Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Response to Opening Night Jitters

(See: Just Above Sunset: Opening Night Jitters)

I don’t even know what the theme was for the opening of the Democratic Convention yesterday, but maybe it should have been “Heal The Bern!”, because that is essentially what happened as evening faded into night.

Full disclosure:

In case you don’t remember me saying this, I voted for Bernie in my state’s primary early last March, not because I wanted him to win but just to let Hillary know that she should be listening to those of us in the party who are left of her on issues Bernie is concerned with, such as the whole business of the “top one-tenth-of-one-percent owning as much as the bottom ninety-percent” — what is often referred to as “income inequality” but what I describe as an economy owned by all of us that has somehow been knocked out of balance.

But while I like many of Bernie’s positions, I think Hillary would make a much more well-rounded chief executive, with experience that will serve her well in almost everything the presidency would call upon her to do. As for Bernie’s talents, I think of him as sort of the Bo Diddley of presidential contenders: If you’ve heard one of his tunes, you’ve pretty much heard them all.

Last night probably wasn’t the smooth transition toward unity that Berny apparently thought it would be, but I think I speak for the “I’m-With-Her” group when I say to him, “We told you so!”

For one thing, he waited too long. For another, the deeper he got himself into taking his crusade seriously, the more he painted himself into a corner, giving his followers the impression that she really is a craven professional politician, enriching herself with speeches while in the pocket of big business and Wall Street, and not trustworthy when it comes to making rotten trade deals that are bad for American workers.

But that's all changed, and it’s okay now?

Even as an outsider, Bernie may be now fostering the suspicion among his disillusioned supporters that he’s been around Washington politics too long, and has become a typical inauthentic pol who sees nothing wrong with immediately abandoning his deeply-held principles as soon as a better deal comes along. I wonder if he understands the danger to the generalissimo who musters a revolutionary force and then defects to the enemy during the heat of battle. I sense he doesn’t. 

I had hoped Sanders’ speech would speak a bit more directly to his troops, much as George Washington did when he put down a budding rebellion in the Continental Army in Newburgh in 1783. Bernie might have said out loud that if anyone stays home on election day, instead of voting for Hillary Clinton, then they’ll be helping Donald Trump become president. Okay, he didn’t say that, but his speech seemed to do the trick anyway.

The tone was different with the Democrats. For one thing, our celebs — Debbie Lovato, Sarah Silverman, Paul Simon, even Al Franken — were bigger deals than those that appeared in Cleveland — Scott Baio and Alberto Sabato Jr. — even if Simon did struggle to hit the notes in “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. As in 2012, the speakers for the Democrats were better, the mood more positive, upbeat, and dare I say it, mellow!

Should there be any mention at all about Benghazi and the emails? I’m interested to see how they handle those.

On the one hand, since it’s going to come up sooner or later, maybe someone should present Hillary’s case in each. The truth about the emails is that, after all was said and done in the FBI probe, it came down to only three emails that were somehow marked “classified”, and that two of those were marked “by mistake”. Someday we’ll all learn what the third one was about, but I’ll bet it was not a big deal leak.

In Benghazi, nothing Hillary did or didn’t do had any bearing on the death of those four men, and that nearly all of the Republican rage seems to only center around “political talking points” — how the story was presented on TV and to family members in the days immediately after the incident, which Republicans seem to think helped them lose the election in 2012.

But on the other hand, I can see the argument for the opposite way to deal with the Republican-sponsored “scandals” — don’t bring them up at all. Maybe if people hear nothing about these things in Philadelphia, it might convey how actually insignificant they are compared to real concerns, to be seen as mole-hills that only Republicans care about, and of which, after all those expensive investigations, nothing more need be said.

And speaking of Benghazi, on a CNN panel, after Democrat Paul Begala praised Michelle Obama’s speech, Republican panelist Jeffrey Lord tried to counter with a Benghazi reference, and Begala, who had had enough of this stuff, hit the roof:
PAUL BEGALA: She has focused on things we all agree on, that we all care about, especially those military families. And so when she stands up and says, "I trust her, this person who is polarizing, and partisan and a politician, she says "I trust her with my children," this just is really powerful. 
JEFFREY LORD: But, you know, Pat Smith trusted her son to Mrs. Clinton's care, Secretary Clinton's care in Benghazi, and she didn't take care of him. 
BEGALA: I don't -- that's a cheap shot. 
LORD: No. 
BEGALA: How many embassies and consulates were attacked when Bush was president? 
LORD: I don't know the answer. Do you? 
BEGALA: Twenty! Sixty-six people were killed. How many congressional investigations? Zero. How many front page stories? Zero. This is exactly the kind of thing makes me crazy. This was a terrible tragedy -- 
LORD: But Paul -- 
BEGALA: It's been investigated. She was cleared even by the partisan super PAC of the Republican House of Representatives, and even they cleared her.
Sure, we can argue facts until we’re blue in the face, but after decades of conditioning, not to mention listening to hundreds of news clips of Hillary talking on television, too many Americans are predisposed to not trust Hillary Clinton. She is absolutely the most qualified candidate in the race, but with her public speaking “charisma” — or, in her case, the lack thereof — which is, unfortunately, what so many voters base their preferences on — let’s just say, it’s an uphill trek.

Still, I pretty much enjoyed last night. Yes, unlike the seemingly frenetic Republican get-together, it was largely boring, as I do hope our lives will be if Hillary finally wins.

Unless, of course, after the election, we see a remnant of the losing "Bernie-or-Busters" join forces with the losing “Trumpsters" to form some new combo revolutionary movement. What would such a group look like?

Imagine, if you will, the Occupy movement, but with AR-15s.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Response to The One Man

(See: Just Above Sunset: The One Man)

I guess the final night of the GOP convention should settle the question of whether we are all in a Battle of Civilizations. We are. It’s the Trump camp's vision of America on the one side, and civilization on the other.

And so who represents “civilization” in this analogy?

Here’s a hint:

Barrack Obama went to Dallas and spoke to both sides of the cops and blacks controversy, expressing understanding and sympathy for both the “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” crowds, and seemed to hope the two sides could work together to solve the problems.

In contrast, if even a single soul at Trump's Convention in Cleveland this last week gave one moment’s thought to the idea that the controversy had to do with anything else but some bad guys killing American cops, I never noticed them.

Donald Trump reopens the old issue of the “Great Man Theory of History”. Much of America seems to have tired of boring old civilization, with all its political correctness and boring old self-rule. They're on the cruise for some excitement, and feel the need for a strongman leader, someone who “makes his own rules". And if not Trump, then the movement will find someone else to do it.

Ezra Klein nails it:
...a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts… 
He has had plenty of time to prove me, and everyone else, wrong. But he hasn’t. He has not become more responsible or more sober, more decent or more generous, more considered or more informed, more careful or more kind.
In short, he’s a jerk, which is exactly what those people who admire him admire about him.

So of course Trump hasn’t pivoted to being a measured statesman. He’s famously a schmuck. Take away all that schmuckyness and he’d be John Kasich, who’s presidential bid went nowhere. Trump's kids can get up and give convincingly sweet speeches about how he’s really not as bad as he looks, but that’s only a counterbalance to our picture of the kind of man you would expect to get to where he’s gotten in the world.

Even if he were capable of changing into what many want him to be, his enormous following would fade away and go looking for someone else. After all, he’s not really creating this movement, he’s just discovered it and then found a way to get out in front of it.

And if he were capable of changing, he’d become a wannabe Jeb Bush, and why would anybody want a wannabe Jeb Bush when we already have a Jeb Bush, who is probably better at being it anyway? And then, who would represent all those followers Trump has now?

And what this “outsider” movement wants is to, just for fun, turn the world upside down, just to see what happens — which, by the way, was what the last Republican administration was looking to do, back when it invaded Iraq for essentially no reason -- and which is, by the way, what helped the world get to where it is today.

It’s hard not to notice when you hear that Trump might consider not defending NATO countries against an attack from Russia, that he thinks a president can ignore history and has no obligation to understand what he’s doing, that a president can just do what feels right at the time. In doing this, he may not realize this but he’d be pulling a GW Bush.

Bush, too, realized that his appeal was to voters who held the current “elite world order" in distain, including anything Bill Clinton had accomplished before him, so as soon as he got into power, he virtually did his best to undo the whole Bill Clinton administration. This included not only scrapping the Kyoto Global Warming Protocol, but also the “Agreed Framework" treaty with North Korea that kept them from building Plutonium nukes in exchange for aid — a treaty that, once it collapsed when Bush came into power, they abandoned and got back to work on making bombs. And they never looked back.

Maybe more critically, during the Clinton/Bush transition committee meetings, they reportedly pretty much ignored warnings of the danger of non-state threats, specifically from al Qaeda.

The point is, what Bush knew for sure going into office is that he had a mandate to undo all that confusing stuff Bill Clinton had done during his time as president. There are indications that, years later, Bush finally came around to understanding how stupid that had been, but it was too late to change the world back to the way it was, and we’re still living with the consequences.

I also like Andrew Sullivan's take on Trump’s big speech:
Why will the speech work? Because it manages to frame the narrative – using false or misleading data – by making this a change election. He somehow spins every disconcerting piece of news at home and abroad into a compelling social imaginary of chaos, decline and frustration. He blames Obama for everything bad and gives no credit for anything good. If you know nothing but feel insecure, the picture he paints will be electrifyingly persuasive.
And then he proclaims that he alone can fix it. Sort of reminds one of a protection racket. You may have no idea things had been bad at all until some master salesman comes to town to convince you that he can fix it.

Yeah, Trump's sort of like Professor Harold Hill, but without the trombones, much less the redeeming social conscience. In fact, while Trump hasn’t the charm of the Music Man, he does have a much more exciting personality than Hillary, which is why she could lose to him.

It’s such a tragedy for our country that the only actually competent candidate in this race may end up lacking the necessary showbiz skills to defeat a clown with schtick. I’m sure if the founders are looking down at all this, they must be glad they’re dead.

So despite what Trump and his legion of surrogates would have us believe, the country is not in chaos.

But if you want to see what a world in chaos does look like, go ahead and make Donald Trump the leader of it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Response to The Cruz Missile

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Cruz Missile)

As much as I agree with Josh Marshal’s wonderful description of Ted Cruz as an "odious weasel”, I have to give Cruz props for what he did last night.

The very little thing that should have tipped off everybody about Trump from the very beginning that showed he is not only not at all qualified to be president, but also that he would be America's first asshole president, is something that would have immediately disqualified any other candidate from the get-go — that is, the way he showed pretty much no respect to any of his opponents; first to McCain for being a P.O.W., then “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crooked Hillary”, and so on.

True, last night, Ted was only reprising his feckless "Green-Eggs-and-Ham" filibuster, which apparently accomplished nothing but get everyone pissed off at him (which we can expect him to never let us forget throughout the next four years), and yes, he was only defending his family, what you’d expect any real man to do, but doing so brought us back to that moment before candidate Trump hurled his first insult or coined his first nasty nickname. In effect, Ted took us all backward in an imaginary time machine and nipped Donald in the bud.

But won’t that hurt the duly-nominated Republican candidate’s chances for victory? Cruz's answer just might be, who cares? A better question, he might ask, is, what would a Trump defeat in 2016 do to a possible Cruz victory in 2020?

In any event, Cruz brought back the fun and drama that used to be important features of political conventions!

On the other hand, a pox on the whole damn bunch of them.

Having said that, I need to also say this: Bernie Sanders better not be thinking of trying that same trick next week!

Still, this week’s GOP show is a hard act for Democrats to beat. Hopefully it will be a repeat of 2012, in which the alternate reality conjured up by the GOP's surreal anti-Obamafest (remember Clint Eastwood’s weird chat with that chair?) was dissapated the following week by Bill “Explainer-in-Chief” Clinton. Let’s cross our fingers.

But back to last night. Here’s Josh Marshall’s take on Cruz's sucker-punch:
The first thing to say about this is that there is simply no way Trump’s and Priebus’s convention managers okayed that speech. No way. The fact that they allowed him on stage to give that speech will go down as one of the greatest organizational pratfalls in convention history. Whether Cruz got them to agree not to review the speech or whether he substituted another speech, I don’t know. But something very wrong went down there.
Except that cable news reporters noted receiving an advanced text of the speech and noticed the absence of an endorsement, and that, since the speech had to be loaded into the TelePrompTer ahead of time, it’s reasonable to assume the Trump convention people would have noticed the same thing -- giving Trump himself a chance to either call it off, or better yet, to upstage Cruz at the end of the speech, which is what he did.

Which is to say, I would guess the whole thing was as much a part of the Trump Traveling Circus as was wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin smashing folding chairs over the head of the "evil Mr. (Vince) McMahon". What may have escaped respected political journalists this past year is that Donald Trump has effectively demoted them all to entertainment reporters.

The big problem, of course, is that, while Mike Pence’s speech was unexpectedly well received last night, the only people who know that are the people who watched it live. Anyone else, especially those who relied on this morning's news programs for their GOP convention summary, likely only heard about the big Cruz non-endorsement kerfuffle.

The mood on the floor? To hear the descriptions of those at the convention, it may not come over on TV but it sounds more like the rehearsal dinner of an arranged marriage, with the two families eyeing each other suspiciously.  Longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy (and Jeb Bush SuperPAC show-runner) has been spending the week in Cleveland, and said this:
“Talking to operatives here, the mood is something between grim resignation and the Donner party”.
What stands out about this so-called “Trump Convention” is how much everybody is trying to gingerly not talk about Trump. Those failed-candidates who did show up, even those that have endorsed him, seem to prefer expending their pent-up nervous energy saying ever-more outrageous and borderline-slanderous things about Hillary than even nice things about the nominee. In fact, while there’s really nothing truthful they feel comfortable saying about either candidate, they seem to find it easier repeating the more well-worn lies about Hillary (after all, who there will contradict them?) than having to fake the sincerity necessary in convincingly praising Donald.

In fact, if it weren’t for Donald’s own buttinsky, hey-look-at-me stunts — such as his official Wednesday arrival in Cleveland on his Trumpjet (Wait!! What? Hadn’t he already been there for two days???) and then flying on his Trumptycopter what may have been about 800 yards, then getting off to officially kiss his family hello — we might be forgiven for forgetting this is supposed to be all about him. 

Hey, Donald, you still believe all press is good press? Think again! 

Yes, you may have everybody talking about your action-packed, albeit-dysfunctional convention the next day at the water cooler in the same way that they now discuss “The Bachelorette”, but whether or not that will help you on election day depends on how all this plays with the people who wouldn’t be caught dead watching phony-reality TV shows, since I’m pretty sure the people who would are already voting for you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Response to The Now What

Black people who target whites are fundamentally allied with white people who target blacks. They’re on the same team: the race war team. 
It’s a lot like the global struggle over jihadism, in which Muslims who hate Christians collaborate, in effect, with Christians who hate Muslims. In the case of jihadism, the real struggle isn’t between two religions. It’s between people who want religious war and people who don’t. 
The same is true of race: Either you’re on the race war team, or you’re against it.
I’ve always argued the same about the dispute between Israel and its neighbors. I keep thinking there are at least some Israelis who wouldn’t mind if Palestinian Arabs had their own sovereign state that lived in peace with Israel, and there must be some Arabs who, if given their own state, would live beside Israel, in peace. It’s just that the combined Peace crowd is outnumbered, or at least overpowered, by the combined War crowd in the region, and so progress toward settling the disagreements goes nowhere.

I think of this every time I hear of Rudy Giuliani say something along these lines:

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stood by his recent comments Monday that the Black Lives Matter movement is "inherently racist." 
"It's inherently racist because, number one, it divides us. ... All lives matter: White lives, black lives, all lives," he told Fox News on Monday.
There may be something to that. I still wish “Black Lives Matter” would change its name to “Black Lives Matter, Too”, just so folks couldn’t get away with making that argument. But Giuliani continues, making a claim I myself can't verify:
"Number two: Black Lives Matter never protests when every 14 hours somebody is killed in Chicago, probably 70-80% of the time (by) a black person. Where are they then? Where are they when a young black child is killed?"
I remember that the first time I heard Giuliani bring up this business about “black-on-black crime” in the “Black Lives Matter” context, I think last year, I thought he was just trying to change the subject. But now I realize that, if I were in a conversation in which both sides were looking for common ground, stuff we could agree on, I would grant him that argument, yet would likely follow it with...
“...but while your point — that anyone professing to care about black people’s lives should not just be talking about black people killed by white cops, but should also about black people killed by other black people — is a good one, I would still like to hear what you think about the contention that black people do seem, for some reason, to be profiled by cops — and not just by white cops, but also by black cops. 
First, do you agree this is true — and statistics seem to suggest it is — and second, if so, what do you think we should do about it?”
If this discussion were really open, and both sides were of good will, both acknowledging that there is a problem and what the problem is, they might also admit that not every case of a cop killing a black person is necessarily racism but might sometimes, for example, be a case of sloppy police work, or good intentions gone bad.

I personally think that was the case in the alleged chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014 — that Garner’s large size intimidated the cops into using maybe more force than was necessary.

But what may have called the cops’ attention to the scene in the first place was not that he was illegally selling cigarettes but that there had just been a fight nearby that Garner broke up, something he was known to often do as the neighborhood peacemaker.

Although maybe there can be more thought put into how to subdue a large man who resists arrest ("Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today,” he reportedly told the arresting officers), there definitely needs to be some nationwide attention given to finding ways to not confront citizens over the small stuff, such as the suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, or for having a broken brake light. This was apparently the case of the shooting of Philando Castile, near St. Paul. If so, the police could have traced the license plate and mailed the ticket, saving not only a lot of trouble but a man’s life.

And both victims last week had licenses to carry guns? Still, in the Castile incident, Thomas Kelly, the accused cop’s lawyer, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the presence of a gun,” Kelly added. “Deadly force would not have been used if not for the presence of a gun.”
Maybe the originalist approach to the constitution is that when the founders wrote the Second Amendment, they surely didn’t envision non-white people being allowed to carry guns! And yet, the NRA was slow to respond to the shooting in Minnesota, posting this on its Facebook page only after its response to the shootings of the police in Dallas:
As the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NRA proudly supports the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. 
The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. 
Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.
Another idea that could be tried out, to prevent all these misunderstandings surrounding drivers reaching for their wallets, might be for the cops, still in their cars, to instruct drivers over a loudspeaker to retrieve their identification, to hold it up to show it, and to bring it out of the car. Or if that doesn’t work, try something like it, but make sure the new rules apply to all drivers, not just the African-American ones.

And yeah, maybe someday we could try what they do in the U.K., where the cops don’t generally carry firearms. But you and I both know that won’t happen until we grow up a little more, and become a mature and responsible country, like other countries in the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Response to No Reasonable Prosecutor

(See: Just Above Sunset: No Reasonable Prosecutor)

Damn, I’d really hoped that the eventual announcement of the findings of the FBI, more or less exonerating Hillary Clinton on her handling of her emails, would pretty much shut down the Republican noise machine. Silly me. But I soon realized, even before James Comey had finished his presentation, that this beast of a story just grew more legs.

First of all, as far as I can tell, even the legal part ain’t really over, at least not until Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces whether she will indeed follow the FBI’s recommendations, which there frankly seems to be plenty of incentive for her to not do, simply to demonstrate that there was no bribery involved or foolishness having to do with that meeting with Bill Clinton at the airport.

And secondly, FBI Director Comey seemed to make sure he left enough hanging to keep this thing going for awhile. For one thing, the Republicans will certainly want to ask him questions about how he could have come to his obviously preposterous conclusions, given the case he laid out (and as I write this, it is now known he’ll be talking to the House Oversight Committee on Thursday)

But also, while it may be understandable that he might call the press together to announce that he won’t be recommending any indictments, I’m not sure why he would find it necessary to throw into the mix his personal opinions, having nothing to do with the law — saying "there is evidence that they [Hillary and her staff] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” (although, in fact, probably no more careless than Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were before her) — which seemed to serve no purpose other than to give the Trump campaign juicy soundbites for their attack ads.

Why would he do that? Maybe because Comey, as a Bush Appointee, is a presumed Republican himself, and no friend of Hillary? Although maybe not. Who knows.

In fact, did he even have to make his recommendations public at all? Maybe it might have been better if he hadn’t, except that I suspect that Lynch, even if she didn’t know ahead of time what he was going to say, may have suggested he do it, in hopes it might defuse some of the political chatter if it happened out in the open.

Still, one thing I’ve not really been able to figure out is what led Hillary to handle her emails the way she did, and I think I may have figured that out by following Ian Millhiser’s link in his ThinkProgress piece, to Newsweek Kurt Eichenwald’s February 8th article, “The Shocking Truth: Colin Powell’s Emails Don’t Matter”, in which he points out that, for anyone to insure they never ever transmit or receive classified information by email, they'd have to walk around in a portable "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” ...
… or what is known in intelligence circles as a SCIF. 
Most senior officials who deal with classified information have a SCIF in their offices and their homes.These are not just extra offices with a special lock. Each SCIF is constructed following complex rules imposed by the intelligence and defense communities. 
Restrictions imposed on the builders are designed to ensure that no unauthorized personnel can get into the room, and the SCIF cannot be accessed by hacking or electronic eavesdropping. A group called the technical surveillance countermeasures team (TSCM) investigates the area or activity to check that all communications are protected from outside surveillance and cannot be intercepted. 
Most permanent SCIFs have physical and technical security, called TEMPEST. The facility is guarded and in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week; any official on the SCIF staff must have the highest security clearance. There is supposed to be sufficient personnel continuously present to observe the primary, secondary and emergency exit doors of the SCIF. Each SCIF must apply fundamental red-black separation to prevent the inadvertent transmission of classified data over telephone lines, power lines or signal lines.
Basically, it’s a room. Sometimes it’s a tent. But you can’t be sitting at your desk in your office and communicate sensitive information, and still make absolutely sure you keep it safe.

And by the way, as you may have heard, much of what information is, at some point, made classified, isn’t secret, or at least shouldn’t be kept secret. Much of what eventually becomes “classified” is made so by the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) staff, just acting in an abundance of caution in keeping some innocuous Associated Press article from being released to the public.
People outraged by the (false) belief that [Secretaries of State Colin] Powell and [Condoleezza] Rice’s aides broke the law are creating a fantasy world where every official email, no matter its content, must go through a SCIF just in case the FOIA staff eventually determines, sometime in the future and applying different standards, that the information in the email should not be released to the public under a FOIA request out of classification concerns. 
Given the cumbersome procedures of using a SCIF, that would mean the secretary of state would have to spend a lot of time sitting inside a locked box and sending emails not yet designated as containing secret information, solely to avoid the partisan gnashing of teeth that could potentially occur if someday the FOIA staff were to retroactively decide they should not be released to the public out of classification concerns.
And in Powell and Rice’s case, there’s also this:
Plus, both Powell and Rice had the authority, granted by President George W. Bush through executive order, to classify and declassify any document created by the State Department. So if either of them had received an email from another agency containing information that had not gone through a SCIF, he or she could have independently declared that it did not need to be secret and sent it along to anyone they chose.
In other words, had Obama only granted this same power to Hillary, she could have just unilaterally declassified all that stuff on the spot, and avoided all the partisan tooth-gnashing that’s been happening ever since.

So, given how difficult it was to do the job without publicly disclosing that the AP had published a news article mentioning that we have a drone program, there seems to be good justification for doing what Powell, Rice and Clinton all did, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t have been tempted to do the same -- and maybe even at the risk of voters taking umbrage at my doing it, and deciding then to elect Donald Trump president instead of me.

Yikes! This is the world turned upside down!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Response to The Major Minor

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Major Minor)

This recent Star-of-David thing is just more evidence that maybe half the trouble Donald Trump gets himself into could be summed up this way: “Once again, the twit hits the fan!” Every promise he makes to pivot to “looking presidential” is belied moments later when he launches himself onto social media.

I tend to agree with James Fallows on this, when he says
So you can take your pick: negligence, or malice. Either a presumptive major-party nominee is spending his time, as he “pivots” toward the general election that happens just four months from now, sending out personally insulting tweets without having anyone check their provenance and implications, or someone in the campaign is doing this on purpose, dog-whistle style. I think the former is more likely, but either one is bad.
And I have to admit, I never quite understood this particular argument about Trump’s birtherism, this time from Paul Waldman:
"President Obama might be the beneficiary of a decades-long conspiracy to conceal the fact that he was actually born in Kenya. If you’re wondering whether that’s just stupid and crazy, or if it’s inherently racist, let me clear it up for you: Yes, it’s racist.”
So if it turns out Obama was actually born in Kenya, does this mean (gasp!) that our president … is actually a black man? My God! All this time, we’ve been fooled into electing someone who’s ...

Hey, wait just one gosh-darn minute! Obama is black! Nobody’s denying that! Even if he was born in Hawaii, he is black! So now, which is supposed to be the racist part?

I’m not saying Trump's not a racist, but birtherism doesn’t seem to be proof of that. And if he is, his racism would still just be part of something even bigger — that this candidate for American president is “just stupid and crazy” -- and being at least one of those things would disqualify him from buying a gun, so I would think being both should disqualify him from being president.

So as for that sticky question that cable newspeople keep asking pundits, “Is Trump a racist?” — the question for which the answer often seems to be, “Well, I’m not really in a position to know what’s in his heart” — that puzzle might be solved with a paraphrase from Forrest Gump: “Racist is as racist does.

In short, if Donald Trump ever does something "racist”, then I guess we would have our answer, wouldn't we?