Thursday, July 30, 2015

I know this sounds crazy...

I know this will sound crazy. I am fully aware that by uttering these words I risk jeopardizing any credibility that I may have with those of you that follow this space. But in the interest of fairness and honesty I have to tell you what I believe in my heart to be true. So here goes.

Donald Trump is a legitimate candidate for the Republican Party nomination for the office of President of the United States!

There I said it.

I told you it would sound crazy. And I know it is very early in the game. But an honest review of everything that is out there makes it astonishingly clear that Donald Trump is a legitimate candidate for the presidency.

Don’t believe me! Check out Bloomberg Politics’ video of a New Hampshire focus group comprised of 12 Republican and Independent voters. Watch as they explain why they support Trump’s candidacy. I guarantee you will come away stunned. Not because you are watching a bunch of crazies. Quite the opposite. In my opinion these are well spoken, common sense folks who find themselves drawn to Trump the person…not Trump the celebrity billionaire.

“He says it like it is.”

“He speaks the truth.”

“He’s just tough, we need someone tough.”

“He’s like one of us. He may be a millionaire which separates him from everybody else, but besides the money issue he’s still in tune with what everybody is wanting.”

They like that he is not a politician…that he is successful…that he is a tough minded…and that he not only says what he thinks but he doesn’t back down in the face of criticism. They see him as a “Reaganesque” figure who will return class and greatness to the White House and to the country. While that may frighten the hell out of progressives it plays well with conservatives and independents.

If this focus group does not make you a believer then check out any of the recent national pools. Trump is the frontrunner in all of them. And a St. Petersburg Press poll released yesterday has shocked even the most steadfast Trump critic. The poll shows Trump leading all Republican hopefuls in Florida with 26% of the vote. Jeb Bush comes in second with 20% and Marco Rubio fourth at 10%. Beating favorite sons Bush and Rubio in Florida is no joke.

People keep expecting that something will crash the Trump campaign but so far nothing has. In fact every time Trump stumbles or some salacious allegation hits the news wire Trump surges in the polls.

Trumps calls illegal Mexican immigrants criminals and rapist. Trump causes a huge uproar when rips John McCain’s hero status. Trump is accused of sexually assaulting one of his ex-wives. Trump describes a woman using a breast pump as “disgusting.” These are incidents that would end most campaigns; but after each occurrence Trumps rose higher in the polls.

Yes, it is early. So the obvious question is “Can Trump sustain this lead?” Trump's critics say that it’s one thing to talk in generalities and rip your opponents but quite another to have specific ideas on the complex issues we are facing. When the time comes for Trump to be specific he will crash and burn. I’m not so sure.

Most voters are low information voters. They don’t get all up in the weeds on policy. The look at the candidate and they get a gut vibe about the person. They vote on that gut reaction because they don’t really believe the candidate can or will do all the things they promised. They believe Trump can be successful…because he has been.

Depending on the poll…Trump has anywhere from 20-26% of the support of Republican voters. As the field of seventeen hopefuls winnows its way down, the remaining 74-80% of the votes are going to gravitate to someone still in the race. Why not Trump?

I know it sounds crazy…but Trump is legit. If the Washington establishment refuses to recognize his legitimacy they do so at their peril.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Money for Nothin'

When the United States Supreme Court rendered its decision on Citizens United it forever changed the course of our democracy. No longer are a candidate’s qualifications or quick witted performance on the stump the keys to victory. Now all an aspiring candidate needs is one well-heeled benefactor to become a player for the most powerful office on the planet. Now one individual with deep pockets can effectively alter the course of history.

You probably think I’m going to go on a tirade about Donald Trump. Trump is certainly a good example of how money and celebrity can “trump” qualifications as the keys to a successful campaign. But at least Trump is using his own billions to fund his Shermanesque rampage through the halls of Washington. Trump has earned his celebrity and his billions. He’s not living his dream off the benevolence of others.

No, when I think of a politician who would not rate a nanosecond of thought were it not for the support of well-heeled benefactors one name comes immediately to mind.

Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz’ Super PAC has raised roughly $38 million dollars to date. A paltry sum compared to the $100+ million raised by Jeb Bush but a significant amount none the less. Cruz has used that money to promote his presidential aspirations while at the same time shirking his duties as a US Senator.

While the Cruz campaign is long on rhetoric his senatorial career is short on substance. Cruz has one of the worst attendance records on floor votes and committee attendance of any of his colleagues. Of his 44 sponsored bills exactly “0” have shown any glimmer of a chance of becoming legislation.

While Cruz receives failing grades for his senatorial duties he has proven to be quite astute at alienating his colleagues in the chamber. To say Cruz is hated on the Hill is not a stretch. He has called Mitch McConnell a “liar”…feuded with John McCain…repeatedly derided and mocked his fellow lawmakers and tossed many of them under the bus when it suited his needs.

He met secretly with House Republicans to urge them to shut down the government rather than grant the president his funding requests. The House followed his lead to a disastrous end. 800,000 federal workers were furloughed…national parks closed…vacations ruined…$25 billion in GDP lost… and eventually a credit downgrade by Moody’s…the first downgrade in US history.

During the furor that followed Cruz told reporters that he “always thought shutting down the government was a bad idea but he admired the House Republicans for standing up for their principles.”

When the Obamacare rollout was having website difficulties Cruz was encouraging people not to enroll. He knew that for the ACA to be successful in needed an influx of young healthy applicants to offset the elderly, sick and infirmed. So Cruz focused on the younger crowd; telling them that enrolling in the ACA was a bad idea because the program would never get off the ground.

Noted for his intelligence, Cruz knew full well that by not enrolling in the ACA young adults were putting their financial future at risk. Cruz knew that one serious illness could be a financial disaster but he encouraged them not to enroll anyway.

Cruz later found himself and his family without health coverage when his wife quit her job to work Cruz’ presidential campaign. The Cruz family was covered under her former employer’s group plan. Did Cruz go without coverage as he had encouraged so many to do? No…he enrolled in Obamacare.

In spite of his poor political record and offensive personality Ted Cruz is a player in the upcoming elections. Why? Because four guys with fat wallets have decided to bankroll his campaign.

You see $36 of the $38 million that Cruz’ PAC has raised has come from four people: $15 million from fracking billionaires Farris and Dan Wilks; $11 million from hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer and $10 million from Cruz’ personal friend Toby Neugebauer.

On August 6 the GOP will host its first in a series of debates. Having a place on that stage is critical any Republican presidential hopeful. Ted Cruz will have a place on that stage. He will have a voice. Other more deserving candidates will see their campaigns end because Cruz took their spot at the podium. Not because he was more deserving or qualified. But because for guys with extra cash in their pockets decided he was worth the bet.

Money for nothin'

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Trump and Sanders Shocking The Establishment

Rand Paul posts a video where he is seen cutting up the US Tax Code with a chainsaw.

Upon learning that Donald Trump has released Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number to the public; Graham posts a video where he demonstrates the various ways one can destroy a cell phone. Golf clubs, baseball bats and tall buildings are featured.

Mike Huckabee decides to voice his views on the president’s nuclear arms deal with Iran saying that the deal effectively “takes the Israelis and marches them to the oven door.”

In 10 days the communication arm of the Republican Party, FOXNEWS, will telecast the first in a series of presidential debates. FOX has informed the GOP that only the top ten candidates in five yet to be named national polls will be granted a place at the podium.

Wining a place on that stage is everything to the GOP hopefuls. As one conservative op-ed writer put it: “If you are not on that stage you are irrelevant.” Thus instead of focusing on the issues we see desperate GOP candidates resorting to gimmicks and inflammatory rhetoric in a blatant attempt to capture the attention of the voting public.
Why the desperation? Because Donald Trump has stolen the spotlight. Much to the chagrin of the Party establishment Donald Trump is the media darling that completely overshadows everyone else in the race.

Trump ranks first or second among GOP contenders in every national poll. Heading into the debates he is the clear frontrunner for the nomination. His message is a simple one…Washington is broken…our stupid politicians care more about being re-elected than they do about governing…and who better than Trump, the ruthless mega rich businessman, to negotiate deals that will make America great again. It is a populist message that is resonating with the American people to the extent that the GOP leadership is panicked over how to stop it. “He’ll never be the nominee” they say. They’ve been saying that since Trump announced and all he has done is gain in popularity.

The same holds true in the Democratic tent.

The coronation of Hillary Clinton has hit a snag. While Clinton still holds front runner status in the polls her “unfavorable” ratings continue to soar as she struggles to get her email message straight. Americans don’t trust her. They favor her over any of the GOP candidates…but they don’t trust her.

While Clinton is floundering Bernie Sanders is flourishing.

Sanders is skyrocketing up the polls; cutting Clinton’s once seemingly insurmountable leads to single digits. He is drawing huge crowds wherever he goes. Sanders took his road show into bright red Louisiana where he outdrew Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Then he was off to Dallas and Houston where over ten thousand came to hear his message.
Like Trump, Sanders carries a populist tune. Higher wages, more jobs, rebuild our infrastructure. Unlike Trump, Sanders refuses to attack his opponents; preferring instead to focus on the issues. Voters are listening. Any self-proclaimed Socialist Democratic candidate that can generate that kind of enthusiasm in deep red Texas is a candidate deserves serious consideration.

Republican and Democratic leaders would very much like Trump and Sanders to go away so that the voters and the press could focus their attention on “the legitimate candidates.” But Trump and Sanders aren’t going anywhere. They will be here to the bitter end.

Trump and Sanders have caused a sea change in our electoral politics. Both men have huge opportunities in the upcoming debates. If they can comport themselves in a way that appears “presidential” under that enormous pressure they will force even the most ardent naysayers to consider them serious candidates.

Write this down…Trump and Sanders will each have a “defining moment” in the debates. A moment that will grab media headlines and monopolize the news cycle. Will it be enough to propel them to their party’s respective nomination? It’s too early to tell.

Trump and Sanders are resonating with the electorate. They are changing the very fabric of our politics. Can they win?

No one thought Obama could beat Hillary.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Common Sense = Exceptional?

The president gave a lengthy press conference yesterday. The purpose was to answer questions about the controversial nuclear arms deal with Iran. The president went to great lengths to defend the deal going so far as to challenge detractors to explain how the agreement fails to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

As the questions on Iran wound down a reporter asked the president if he would consider revoking Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom. The president said that there was no mechanism in place to revoke the medal…and then he said this:

“I’ll say this. If you give a woman, or a man for that matter, without his or her knowledge a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”

I have to admit that I was stunned by the response to the president’s remarks. Not those from detractors who would disagree with this president over the rising and setting of the sun. I’m talking about the over the top praise heaped on the president by his supporters for having the “courage” to make such an emphatic statement. “Boy he really went there…he said it!” Fist bumps all around.

Seriously! Has our discourse plummeted to such a low water mark that a common sense statement of fact is worthy of political “hosannas” from the highest? “All hail the president for having the courage to tell it like it is! Boy he really went there!” C’mon!

It’s a sad day when common sense becomes “exceptional.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Obama Bridges Beltway Disconnect

If you follow the main stream media reporting of the reaction inside the Washington beltway to the president’s deal with Iran you come away with the overwhelming impression that the United States has just made the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the republic.

“Catastrophic”…”Irresponsible”…”Dangerous”…”Na├»ve”…”Cosmic gamble” are just a few of the terms critics used to describe the agreement. Most of the critics admitted that they had not read the agreement before weighing in. All of the dissenters changed the subject when a reporter asked for their alternative solution.

The best solution any of them could come up with was, “tougher sanctions.” Never mind that while the sanctions in place were having a devastating effect on the Iranian economy they were having zero effect on the regime’s progress toward producing an atomic weapon. In fact since George W. Bush imposed economic sanctions on the “Evil Empire” in 2003, Iran has increased its nuclear material producing centrifuges from 200 to over 19,000. Sanctions brought Iran to the bargaining table but they did nothing to stall Iran’s march to the bomb.

The funny thing is that while the ruling class inside the beltway continued to voice their 20 month opposition to a deal with Iran the rest of the country was expressing an entirely different message.

Check any poll and you will find that 59%-64% of Americans outside the Washington beltway favor reaching a peaceful agreement with Iran. To those who question the political bias of these polls, consider the great state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is politically as red as red can be yet 70% of Oklahomans polled favor reaching a deal with Iran.

As usual the politicians inside the beltway have yet to catch up with the rest of the country.

So why do we have this “disconnect?” Why do we hear such dissent, particularly from the right, to a peaceful solution that bends to the wishes of a majority of the people? There are several reasons.

Gerrymandered districts breed partisan gridlock. Intransigence in Washington is rewarded with job security back home.

Then there is the “Obama” factor. There are those who will do whatever it takes to deny this particular president a victory. The reasons go beyond principled partisan politics. They are based on race and hate and they have no business in our political discourse.

But I believe that the primary reason for the “disconnect” between those inside the beltway and the rest of the country is an unrealistic view on the part of the former as to America’s place in the world order. They see us as the world’s only remaining superpower and somehow equate our military might to our “exceptionalism.” Yes we are a superpower. But in spite of our extraordinary economic success and unsurpassed military might we are not omnipotent. The people that fought the wars in Vietnam and Iraq have learned that lesson. The politicians who sent them there have not.

And so while elected leaders bluster about “American leadership” and “forming the tip of the spear” when it comes to facing our enemies; the American people call for peaceful diplomacy.

Negotiating peace with a sworn enemy is no easy task. There is little trust on either side of the table. There are a million reasons why this deal could blow apart. But Nixon found a way with China as did Reagan with the Soviet Union. The world is a better place for it.

President Obama blocked out the beltway noise. He understood that the country wanted a peaceful solution to a very difficult and dangerous problem. Fortunately for us he listened.

If HE is right, the world will be a better place for it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mammoth Victory or Colossal Mistake?

Early this morning President Obama announced that the United States, along with its partners in the P5+1, had reached a historic nuclear arms agreement with Iran.

In general terms, the 15 year agreement requires that Iran reduce its nuclear enrichment capacity by 2/3rds, reduce its stockpile of low grade uranium by 98%, remove its heavy water reactor in Arak and allow UN inspectors to enter sites, including military sites if there is reason to believe that nuclear activity is occurring at the site. Once the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Iran has taken the steps required to reduce and disassemble its nuclear program; UN, US and EU sanctions will be lifted.

As you might expect the international reaction to the deal runs from high praise to severe condemnation.

Israel and Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia fear that after 15 years the deal will allow the Shia leadership in Iran to secure unfettered access to a nuclear weapon. In the meantime the lifting of sanctions will allow tens of billions of dollars to flow into Iranian hands; funds that will be used to help the regime continue in its role as the world’s foremost supporter of terrorist activity. The inevitability of a nuclear Tehran will cause Sunni nations to begin their own quest for a nuclear bomb. Critics believe that this agreement sets a Middle East nuclear arms race into motion that not only threatens the very existence of the State of Israel but US national security as well.

Consider the alternative. In spite of sever economic sanctions, Iran is moving rapidly toward nuclear capability. There is no doubt that the sanctions have hurt the Iranian economy in a big way. But they have done nothing to stop the regime’s progress toward building a nuclear bomb. When sanctions were originally imposed in 2003 Iran had 200 operational centrifuges producing nuclear material. Today they have 19,000. Walking away from the table would not have stopped Iran’s progress toward nuclear arms. Had the US walked away the economic sanctions would have fallen apart. France, Russia and China would have walked away leaving the US to go it alone. Continued US sanctions would have hurt the regime but they would not have stopped Iran’s nuclear progress. It would seem that the only option left would be a military one.

Let’s be clear…this agreement is not going to change Iran’s hostile attitude toward the west or its Sunni neighbors. This is an arms agreement, period. Like Nixon’s accord with Mao and Reagan’s deal with Russia; the goal here has never been about changing politics. The goal is to lower the heat on the burner by de-escalating the arms race.

Congress has 60 days to review and formerly approve or disapprove the accord. The president has vowed to veto any legislative attempt to block the deal from moving forward.

Over the next two months we will be forced to endure a heated partisan debate over the details and assumed effectiveness of this historic agreement. The truth of the matter is that it will be 10-15 years at least before we know the ultimate affect. The Middle East is a volatile place and we have had a hostile relationship with Iran since 1979. Anything can happen…and probably will. The president is gambling that the Iranian government will hold true to its word. To some degree he is betting his legacy on it.

At first glance this is a mammoth diplomatic victory for the president. It could just as easily become a colossal mistake.

History will be the final arbiter.

Monday, July 13, 2015

This & That

TRUMP - Donald Trump took his anti-immigration tour to Phoenix this weekend where an enthusiastic packed house cheered his every word. 4,200 lost souls looked on as Trump rambled through an incoherent rant on a myriad of topics including his need to be loved and his failed adolescent love life.

Efforts by the RNC to encourage Trump to tone down his rhetoric were clearly lost in the translation. Trump was his usual bombastic, controversial self; ripping into the Washington establishment and ridiculing his fellow candidates. Rather than toning down he doubled down on his condemnation of illegal immigrants and the Mexican government that he believes forces illegals across our borders.

Trump has no plan for the future. The only specific policy program that he offered was to “bomb the hell out of the Iraqi oil fields because that’s where ISIS gets its money.” The rest was generalities and sound bites as Trump promised that he and the silent majority would “take back our country.” How he plans to do that is yet unclear.

Trump’s buffoonery continues to pay dividends as he finds himself leading the GOP polls.

HILLARY - Trump’s headline grabbing shenanigans may face a worthy challenger today as Hillary Clinton is schedule to give a major economic policy address. It will be interesting to see if she offers anything in the way of specifics or if it is more of the progressive generalities that we have come to expect from her campaign. It’s easy to say that you want to raise the middle class. It is far more difficult to offer specifics on how you intend to do it.

WALKER - Lost in all the Trump/Hillary hubbub will be the official announcement of a noteworthy candidate for the presidency. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is expected to announce his candidacy today. He will become the 15th person to officially declare that he is running for the GOP nomination.

Walker is a shining star in the Republican Party. His gubernatorial bona fides provides the experience that voters are seeking. His contentious victory over the federal employee unions has made him a hero among the party faithful. His three gubernatorial electoral victories signals that he knows how to wage and win tough electoral contests.

Unfortunately for Walker, Hillary intentionally scheduled her economic speech for today to big foot Walkers’ announcement. And Trump’s weekend escapades will only serve to push Walker further away from the media spotlight. Add the comedy show in Greece and the drama coming out of Vienna and Walker may find himself wondering if anybody is listening.

EARLY – It’s still early. At this point in the last two general elections Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were leading the GOP pack. Neither finished the deal. Will Donald Trumps’ bombastic irreverence carry him to the nomination? Or will he flame out like Huckabee, Santorum, Herman Cain and a host of clown car passengers before him.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Trump Unchained Resonates With Angry GOP

There is a controversial phenomenon coursing through conservative politics that is tying the Republican Party up in knots. That phenomenon is Donald Trump.

Trump set off a firestorm of controversy a few weeks ago when during his announcement speech he categorized the Mexican immigrants flooding our borders as criminals, and rapists.
Yesterday in an interview with NBC he was given the opportunity to apologize for those comments. Rather than apologize Trump doubled down on his remarks; reaffirming his belief that the immigrants crossing our borders were bringing a crime wave into our country. “Apologize! There is nothing to apologize for.”

The bombastic Trump wasn’t done. He said that Hillary Clinton would be a terrible president and called her the “worst Secretary of State in our history.” He said that Jeb Bush was weak on immigration…ridiculed Rubio and Bush for their incoherent message…said Mitt Romney was a terrible candidate who chocked at the end…called Charles Krauthammer and George Will “losers”…and referred to members of congress as “our stupid politicians.” He said that if elected he would “bomb the hell out of the (Iraqi) oil to stop the flow of money to ISIS. And he would stop the flow of illegal immigrants by “building an impenetrable wall along our southern border…and I will force Mexico to pay for it.”

Trump’s remarks have sent heads spinning within the Republican Party. Republican presidential candidates found their personal appearance events dominated by questions about Trump. Bush, Christy, Rubio and Walker all said that Trump’s remarks were not representative of the views of the Republican Party.

Or are they?

While Republican leadership was sprinting away from Trump’s remarks Public Policy Polling released a poll showing that the party faithful were very much in tuned with “The Donald’s” views. Trump soared to the top of PPP’s presidential poll with 16% of the vote. Bush and Rubio tied for second with 12%. Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers among those polled stood at 55%/33%. Republican leadership may be running away from Trump but staunch Republicans are embracing him.

Republicans have been dealt some pretty hard body blows of late. The Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage along with the firestorm to remove the Confederate flag in Charleston have the Republican faithful frustrated and angry. Trump has found a way to tap into that emotion. As a conservative friend of mine told me: “He’s just saying what everybody else is thinking.”

It is interesting to note that Trump has been having all this success of late without campaigning. While Kasich and Jindal spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads introducing themselves to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump pontificates from his New York tower and the press prints every word.

Multiple sources are reporting that last night after Trump gave his interview he received a phone call from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Priebus’ message was to ask Trump to “Tone it down.” Translation…we Republicans agree with everything you are saying. But you have to find a more artful way of saying it because you are going to get us killed in the elections.”

The Republican establishment can try to distance themselves from Trump. They can marginalize him and call him a buffoon and an entertainer. But the Republican faithful are clearly buying into his message.

The question is will that message win Republicans the White House or will it bring the Party another humiliating defeat in the general election?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"Not So Good"

Today marks the eleventh month of the America’s unauthorized war against ISIS.

In case you were wondering how things were going with this little dust up in a faraway; land the answer is “not so good.”

The Obama administration's “strategy” to defeat ISIS calls for Iraqi and Syrian rebel forces on the ground supported by US fighter planes and bombers in the air. The key to victory lies in local military forces pushing back ISIS and holding ground.

Yesterday Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey appeared before the Armed Services Committee to provide a progress report on our efforts to defeat ISIS.

In what can only be described as a stunning revelation, Carter informed the committee that the United States has only trained 60 Syrian rebel fighters to combat ISIS in Syria…far short of the goal of 3,000-5,000 per year. A lack of volunteers, intense vetting process and government red tape are quoted as the reasons for the snail like progress.

In Iraq a similar situation exists. Training has been slowed by a lack of volunteers. Carter blamed the highly sectarian nature of the Iraqi state as the reason for the lack of trainees. Translation…locals are not volunteering because they do not trust their government and fear reprisals from other religious sects if they end up on the wrong side of the conflict.

This report comes on the heels of similar statements made last month when Carter informed the committee that the US had not been receiving the help in needs from the Iraqi government in enrolling Sunnis in the Iraqi security forces. Carter repeated his claim that the Iraqis showed no will to fight.

Dempsey echoed Carter’s sentiments regarding the lack of resolve on the part of the locals. Responding to calls for more US boots on the ground to stiffen the resolve of the Iraqi forces, Dempsey responded: “I would not recommend that we put US forces in harm’s way simply to stiffen the spine of local forces. If their spine is not stiffened by the threat of ISIS or their way of life; nothing is going to stiffen their spine.”

The war against ISIS has been going on for eleven months. Congress has yet to exhibit the political courage to authorize the military action. We have spent $55 million in Syria to train the Syrian rebels. We have 60 trained troops to show for it. We have spent $3 billion in borrowed funds to destroy ISIS targets only to have ISIS retake the ground due to a lack of opposition. The Iraqi forces have showed no will to fight and the Iraqi government has failed to co-operate.

Like I said…”not so good.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Greatest Threat To Our Democracy

It appears that the controversial negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capabilities are nearing an end. Whether or not that end includes an agreement is yet to be determined.

As one might expect the negotiations have brought about a flurry of partisan commentary both on the Hill and in the press. Those who stand in opposition have opined that the president’s decision to engage Iran is more about his legacy than our country’s best interests. They are quite certain that he will agree to ANY deal in order to bolster his legacy; even if the deal a bad one.

I have purposely avoided weighing in on this subject because until such time as an agreement is reached any commentary is pure speculation.

I will say that I find it disheartening that the opposition would go to such extraordinary efforts to undermine the negotiations given that the details are yet unknown. It is sad that our politics have become so toxic that a president’s efforts to disarm one of our staunchest enemies is seen by the opposition as a threat that must be disrupted at all costs less he realize a political victory.

Iran is a threat to our security; of that there is no question. However the biggest threat to our democracy lies within our borders.

I’m not talking about American citizens radicalized by jihadist websites. Nor am I referring to sleeper cells embedded in our society waiting to be activated. I’m talking about a cancer so embedded within our politics that elected leaders would rather go to war than see an opposition president win a diplomatic victory.

The greatest threat to our democracy is us.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Time To Govern

Congress returns to the Hill today with an opportunity to truly make a difference in our future.

The Highway Trust Fund is the instrument through which the government pays for the repair and replacement our roads and bridges. The fund will run out of money on July 31st.

Actually, the Fund ran out of money back in May. But Congress stepped in and resolved the situation by doing what it usually does. It kicked the can down the road with a temporary two month fix. Unfortunately procrastination does not solve problems it merely postpones them. So Congress finds itself staring at a July 31st deadline with no solution in sight.

The White House wants to go big. President Obama has proposed a $478 billion dollar six year spending plan that would bring the country’s transportation system out of the Stone Age while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Republicans in Congress, having no interest in adding to this president’s legacy, prefer a more modest approach. They prefer to fund current transportation projects until the end of the year; at which time they will in all likelihood offer another extension until a newly elected Republican president can weigh in. What better way to kick off a new Republican administration than to sign into law in the first hundred days a massive, sorely needed, bi-partisan infrastructure package.

And of course there is the matter of $$$. How do you fund the Highway Trust Fund?

The trust currently gets its money from a fuel tax…a tax that has not been raised since 1993. That funding mechanism has been found wanting in recent years as more fuel efficient cars allow for less spending at the pumps.

One funding option is to increase the fuel tax. The White House prefers to fund the bill by requiring corporations to “repatriate” overseas investments so they can be taxed at higher rates. Republicans want none of the above and as usual offer nothing other than the usual “kick the can” strategy.

Infrastructure is not a sexy topic. It’s not immigration reform, or education, or Medicaid & Medicare. But it is a means by which we can grow our economy, raise our competitive advantage in the world market, create jobs, uplift our society and improve the lives of millions of Americans. That’s no small thing.

After voters handed Republicans control of the congress Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised the American people that the days of partisan gridlock were over. He promised that under his watch the United States Congress would go about the people’s business and govern.

The opportunity is here for McConnell and his colleagues to keep that promise while making a real difference in people’s lives.

It’s time to govern.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's Too Hard To Even Try!

Apathy! According to Merriam-Webster, “apathy” is the feeling of not having much emotion or interest. Indifference. Impassiveness. A lack of concern.

Resignation! “Resignation” is the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable. Quitting. Surrender.

As the nation moves on from the senseless murders in Charleston there is a feeling in the air that I find most disconcerting. A sense of resignation that nothing will ever change...and a lack of interest in trying.

Nine innocent lives were snuffed out while they prayed. The killer’s motive…a palpable hatred rooted in racism and bigotry. The weapon, once again, a gun too easily available to anyone with cash in their pocket. The incident now so commonplace in our society that it barely raises an eyebrow.

Yes, we had our too brief period of mourning and reflection. But that moment passed in the bat of any eye; replaced by the next shiny object. Today it’s Hillary’s emails and Christie’s announcement that grab our attention. Racism and gun violence; too heavy a load to contemplate for more than a second.

An article published in this morning’s USA TODAY makes the point.


“42% of Americans believe that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol and should be removed from state flags and other official locations. 42% of Americans believe the Confederate flag is representative of Southern history and heritage and is not racist.”

“By 56%-40%, Americans say tighter gun control laws wouldn’t prevent more mass shootings. By 76%-18%, they say easier access to guns wouldn’t prevent them. And by 78%-15%, they see little chance Congress will pass gun legislation in the foreseeable future.

And then there is this gem:

“By 52%-43% those surveyed say they don’t want gun control to be a significant subject in the 2016 presidential campaign.”

So that’s it then!

We’re done!

The conversation goes something like this: “Racism and gun control are subjects that are just too hard to deal with. After all it’s just another shooting. Yes, race IS usually involve in white on black or black on white crime. What’s new? The NRA is never going to give an inch on gun control. So why bother? And for God’s sake let’s please not get all bogged down in these issues during the campaign. Isn’t it funny that Hillary doesn’t know how to run a fax machine?”

I don’t know who the people are that responded to this poll. I just thank God that they weren’t at Valley Forge, or Gettysburg or Omaha Beach.

I can’t imagine George Washington saying “it’s too hard.” I can’t imagine Abraham Lincoln saying “it’s too hard.” Or Martin Luther King. Or Rosa Parks. Or Harriet Tubman.

Where would we be today if they did?