I’m writing this Monday evening, and I’m feeling better about the outcome. I now think Hillary will win. (I don’t know about the Senate.) So, here’s my Winners and Losers of this election. But first, a little fun:
- CNN. Americans have been turning away in droves from this sorry-ass excuse for a news channel. They pretend to be “centrist” or “objective,” but by treating all statements and candidates, no matter how mendacious, as equal, they have proven themselves to be useful idiots for the right wing. They never confronted Trump or his surrogates on their lies and evasions. It was really appalling to see: CNN has absolutely no credibility whatsoever.
- Paul Ryan. Trump will never forgive him, and neither will Ryan’s tea party constituents, who just might vote him out of office. Ryan really had no good choices; he exists at the fracture-line that has splintered his party. His best bet would have been to quit the Republican Party and become an independent, but he didn’t have the cojones.
- Pollsters. This is pretty obvious. None of them saw Trump coming a year ago, even six months ago. They missed the mental illness at the heart of the Republican Party.
- Rudi Giuliani, Chris Christie and Paul LePage. These three redneck Republican career pols thought they’d hop on the Trump gravy train and ride it all the way into the Cabinet. Instead, they ended up gridlocked on the George Washington Bridge. If there’s a God, we’ll never see Rudi’s sneering face on television again.
- And the number one loser: DONALD TRUMP. That feels so good, I’ll say it again: DONALD TRUMP IS A LOSER!
Now another cartoon that my wine-and-food-loving readers will appreciate:
- Kellyanne Conway. Yes, I’ll give credit to this Republican campaign manager, even though I think she’s loathsome. She was dealt a losing hand and came within a cat’s whisker of winning. Good job, kiddo.
- Tim Kaine. He barely registered in the media—the campaign kept him on a tight leash. But he seems like a good guy, with a pleasant personality, and he’ll be fun to have around.
- Truth. It’s not a person, it’s a concept. All we heard from the Republican side were lies that threatened to overwhelm this fragile bird, Truth. But Truth triumphed. That’s a good thing.
- Hillary supporters. That’s you guys, my readers—most of you, anyhow. You stuck by your gal through the tough times and never gave up. Kudos to you.
- And the big winner is: HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON. The first female POTUS. Like Hank used to tell the audience on “The Larry Sanders Show,” “This is exciting, isn’t it?”
That’s it! Now let’s hope my predictions turn out to be true! Happy Election Day.
Well, tomorrow’s it. This horrible election season will be over. God knows it’s been hard on all of us, I know. I, myself, have not been able to watch any of the news channels for the last two weeks: too upsetting. It’s actually affected my physical health. And me, the biggest political junkie in the world! So instead of news I turn to Turner Classic Movies, just an old man who prefers sweet nostalgia to the confusing, hostile nihilism of Now.
I think Hillary will win, barely, but Trump might; I’m reconciled to that possibility. If he does, I shall have to do, personally, what Democrats will have to do collectively: deal with it. The way I feel now, I cannot forget, or forgive, what these Republicans have done, to Hillary, to Bill, to the Obamas, to Democrats, to our country, to me. They have insulted and pilloried the people and values I hold dear, which my parents inculcated in me: fairness, decency, inclusiveness. Their lies—Trump’s, especially—are intellectually repulsive to my intelligence and sense of fair play. I was raised to respect all people, not hate them, the way Republicans so often seem to hate, with such easy smugness. I suppose that’s the biggest difference between the parties: not issues per se, but attitudes. Republicans find it so easy to hate “the other”: gays, Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, the poor, liberals, urbanites, educated people. As a Democrat and a human being, I will confess that I am not without hate, although “hate” is perhaps too strong a word: resentment is better. I see people doing things of which I disapprove. I can relate to the feelings of some Republicans that America has become too soft, that Democrats have become the party of leniency.
But I don’t like that judgmental part of myself. I struggle against it every day of my life, not always successfully; but it is a struggle I owe to my better angels. If I cannot purge myself of negativity, at least I can work hard to free myself from it, to not give in to the simple temptation to hate. It forces me to try and understand others, difficult as that can sometimes be. This way of being, it seems to me, is the essence of being a Democrat: empathy.
But it seems that Republicans have ceased to struggle against that hateful, judgmental part of themselves, even though so many of them profess to be Christians. The tea partiers who call Obama a “nigger” or a “monkey” or “an Islamic radical”…the homophobes—embraced by the official Republican establishment—who still call gay people “faggots”—the vicious, violent smears of Hillary Clinton, a “cunt,” a “bitch,” a “castrating Lesbian”—I can almost conceive of how a Republican might think such things, in the privacy of his innermost being. But I cannot understand why that Republican should not be alarmed at this soul-eating sickness, why he should not fight against it with all his power. It’s a puzzlement how this Republican Party can have so fully embraced hatred—not just allowing its camel’s nose to snoop into the tent, but to welcome the entire beast, foul and stinking, inside, there to feed it until it swells to monstrous proportions.
If Trump wins, those haters will also have won. The white Christian women with their Trump hats and snarls, the white southern men with their guns and “Jail Her!” buttons, these are the Americans who will now be in charge of our national destiny, aided and abetted, perhaps, by a rogue F.B.I. Trump will immediately move to make good on his campaign promises: repeal the Affordable Care Act. Drop Merrick Garland like a bad rash and nominate an anti-abortion, anti-gay, Christian conservative for the Supreme Court. Destroy the environmental movement that has formed to combat climate change; wreck America’s decades-long bipartisan foreign policy and throw the world into chaos. He will increase America’s involvement radically in the middle east, in the guise of destroying ISIS, risking further wars and thereby hugely raising the Defense budget, at the cost of domestic investment—even as he cuts taxes for his rich friends. He will drill, baby, drill. He will pass, or attempt to pass, the harshest anti-immigrant laws since the nineteenth century. And on and on. And it will be done in a spirit of vengefulness: Trump’s followers are vengeful, and so, clearly, is Trump himself. Congressional Republicans, particularly on the Senate side, may not be psychologically vengeful, but they will get sucked into the darkness. There will be retribution against Democrats, and Hillary Clinton will be the first to feel the lash.
It’s said that Democrats don’t have a plan if Trump is elected. Well, we will be shell-shocked if it happens: so will the world. In the event worse comes to worst, we will have to go through a series of Kubler-Rossian stages of grief: the first, denial, won’t last long; the second, anger, will be strong and deep. The third is where the work starts: bargaining. But with whom are we to bargain? Even if we are willing to bargain with Republicans politically, Republicans are not willing to bargain with us. They have shown this repeatedly. President Obama spent his first term trying to be bipartisan, and Republicans told him to go fuck himself. If Republicans are victorious, there is absolutely no chance they will find themselves in a more conciliatory mood than they’ve been in for the past eight years. What, then, does “bargaining” even mean?
We’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes out, but I do want to warn any Republicans who might be reading this (fat chance): if you win, you had better move fast to make nice with Democrats. This will mean you have to shut off your extremists, the most hateful and divisive of your tea party-Trumpster cult. They got you your victory: now, you will have to distance yourself from them, since you recognize—I would hope—their mental instability. (They are “useful idiots,” if you will.) If you don’t—if you gloat and rub it in (which is a tendency Trump, a mean man, has), you will tear this nation apart so badly that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men might never be able to put it together again. Which would be an unmitigated catastrophe for all of us, including your children. As for Democrats, if Hillary wins, I promise you, reconciliation will be among her highest priorities.
Finally—last point! We all know that this has been the nastiest, ugliest, most distressing Presidential campaign of our lifetimes. As I said earlier, it’s made me physically sick, to the point I needed to see a doctor. Who made it so ugly? Some people say both candidates. I say, that’s a lie. Thought experiment: If Hillary were running against, say, Jeb Bush or John Kasich, do you think it would have been this ugly? Or even against Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz? It would have been about issues. Who made it not about issues, but about insults, smears, put-downs, personal invective, rudeness, bullying, sexual predation, bragging, dehumanizing, innuendo, lies, threats? Trump threw this campaign into the sewer because, let’s face it, that’s where his soul dwells. No matter who wins, I hope History records that Trump is the most vulgar, disgraceful candidate in American history.
If you haven’t yet voted, vote for Hillary! Thank you.
One of the biggest Republican attacks against Hillary Clinton, and Bill too, is how rich they’ve gotten since leaving the White House in 2001. Yes, they are rich: by some estimates, more than $100 million.
Their wealth has been one of Trump’s main targets. I saw a pro-Trump T.V. ad, aired during the fabulous seventh game of the World Series, in which a narrator with an ominous voice calls the Clintons “filthy rich” and insinuates that the source of their wealth is nefarious.
(Never mind that Trump’s wealth is based, at least in part, on scams: Trump University, his late-night infomercials on how-to-get-rich-quick through real estate, not paying his bills, taking advantage of bankruptcy loopholes, etc.)
Republican voters have been eager to buy into the Trump denunciation of Clinton money. An anti-Hillary letter to the editor in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal referred to an alleged Harry Truman quote: “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.”
Well, the Clintons didn’t get rich “in politics,” they got rich after Bill left the White House, and after Hillary left government service. Their wealth derives from book sales and speeches, not from siphoning money off the Clinton Foundation or any “crooked” practices. Let’s face the fact that, when you’ve been a high-level politician in America, the opportunities for making a lot of money legitimately are manifold. Ronald Reagan—who already was rich from his career as an actor—took advantage of his post-Presidential fame to earn millions from speeches, before Alzheimer’s robbed him of that ability. When Richard Nixon died, he had become a very wealthy man, mainly through real estate deals. George W. Bush—very wealthy through his family connections—made a lot more money when he left office, including at least $7 million for his memoir, and at least $15 million from giving speeches (which he’s still doing). Now, you might object that it’s tacky and unseemly for ex-Presidents (and their spouses) to cash in, but the fact is, writing books and giving speeches is not illegal, and you would probably do the same thing, were you in a position to do so.
The Trump campaign—arguably the most dishonest in recent American history—is, as I said, strongly insinuating that the Clintons’ wealth derives, in large part, from the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no evidence whatsoever that that’s true. Of course, “truth” is a fungible commodity in the Trump campaign; The Donald understands that his followers aren’t looking for truth, they’re looking for their resentments to be validated, their chief resentment being an unreasoning hatred of the Clintons. Trump is the validator-in-chief: he has never offered a shred of evidence that Hillary Clinton has done anything illegal or even unethical*, but that doesn’t matter to Trumpsters.
It’s odd, isn’t it, for the right wing—which celebrates, or claims to celebrate, the right of Americans to get “filthy rich”—to turn so violently against the Clintons for the “crime” of their wealth. But then, consistency has not been the highlight of Republicans during this campaign season. The morally pompous religious right has, for the most part, pardoned Trump’s sexual predation, while Republicans in Congress have been conspicuously silent about Trump’s promises that he won’t touch Social Security or Medicare, which have been the GOP’s bete noires for decades.
Finally, what’s so disgusting about this Republican attack on the Clintons is the suggestion that the Clinton Foundation is a money-making front for them. It is not. From everything I have read and heard—and if you have evidence to the contrary, let me know—the foundation’s work is incredible, working across a range of issues around the world to help poor, dispossessed people. What has George W. Bush done since leaving office to help anyone? Nothing we know of. And what has Donald J. Trump ever done to help anyone, except himself? You know, and I know, the answer is: nothing. The man is a greedhead, pure and simple. It just goes to show that the old saying is true when it comes to Republicans with regard to the Clintons: No good deed goes unpunished.
*That having a private email server was stupid is unarguable, but Colin Powell had one, so do lots of other politicians, and no doubt Hillary, and all other politicians, learned her lesson not to do that again.
What is the Hatch Act? It is a 1939 law named after a lifelong Democrat, Carl Hatch, who was U.S. Senator from New Mexico for sixteen years before being elevated to the Federal bench by President Truman. Hatch, who was chairman of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, was bothered by partisan political activity by Federal government employees, Democratic and Republican, in the election process. The Act named after him forbade such employees from engaging in such activities.
The Act’s key wording is contained in the U.S. Code Section 7323: “a [government] employee may not use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” A sub-section of the Act (B II) specifically identifies employees of “the Federal Bureau of Investigation” as being subject to the Hatch Act.
The penalty for violating the Hatch Act is this: “An employee or individual who violates…this title shall be removed from his position, and funds appropriated for the position from which removed thereafter may not be used to pay the employee or individual.”
We come now to the case of James Comey, the current FBI director, who this past week “sent Congress a brief, inscrutable, election-shaking letter about emails that may or may not be new or relevant to the previously concluded investigation in Hillary Clinton’s private email server.” Comey, who we must infer clearly understood the bombshell nature of his letter, which came little more than a week before the election, tried to defend himself by claiming he was obligated to inform the Congress as soon as he learned that new information pertaining to the emails had become available. The problem with this explanation, it now appears, is twofold: (1) Comey “knew nothing about the substance of the emails,” which suggests a distasteful rush to judgment (they could have been cookie recipes), and (2) the emails were neither sent to Hillary Clinton, nor were from her, but instead were found on the computer of Anthony Weiner (and I assume you all know who he is). So “breathtakingly rash and irresponsible” was this decision by Comey, says the New York Times, that even the conservative Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, sent Comey a letter stating, “Your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American People, or Secretary Clinton.”
When is the last time you heard a senior Republican elected official complain that something wasn’t “fair” to Hillary Clinton? The answer is Never, which means that what Comey did is pretty egregious.
Who is James Comey? We know he is a Republican. He was appointed a Deputy Attorney-General by President George W. Bush. He temporarily left government, to make some serious money, by going to work as General Counsel for Lockheed Martin, but was subsequently (2010) appointed FBI director by President Obama. Why would a liberal Democratic President appoint a career Republican, and one with close ties to the military-industrial complex, to head up the FBI? The best answer seems to be that Obama—already the target of a declaration of war by the Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell—realized he would never get the Senate to confirm a Democrat as FBI director. The move also reinforced the notion, which Obama was keen to advance, that Obama was a bipartisan President, anxious to work with a Republican Party that clearly was as hostile to him as any political party has ever been towards any sitting President.
It is obviously impossible to know what Comey’s true motive was in writing that notorious letter to Congress. His claim that he was simply keeping them informed about new information might be true; it might equally well, and more plausibly, be totally bogus. He might have done it deliberately to tilt the election to Trump (and Trump may well be elected because of Comey’s action). Short of a confession by Comey, which isn’t very likely, we’ll never know, which means that it cannot be determined if he actually violated the Hatch Act. It seems likely that he did. That his behavior “influence[d]…[and] interfer[ed] with or affect[ed] the result of an election” cannot seriously be denied, by even the most ardent Republican.
Which leaves us—where? Should Hillary Clinton be elected President, Comey’s days at the FBI are likely numbered: she will have the power to fire him, and should. Should Trump be elected, no doubt he will sing Comey’s praises, but Trump’s advisors will tell him he’ll have to let Comey go sooner or later (his actual term doesn’t end until 2020), because of the widespread perception that Comey enabled Trump. But it may turn out that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will have to deal with Comey. Yesterday, the conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens, urged Comey “to do the right thing” and “resign” now. By sending that nefarious letter to Congress, Stephens writes, Comey “lost the trust of his political masters, his congressional overseers and the American public.” That’s coming from a Republican, mind you, not a Hillary supporter.
Well, whatever Comey does, he will eventually land back into the military-industrial complex, make many more millions of dollars, and try to avoid dining out at Washington’s toniest restaurants, where no doubt many of his former friends will no longer be pleased to run into him.
I’ve long had a soft spot for Paso Robles. When you think of how far they’ve come over the last 10-15 years, it’s just amazing. One used to think of this inland Central Coast region as too hot for fine wine, but that was a huge mistake. I’m glad that I recognized its potential early, perhaps sooner than some other critics. In fact I was responsible for Paso Robles being recognized as Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year, some years back, against heavy competition. The Cabernets and Bordeaux blends at their highest expression, including Vina Robles, are outstanding, but so are many of the whites and red blends; and prices are a fraction of what you find in Napa-Sonoma. Here are three reviews of current releases from Vina Robles.
Vina Robles 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Paso Robles): $16. The approach here—early release after the vintage, no oak, no malolactic fermentation, brief sur lie aging in stainless—is proving to be one of the best for California Sauvignon Blanc, preserving the fresh fruit and vital acidity, while the exposure to yeast gives the wine a creamy tartness. The grapes are from the winery’s Jardine Vineyard, on the eastern side of Paso Robles, a warmer area. The warmth accounts for the wine’s ripeness, with suggestions of tropical fruits (papaya especially) in addition to Sauvignon Blanc’s usual lemongrass, grapefruit, honeydew melon and green bell pepper flavors. It’s a super-tasty wine, with a properly dry, clean finish. This is really a very successful Sauvignon Blanc, and tremendously versatile at the table. And what a price point for what you get. Score: 93 points.
Vina Robles 2013 RED4 (Paso Robles): $17. Robust and rustic are good words to describe this darkly-colored red blend. A composite of 41% Petite Sirah and 40% Syrah, with a splash of Mourvedre and Grenache, it’s the kind of wine paisans drink every day at the trattoria. Bone dry and thick in tannins, the flavors are of blackberries, black cherries, pepper, leather and espresso. Unscrew it and drink with burgers, lasagna, pizza and other simple fare that wants a full-bodied red. Score: 86 points.
Vina Robles 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles): $26. Compared to a classic Napa Cabernet, this holds up very well. In fact, there’s better structure here than many of the super-soft, high-alcohol versions up north. It sure has a lot of forward flavors: fresh ripe blackberry and black cherry jam, cocoa puffs, licorice, cassis liqueur and sweet toasted oak. There are considerable tannins that give the wine a bite of astringency, but a good steak or chop will tame them. As for the finish, the flavors last well into a long, spicy aftertaste. It’s a delicious wine, and that price makes it a fantastic value. Why would anyone pay $50, $75 or more for a Cabernet when this is available for $26? Seriously good stuff, highly recommended, and should be easy to find, with more than 16,000 cases produced. Score: 94.
Back in the 1990s, Hillary Clinton famously referred to the “vast rightwing conspiracy” that formed to take her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, down. That conspiracy was led by conservative radicals who today have morphed into what is known as the alt-right, a branch of the Republican party that, twenty years ago, was considered fringe even by senior Republicans like Bob Dole, but has now taken over the party, and may be about to take over the United States of America.
This conspiracy always has been comprised of white nationalists, eccentric Christians, and under-educated rural blue collar workers, mostly men, whose resentments were easy fodder for the conspiracy’s leaders to stoke. The players over these twenty years have changed, although some of them—Rupert Murdoch’s minions, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, remain—but they are all cast from the same mold. Why did Hillary call it a “conspiracy”? Because it was hatched in darkness and anonymity. It remains there today, fueled by dark money, only its leaders now are the foursome of Donald Trump, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin and James Comey.
This requires some explaining on my part. Trump is, of course, the latest leader of the conspiracy. With his insults, smears, bullying, racism, misogyny and xenophobia (have I left anything out?), he perfectly articulates the hatred and anger of the alt-right, elevating it to undreamed of rancor. Wikileaks has joined the parade, as I pointed out last week when I showed that Julian Assange is hoping a President Trump will release him from the awful exile he is suffering within the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, a fate he brought upon himself. Putin, who has renewed the Cold War with America and brought it to its most dangerous level in decades yet is admired and even courted by Trump, has joined the conspiracy by having his security forces hack into Democratic emails and then send them on to Wikileaks. And then we come to the most interesting suspect of all, James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., an avowed Republican, lifted to power by George W. Bush. Why did Comey take this particular moment, on the eve of an election Hillary Clinton was bound to win, to drop this phony bombshell? Because he, like Putin and Assange, wants Trump to be President. His motive? We can only speculate, but let history be our guide.
Back in the 1920s, after Germany had lost the First World War and the country was filled with rightwing resentment—as America is today–a conspiracy arose to undermine Germany’s legitimate, democratically-elected government. This conspiracy was between two groups: (1) unofficial, secret, armed rightwing partisans, known as the Freikorps, which were much like today’s tea party-inspired open-carry rightwingers (think of Cliven Bundy and his gang); and (2) the official expression of German power, the German Army. We can think of Comey, and the F.B.I. in general, as the official branch of U.S. armed security power. We thus have, in this unholy alliance, a tacit agreement for the seizure of power by unofficial and official groupings, come together to undermine the Democratic Party and its candidate.
This conspiracy troubles me a great deal, and it should trouble you too. (The German conspiracy, after all, led to Hitler and World War II.) It now looks like Hillary Clinton may lose this election. As you know, I hope not, but if she does, so be it: life goes on, and Democrats will live to fight another day. But I hope, and expect, and will demand, that Democratic leaders, from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on down, will examine this bizarre and troubling gang-up with all the power they have at their disposal. There may be little they can actually do about it, if Trump is elected and the House and Senate remain Republican. But Republicans themselves should want an explanation, even in the delirium they will undoubtedly have should their candidate win. The combination of foreigners—Putin and Assange—and rogue government officials, undermining and influencing an American Presidential election, is unprecedented. It represents a huge threat to the legitimacy of our country. For the director of the F.B.I. to be associated with a plot to bring down a Presidential candidate is treacherous, if not treasonous, and demands explanation. A Democratic Senate or House subcommittee, even in it be in the minority, simply must hold hearings; and the American media simply must pay attention.
No matter who wins this election, we Democrats cannot sing Kumbaya, join hands with a tea party that hates and wishes to destroy us and our values, and let Republican hegemony go unchallenged. We will have to go to the mattresses. If Hillary does indeed win, Republicans will pull out every dirty trick they have, and they have a lot of ugliness in their toolkit, as Trump has shown. If Trump wins, that event should be seen for what it actually is: a calamitous event in the history of our nation. Either way, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Imagine you’re a juror at the upcoming class action trial against Trump University, scheduled to begin Nov. 28 in San Diego federal court. The now-defunct Trump University, you’ll recall, was the phony “real estate school” that promised to teach students “the secrets of real estate success.” It bilked hundreds of them out of tens of thousands of dollars each by claiming to reveal “Trump’s secret insights into how to make money in real estate.” Of course, it was a scam—which has prompted the class action suit. The presiding judge, you may also recall, was Gonzalo P. Curiel, the same judge Trump called “a hater” who was “unfair” to him because Curiel is “Hispanic,” and because Trump is building that infamous wall along the Mexican border.
Trump couldn’t prevent the lawsuit from going forward, but he wanted Curiel thrown off the case. It didn’t work, but the judge did kindly allow the trial to be postponed until after the Nov. 9 Presidential election.
Now there’s another twist. Trump’s lawyer now is demanding that Judge Curiel not allow the jury to hear important evidence, including any of Trump’s remarks about Curiel—or about Trump’s taxes, or his numerous bankruptcies,, or even the videotape of Trump bragging about grabbing women’s “pussies.”
Trump’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli—who represented Fred Goldman in the wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson and won the Goldman family $8.5 million—said he wants the above information banned from the jury because the trial should not be a test of Trump’s “character,” which even Petrocelli by this argument apparently concedes is horrible, but of Trump’s “management of the university.”
That’s what we call chutzpah in my family.
So if you were a juror in that trial, would you want to hear about Trump’s decades of bad behavior, questionable business practices and other instances of ripping people off, like not paying vendors? On the other hand, it’s almost inconceivable that any of the prospective jurors have not heard all that stuff by now, given the amplitude of media coverage. I would imagine Petrocelli, during voir dire jury selection, will look for the most ignorant, uninformed citizens he can find, incurious, uneducated yahoos who don’t pay attention to current events. After all, that’s Trump’s base, isn’t it?
By the way, if you’re still undecided—which, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not—here’s one reason to turn the House of Representatives blue. Republicans are already planning to impeach President Hillary Clinton. WTF you say? But it’s true. She hasn’t even been elected yet, and these Tea Partiers are sharpening their pitchforks and oiling up their torches. Isn’t it depraved?