Aaron Blake wrote that yes, the assertion that Rex Tillerson and John Kelly asked her to help them save the country from Trump and she refused was important, but “The bigger story, though, is that two even-higher-ranking officials took such an extraordinary step that allowed for Haley’s refusal.”
No. Sorry. It’s not really news that Tillerson and Kelly knew their boss was a dangerous idiot. Hadn’t we assumed that?
The simple version IS the news here: Nikki did NOT fully see what a loose cannon Trump is, and refused to help them.
I suppose I’d need to read the whole book to know, but the few quotes I’ve seen seem to hint that when the two men told her, “The president didn’t know what he was doing,” she didn’t immediately agree with them.
And this is important because, against all reason, people keep saying that Nikki is “widely viewed by Republicans as a top potential presidential candidate in 2024,” even “the Republican Party’s brightest rising star.”
Only in a world in which Donald Trump can get elected president of the United States — a radically different universe from the one we all lived in before 2016 — could she look like presidential timber.
For that matter, only in a world like that could she — a charming person with ZERO training or experience in international affairs — have been considered a candidate for ambassador to the United Nations. But she got that job (because the priority was to make Henry governor), and managed to look very good in it, given the background — which is to say, given the train wreck that is Trumpian foreign policy.
Don’t get me wrong here: Nikki looks great compared to Lindsey Graham’s abject degradation.
Also, I’ll acknowledge that it makes me a tad nervous to have political appointees presuming to work around an elected president, even when that president is Trump. But I don’t get the impression that these guys were talking coup. (They weren’t even proposing the nearly-impossible task of putting the 25th amendment into play, although they should have been.) I could be wrong — and y’all tell me if I am — but it seemed more like a couple of guys in unenviable positions trying to guide the administration in a sane direction, and hoping for a little help.
Which she refused to give. And that’s what we should remember, whenever anyone mentions what a hot prospect she is to become POTUS.
Tonight I got a fund-raising text from Joe Biden that reminded me that I meant to share with y’all something I saw in The New York Times this morning. The text said:
BREAKING: A New York Times poll says that Joe Biden is the ONLY candidate who can beat Trump in some critical swing states that Trump won in 2016.
So if Joe Biden isn’t our nominee, Trump will be reelected again.
But Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have more money than us — even though they can’t defeat Trump. And if we can’t catch up, they might be the ones facing off against him….
And so forth.
Here’s what the Biden campaign is talking about. See the graphic above, which I hope the NYT doesn’t mind my showing you (I urge you to go read it on their site, and even subscribe, as I do). There are other informative graphics with the piece.
The Times emphasized Trump’s competitiveness, leading with:
Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College…
But the graphic (which I had to go grab from an old Tweet, because it no longer appears with the story), shouted something else: Democrats are nuts if they go with Elizabeth Warren.
Of course, I knew that already. Did you?
The story has an important caveat:
There is a full year before Election Day, and a lot can change.
But then, a caveat to the caveat:
But on average over the last three cycles, head-to-head polls a year ahead of the election have been as close to the final result as those taken the day before.
… or her, but the hints I’ve seen have pointed strongly toward a “him.”
The front page of The State today (above) had a headline, above the fold, dealing with The Whistleblower. And I thought, “Who still cares about him?” Hence the headline.
One does hear Republicans, and their master Trump, speak of him as though he and his identity were crucial, the main point, even. And we know why. They want to have a face, a person, they can thoroughly trash, to distract everyone from the truth he told about what Trump has done.
That’s why one Republican leader has rejected the idea of Republican lawmakers being able to depose The Whistleblower. They’re not interested in facts, not interested in getting answers. They’re interested in the Trump base seeing them, the Republican members of Congress, attacking the guy and demonstrating how hard they’re trying to defend Trump. To them, nothing else matters.
That’s why the arguments they present make so little sense. A reasonable, impartial person might wonder why, after demanding over and over that a formal vote be taken on initiating the impeachment process, they complained so mightily when such a vote was taken last week. Because, boys and girls, that’s the point: not the facts of the matter, but whether they are recorded on sound and video loudly decrying the process and competing to see how many times they can say “sham” in one sentence. It’s about the emotion, about the indignation.
Anyway, seeing and hearing (on radio) The Whistleblower back in the news reminds me that last week I meant to share this editorial that was in The New York Times.
The headline was “Thanks, Whistle-Blower, Your Work Is Done.” And it was accompanied with a copy of the official whistleblower complaint, with portions highlighted to show things that have been corroborated by other, usually named, witnesses.
That document, of course, was pretty much redundant the day it was released — because the day before, Trump’s own White House had released the memo that confirmed The Whistleblower’s account of the July 25 phone call.
So I clicked on this new movie on Netflix called “The King,” curious to know which king. The promo blurb gave me a clue:
Yesterday, he was a drunken fool. Today, he’s king…
Sounds like Henry V, right? Well, it is.
And here’s the weird thing about it… I watched a few minutes, and rather than being some historical Henry V freshly drawn from independent sources — or fantastical one drawn from the writer’s imagination — it’s basically (so far) the Hal from the plays (I say “plays,” plural, because I can’t recall which bits are in the Henry IV plays, and which in “Henry V.” I’m especially mixed up for having watched “The Hollow Crown” straight through.). It even has Falstaff in it, a fictional character invented by Shakespeare. I haven’t watched long enough to see whether Doll Tearsheet is mentioned.
So, it’s “Henry V,” only with no iambic pentameter. In other words, a wonderful play, without the thing that makes it wonderful.
You know, sometimes I feel like I get popular culture, and I really get into it, but other times I don’t. This is one of the other times…
A chart the Chamber shared in context of the issue. Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence 2019
I’m kind of busy at the moment, so I’m not going to rehash all the reasons why Act 388 was an execrable piece of legislation that distorted our state’s system of taxation and made it both unfair and ineffective.
You can go back and read where I’ve done it before.
But while I’m thinking about it, I wanted to make sure you read Ted Pitts’ op-ed on the subject in The Post and Courier. Ted — my former House member — is the head of the state Chamber, so naturally he’s against something that shifted so much of our tax burden from owner-occupied homes to businesses.
I particularly appreciate that in this piece, he emphasizes the extreme regressivity of the Act, causing renters to pay as much as three times as much in property taxes as homeowners do.
Both of them, being astute and fair-minded observers, see Act 388 as one of the worst things our Legislature has done so far this century.
They’re right. That doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen. It should, and Ted is right to point to the current discussions about how we fund schools as a great opportunity. But it’s a tall order. Act 388 is the kind of dumb, irresponsible legislation that makes lawmakers popular with some of their loudest constituents. The voice of reason seldom shouts that loud.
I had a little “Field of Dreams” moment during the wonderful conclusion to the World Series last night. In the sentimental “Dad, you wanna have a catch?” sense.
While Joe Buck or someone was talking about how it had been 95 years since a team from Washington had won, a picture of Senators legend Walter Johnson came on the screen. The BIg Train.
And I was reminded of a story my Dad likes to tell of when he was just a little guy. He grew up in Kensington, Md., in a house his grandfather had built for his Dad. My great-grandfather had a construction business, and he did that for each of his kids when they got married. Consequently, several of them lived quite close together. My Dad’s Aunt Ethel lived behind my Dad, on the next street over.
Aunt Ethel’s daughter Jean married a guy named Walter Perry Johnson Jr. — the son of the Big Train. Occasionally, the great man was a guest in their home. When that happened, Aunt Ethel’s husband Carroll would call over and tell my Dad to come over, and bring his glove. Dad would go running, and then he would play catch with the great Walter Johnson.
Speaking of the Senators, there’s a story that my grandfather was invited to play for the Senators’ organization, but decided to go into the construction business with his father instead. It seems to me a surprising decision, since his life had revolved around baseball up to that point. Ancestry offers me scores of “hints” about his life, and most of them are clippings from The Washington Post telling about some ball club or other that he was forming, or pitching for, or the captain of.
He worked for the Post Office for awhile, for just one reason: So he could play on its baseball team.
Here’s how he and my grandmother met (which I think I’ve told before): She would see him walking past her house, in his suit and wearing a straw boater, with a satchel dangling from one hand, on his way to the Kensington train station. She decided he must be a traveling salesman, and the bag contained his wares. But when she finally spoke to him, she learned that the bag was filled with his uniform, glove and cleats. He wouldn’t have thought of going to work without them.
What’s he doing in an Expos uniform?
I could go in all sorts of directions about baseball and how its threads run in and out of American life. I could reminisce about when we lived in Tampa, and in the spring we’d go over to St. Pete to watch the Cardinals play. I was an autograph fiend at the time, and in those days the players were easily accessible. (Once in Tampa, I went into the Reds’ locker room to get Pete Rose to sign my glove as he sat shirtless on a table during an interview with a sportswriter. Things were that informal then.) So I would chase Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood. But I failed to get Tim McCarver’s. He was on the other side of a chain-link fence signing for some other kids, but I couldn’t get him to turn around, despite repeatedly calling, “Mr. McCarver! Mr. McCarver!”
Years later, when I was first dating my wife, I was over at her house and she was working on organizing her family’s photos. I asked why there was a publicity photo of McCarver in the box (in an Expos uniform, which is not the way I think of him). “He’s my first cousin,” she said. So, several years after that, we happened to be at the Red Sox training camp in Florida the one year Tim played for them. Carlton Fisk injured his wrist in the first inning and Tim went in for him. After the game, we went over to the house Tim was renting during spring training. As he drank a beer, guess what I chose to talk him about? That’s right: I complained that he wouldn’t turn around and give me an autograph when I was 14.
His answer? “Aw, I wasn’t playing when you were 14.”
Not long after that, his playing days ended. After that, he started his broadcast career. He would eventually be teamed up with Joe Buck, who I think was the one talking about the Senators in 1924 last night.
Which is where we came in.
(Oh, wait, something I forgot to mention: There’s meaning in the fact that Tim was, against all expectations, in an Expos uniform in that photo. The Expos are now the Nationals.)
Anyway, that’s a small taste of what baseball means to American life. My American life, anyway.
It runs through the years and the lives, tying everything together…
I’m very pleased for the Nationals today. And for Washington…
One of my grandfather’s baseball teams. That’s him squatting on the right.
I have this theory that people who were disturbed by the booing would also disapprove of the bat-carrying, both being violations of certain standards of behavior. Likewise, anyone likely to approve of the “Lock him up” chant would be more inclined to let those young ballplayers strut a bit.
Me, I disapprove of both. I see both within a context of society fraying, becoming less civilized.
One of the people I worked with on last year’s campaign was a veteran politico who frequently complained about my former newspaper, saying it had become a “North Carolina paper.”
At first I wasn’t sure what she meant. But since then, while I don’t fully agree with that characterization, I do see what causes her to say that.
I thought of that this morning when I saw the story about the proposed high-speed train between between Charlotte and Atlanta. I sort of felt, “Why am I reading this?” I mean, it’s about something that will pass through a corner of South Carolina that is far from where I live.
Not that I mind stories about trains. As y’all know, I love public transportation, particularly of the rail type — although my true preference is for subways, with New York’s and London’s being my faves.
In fact, today Cindi Scoppe sent me the AP version of that story, wanting to make sure I didn’t miss it.
She may have been disappointed by my reaction:
Thanks, although I grow tired of hearing about trains that I will never ride. A route from Charlotte to Atlanta? What good does that do me? It’s perpendicular to anyplace I might want or need to go…
I want a train — fast, slow or in-between — that will take me from where I am to where I want to be. Preferably underground. Nothing of the kind seems on the horizon, though…
Frank Bruni reminds me of this point I’ve been thinking about making for two or three years now, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.
We know that no one who has ever held the office of president — in our lifetimes, at the least — utters more falsehoods that this guy. Certainly, no one can boast more “Four Pinocchio” scores (OK, I tried to back that up with a link, and Google failed me. Oh, I saw that the Post had to come up with a new “Bottomless Pinocchio” just for him, and that in 2018 they broke his falsehoods into two categories to keep him from dominating the standings, but I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I think what I’m running into is the ancient horror journalists have of saying someone or something is the most anything ever — because someone might always come up with a worse example.).
He seems the personification of the old gag, “How can I tell when he’s lying? His mouth’s moving.”
The thing is, though, what if he’s not lying, technically? What if he actually believes all of these laughably false things that he asserts with such vehemence? The guy’s not terribly bright, and he’s such a narcissist that it’s possible that he convinces himself that any assertion that is helpful, or that he perceives as helpful, to Donald Trump is automatically true.
There’s plenty we can point to that supports this position on the matter. How else do you explain, just to grab a recent example, his repeated assertion that his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president was “perfect?” Or that the whistleblower (remember the whisteblower, that guy whose role in all this long ago became redundant in light of subsequent revelations, a fact that has not yet penetrated the Donald’s skull?) is peddling untruths. He continues to assert both of these things even though the rough transcript the White House itself released shows him to be obviously wrong on both counts. Not to mention all of the subsequent revelations that show that phone call to be just one piece of a large, consistent pattern.
Maybe you want to say he’s crazy rather than dumb. Either way, you can say his ability to discern the truth is severely limited.
So in that case, is he a liar? Don’t you have to mean to lie for it to count?
It’s another piece addressing a thing that probably explains as well as anything why people who work with words tend to see Trump as dumb, while it is less obvious to certain other people:
The other day he turned to the bounteous trove of the English language for a pejorative worthy of his critics’ awfulness, at least as he sees it. He decided on “human scum.”
He sought to capture the horror and injustice befalling him. What he came up with was “lynching.”
There’s being crude with language, there’s being loose with it, and then there’s being Trump, who uses words the way a toddler does marbles, grabbing the ones that are most bluntly colorful and tossing them into the air just because he can.
Trump is as inept at English as he is at governing. He’s oxymoronic: a nativist who can’t really speak his native tongue….
And so on. But the passage that prompts this post is this:
I’ve written before that Trump, “in terms of the transparency with which he shows us the most eccentric and ugliest parts of himself,” may inadvertently be “the most honest president in my lifetime.” His language is obviously central to that. It’s a glimpse into his fury and fears…
Which is slightly different from what I said above. Basically, Bruni is saying that no matter how untrue and badly chosen his words are, the emotion behind them reveals the true Trump.
My point is that maybe we can’t label Trump’s perpetual flow of falsehoods as lies, because he really doesn’t know any better.
Either way, Trump comes across as less dishonest than a mere examination of facts would suggest.
That may be, but the Republican Party itself is apparently creating one. Note the job posting I found on Daybook, above. Here’s the description:
The Republican National Committee is seeking applicants for entry- and junior-level positions in the War Room. The War Room is the nerve center of the communications department, and its purpose is to keep our staff and others outside of the organization informed of all political news. War Room staff are responsible to be the ears and eyes of the communications department, coordinating and organizing to keep the RNC informed.
• Media monitoring, tracking, and alerting news, video, and live events of significance
• Creating and distributing multiple daily products that are disseminated outside of the building, including media matrices, television & network reporter roundups, and travel coverage of notable political figures and governmental officials
• Coordinating with the organization’s research and press teams to quickly flag and engage in rapid response to relevant news and stories
• Manage and update the organization’s video collection
• Monitoring and editing video and audio to assist the communications department in their messaging
• Undergraduate degree required, with a major in communications, political science, journalism or a related field a plus
• An expressed desire or proven experience working to further conservative causes, candidates, and policies
• Familiarity and experience with social media and relevant monitoring platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Tweetdeck, and YouTube
• Strong research and analytical skills, including the ability to quickly and accurately identify politically relevant content and news
• A strong interest and familiarity with the current media and political environment, including political and policy issues
• The ability to quickly and efficiently handle time-sensitive requests from the organization’s communications team and work with tight deadlines
• Above average time management skills
• Excellent oral and written communication skills
• Experience working on a campaign’s or party’s research team.
• Work experience in political communications or research, including on Capitol Hill, in journalism, the law, public relations, marketing, or at a trade association.
• Prior experience with TV Eyes, IQ, Snapstream, Camtasia, Hypercam 3, iShowU, MPEG Streamclip or other video clipping and editing software.
Personally, I wish no one had political “war rooms” — or at least, if they’re going to have them, that they would call them something else. Back when Bill Clinton had one (during the 1992 campaign), I found it quite offensive — only people who had never been to actual war, and had no respect for it, could call it that. And I think the mentality that made them call it that went a long way toward pushing us down the slope to today’s poisonous partisanship.
Of course, if the “war room” comes up with strategies better than the idiotic, desperate invasion and occupation of the SCIF yesterday, I suppose it would be worth it to the Republicans. One has to wonder how long trying to distract everyone from the substance of the charges against the president is going to work for them, even among the base…
I was sure that, in his extravagant demonstrations of sycophancy toward You-Know-Who, our senior senator had thoroughly plumbed the depths.
Lindsey Graham, I thought, could sink no lower.
Well, I was certainly wrong. He said this in response to Trump’s assertion that he was being subjected to a “lynching”:
“I think it’s pretty well accurate—this is a shame, this is a joke,” Graham told a gaggle of reporters on Monday morning. “This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American.”
Later, he added that it was “literally a political lynching.” Yes, “literally.”
There’s a hierarchy, or perhaps I should say, a “lowerarchy,” to these lynching comments.
To begin with, on the most basic level, unless you’re talking about a mob taking a person out and murdering him, without any sort of legal due process, then you are engaging in gross hyperbole, and it is objectionable.
This applies to when Joe Biden said it back in day — specifically, back in the day when Lindsey Graham was all for impeachment, and saw it as his constitutional duty to pursue that course. He said the Clinton impeachment could be seen by some as a “political lynching.” Specifically, he said in 1998:
Even if the president should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense.
He shouldn’t have said that. That metaphor was completely wrong to use. It was, as I said, gross hyperbole, and Biden was right to apologize for it, or as the BBC reported, apologise for it.
That was bad. Of course, what Trump did was considerably worse, a fact that all the Republicans who so gleefully cited the old Biden quote last night conveniently ignored.
Here’s his Tweet on the subject:
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!
In case the reasons why it was worse escape you as well, let’s consider some of the reasons:
Donald Trump is president of the United States. Yes, I know we no longer expect dignity in that office, but I thought I’d mention it.
He was talking about himself, not speaking in defense of another. In other words, engaging in self-pity, because as you know, in Trump’s world, there’s only one person who matters.
He was saying the impeachment process actually is a “lynching,” leaving no doubt. Biden wasn’t directly saying that’s what the Clinton impeachment was; he was just warning that someone in the future might choose to see it that way. (A more subtle difference than the others, but a difference.)
Trump’s point is that impeachment is somehow extralegal, rather than what it is — the House performing its constitutional duty with full due process, just as Graham did in the Clinton instance. Biden simply questioned whether the “high bar” set by the Framers was being met.
And this is the biggie: Biden apologized. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Trump to do that.
So yeah: What Trump did, what he continues to do since he has not withdrawn the remark, was and is quite a bit worse.
But not the worst. That distinction is reserved for Lindsey Graham. The senator has no excuse, because he is not an ignorant, babbling idiot. He is an attorney, and given his personal experience something of an expert on impeachment. HE KNOWS BETTER.
And yet he didn’t merely say, “Oh, give Trump a break; he’s in a fragile emotional state and, as I pointed out several years back, he’s a jackass.”
No, he went beyond Trump. He said, “This is a lynching in every sense.”
“Every” sense, of course, includes the literal sense. And in case you think our senator misspoke and did not mean that, he later said it was “literally a political lynching.”
This was a fun result I got from Wikipedia the other day. I was watching a TV show set in the north of England, and a character referred to a child as a “bairn.” Since I had thought that word was strictly Scottish, I decided to look it up, and I got the above result.
I had no idea that Wikipedia had pages written in different dialects of English. I love it!
In any case, it answered my question: “Tha term is ailsae uised doon tha northeast coast o Ingland, in Northumberland an tha east o Yorkshire…”
The show I was watching was set in Northumberland.
So there you have it. If ye still dinnae ken what a bairn is, then I cannae help ye…
The wonder of the Trump administration — the jaw-dropping, brain-exploding phantasmagoria of it — is that it doesn’t bury its rottenness under layers of counterfeit virtue or use a honeyed voice to mask the vinegar inside. The rottenness is out in the open. The sourness is right there on the surface for all to see.
It’s at the president’s rallies, where he plays a bigot for laughs, a bully for applause.
It’s in the ballrooms and beds at Mar-a-Loco, where he mingles official government business with free marketing for his gilded club.
It’s in the transcript of his phone call with the president of Ukraine, for whom the quid, the pro and the Biden-ravaging quo couldn’t have been clearer.
It’s at the microphone in the White House briefing room, where his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, showed up on Thursday, announced that President Trump would host the next G7 meeting at one of his own golf resorts, and conceded that, yes, aid to Ukraine had been tied to that country’s indulgence of the president’s political obsessions….
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing, all right — in that we’ve never in American history seen anything like this.
But you know what is a greater wonder? The fact that there are all these people out there — Republican officeholders, and the “base” that terrifies them — who don’t see it, or claim not to see it, no matter how many times Trump slaps them in the face with it, compelling him to look.
People still defend him, in spite of all.
That’s the wonder of it…
Doesn’t it make you proud to have a South Carolinian acting as White House chief of staff? For the moment, I mean?…
I decided to share what I put on the walls of some of my many bedrooms (as a Navy brat, I moved around a lot).
And the Web being what it is, I was able to find actual images of five of them. So we’ll just call those the Top Five — especially since I can only remember six, and I can’t find the Eric Clapton poster I had on my dorm wall at Memphis State, or even remember what it looked like.
The first two of these were on my walls in Tampa and Honolulu in high school, the next two from college, and the final one high school (I think):
Steve McQueen from the set of “The Great Escape” — That’s the one above, or close to it. I think maybe the poster I had included more of the frame, showing the sidecar. I found that image on the Web, but the file was of poor quality. Note that this is not an actual still from the movie, because he was nowhere near the Stalag in the motorcycle scenes. Of the posters on this list, it’s the first one I acquired (when I was in either the 10th or 11th grade, so sometime between 1968 and 1970), and easily my favorite. Which stands to reason since, when I was a kid, this was my definitely my favorite movie. Back when it came out in 1963, the scene where he jumped the barbed wire was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in a movie. Tame stuff today, but back then it was really something.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — See below. The very last frame of the movie, with our antiheroes coming out, blazing away, to their certain death. When I was in high school, I found that moment way existential. I thought no one could be more alive than Sundance was a moment before that, when he was out there in the plaza alone with two six-guns, spinning left, right and all around, firing at the adversaries who surrounded him, giving Butch covering fire. (From 00:56 to 01:24 in this clip.) Yeah, I was a dumb kid. My romanticization of that moment is all the evidence you need that teenage boys are candidates for protective restraint.
George Harrison poster from “All Things Must Pass” album — It came with the boxed-set album, which I loved, so of course I put it on my wall at Memphis State. This was George in his Garden Gnome phase, post-Beatles. That video that I embedded the other day, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday?” That was from the bonus third LP in the set.
The Hawaii State Flag — This was quite small, like a foot by a foot-and-a-half (or a bit less) and made of nylon. Not strictly a poster, but it’s the only thing I remember having on the cinder-block wall of my dorm room in the Honeycombs that one semester I went to USC, the fall of 1971. It was sort of a homesickness thing, because I was missing Honolulu, where I had graduated from high school the previous spring. There was an Englishman on my floor, a student from Manchester. One day when my door was open, he was passing in the hall and stuck his head in to ask why I had a Union Jack over my bed. I explained what it was, and he nodded and said, “Oh, yes. Sandwich Islands, Captain Cook and all that. Quite.” And he walked away on down the hall. I thought that was cool.
Bobby Kennedy in a flight jacket. This is an unusual-shaped and -sized poster — a full-length photo, almost life-sized, of RFK in a Navy flight jacket standing casually with a couple of dogs. I don’t remember where I got this, and I have no specific memory of where I hung it, although I vaguely recall it hanging somewhere. But I can tell you exactly why I liked it. There were two reasons. First, the jacket he’s wearing is exactly like my Dad’s. My Dad wasn’t an aviator, but some pilots he had worked with had given it to him as a gift, and he had given to me, and I thought it was way cool. Second, I had never given RFK much thought when he was alive. But I got really interested in him when I wrote a research paper about him for a high school civics class in the spring of 1971. And I can still remember how differently I perceived time back then: I thought of his life as being way in the past at that point — even though only three years had passed since his assassination. That’s a long time when you’re 17.
Actually, I changed my mind in mid-list. I ditched this Dylan poster, which was on my dorm room wall at Memphis State, because it never meant that much to me and I wanted to include the Hawaiian flag.
I’ll share two or three thoughts, and then some Tweets, just to get things started:
Most of the night I waited for Syria — or anything having to do with the rest of the world — to be mentioned and discussed. I tried to be patient, knowing these are Democrats and their fave mode is to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Finally, it came up, and I was pleased with most comments, except Tulsi’s ranting about regime change — as though THAT were the problem with abandoning the Kurds. I liked that my man Joe spoke most on the topic, followed by Pete Buttigieg. Joe spoke about it almost, but of course not quite, as much as Elizabeth Warren spoke about income inequality. Of course, Joe happens to understand better than any other what the presidency is mainly about.
A lot of people interpreted the fact that so many were jumping on Elizabeth Warren as being entirely due to her emergence as a front-runner, if not the front-runner. And I’m sure that’s a big part of it. But I think another factor contributed, and I think it’s odd that I haven’t heard it mentioned. I think a lot of them see it as less OK to give Joe a hard time, seeing as how he and his son are the targets of Trump’s mulilateral abuses of power. This makes Joe an even more sympathetic character than usual, so they laid off him.
Oh, and I came close to a decision last night. I think I’d like to see Amy Klobuchar as Joe’s running mate, assuming everything goes right and Democrats decide they actually want to beat Trump. It would probably be Mayor Pete if he weren’t so young and inexperienced, and if he didn’t keep reminding us of it (But that happened five minutes ago, and as I may have mentioned previously, I wasn’t born yet…). I don’t see Sen. Klobuchar as quite ready to be president yet, but she comes close, and would be a good understudy.
That’s enough points for now. I’ve got work to do. Here are my Tweets from last night and this morning:
Was Bernie talking about “Medicare for All” when he said there would be no copays and no premiums? Ummm… that’s now how Medicare works…
This analysis shows @JoeBiden spoke more about Mideast policy, the one subject I most wanted to hear about, than anyone else. And he spoke on that more than any other topic. Another reason to like the guy… https://t.co/mMIcr6Dacq via @NYTimes
As you can see, I dialed back the Tweeting last night. Just wasn’t inspired all that much, and I’ve heard so much of this stuff so many times already. Of those things I Tweeted about, I’d most like to chat further on ones about Facebook (someone on the stage, I forget who, made the point I’d made about lots of little Facebooks right after I posted it), and the thing about Trump’s Twitter. I’m still thinking I may have misunderstood what Kamala wanted…
Oh, and further discussion of Bernie’s fantasy version of Medicare might be in order. Bernie should have read this in the Post the other day… Dang. I can’t find it. Well, maybe later. Anyway, it was a column by a 64-year-old who seems to have just discovered that Medicare isn’t free, and it doesn’t pay for everything. Like, duh. These kids today and their inflated expectations…
I guess I should have seen this coming. Early last year, sometime before I joined the Smith campaign, I’d had a conversation in which Jack, who normally identified as Republican, told me how he was fully on board in supporting James for governor. But then, months later when I called to ask him to participate in a presser we were doing with other veterans, I learned that his health wasn’t up to it.
So I knew the years were catching up on him.
I’m just so sorry to see it. I’m going to note his passing by rerunning this column from January 2008, about his and his friend John McCain’s experiences at the Hanoi Hilton. I wrote about Jack on other occasions as well, such as this piece showing him playing a king-making role in local politics as the unofficial “mayor of Five Points,” but I think Jack would most want to be remembered for this one. It’s the thing that looms largest in my memory of him, anyway:
What it was really like at the ‘Hanoi Hilton’
By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor ON MAY 20, 1967, Air Force pilot Jack Van Loan was shot down over North Vietnam. His parachute carried him to Earth well enough, but he landed all wrong.
“I hit the ground, and I slid, and I hit a tree,” he said. This provided an opportunity for his captors at the prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton.”
“My knee was kind of screwed up and they … any time they found you with some problems, then they would, they would bear down on the problems,” he said. “I mean, they worked on my knee pretty good … and, you know, just torturing me.”
In October of Jack’s first year in Hanoi, a new prisoner came in, a naval aviator named John McCain. He was in really bad shape. He had ejected over Hanoi, and had landed in a lake right in the middle of the city. He suffered two broken arms and a broken leg ejecting. He nearly drowned in the lake before a mob pulled him out, and then set upon him. They spat on him, kicked him and stripped his clothes off. Then they crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt, and bayoneted him in his left foot and his groin.
That gave the enemy something to “bear down on.” Lt. Cmdr. McCain would be strung up tight by his unhealed arms, hog-tied and left that way for the night.
“John was no different than anyone else, except that he was so badly hurt,” said Jack. “He was really badly, badly hurt.”
Jack and I got to talking about all this when he called me Wednesday morning, outraged over a story that had appeared in that morning’s paper, headlined “McCain’s war record attacked.” A flier put out by an anti-McCain group was claiming the candidate had given up military information in return for medical treatment as a POW in Vietnam.
This was the kind of thing the McCain campaign had been watching out for. The Arizona senator came into South Carolina off a New Hampshire win back in 2000, but lost to George W. Bush after voters received anonymous phone calls telling particularly nasty lies about his private life. So the campaign has been on hair-trigger alert in these last days before the 2008 primary on Saturday.
Jack, a retired colonel whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing for more than a decade, believes his old comrade would make the best president “because of all the stressful situations that he’s been under, and the way he’s responded.” But he had called me about something more important than that. It was a matter of honor.
Jack was incredulous: “To say that John would ask for medical treatment in return for military information is just preposterous. He turned down an opportunity to go home early, and that was right in front of all of us.”
“I mean, he was yelling it. I couldn’t repeat the language he used, and I wouldn’t repeat the language he used, but boy, it was really something. I turned to my cellmate … who heard it all also loud and clear; I said, ‘My God, they’re gonna kill him for that.’”
The North Vietnamese by this time had stopped the torture — even taken McCain to the hospital, which almost certainly saved his life — and now they wanted just one thing: They wanted him to agree to go home, ahead of other prisoners. They saw in him an opportunity for a propaganda coup, because of something they’d figured out about him.
“They found out rather quick that John’s father was (Admiral) John Sidney McCain II,” who was soon to be named commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, Jack said. “And they came in and said, ‘Your father big man, and blah-blah-blah,’ and John gave ’em name, rank and serial number and date of birth.”
But McCain refused to accept early release, and Jack says he never acknowledged that his Dad was CINCPAC.
Jack tries hard to help people who weren’t there understand what it was like. He gave a speech right after he finally was freed and went home. His father, a community college president in Oregon and “a consummate public speaker,” told him “That was the best talk I’ve ever heard you give.”
But, his father added: “‘They didn’t believe you.’
“It just stopped me cold. ‘What do you mean, they didn’t believe me?’ He said, ‘They didn’t understand what you were talking about; you’ve got to learn to relate to them.’”
“And I’ve worked hard on that,” he told me. “But it’s hard as hell…. You might be talking to an audience of two or three hundred people; there might be one or two guys that spent a night in a drunk tank. Trying to tell ‘em what solitary confinement is all about, most people … they don’t even relate to it.”
Jack went home in the second large group of POWs to be freed in connection with the Paris Peace Talks, on March 4, 1973. “I was in for 70 months. Seven-zero — seventy months.” Doctors told him that if he lived long enough, he’d have trouble with that knee. He eventually got orthoscopic surgery right here in Columbia, where he is an active community leader — the current president of the Columbia Rotary.
John McCain, who to this day is unable to raise his hands above his head — an aide has to comb his hair for him before campaign appearances — was released in the third group. He could have gone home long, long before that, but he wasn’t going to let his country or his comrades down.
The reason Jack called me Wednesday was to make sure I knew that.
Jack Van Loan, campaigning for his friend John McCain back in 2007.
The controversy over Columbus Day got me to thinking of history-based holidays we could have, if only we thought a little harder. They’re not in order of preference, but in calendar order:
Rubicon Day — OK, so this didn’t happen in America. But Julius Caesar’s decision to cross that creek with his troops had a huge effect on something that matters to Americans. It ended the last republic we would see for 1,000 years. But I’m also thinking we could have some fun with it. We could have toga parties each Jan. 10, and go around saying “iacta alea est” to each other. Maybe not your idea of a good time, but maybe we could make a drinking game out of it.
British Invasion Day — No, it’s not about 1814. It’s about 1964, and this holiday would be pure fun. We’d celebrate it on February 9, the day the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” We’d all play music by the Beatles, the Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, Peter and Gordon, and so forth. We’d have theme parties in which we’d all dress like the invaders, and go around saying “gear” and “fab.” And if you said bad things about the holiday, we’d all say you were “dead grotty.”
Lincoln’s Birthday, Feb. 12 — Yes, bring it back, and repeal this “President’s Day” nonsense, in order to drive home the fact that he was our greatest president, and is largely responsible for America being America, having thrown off its original sin via that war that we fight on until the slave states’ unconditional surrender — and making sure it didn’t end until the 13th Amendment was passed, so that all that bloodshed served a purpose. Sorry about the run-on sentence…
Smallpox Day — This is sort of related to the idea of “Indigenous People’s Day,” but I actually have three reasons to mark the day. First, it seems to me that the most horrific public health disaster in human history (way bigger than the Black Death) was back in the 16th century when 95 percent of the native population was wiped out by European diseases for which they had no resistance — usually before the victims had even encountered the Europeans. Something so awful should be remembered. My second reason is celebratory — celebrating the fact that we’ve been so successful at wiping out the disease that a rite of passage of my childhood, the “vaccination” (that’s what we called it; we didn’t know what it was for), is unknown to today’s children. Third, as a warning — that it could come back some day, and we need to fully prepared to wipe it out again if it does. This would be on May 17, the birthday of Edward Jenner.
Independence Day, July 2 — So that we’d be celebrating the actual day that Congress voted to declare independence, not the day that the document’s final edits were approved. This is personal, because John Adams is my fave Founder, and this was day that HE thought should be celebrated, after his weeks of hard work arguing the Congress into taking this momentous step — debate during which Thomas Jefferson, who gets the glory, sat there like a bump on a log. Harrumph…
Look, people… If it makes you happy, Columbus was wrong, the Bugs Bunny version notwithstanding.
Yeah, the Earth was round, as every educated person of his day knew. Only low-information types thought otherwise. But the scholars of the day also knew how big the Earth was, and why Columbus’ idea of sailing west to get to the East Indies was a pipe dream.
But because he was dumb enough to insist on proving his point, he accidentally discovered the New World — and almost no other development in human history has had such wide-reaching consequences, for good or ill.
Consequently, I consider efforts to downplay his “discovery” of the New World a bit on the silly side. Such as this reference in an interesting piece by the NYT’s Brent Staples:
It also tied Italian-Americans closely to the paternalistic assertion, still heard today, that Columbus “discovered” a continent that was already inhabited by Native Americans….
Allow me to make a “paternalistic assertion.” Yep, he did discover America. And everything that has happened since arises from that fact.
Right now, I’m reading the book Guns, Germs and Steel, and it’s fascinating. Basically, it attempts to determine the underlying factors that caused certain parts of the world to be “discovered,” and ultimately dominated by, people from other parts of the world.
The whole book aims to answer a question posed to the author by a New Guinean politician named Yali back in the ’70s. When Europeans “discovered” New Guinea a couple of centuries back, the people there were technologically still in the Stone Age. The local people were blown away by the physical artifacts of a modern society — ranging from steel axes to soft drinks — which they referred to collectively as “cargo.” Yali asked the author:
“Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?”
Jared Diamond’s attempts to answer the question are deeply fascinating.
The book spends considerable time on one incident in particular, back in 1532. You may know the story of how Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro took the Incan emperor prisoner, accepted a ransom from the Incas of a vast amount of gold, and then killed the emperor anyway. Aside from dwelling on some “woke” aspect of this encounter, such as the obvious fact that these Spaniards were a__holes, Diamond asked why it happened this way. In other words, why didn’t Incan emperor Atahuallpa go to Spain, take King Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, prisoner and hold him for ransom? A variation of Yali’s question.
And no, the answer isn’t that Atahuallpa was a nicer guy, or for that matter that American Indians were on the whole nicer than white guys (although again, Pizarro and crew didn’t exactly create a great first impression for the rest of us white guys).
Nor is Diamond satisfied with, the Spaniards had guns and steel swords and horses. The book aims to understand why people from Europe had guns and steel swords and horses. For that, he goes back to when homo sapiens first spread out over the Earth, and in certain places gave up hunting and gathering for farming, and different kinds of farming in different places, and the effects that had on the development of technology an complex political structures, and so on.
I highly recommend the book.
But my point is that, whether you personally see it as a good thing or a bad thing, Columbus’ discovery of America was definitely a thing, and one of the most consequential pivot points of history. If you want to explore just how consequential, I recommend another book, which I’ve recommended before: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann.
What happened on Oct. 12, 1492, was monumental, and certainly worth marking with a special observance. It changed the world as almost nothing else that has ever happened did. Where people get all bollixed up is when they try to assign moral value to the event.
I don’t know why people do that. Discovering America doesn’t make Columbus a good guy. It doesn’t really make him a bad guy, either. Some other stuff he did after he got here makes him look pretty bad — especially to someone with a 2019 worldview. But like him or hate him, the thing he did, what he stumbled onto, has enormous global significance. He did something amazing, but it doesn’t make him a hero. Or the devil.
The arrival of Europeans, with their relative immunity to certain diseases like smallpox, had horrific consequences for the native population of this hemisphere. What happened was so horrible that it staggers the imagination: 95 percent of the population died out.
But just as discovering America doesn’t make Columbus a hero (to me at least he was not), he can’t really be blamed for everything that happened to the people who lived here, however badly he may have treated the natives he encountered. (Which was pretty damned badly.) He didn’t say, “Hey, let’s go to China (where he thought he was headed) and infect the local people so they all die out.” In fact, most of the people of this hemisphere died over the next few decades long before they came into contact with whites — the germs spread across these continents much faster than people did. People of European descent didn’t even realize on what scale this happened until quite recently (and to learn more about that, read Mann’s prequel, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.)
Of course, people can play games with the word “discovered.” They can say, those Asian people who crossed the land bridge 15,000 years ago “discovered” America, or even say the first Europeans to discover America were actually the Vikings. Or St. Brendan the Navigator. But none of those events opened this side of the world to the other side, mainly because the world wasn’t technologically prepared to bring that about.
So, as a historic event with repercussions for the entire planet, the moment that America got discovered — in the sense of the planet learning of its existence and being affected by it — well, that happened 527 years ago this week.
Feel about it any way you like, but that’s the way things unfolded….
Tomorrow night, Friday, beginning at 6:00 pm at the Columbia Empowerment Center on Lady Street, we’ll have a lecture on The Bridge. What began as a response to the city’s request for proposals in the spring of 1987 is now part of a major real estate development proposal that includes a five-star hotel, a Jasper Johns museum, a performing arts compound inspired by Washington’s Kennedy Center, a suggested home for the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, and other features. Property taxes taken from the private development, mostly condominiums, out of what is now thin air over the Congaree River, can be collected as part of a tax increment bond financing development district to help build the cultural amenities. Low culture, you might say, can be exercised to support high culture. The Koger Center, an awful ballet theater and a terrible opera house – I was on the board of the Palmetto Opera for six years – stays where it is as a perfectly adequate symphony hall with a band shell that works. Still, renovation of the Koger Center is in the budget.
Back in 1987, while the city was wondering what to do with a homeboy proposal of world’s first triumphal bridge in the modern era, the major hotel developer, Belz Hotels of Memphis, saw Columbia as an opportunity to build a Peabody and parade it’s ducks in the same class as the Peabody in Memphis and the Peabody in Orlando, both high-end properties. Belz committed in writing to Columbia City Council, Richland County Council, Lexington County Council, and West Columbia City Council. Copies of the Belz commitment will be available. Also available will be the blue ribbon committee report from the managing partner of South Carolina’s largest law firm, Nelson Mullins, which essentially said, “Build the Bridge.
In other words, The Bridge was wildly popular and eminently practical and thoroughly doable. It just didn’t have the initial support of the Honorable T. Patton Adams and later the support of the Honorable Robert D. Coble.
Even the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce was firmly on board. The membership was invited to vote their preference, which was reported as 65% for The Bridge, although the chamber director confided in me it was actually 75%.
So we almost had a done deal. As it turned out, we got a satisfactory convention center with good attendance and plans for expansion.
Fine. But who cares?
Now let’s get on with making a city. But who cares?