bacon and rhubarb-infused wild mushrooms. It’s so delightful, you might want to drink the entire bottle, but it will hold for at least eight years. Alcohol 14.9%. Score: 93 points.

 2016 Starkey Hill Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley), $60. Wine purists will want to know that the vineyard is near Sebastopol, near but not in the Green Valley AVA, one of the cooler sections of the Russian River Valley. You can tell from the color—translucent ruby—that it’s from a chilly area. I reviewed the 2014 Starkey and called it “lighter in body and more delicate” than some of En Garde’s riper Pinots. It still is. This is a delicately structured wine, with plenty of acidity and a silky texture. But there’s nothing shy about the flavors: big, bold cherries, tobacco and herb tea, plenty of peppery spice, a rich, mushroomy earthiness, and smooth, refined tannins. There’s enough elegant complexity to warrant the price. The wine changes interestingly in the glass as it breathes. With alcohol of 14.5%, it’s bit hot, but should mellow with at least six years in the bottle. Score: 93 points.

2016 Rossi Ranch Vineyard Petite Sirah (Sonoma Valley); $60. Pinot specialist En Garde turns to the warm Sonoma Valley for  Petite Sirah, a grape that requires more heat to ripen than does Pinot. You don’t want to drink this ’16 quite yet; it’s just too young. The aroma is big and grapy, and the new French oak hasn’t yet integrated with the fruit. It’s also raspingly tannic, one of the most tannic young California wines I’ve tasted in a long time. Underneath all that are big flavors of mulberries and blackberries. A dense, dry, concentrated wine, inky black in color, with subtle, enticing notes of bacon and good acidity. Give it three years to begin to come around and then try again. It could still be ticking in fifteen years. 155 cases, alcohol 14.8%, but I’m dinging the score because of the tannins. Score: 88 points.

2016 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay (Mendocino Ridge); $55. Even though the official oak content on this wine is only 20% new French oak for ten months, the oak is overwhelming. It’s strange, because sometimes, 100% new oak on Chardonnay is fine. Maybe it’s because the underlying fruit doesn’t have the guts to stand up to the wood. Hard to tell. Whatever, it’s toothpicks. The vineyard is in the Mendocino Ridge appellation that has to be above 1,200 feet in elevation in order to be so labeled. Yes, you’ll find ripe pears, citrus and tropical fruits, but the main impression, in both the smell and taste, is buttered toast, caramel and butterscotch. 14.4% alcohol, 110 cases produced. Score: 87 points.


Kavanaugh must not be allowed to get on the Court!

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I hear a lot from Democrats that they’re disappointed in officials like Dianne Feinstein and others because they [the Democratic officials] don’t fight back against Republicans with the same hardball, dirty tactics the GOP uses against them. You can call them “DINOs”—Democrats in name only.

That’s not a fair characterization—I’ll take any Democrat these days to any Republican. But Republicans long ago threw civility aside, as far back as the 1980s, when Lee Atwater and his ilk used every lie they could muster against Democrats, mainly to turn white people against Dems. Willie Horton was the outcome of that: it was sleazy, racist fearmongering at its worst. And then, with Whitewater and impeachment, they drew out the long knives and went for the gut.

Democrats throughout the 1990s predictably kept their gloves on. Keep it nice and civil, politicians like Feinstein preached, in a foreshadowing of Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high.” Bill Clinton could be tough on Republican policy, but he never stooped to the kind of guttersniping by reprehensible creatures like Newt Gingrich. Ditto with Barack Obama, whom people called “no-drama Obama” because he was so temperate, even as the Republican attack machine ratcheted up the lies against him: foreigner, terrorist, Muslim.

And then came Merrick Garland.

In my political memory—and it’s a long one—I’ve never seen something as disgusting, blatantly partisan and, frankly, sickening as what that toady, McConnell, did. I don’t know how that resonated with Senate Democrats, but I can tell you how it resonated with the Democratic base. We were absolutely revolted. And more: disgusted, shocked, dumbstruck at the audacity of it all. And more: mad as hell.

That single action by McConnell was the shot fired across the bow of the Democratic ship. It sparked our version of the tea party: The Resistance. All the energy fueling the activism on the Democratic side can be traced to that historic act of political violence, the middle finger McConnell gave us.

Yesterday, McConnell had the nerve to stand in front of the Senate and give a petulant little speech about how Democrats are obstructing the will of the people—as if there’s some kind of popular mandate for Kavanaugh. There is not. He’s the most unpopular SCOTUS nomination in decades. Even if Kavanaugh were a popular figure, Mitch McConnell is hardly in a position to lecture Democrats on how to be civil about Court nominations. This is a man who shat on Obama’s Court nominee, on his fellow Democrats in the Senate, on longstanding Senate procedure, on Democrats from coast to coast, on the American people, and, ultimately, on our democracy.

Now he expects Democrats to do nothing to stop Kavanaugh. Is he out of his mind? I’m as representative of the Democratic base as anybody, and I can tell you what Dems should do: fight, fight, fight. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Keep this damn nomination on hold, anyway they can in the Senate. There must be something in the rules they can use.

Even if Kavanaugh ultimately withdraws (which he hadn’t as of Monday night), Trump will just replace his name with another rightwing Republican stooge. But we have got to stop this process from going forward until after the election, which I totally expect will return the House to the Democrats, and increasingly likely, the Senate also. Then, Democrats could use McConnell’s own logic against him: it would be wrong to vote on a Republican SCOTUS nominee just months before the Republicans lose their majorities.

This is a big fight, folks, maybe the biggest yet of this Trump regime. We’ll have bigger ones down the road—when Mueller charges Trump with crimes, or when Trump pardons Manafort, or when Trump refuses to obey a subpoena, or when Trump does something completely insane after Jared and Junior are indicted. But right now, Kavanaugh is the biggie. This is where the rubber hits the road: either we let the Trump-McConnell regime steamroll the American people once again, or the American people—that’s us—stand up and say, No more!

Look, I am sick of these old white Christian men, including the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, lecturing us on “justice.” We need diversity in the upper echelons of the power structure. We’ll never have true justice as long as bitter dead-enders like Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley are running things. These are the same haters who told me all my life than I, and tens of millions of other Gay Americans, were unfit to be citizens. These are the same nasty old white men who have tried for years to keep people of color from voting. These are the same tired old white men who have enabled Trump’s crimes and stupidity. And now, they’re the same angry white men who are trying to blackmail the Senate into sliding Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court. I hope and pray that this coming election will be the beginning of the end of their tyranny.


How long can the Wall Street Journal keep up their B.S.?

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The term “clutching at straws,” means “To try any route to get out of a desperate situation, no matter how unlikely it is to succeed.” It goes back in English at least to 1534, when Sir Thomas More wrote, “A man in peril of drowning catchest whatsoever cometh next to hand… be it never so simple a stick.”

Sticks, straws, whatever. When it comes to clutching, that’s what Republicans are doing with respect to their president, Trump. They see the Blue Wave coming. They see the poll numbers proving that increasing numbers of Americans loathe Trump and want him gone, the sooner the better. They see Mueller on the hunt, coming ever closer. They know, even if they won’t admit it, that Trump is a horrible human being who likely colluded with the Russians to win the election. A sexual thug, a liar, a pig whom they would not allow to be alone with their daughters. But, like any person backed into a corner, these Republicans hope against hope for a miracle to deliver them from impending doom. There must be something, anything out there to give them hope. Right?

Consider, for example, the Wall Street Journal’s rightwing columnist, Kimberley Strassel, who’s peddling the fiction that Republicans will actually win the midterm elections, “if [they] have the courage of their convictions and get smarter in tailoring their messages to voters.”

Strassel cites a new study from The Club For Growth, the arch-conservative economic lobbying group whose adherents include such sophisticated political minds as Marsha Blackburn and Betsy DeVos (I’m being sarcastic, folks). The study finds “silver linings” on the storm clouds enveloping Trump and his enablers. Some of these silver linings, according to The Club For Growth, are that Republicans hold slight registration majorities in some swing districts, and one-quarter of voters in these districts are said to be “persuadable” to vote Republican, “if they hear the right things.”

Well, I suppose it’s possible that the Giants could win the World Series this year, if their competition totally collapses and their offense suddenly starts hitting. Sure, it’s possible—but not very likely. I think by this point in the season, Giants fans realize the inevitable. But hey, if you’re a Republican, you’re grasping at straws.

So here’s Strassel with her fantasies. She insists that the number one “message” Republicans should “tailor” to swing voters is that “[Republicans] will make permanent last year’s middle-class tax cuts.” Yes, you heard that right. Of all the things voters are concerned about, according to Strassel, they’re most worried that “last year’s middle-class tax cuts” will be ended by Democrats.

Seriously? Look, Trump’s “tax cuts” overwhelmingly handed the ultra-rich and mega-corporations a huge bonus, while barely giving any relief to Strassel’s “middle class.” I think people are realizing how fake this “tax cut” was, despite Republican/Fox lies. But how do voters really feel?

Public opinion polls on Trump’s tax law

Monmouth University: Approve 34%, Disapprove 41%

Quinnipiac: Approve 39%, Disapprove 46%

Fox News: Approve 40%, Disapprove 41%

Politico/Morning Consult: Support 37%, Oppose 39%

Umm, the Trump tax cut doesn’t appear to be as popular among Americans as Strassel claims.

So, Earth to Kimberley Strassel: You’re clutching at straws, girl. Take off your Trump blinders and see. People don’t like Donald J. Trump. They’ve seen through him. They’ve figured out that he’s bad news. I suspect that, in your heart of hearts, you know that, too. But the Murdochs pay you to defend the indefensible, so there you go again. It must be tedious.

Keep in mind, readers, that Strassel writes for the Journal’s editorial page, not their news division. We’ve seen reports that the Journal’s real journalists—as opposed to propagandists like Strassel—are up in arms because of how partisan and delusional the op-ed pieces have become. The Wall Street Journal has some fantastic reporters, and they’ve done as good a job in investigating RussiaGate and the other Trump scandals as anyone at the New York Times or the Washington Post. It’s those good reporters who are so upset to be working for the same paper as the bad writers, like Strassel.

That news came out when Vanity Fair—which has been doing a great job in reporting the Trump scandals—published a story about how the Journal’s good reporters are “worried about their paper’s credibility” due to the “virulent[ly] anti-Mueller editorials” and pro-Trump opinion pieces. The paper’s editorial writers, as symbolized by Strassel, “[were] known to take positions that are more extreme than many of their colleagues in the newsroom can stomach.”

Imagine you’re a responsible reporter at the Wall Street Journal. You’ve been digging into Trump’s crimes, lies, corruption and unfitness for office. You’re doing some of the best writing of your career, the kind of investigating reporting that’s inspired you since you were a kid and dreamed of being the next Woodward and Bernstein. And then you open your own paper to the op-ed pages and see the likes of Strassel calling you a fool. She’s denying facts you know to be true, making arguments you know are bogus, simply carrying the Trump/Murdoch water. How does that make you feel? The real reporters at the Journal are right to fear that the editorial page is staining their reputation. They should get out now.

 

 

 

 

 


Trump’s Twitter feed

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Trump was not about to make the same mistake G.W. Bush made after Katrina, or that he himself—Trump—made after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico.

Both those times, people accused both presidents, rightly, of undermining the seriousness of the storms, and of being pre-occupied with other things instead of devoting 110% of their energies to helping save lives. And, of course, Trump’s dismissive remarks of the other day concerning the real death toll in Puerto Rico are beyond despicable.

This time around, with Florence, Trump decided to buy some pre-insurance against criticism, using his medium of choice, Twitter, for Florence-related tweets. Lots of them, all clichés. He also retweeted his Homeland Security chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, and his wife, Melania, both of whom posted on the storm. That was on one of his accounts: the “President Trump” one. We’re supposed to conclude that he’s really, truly concerned about all the people in the path of destruction.

But over on his other account, @realDonaldTrump, it was a different story, and, one suspects, closer to the real Donald Trump’s mentality. Florence? Nah. Grievances? For sure. There was an attack against Debbie Stabenow. He defended his China policy (whatever it is; no one seems to know). He ranted that the revised Maria death toll in Puerto Rico was “done by Democrats” which, technically I suppose, is true, since the government of Puerto Rican is run by Democrats. But then again, Trump is the most notoriously mendacious president in American history. He has plenty of chutzpah to accuse anyone of lying!

But wait, there’s more. Even as Florence approached the Carolina coast, there’s Trump, bragging about middle class incomes and warning his credulous followers that if Democrats “get in” they will “destroy what we have built.” And just to show that he’s still obsessed with Mueller, he quoted the Republican Senator, Burr, to the effect that there is no evidence of collusion (which nobody, but nobody knows, except Mueller and his team, and they’re not talking). And he couldn’t help but insult Obama once again.

What are we to make of this man? Not much from a moral point of view, which is why it’s so gratifying to see Americans starting to turn against him in record numbers. It’s interesting to see television coverage of Midwesterners who voted for him in 2016 tell journalists that even though they like the economy, they’re going to vote Democratic this time because Trump is such an embarrassment.

That’s the heart of the matter. You might love his tax cuts for corporations and billionaires. You might like his military buildup. You might like him destroying the EPA, withdrawing from the Paris Accords and calling climate change a hoax. You might like him appointing Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and so many other rightwing judges to federal posts. You might even, God forbid, like him for his homophobic and anti-trans concessions to evangelicals.

But I’d wager you don’t like Trump, the person. It’s accurate to say, I believe, that Trump is now the most disliked public figure in America, possibly the most disliked politician in my lifetime. Thank God the people woke up. Onward, now, to Election Day, the Blue Wave, and the beginning of the end of this corrupt, disastrous, disgusting regime.


That’s the tipping point you see in the rear view mirror

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We’ve long awaited “the tipping point,” that mythical moment when the American public’s attitude toward Trump shifts strongly against him, forcing Republicans in Congress to stop protecting him.

Well, the tipping point already happened. We just didn’t realize it at the time. Let me explain.

The concept of a “tipping point” is, of course, borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 book. He defined a tipping point as the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” It’s a concept that’s easy to grasp. We know from the development of the atom bomb that a “critical mass” is when a certain quantity of uranium-235 or plutonium is joined to a similar mass. It reaches the tipping point: the uncontrolled fission chain reaction of a nuclear explosion. We know from common experience that when water reaches its boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it begins to froth and bubble. We know also from experience what a threshold is: a mountain precipice, say, or a starting line: a radical departure from one state to the next. So it is with tipping points.

We tried to apply the concept to Trump Watch. It was postulated that, prior to the tipping point, the great majority of Americans, especially Republicans, were not prepared to demand action against Trump. When the mythical tipping point was reached, virtually overnight the numbers would shift against him. Or so we thought. It turns out that we may as well have waited for a unicorn as for a sudden, dramatic tipping point. While we were looking for it, it happened!

Tipping points aren’t binary: water doesn’t go from “not boiling” to “boiling” like a runner crossing a starting line. Instead, it warms up gradually, over time, and as long as a sufficient heat source is kept up, the water gets closer and closer to the boiling point until, voila! It boils.

Exactly how and when pre-tipping point becomes tipping point has been the speculation of philosophers for centuries. Xeno of Elea (c. 450 B.C.) started the ball rolling by observing a series of paradoxes that seemed to suggest something illogical: that a runner could never reach his destination, because when he got to the halfway point, he would to traverse half of that, and then half of that, and on and on. Because you can halve something forever and never reach zero, Xeno’s paradox states the runner will never reach his destination.

More than a thousand years later the English empiricist, David Hume, similarly suggested the paradox that you could never prove that the 8-ball moved because the cue ball struck it, because you could never “see” the exact connection between them. More centuries later this concept of ambiguity was reinforced by quantum theory, especially Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle.” All these things testify against the notion of a clearly defined “tipping point,” but Gladwell’s theory quickly entered the lexicon, and Donald Trump’s election cemented it into our thought processes.

But take a look at the most recent polls. Trump’s approvals are below 40%, a disastrous level especially coming less than two months before the election. Quinnipiac found that 55% of people think Trump is unfit to serve as president. Sixty five percent think him “not level headed.” An ABC/Washington Post poll additionally found that 53% “strongly disapprove” of Trump while nearly half favor impeachment.

Nearly half favor impeachment! Think about that. Is there any doubt that number is going to continue to climb? Not in my mind and not, I suspect, in yours.

So it looks as if “the tipping point” has been reached. But we reached it so slowly, so subtly, that we didn’t even realize it until after the moment passed. Tipping points, of course, are more easily recognized in retrospect than when they’re actually gathering momentum. And sometimes, in trying to analyze events retrospectively—why Carter lost and Reagan won is a good example—even the experts can’t agree on the precise cause, or when it occurred. We know that Reagan won, we know that the American people lost confidence in Carter, but we can’t say with precision exactly when or why it happened. Only that it did.

That’s the case now. History will record that, gradually, over time, event by event, tweet by tweet, the American people grew disgusted with Donald Trump, until…what? Until they turned against him. Now, people will probably say “the election of 2018” was Trump’s tipping point. But the election won’t really be the tipping point; it will turn out the way it will because the tipping point had already been reached. It took a while, but the American people—most of them, anyway, except for the neo-fascists at Breitbart and Fox “News”—finally saw through the imposter, the con man, the pathological liar, the threat in the White House, and loathed what they saw. So, buh-bye, tipping point. The next point? Impeachment.


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