Category Archives: politics

Memorial Day 2020

On Memorial Day we in the United States honor the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces bravely defending the freedoms so many of us take for granted. It is a solemn occasion, meant to be a day for reflection. An acknowledgement of the sacrifices made and the lives cut short.

Presidents traditionally place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. The Tomb is marked with the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Presidents often mark the occasion with words of reassurance to the American people, expressing empathy and gratefulness for their loses. In this year of Covid-19, with about 100,000 Americans dead from the disease, many of them members of the military and many more from the front line of doctors, other medical personnel and first responders, such words would have been welcome.

But eloquence is not in Donald J. Trump’s vocabulary and empathy not in his playbook. Yes he did go and lay the wreath. After all, it made for a nice photo-op and will certainly get prominent play on the evening news. But Trump’s true emotions showed in his actions. After declaring houses of worship to be “essential” services and threatening the nation’s governors that he would “override them” if they did not allow churches to reopen this weekend, Trump immediately headed for the golf course. On both Saturday and Sunday Trump dragged his large contingent of security forces and hangers-on to his private Virginia golf course and played a few rounds. After his actions met with derision from critics and negative news reports, he took as usual to Twitter.

Trump’s obsession with President Barack Obama, more then three years into the Trump administration will by itself be fodder for the PhD dissertations of a generation of psychology students. It is just one item of evidence supporting the argument that Trump is a deeply troubled man.

Trump this Memorial Day weekend also threatened North Carolina that he would move the planned Republican Party convention from that state unless the Democratic governor Roy Cooper lifts all social distancing directives, allowing the Republicans to pack a stadium elbow to elbow, Covid-19 be damned.

Even worse then this holiday weekend’s series of direct tweets by Trump are the tweets of others retweeted by Trump. When you retweet, you pass along a message you came across to your followers. Trump has a history of retweeting some of the most inflammatory, vile, and crude screeds in this fashion. This weekend he passed along eight tweets from John K. Stahl, a failed Republican candidate for Congress from California.

Just in case you need a decoder for some of this garbage that Trump thinks you need to read, the first tweet takes a swipe at Stacey Abrams, the black former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives who might now be governor of that state if the Republicans had run a fair election. Abrams is considered a possible running mate for Joe Biden. The second tweet attacks Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who Stahl calls “PolyGrip.” And the third plants the moniker “Malarkey the Racist” on Biden himself while calling Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who beat Trump by almost three million in the popular vote count, a “skank.” Trump has been trying to brand Biden as a racist ever since Biden made a gaffe in a radio interview Friday. A gaffe for which Biden quickly apologized. Even hear Trump apologize for anything? Neither have I.

Contrast that with the message from our previous president, commenorating Memorial Day 2020:

I still miss him.

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The Justices Take a Landmark Step. Unwillingly.

Mark your calendar. Beginning May 4 and ending May 13, the Supreme Court of the United States will make history. It took the coronavirus pandemic to do it, but over six dates the Court will hear oral arguments on ten cases, and the people of the United States will be able for the first time to hear those arguments as they happen.

This is happening because the Court, like most of us, is practicing Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with the justices and staff working mostly from their homes. The Court first delayed these arguments, then decided to hold the hearings via teleconference.

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Pale Blue Dot

A recent study found anecdotal evidence that our increased exposure to political strife is having a negative effect on our mental health, resulting in “frayed personal relationships, compromised emotional stability, and even physical problems.” So what else is new? I, for one, am getting sick and tired of writing about politics. I see it as a service, and personally cathartic. But still a stressful task.

So for once I’ll skip a political column and try something completely different. Pretty much lost in Donald Trump’s post-acquittal victory lap, NASA gave us all a Valentine’s gift. It reprocessed and re-released an image recorded thirty years ago, February 14, 1990, by Voyager 1, at the time 3.7 billion miles from the Sun.

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And So It Goes….

US Senate

It is over now. In the 241 year history of the United States there have only been three impeachment trials of a president. The impeachment of Donald J. Trump ended just as expected, with his acquittal by the United States Senate. The Senators sat as jurors but heard no live witnesses and read no documentary evidence other than that gathered by the House of Representatives. That was a marked departure from all other impeachment trials in the Senate.

What have we learned? We have learned that our government process has devolved into one where only party loyalty and raw political power counts. The House, with the Democrats in the majority, did not allow Republicans to call witnesses. The Senate, with the Republicans in the majority, blocked witnesses and documents and considered voting to “dismiss” the charges without even allowing the House managers to present their case.

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Jim Lehrer and the Future of News

Jim Lehrer - PBS NewsHour

Jim Lehrer, co-founder and for 36 years the anchor of the PBS NewsHour, died Thursday at the age of 85. He was also the executive editor of the broadcast, moderated 12 presidential debates, and wrote books of fiction and non-fiction, often on topics informed by his interest in journalism, politics and history. The NewsHour remembered and eulogized him on the program that night.

I cannot come close to the heartfelt feelings expressed by his NewsHour colleagues and I highly recommend the program to you. Although I worked for nearly three decades for the public television program Nightly Business Report, public television is about as siloed a group as you will find and I had the pleasure of meeting Lehrer only once. I do remember being tongue tied at meeting the man who is now being mourned as a “giant in journalism.” He of course was friendly and unassuming with me.

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National Archive Gets Trumped

As you know I don’t usually report on other reporters. Nor do I link to material behind paywalls, although I support the use of paywalls to enable reporters to make a living. But there is a story justifiably blazing through the cloud that touches on many of the topics I hold dear and deserves a shout-out.

My tip of the hat goes to Joe Heim of the Washington Post and his story, “National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump.” Tweet National Archives TrumpedHeim, in a Twitter post after the story went viral, said his story was in part due to “chance.” I’ll respectfully disagree. Heim was visiting the National Archive when he noticed something that had nothing to do with his reporting assignment. That’s not chance. That’s good reporting. I’ve often told journalism students the best story ideas come from their own observations. A good reporter always keeps eyes open.

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I Have a Dream….

My dream is that Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republican Leader of the Senate, solemnly announces that he has received from the House of Representatives Articles of Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, and that as detailed by the Constitution and the rules of the Senate he is turning the gavel over to the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, who will preside (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6).

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