Hi Dear Diary,
I really threw ‘em a curveball when I said I have information on the hacking that the intelligence agencies don’t.
I love it! They still can’t figure me out, which is exactly where I want ‘em: off-balance. Keep ‘em guessing. They never know what hits ‘em until it’s too late.
Sure, I know that the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security and the Defense Intelligence Agency all have concluded that Putin personally ordered the hacks. But what the hell do they know? These are the people, after all, who brought us WMD in Iraq. #Losers! Who needs ‘em? Not me. Look, I have friends all over the world who know more than any U.S. spy. I am personal friends with the leaders of Singapore, Russia, Bahrain, Slovakia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Zaire, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Congo—hell, all of ‘em have stayed at my resorts and played golf on my courses, and I’m building hotels there. Nice little countries, too. Well-run, and they don’t kill businesses with communistic regulations, like this one. You know, before I married Melania, I dated the daughter of the Prime Minister of Latvia. Svetlana was her name. Hot! Nice p***y! Kind of reminds me of Ivanka. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff she told me. Pillow talk is better than spying. So I don’t need these so-called “intelligence services” to tell me what’s up!
Besides, what if Putin was behind the DNC and Podesta leaks? We should give him a medal, not sanctions! The American people needed that information, and God knows the Democrats weren’t gonna release it. Putin’s a good guy, he really is. He just wanted to help Americans know the truth about Crooked Hillary and the way that awful Wasserman-Schultz tried to kill off Bernie. What’s wrong with that?
So I told the mainstream media (hate ‘em, but you gotta string ‘em along) that I know things the intelligence agencies don’t because it could be somebody else hacking, not Putin. Well, who can argue with that? It could be some 300-pound guy in a La-Z-Boy in Paramus for all we know. A friend of mine (can’t tell you his name, Diary) told me he thinks the emails were released by the Democrats themselves in a huuuuge plot to bring me and Putin down! I wouldn’t put it past ‘em. They’re scared of me. After suffering the worst electoral college defeat in history, the Democrats are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.
Wait a minute, Diary. I’m getting a tweet from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They want to know if I want them to sing a Lawrence Welk song at the inauguration. I’ll tell them, Great! Welk was a true American. I’ll ask them for “Champagne Time.” Nice little ditty.
Uh, wait a minute again, Diary, Melania just came in to ask me if she’s showing too much cleavage for tonight’s party at Mar-a-Lago. I told her, “Darling, there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to cleavage.” And I believe that. Well, except for uggers. Good thing Hillary never showed cleavage because, after all, the American people don’t want to throw up. Can you believe her? Not attractive! Wonder where she gets it these days. Donna Brazile? Memo to Comey: find out. Certainly not from Bill, who—I’m reliably informed—has a patootie or two on the DL in Harlem.
So when I meet with these intelligence agency heads this week, here’s what I’m going to tell them. “Guys, starting Jan. 20, I’m your commander-in-chief. You take your orders from me, see? It’s time to move past the hacking, the election, the Cold War. We’re gonna make nice with Putin. I want you to share all your intelligence with Russian intelligence because, after all, we’re in this together in the War on Islamic Terrorism. What’s that, Brennan? You wanna know if the Russians will share their intel with us? They will with me! Vlad’s got me on speed-dial. I’ll let you know if there’s anything you need to know. Meanwhile, get the hell outta here! Scram. I’ll let you know when I wanna see you again.”
Gee, Diary, it’s gonna be fun being POTUS!
Over the New Year’s weekend, Trump made two statements. Both reveal conjoined facets of his personality. Both are deeply disturbing, and call into question, once again, his mental fitness to be President.
The first, concerning #Electiongate—which Trump still denies had anything to do with his BFF, Vladimir Putin—was: The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.” This is very telling, because it implies Trump’s worldview that, since factual knowledge no longer exists (if it ever did), then the interpretation of reality is a spectator sport in which Truth is the first casualty. This is what we would expect from a person who has based his political career on lies. “Nobody knows exactly what’s going on.” That is so Trumpian. If nobody knows what’s going on, then when Trump says he won an electoral landslide, maybe it’s true (even though it was a lie). If he said Obama was born in Kenya (even though that was a lie), maybe it really is true; if nobody knows what’s going on, then anything is possible. If he said he won the popular vote except for “millions” of illegal voters in California—another massive lie–that too may be true in some parallel universe, if nobody knows what’s going on. So we shouldn’t be surprised that Trump loves a world in which “facts” are as mythical as unicorns. He thrives in such a world, which he cohabits with (let’s face it) ignorant people who, like him, don’t believe in truth, or in any valid external reality. This is Trump as propagandist, spinmeister, deliberate obfuscator. This is also the incoming President of the United States: a man who can’t tell the difference between truth and falsehood or, if he can, doesn’t care. Our response should be: Actually, Mr. Trump, many of us do know what’s going on. And we are going to make sure the Age of Trump is mercifully brief.
His second statement, via—what else?—Twitter, was made on New Year’s Eve. It followed an earlier remark he made in which he called for unity following the divisive election: “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together…I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”
Very inspiring! Very Lincoln-esque, for those who missed the reference to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Whoever had the chutzpah to associate Trump with Abraham Lincoln–Kellyanne Conway?–is truly living in an alternate universe! Or maybe they were just being perverse.
But a little while later, sitting (coked up?) in front of his computer, Trump just couldn’t resist the impulse to let his vindictive, mean self emerge. “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
Suddenly the spirit of “binding wounds” is shoved ruthlessly aside, and Trump’s dark Nixonian streak crawls out. Enemies! Wow. I thought the enemy was Islamic terrorism. But, no, in Trump world it’s the 66 million Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton—3 million more than voted for him. He isn’t even sworn in yet and already he’s calling Americans who disagree with him his “enemies.”
I don’t know how that makes you feel, but for me, it’s frightening and highly discouraging. Any hope we might have had that this was going to be a decent Presidency is disappearing by the second, with every stupid tweet, every ongoing lie, every revelation that at the core of Trump’s consciousness is a black lump of resentment and anger. (Of course, those are the very factors that turned his voters on, because they share them.)
I believe that our initial confusion in the immediate aftermath of the election—“OMG, what do we do now?”—is quickly clarifying into resolution. The #NotMyPresident and #TheResistance movements are gathering steam. Multiple counter-inaugural activities are scheduled for Jan. 20-21. The entertainment industry is giving him the finger; Trump is unable to find any entertainers for his big inauguration, except for the white supremacist has-been Ted Nugent and the rockin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Meanwhile, a massive counter-inaugural event, “We the People,” is taking shape that could be one of the biggest shows since Woodstock. Donald Trump surely is aware that more Americans hate and fear him than ever before for any incoming President in modern history. A decent, morally-moored POTUS—a Barack Obama—would be deeply troubled by this, and would be searching his soul for ways to reach out, reconcile, change hearts and minds (as, indeed, Obama did when he was elected, and never stopped trying to do).
Instead, we have a Trump whining about his “enemies.” As he himself might tweet, #Pathetic.
Did you ever read an op-ed piece that made you so angry, you wanted to rip it up and flush it down the toilet? I did, yesterday—not once, but twice.
The first was called “Does a ‘Never Trumper’ need to be forgiven?” and was in the National Review. It was authored by Jonah Goldberg. A rightwing Republican, Goldberg was not for Trump during the campaigns. He admits upfront he was “wrong” in believing Trump could not win the nomination, or the election if he were nominated—which puts him in the same category as a lot of us. He admits also that his chief concern was Trump’’s “character,” which he describes as “unrestrained ego, impoverished impulse-control and contempt for policy due diligence…Character is destiny,” he warns.
Okay, so far, so good…right track, Jonah!
But then, Goldberg goes off the rails. Just when I thought that maybe, just maybe there’s hope for a Tea Party radical to occasionally stumble into the truth, Goldberg undermines his own argument by stating that Trump’s “Cabinet appointments and policy proposals [are] reassuring.” Trump, he claims, “has surrounded himself with some serious and sober-minded people who will try to constrain and contain the truly dangerous aspects of his character.”
How’s that again? After assuring us of Trump’s dangerous character, he tells us, Hey, Trump may be psychotic, he may be a lunatic with his finger on the nuclear codes, but not to worry, because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people–like Newt Gingrich? The religious extremist David Friedman? Rick “Ooops” Perry? Doctor Ben Carson, who doesn’t believe in evolution? Jeff Sessions, the former Ku Klux Klansman? Steve Bannon, the white supremacist? Rex Tillerson, who makes his money off bromancing Putin? I suppose some “good Germans” convinced themselves in the 1930s that Hitler, who everyone knew was mad, couldn’t do much harm because he surrounded himself with “sober-minded people” like Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Look Jonah Goldberg, if you had the awareness to discern Trump’s mental sickness, then nothing gives you the right to predict everything will be okay because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people. You knew during the campaign that Trump was unfit to be President. You know he still is. You’re either fooling yourself with these lame excuses, or you’re hoping to earn your way into his good graces so you’ll get invited to press conferences and state dinners. But then, consider the source: Jonah Goldberg is the son of Lucianne Goldberg, who in the 1990s was one of the nastiest rightwing activists in the country, a spy who infiltrated McGovern’s campaign to discredit it, and the woman who talked Linda Tripp into bringing her Monica Lewinsky tapes to the abominable Kenneth Starr. Jonah, her son, was raised in this poisonous atmosphere of sexual obsession and hatred for liberal democracy; he worked alongside his mother to bring about Clinton’s impeachment, and now is a denizen of the worst rightwing rags in the country. This is clearly a man who isn’t running on all cylinders; one feels almost sorry for him these days, having alienated himself from his own party and, apparently, from his own conscience. As Trump might tweet, #Pathetic.
The other article—even worse—is by the foremost Clinton and Obama hater of our generation, Karl Rove. It was in the Wall Street Journal and was called “A Preview of Obama’s Post-Presidency.” When I saw the headline, I thought, this could be interesting. Perhaps Rove will speculate, in a genuinely historical way, about what Obama might do, comparing him to other former Presidents, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (both admirable ex-POTUSes) and George W. Bush, who seems to do nothing but hang out in Crawford and occasionally give a paid speech.
But no, Rove just can’t get that lump of hatred out of his sphincters. Instead of something intellectual, in the very first sentence Rove calls Obama “whiny, self-justifying, and bursting with excuses.” And that’s just for starters. In the last sentence, Rove predicts Obama will be “a carping, persistent presence in our nation’s capital.” As for the nonsense inbetween the opening and closing sentences, it’s nothing but a screed of vile insults.
All I will say is that President Obama’s job approval rating in the third week of December, according to Real Clear Politics, was 53.6%, higher than both Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s when they left office. (And let’s not forget Michelle Obama, another frequent target of Rove’s character assassinations, whose approval rating was much higher than her husband’s, an amazing 66%.)
Rove knows, I know, and you know (although Trump may not) that Obama is going to go down in the history books as a major President—and Republicans will be vilified for their obstructionism and racism. If history records Rove at all in some footnote, it will be as a partisan attack dog of the far right who developed the skills (since mastered by Trump) of lies, innuendo and disinformation, from his first political campaign to the dirty work he did for George W. Bush, who Rove also knows will be ranked by historians in the lowest tier of U.S. Presidents. The last thing Rove wants is an articulate former Democratic President, particularly a black man, having a voice of influence in coming years, who is trusted by wide majorities of Americans. That, I would argue, is exactly what we need–and there is no better person to fulfill it than Barack Obama.
One of the first things I learned when I started blogging and engaging on social media was to avoid C.U.I., or “commenting under the influence.” We all know that people get into trouble when their judgment is impaired and they say and do stupid things online. Anthony Weiner is a good example. But there’s a new poster boy in town for C.U.I. and his name is Donald Trump.
I couldn’t say whether or not Trump’s tweets are influenced by drugs. (I believe he doesn’t drink alcohol.) There have been rumors about cocaine, which make sense, given his fitfulness, but that may just be his type-A New York personality. But if he’s not doing drugs, nonetheless he really should have someone by his side—Kellyanne Conway?—to keep him from tweeting when he would be better off keeping his mouth shut.
Look at all the trouble he’s already stirred up, and he’s not even sworn in. From Electiongate to his ridiculous claims of an electoral landslide to his lovey-dovey suckup to Putin to his frightening remarks about a nuclear arms race to his insults of a sitting President to his dismissive remarks about NATO to his lie that millions of people voted illegally in the election to his interference in the Middle Eastern peace process, Trump has been acting like a stoner, impulsive, angry, provoking, totally unreflective about the consequences of his actions, just flashing out hormonal kneejerks. He probably thinks very highly of himself, and is relying on his trusted intuition, when in reality most observers—including senior Republicans—are terribly upset by his utter lack of thoughtfulness. But Repubs can’t really say anything because they’re afraid of him.
Trump likes to say that he wants to be unpredictable, but I don’t believe that. I think he stumbles from one bizarre position to another, often contradicting himself halfway, because he hasn’t studied issues, and doesn’t understand them, and doesn’t want to take the time to understand them (hence his refusal to read his daily intelligence briefings). Trump himself is sensitive to criticism of his ignorance, which is why one of his reassurances has been that he’ll surround himself with smart people.
Well, considering the people he’s surrounding himself with, that’s not terribly reassuring. But I want to explore further this notion of “unpredictability” because, while I consider it absurd and dangerous, many of Trump’s followers cite it when they declare their allegiance to the man.
They like the notion of unpredictability because they, themselves, have very little understanding of big issues of war and peace, diplomacy, energy, budgets, trade agreements and so on. Because they know so little, they are intellectually incapable of crafting intelligent solutions to America’s problems. But they feel like they know it all, and they believe that their own angry instincts are good enough guides to policy decisions, as does Trump. So when they see Trump—in whom they’re so personally invested—flailing around and saying contradictory things, they make a series of conceptual assumptions to rationalize his erratic behavior. “I, myself, have no idea what he’s talking about. But he must know something I don’t, because he will Make America Great Again. Moreover, these foreigners also don’t know what he means. Trump will keep them guessing—which is good, because most of them are America’s enemies, and we don’t want to give aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Well, so much for red state thinking. As far as Trump goes, it’s convenient for him to pretend that his “unpredictability” is actually a strategy he adopted after careful thought. If I may be so bold as to insinuate myself into his thinking process, it goes like this: “I really have no idea what I’m talking about half the time. But that doesn’t matter, because my fans don’t care one way or the other, as long as they feel I’m strong and I ‘say it like it is.’ Besides, the predictability of past American administrations hasn’t worked out so well for us, so maybe it’s time for the world to think the U.S. President is a madman.”
Hitler had pretty much the same approach to geopolitics. He was aware that most of the world considered him insane, and he used that to his advantage, to keep nations on their toes and on the defensive. But that’s a double-edged sword: an edgy country may be more easily bullied by a confident country, but edgy countries are also more dangerous, because they’re apt to do silly things if they feel threatened. Hitler liked for other leaders to think him a madman; but he really was mad. And Trump? Stability is the most important thing in the world right now. Trump’s impulsive behavior is about to make the world incredibly unstable, just as Hitler did in the 1930s.
I’m going to tell you a little bit more than I did yesterday about the pernicious influence that rightwing Jews have, both here in America and in Israel.
Yesterday I explained how the presence of about one million Russian ultra-orthodox Jews (out of Israel’s total population of eight million) has poisoned Israeli politics and actually endangered that small nation’s security. Today I want to explore these notions more fully, based on what we now know about Trump’s new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
I’ve never met Friedman but I’ve known orthodox Jews like him. They are angry religionists, putting their theological views above everything else. These are people who still live in the Middle Ages: no man is allowed to touch a woman, not even to shake her hand, unless he is her husband. The absurdities of the Old Testament are taken literally: if you mow the lawn on Saturday, you’ve committed an abomination and may be stoned to death. Homosexuality is, obviously, also worthy of the death penalty.
But of course, these Jews don’t have the power, yet, to inflict their medieval views on the world, and they know it, which is why they continue to await for the arrival of “Moshiach”—the messiah. When he comes (and it will be a “he”), then Jewish law, halakha, will be imposed upon the world, and there will be plenty of executions. You don’t believe it? Try talking, off the record, to an orthodox Jewish rabbi, perhaps one of the Lubavitch faith, as I have done. You will have a glimpse into insanity that will leave you shaken.
Friedman is clearly a hater of Arabs. So, for that matter, are most orthodox Jews. They believe that Jews are God’s chosen; everybody else is dreck, and Arabs are the dreckiest of all. They believe that God gave “the holy land” to Israel for all of time, and they have no intention of sharing it with anybody. They do not accept a “two-state solution”—certainly, Friedman doesn’t—even though common sense tells us it is the only solution for the problem of the Palestinians. Friedman consistently accuses anyone who disagrees with him, including his fellow Jews, of being “anti-semites” and calls them “worse than Nazis,” insults that explain the affinity he and America’s new insulter-in-chief, Trump, have for each other. (Their friendship goes back to the 1990s, when Friedman’s bankruptcy law firm represented Trump.) Both men are aggressive, in-your-face screamers, convinced of the rectitude of their positions, and determined to drive their many enemies into the dirt.
Diplomats are supposed to be, well, diplomatic. Mature leaders understand this, and find suitable people to represent them abroad. Confrontational ambassadors can have serious, unwanted consequences. One reason for the outbreak of World War II, many historians believe, was Hitler’s appointment of von Ribbentrop as, first, his consul in London, and then Foreign Minister. Ribbentrop was appallingly rude and crude; his views were as extreme as those of his master, and he was widely disliked, even by his fellow Nazis. Had Ribbentrop been more even-tempered, more measured in his responses, it is possible Hitler could have achieved all his desires without war. But Ribbentrop was a case of the tail wagging the dog: Hitler, who knew virtually nothing about foreign affairs (he never left Germany before becoming Chancellor, and then only for a quick trip to conquered Paris), was dragged to extremes by his mentally unstable Foreign Minister.
The similarities between Friedman and Trump, on the one hand, and Ribbentrop and Hitler, on the other, are striking. Trump shows no evidence of ever having thought seriously about Middle Eastern affairs. Now that he has to, he has hired an unpleasant ideologue, and a religious nut, to boot, who has shown fascist tendencies. For example, shortly before the election, but after being appointed Trump’s “Israel expert,” he released a statement containing his recommendations for Israeli policy under a Trump administration. Included was this nugget, which should alarm everybody: “The Trump administration will ask the Justice Department to investigate coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel.” Just what we need: the FBI running riot on college campuses, investigating—whom? Anyone rightwing Jews don’t like.
Look, I agree with much of what the Israel-firsters say. Palestinians do have to renounce violence. They do have to accept the right of the State of Israel to exist. The stupidity they teach children in their madrasas is contemptible. But people like Friedman are unable to perceive the beam in their own eyes when they criticize Muslims. How open to the GLBT community is Friedman’s orthodox religion? Could two men or two women marry in his synagogue? Would his synagogue allow a woman to be a rabbi? Would gay Jews be accepted into the congregation? If I could have a sit-down with Friedman I’d ask him this one simple question: When Moshiach returns, will rabbis impose the death penalty on gays? And I wouldn’t let him weasel out of answering, as orthodox Jews have a tendency to do when you call them out on their madness.
I want to end with an anecdote that perhaps illuminates more clearly my concern with orthodox Jews. When I was a little boy my parents sent me to “Hebrew School” to become educated in Jewish language, religion, history and culture. One year, when I was about nine, we had a rabbi, a tall young man from an ultra-orthodox wing of Judaism. He was explaining to us how the World was then about 5,715 years old, according to Jewish creation theory. Now I, being a kid fascinated by dinosaurs, raised my hand and asked Rabbi about fossils that scientists said were tens of millions and even hundreds of millions of years old. Rabbi replied that the scientists were all liars. He told us about Piltdown Man, to this day one of the most infamous scientific hoaxes in history, and insinuated that all scientists were committing similar hoaxes, if they did not accept Jewish creation theory, which also precludes evolution. This was an Aha! moment for me. It’s when I realized that extreme religious belief and intelligent understanding of the world are mutually exclusive. I threw my lot in with intelligent understanding and have never regretted that decision. Jews such as Friedman made, sadly, another choice.
The Jewish vote in America, while not particularly large, is influential. Jewish voters have traditionally been Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt created his coalition in the 1930s. Republicans have long attempted to wrest control of the Jewish vote for themselves, but have failed, for two reasons. First, Jewish sympathies tend toward liberalism. Secondly, the Republican marriage with the religious Christian right made many Jews uncomfortable. The one place where Republicans believe they have been able to make inroads to Jewish voters has been via the politics of the State of Israel. This is exactly what they’re doing now.
It needs to be said that there is no single “Jewish attitude” in America about anything, but in particular, Jewish attitudes towards the settlements are decidedly not uniform. Most Jews I know feel they cannot defend the settlements. They support Israel, of course, and defend her right to exist in the face of the insanity propounded by Hamas, which still insists on driving Jews into the Mediterranean. But they also feel that Israel is being led by a very rightwing government under Likud and Netanyahu, a government that is Israel’s equivalent of the Tea Party-evangelical alliance in this country.
The thing to realize about Israel is that that it, too, has a problem with religious extremism, the plague that infects so many countries. The cause of this in Israel, as I see it, is the presence of so many ultra-orthodox Russian immigrant Jews, a super-conservative fifth column that plays much of the same role in Israel as Cuban-Americans do in our own politics: driving it further and further to the right, fueled by unreasoning religious beliefs, and based on hatred of those whom they consider their enemy: in the case of Florida Cubans, the remnants of the Castro regime; in the case of Israeli Russian Jews, Palestinians, whom some orthodox Jewish leaders in Israel have referred to as pigs.
Just as I believe American Christians have no right sticking their theology into our politics, so I believe pro-settlement, anti-Muslim Israeli Jews need to stop interfering in the peace process in the Middle East. The settlements are provocative, as they are meant to be. There’s no question they’re an obstacle to peace. It’s unclear why Netanyahu has allowed his policy to become so mired down into settlement politics. Nearly the entire world is critical of Israel’s settlement policy, and indeed, of its entire posture with regard to the Palestinians. Republicans now are hoping to do mischief to the Democratic-Jewish alliance in America, and they may make some headway. But not much, I think; American Jews are too sensible to actually believe that Republicans have any real love of Israel. In fact, the reason why evangelicals speak so warmly of Israel is simply because they believe the rapture cannot happen until certain conditions are met within Israel—and if there’s no Israel, then there won’t be a rapture, and no second coming of Jesus. Therefore, Christians support Israel—for now—while Jews realize, or should realize, that Republicans have an ulterior and sinister motive in supporting Israel. When and if the rapture actually occurs, Jews will be in a very uncomfortable position, since the new Christian overlords will desire to convert them—if necessary, as they have done in the past, through force. So this marriage of Christian Republicans and Jews makes for very bizarre bedfellows, indeed.
The thing I, as a Jew, resent the most is seeing these Republicans, led by Trump, use Jews for political advantage, with the settlements and other Israel policies made into wedge issues. Republicans are not the friends of Jews or the Jewish state of Israel. Netayahu’s reactionary settlement policies do not have the support of a majority of American Jews. President Obama has done the courageous thing in abstaining on the recent U.N. resolution. Obama knows, as does every honest foreign policy expert, that the settlements have been an unmitigated disaster that has cost Israel most of its friends around the world and decreased its security. To be against the settlements is not to be against Israel, as Likud and the Republicans falsely say. In fact, yesterday’s incredible allegation by Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., to the effect that Obama personally orchestrated the Security Council vote, appears little more than a desperate attempt by the right—including Netayahu and Trump—to deflect ongoing attention from Electiongate, which has been so damaging to the legitimacy of Trump’s election.
Look, Obama has always looked to ensure Israel’s long-range security. Trump and the Republicans, on the other hand, are looking to secure, not the state of Israel or the well-being of Jews, but the votes of Bible Belt evangelicals, who look to the Book of Revelations for their answers to complicated questions. That is pitiful on their part. On Trump’s part, it is dangerous and sickening, but hardly surprising for a man who has spent years pandering to the basest instincts of the Republican Party. I completely agree with David Horovitz, of the Times of Israel, who recently editorialized, “Benjamin Netanyahu is waging diplomatic war against the world, and notably against Israel’s only vital ally, the United States. We’ve never seen anything like it. It won’t win Israel any new friends.” That’s for sure, including Donald Trump, whose “friendship” Israel ought to look at with unvarnished skepticism. With friends like that…
When the wine comes in, I review. If it doesn’t, I don’t. For the last few weeks, it’s been coming in. I still get a kick from reviewing wines. Here are a few new ones.
Rock Wall 2014 Jack’s Dry Creek Petite Sirah (Sonoma County): $35. Alcohol 14.8%. An absolutely first-rate Petite Sirah that combines adorable drinkability with quite a bit of finesse and complexity. The vineyard, as the name suggests, is in Dry Creek Valley. There’s a lot of new oak, both French and American, but it’s perfectly balanced with the underlying fruit, which is vast. Blackberry jam, cassis, cherry compote, crispy bacon, white pepper, golden cured tobacco, Asian spices, it’s got everything in there, all wrapped into a fine balance of thick but smooth tannins and satisfying acidity. Considering the very high quality, the price is fair. Score: 94 points.
Rock Wall 2012 Le Mur de Roche Petite Sirah (Napa Valley): $60. Alcohol 16.3%. The alcohol level on this wine has to be mentioned, as it’s really high and heady, so be forewarned! It’s almost like Port. But it is an excellent wine. Superbly delicious, with decadent currant, blackberry jam, chocolate, sweet tea and toffee flavors, sprinkled with mulling spices and orange zest. For all the richness, the wine is dry. It’s also soft and tannic. The vineyard is Carver Sutro, although it doesn’t say so on the bottle (why not?), an old (1902) vineyard in the Palisade hills of Calistoga. I admire Rock Wall for holding this wine back more than four years before releasing it. It’s beginning to acquire some of the complexities of age. Score: 94.
Parducci 2014 “True Grit” Petite Sirah (Mendocino); $30. Alcohol 14.5%. I’ve been reviewing True Grit for many years. It stands out in certain vintages; this new release, the ’14, is one of them. The wine, which is 100% Petite Sirah, marries Pet’s exuberant personality with the elegant restraint of a fine Bordeaux. The color is saturated purple. The aroma brims with cloves, blackberry jam, white pepper, smoke. The flavors are similar, and flood the mouth, deliciously. The tannins, by the way, are gritty, suggesting rich, fatty meats for pairing. Score: 92 points.
Carol Shelton 2012 Florence Vineyard Petite Sirah (Dry Creek Valley): $40. Everything about this wine screams bigness: the inky black color, the super-mature aroma of raisins and currants, the massive raspberry jam flavors that sink deep into the palate. Dry Creek Valley is a companionable place for Petite Sirah. It’s warmish-hot enough to ripen the grapes, yet the cool nights make for crisp acidity. Containing 7% Zinfandel, as well as 8% of grapes from the neighboring Rockpile appellation, this is quite a successful Petite Sirah. It’s already throwing some tannins at the age of four years-plus. The official alcohol is 14.8%, and while it does have a little heat, it’s not too much, just a mouth-warming sensation for a cold winter night. Score: 92 points.
Carol Shelton 2013 Rockpile Vineyard Rockpile Reserve Petite Sirah (Rockpile): $40. Just in case you can’t figure out where this wine comes from, it’s Rockpile! And in true Rockpile fashion it’s inky black and huge. The official alcohol is 14.5%, but it feels headier than that. Whatever, it’s gloriously gigantic in blackberry and blueberry jam, with shaved chocolate and vanilla extract. The oak barrel aging is evident, as are the tannins. To use a Yiddish word, this is a zaftig wine that will be great with barbecue and roasted meats. Score: 90 points.
Parducci 2015 Small Lot Blend Viognier (Mendocino County): $14. It blew my mind when I saw the price on this, because it’s really quite good. Viognier is hard to get right, but this 100% varietal does a great job. With a kiss of neutral oak and refreshing acidity, it shows Viognier’s flamboyant side, with tropical fruit, peach, orange zest, vanilla bean and creamy honeysuckle flavors. Nice value, and a good restaurant wine. Score: 89 points.
Parducci 2015 Small Lot Blend Chardonnay (Mendocino County): $13. Alcohol 14.0%. This is a likeable wine, but it sure doesn’t taste like Chardonnay. More like Riesling, with a diesel or petrol aroma, along with plenty of fresh, tart Asian pears and honeysuckle flower. There’s a little bit of wood, just enough for a slight smokiness. All in all, a real success, even if it’s not particularly varietal. Score: 88 points.
Pamela’s 2013 Un-Oaked Chardonnay (Sonoma County); $?? Alcohol 12.4%. My first impression was that it tastes like a Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay. Very ripe, oozing in tropical fruits and vanilla honey, with a botrytis-type decadence. The grapes are from all over Sonoma: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros, Russian River Valley. It’s not particularly subtle, but it does provide plenty of flash. Could be nice with rich shellfish dishes, like lobster. Score: 87 points.
Justin Grace “Solidarity” Non-Vintage We Are Immigrants (California): $35. Doesn’t say so on the label, but the paperwork calls this a Petite Sirah blend. It comes from the Sierra Foothills. I love that the winery donates a portion of the price to immigrant rights groups—this is really important these days. The wine itself is so-so. It’s thick, soft and heavy, with blackberry jam, chocolate-covered raisin and pepper notes. Score: 84 points.
Justin Grace Shoe Shine 10th Anniversary Winemakers Blend Non-Vintage Petite Sirah (California): $40. Drinkable, but kind of rustic. It’s very dark in color and bone dry, with muted aromatics. In the mouth, big and tannic, showing blackberry, molasses, anise and bitter chocolate flavors. Blended with a little Mourvedre and Merlot. Score: 84 points.
Berryessa Gap 2013 Petite Sirah (Yolo County): $28. Yolo County is where the cities of West Sacramento and Davis are located, inland from San Francisco in the Sacramento Valley. The name references Lake Berryessa, a vacation spot in the Vaca Mountains, east of Napa Valley, through whose coastal gaps cooling breezes supposedly blow into this hot region. The wine is uncomfortably vegetal, with asparagus notes to the blackberries. Score: 82 points.