Category Archives: 2020 Presidential

So much for the clout of Nevada’s mighty Culinary Union

the daily

We’ve seen initial results from that state whose name its residents insist on mispronouncing. Bernie came in first, quite bigly, and Biden in second, so far. There are a lot of results to come in still.

So on we move to South Carolina.

But before we do move on, we should pause and reflect upon the diminished clout of labor unions in the 21st century.

I urge you, if you haven’t already, to listen to Friday’s episode of the New York Times podcast, The Daily. It was titled “The Field: An Anti-Endorsement in Nevada.

As always, it was good, and educational. It started with reporters making their way through Vegas, baby, Vegas, and asking the workers they encountered whether they belonged to a union, and if so, which one. Time and again the answer was, Culinary Union.

Then — and this is one of the things I love about these podcasts — it embarked on a history of the union. It was formed, or at least took its current form, after one of the longest strikes in U.S. history, lasting more than five years. But that paid off for the union members, who have the kind of medical benefits most of us can only dream about. Need open-heart surgery? It will cost you nothing. It has been called “the best insurance in America.”

The long-time union members remember what they went through to win that, and so they are less than enchanted with Bernie Sanders’ plans to do away their coverage in exchange for his “Medicare-for-all” proposal.

It’s fascinating. One of the Hispanic women who told the epic saga of the strike and what they went through is actually heard questioning Sanders at a campaign event.

Listening, I swing back and forth, rooting for one side, then the other. Of course I love it that the union was against Bernie, because Bernie’s gotta be stopped, right? But then I hear Bernie’s answer to the lady’s question, and I’ve gotta side with Bernie. Of course a plan that (were it to ever exist in any form remotely like what Bernie proposes) provides full coverage to everyone is more important than a plan that covers members of one union in one part of the country, however hard they fought to get it.

So, tell ’em, Bernie.

But they are not satisfied with his answer. A bird in the hand, and all that — and I can hardly blame them, given the political obstacles that stand in the way of Bernie achieving his dream.

The rest of the episode deals with the union’s rather weak way of communicating its opposition to Bernie. Rather than putting on their big-boy pants and endorsing somebody, they put out some sort of voter’s guide that indicates their displeasure with Bernie.

And the effect is less than overwhelming, as the reporters find talking to union members who have done early voting, many of whom had voted for Bernie.

So you come away thinking that Bernie’s probably going to win Nevada — which is what happened today.

I urge you to listen to the podcast. I urge you to do so daily, in fact. I gain a lot of insight into things while listening during my afternoon walks…

Et tu, Bernie? The Russian plot sickens

Well, boys, I reckon this is it - electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

I hadn’t even had a chance to post about the Russians working to help elect Trump again, when we learned they were trying to help Bernie, too.

Which makes sense, of course. It fits their M.O., and their interests, in two ways:

  1. Their priority is helping Trump, because having Trump as president hurts America, sends us on a downward slide as a nation, and keeps us bitterly divided. And they feel quite sure, like many U.S. observers, that Bernie is the best possibly opponent for their boy.
  2. If they can’t have Trump, might as well elect the most divisive figure on the Democratic side as a backup. Because the point is weakening America, and having us all stirred up and angry is a great way to do that. (It’s working for them so far, after their successful efforts in 2016.)

Putin may be evil, but he’s not stupid.

All of that said, I want to give Bernie a big pat on the back for showing how a presidential candidate should react to such news:

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”…

If only a certain other party would take a hint.

Basically, this is all part of a pattern that began in 2016. Then, workers at a Russian troll factory were told, “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

Which brings me to the point I was going to post about all this before we learned about the Bernie wrinkle…

Remember that we learned several months ago that the key CIA asset who had let us know that the Russians were trying to elect Trump in 2016 had to be exfiltrated to save his life back in 2017? As the NYT reported at the time:

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

OK, well… if this guy was so golden, so well-placed, so irreplaceable… how do we know they’re doing the same in 2020?

Obviously, we don’t know everything. Which is probably a good thing, if we’re still getting such good intel. Better that the new source not be compromised, too.

Or, is this one of those hyperclever inside-out deals where the idea of our key source being extracted was disinformation, which news media eagerly lapped up, meant to protect the real source?

If so, I hope these news revelations aren’t endangering him. Or her

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

No that’s the BEST time to try to do that, if you must do it…

IMG_6171

Following up on that last post, here are a couple of other ads that have been really bugging me, cropping up on my phone over and over. Might as well get this out of my system.

First, the Walgreens one, above.

This is amazingly stupid. If you really want to “shop till you drop” — and why you would want to do that is beyond me — then the best, most efficient time to get ‘er done is when you’re feeling bad. You’ll drop faster, and get the idiotic exercise over with.

Then, the Steyer one, below, which I really feel like ranting about…

The offending copy:

“Imagine a day when your concerns matter more to politicians in Washington than what’s said in corporate boardrooms.”

Perhaps it’s unfair to single Steyer out this way, since this is a cliche that you see across the political spectrum, but he’s the one who has caused this to pop up in front of me dozens of times, and I’m fed up with it.

People, listen to me: The problem is not that politicians aren’t paying attention to ordinary folks like you. If anything, the norm is that they pay too much attention to what they hear from constituents. (Rather than doing what they should, which is study the facts and make a rational decision, because we have delegated them to do what we don’t have time to do.)

When they do stupid stuff, they’re not doing it because they’re not listening to ordinary people — it’s because they’re listening to the wrong ordinary people, ones who are louder than you are.

If the things they do were dictated by people in corporate boardrooms, you might not like all the results, but their actions would, in general, be more rational. They’d pursue policies more likely to lead to economic growth and stability, with everyone having the money they need to buy stuff from the corporations.

Is this a perfect formula? No. Which is why I’m neither a “business is always right” or “the people are always right” guy. And why I hate bumper-sticker expressions such as this one, which suggest that it is that simple.

To give you one example of where I’d prefer the decision be made in the boardroom than by the blowhard at the end of the bar: If it were up to the boardrooms of the hospitals of this state, we’d have Medicaid expansion so fast it would make your head spin.

So why don’t we have it, even though the state is run by allegedly business-friendly Republicans? Because those Republicans would rather pander to the guy who doesn’t want a penny to go to anything called Obamacare. They care WAY more about what those ordinary folk think.

The problem isn’t one of failing to be populist enough. It’s a case of not being smart enough. Or listening to people who aren’t smart enough.

Oh, and it’s not necessarily about numbers, or at least not numbers in the population at large. I said something about this to a friend earlier, and he said if they’re doing what the people wanted, we’d have more gun control. Nah, it doesn’t work that way. MOST people would sorta, kinda like to have more gun control. They want it more right after a mass shooting than they want it at other times. And then they more or less forget about it. But the minority who are absolutely opposed to any new strictures placed on guns are thinking about this all the time, and they’re ALWAYS opposed to it. And will vote accordingly.

Another way to look at it: Those Republicans who vote against Medicaid expansion aren’t afraid of the majority of people in South Carolina. They’re afraid that a plurality of a small subset — certain voters in their districts — will vote for someone more extreme than they are in their next primary. Because that’s the way things are set up.

Want to see that change? Demand an end to gerrymandering…

But understand, it’s not about Blue Meanies in corporate boardrooms. Unless, of course, we’re talking about corporate taxes…

IMG_6172

 

Quickly, now: Thoughts on the debate?

I’d rather Joe be Peter than Michael Bolton, but whatever...

I’d rather Joe be Peter than Michael Bolton, but whatever…

I’m at the doctor’s office for my annual physical, so I don’t have time, but wanted to put up a place for y’all to comment if you’re inclined.

joe did fine, which is one of only two things I care about. But as a group, they set back the cause of defeating Trump, which of course is the other thing I care about.

Unpleasant to watch…

A friend of my daughter shared with her the image above…

 

Video of Biden’s speech in Columbia last night

It’s a good thing I decided against trying to post this video last night before going to bed. I’d have been up half the night.

I’ve been having trouble moving video and images from my phone to this new computer. And of course 18 minutes of HD video make for a HUGE file.

So after a process that involved a phone, two laptops, and a flash drive that I had to empty in order to use, I can finally show you the speech.

Enjoy, and be edified…

A panoramic view of the room just before Joe came out.

A panoramic view of the room just before Joe came out.

Wow, what a gross misrepresentation of reality!

downcast

This blew me away.

Being a fair-minded guy, I wanted to stress that not everyone in the working media lacks perspective. You know that one headline from this morning that I cited and dissected in my previous post? I was going to confess it was a bit of an outlier, and that for every guy like that one, there’s a sensible soul such as Frank Bruni, whose column this morning made the same point I did:

Yes, Bernie Sanders won the state’s primary on Tuesday night. And that victory, coming on the heels of his functional tie with Pete Buttigieg in the dysfunctional Iowa caucuses last week, makes him the indisputable front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

But look at how closely behind him Buttigieg finished, despite furious attacks from Sanders and other rivals over recent days. Look at the sudden surge of Amy Klobuchar, whose strong third-place finish demonstrates not only how unsettled the contest is but also how many Democrats crave a moderate — or female — alternative to Sanders.

Note that while Sanders is hugely well known in New Hampshire and beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in its Democratic primary in 2016, he squeaked by Buttigieg this time around, as many people who voted for him four years ago obviously didn’t do so on Tuesday night.

And so forth. The real story being the inability of moderates thus far to settle on ONE candidate.

But before adding that, I decided to check my email, and saw an enewsletter from that same, sensible Frank Bruni, and the headline was “What in God’s name happened to Joe Biden?”

OK, fine. Yes, it would have been better had Joe been on the top of the stack of moderates rather than the bottom in New Hampshire, but still — I’m still in a good mood from Joe’s rally at 701 Whaley last night.

And then I saw the picture that ran with the eblast, and my jaw dropped.

I was there. I saw Joe and how he conducted himself. He was as upbeat and ebullient as ever. In fact, if I can ever get the freaking thing to upload to YouTube, I’ll show you every second that he was at the podium, and challenge you to find the split-second reflected in that photo above, in which he seems to be delivering a concession speech with a crushed spirit.

Until I can get that up and running (and finally, here it is), here are some representative images:

You can almost always get a picture like that NYT one. You can play a fun game if you use the “burst” function on your phone (akin to the motordrive of old film cameras), and you’ll see all sorts of expressions flash across a person’s face, some of them quite comical and many of them highly misleading as to the person’s emotional state at the time.

But this one is a prize-winner. And I’m shocked that it was used by the NYT, even in an email…

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe's mood at the event.

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe’s mood at the event.

For what little NH is worth, Bernie got CRUSHED by the moderates

Bern

My NYT app this morning.

One can sometimes see why there are so many people in this country who can’t stand the news media.

I can get pretty peeved with them myself these days.

There are two phenomena that particularly irritating. Or maybe they’re just one:

  1. They have the attention span of goldfish.
  2. They have a mental block that keeps them from seeing the larger picture.

The last two weeks, it has been astounding the degree to which the media — both straight news and opinion — have been trapped in what’s happening right this second. It has always been thus, but the pace of reporting and the orientation toward social media has made the problem far, far worse.

Instead of a considered, consistent narrative over time, the picture we get of what’s happening is so immediate, it has no value beyond a few moments:

  • There are no results from Iowa!
  • There are still no results from Iowa!
  • Iowa is a disaster! This is the death of the Iowa caucuses!
  • No one should ever see results from Iowa as meaning anything again!
  • Wait! There are results from Iowa! Pete won!
  • No! Maybe Bernie won! This is hugely significant!
  • One thing’s for sure: Biden is toast!
  • Iowa didn’t settle anything, but New Hampshire will!
  • Oh, look, Bernie won! Bernie is triumphant! It’s settled! This is over!
  • No, wait! Klobuchar came in third! This is the big news!
  • One thing’s for sure: Since New Hampshire settles everything, Biden is toast!

Meanwhile, Biden was having a very nice rally here in Columbia before an enthusiastic crowd. And as a Biden support, I would prefer that he had done better among those uber-white people in Iowa and New Hampshire, but as far as I’m concerned, the race is just getting started.

Of course, when Joe wins here, we’ll be seeing:

  • A miracle! Biden’s not toast at all! He won one!
  • But he’s still damaged! Some black voters voted for other people!
  • Also, South Carolina means nothing because it’s TOO black!

And so forth.

And then, Super Tuesday will roll around, and South Carolina will be forgotten and it will be all about Bloomberg or something.

That’s the goldfish part.

The other thing is that so many people out there seem incapable of seeing what happens in this brief moments within any sort of larger context.

My favorite example of that today is a headline that trumpets, “Bernie Sanders Has Already Won,” followed by the subhead, “Whether he captures the White House or not, he has transformed the Democratic Party.”

Uh… no, he hasn’t. First, he didn’t do nearly as well as he did four years ago. I think it’s early to completely dismiss him, but if you go by that one bit of info, his time may have passed.

Second, and most importantly, if we’re going to draw conclusions based on something as thin as the New Hampshire vote, consider: The three candidates appealing to the moderates who utterly reject Bernie’s revolution got a total of 52.6 percent of the vote, compared to Bernie’s 25.7 percent.

They crushed him. They demolished him. They utterly rejected him. Even if you give him Elizabeth Warren’s 9 percent on the assumption that her voters might switch to Bernie, he got massacred.

The real story here is that the moderates just can’t make up their minds. If and when they do, we won’t be hearing any more about the triumph of Bernie.

I — and a lot of voters here in South Carolina — still believe that they would be wisest to line up behind Biden because he’s the one most likely to beat Trump. And nothing is more important than that.

They just haven’t wanted to accept that yet. I get it. I like Pete and Amy, too. But I’m going with the guy most likely to win. And I still remain hopeful that other moderates — sensible folk that they are — will reach that conclusion, too.

What did Harpootlian say that was so bad?

debate NH

I watched the Democratic debate the other night — or most of it — but wasn’t interested enough to Tweet about it or anything.

I almost did at one point, but I wanted to take time to do a little research — refresh my memory.

What I had wanted to say was, “What was it Dick Harpootlian said that was so bad that Steyer thought it could be damaging to Biden?”

So I went back and read the stories about the contretemps between Dick and Jerry Govan — neither of them any stranger to confrontation — and came away still wondering that same thing.

It all started with a Tweet from Harpo:

That one was followed up by this:

Then, this happened:

After the state House and Senate let members out of a joint session, the Legislative Black Caucus met in a closed-door meeting, and then held a press conference in the State House lobby. As members of the caucus exited their meeting, Harpootlian waved and said ‘hello’ to Govan, who stared back and waved his index finger in the air…

At the press conference, Harpootlian was accused of being racist. Harpootlian disagreed, and said “I will not be silenced by those who use race as a shield from criticism.”

By the way, only certain members of the Black Caucus backed Govan in this:

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, a Charleston Democrat and Biden supporter, noted that he and several other members of the Black Caucus did not participate in the press conference.

“It was to his benefit to give the impression that it was a Black Caucus press conference but it simply was not,” Kimpson said.

Kimpson argued Steyer “took advantage” of an internal dispute between SC lawmakers and “distorted the the facts” to hit Biden…

For his part, after the debate, Tom Steyer couldn’t answer Dick’s question about what Govan has done for the money:

“I’m not the person running the campaign,” Steyer said. “I know he’s a senior advisor and I know he’s been working for us. Exactly what that means, I don’t know.”

So I guess I should have sent that Tweet during the debate. Because I still don’t see what Dick said that was so bad. I mean, especially by Harpootlian standards.

But Steyer isn’t trying to convince me. He’s trying to sow enough doubt among Biden’s black support in South Carolina to damage him.

Which seems to me like a pretty cheesy move. I had been sort of neutral on Steyer before this. This knocks him a notch lower than that now in my book…

If my guy loses, I know exactly what I’ll do: Prepare for four more years of Trump

debate

In his daily enewsletter, David Leonhardt poses this question:

Many Democrats haven’t enjoyed the past week. It started with the Iowa chaos, and went on to include President Trump’s State of the Union address, his acquittal, his vindictive celebration of that acquittal and a few polls that showed his approval rating rising.

How should Democrats respond? My column today tries to answer that question, by arguing that Democrats will be hurting themselves, and the country, by exaggerating the differences between progressives and moderates.

The current moment, when nobody knows how the primaries will end, is a good time for both sides of the Democratic Party — left and center — to ask themselves how they’ll respond if their side loses the nomination. Reacting negatively would be a big favor to Trump. I instead ask both moderates and progressives to think about the strengths of the other side of their party.

Hey, I’ve thought about it, and my answer is this: If Joe Biden loses, I’ll prepare for four more years of Donald Trump as president of my country. Or what used to be my country, perhaps I should say.

Of course, Leonhardt isn’t talking to me. He’s addressing Democrats. His column’s headline is, “The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves.” But I get used to that. I long ago grew accustomed to too many people, and definitely too many journalists, assuming that the world only consists of two kinds of people, and that therefore the only people concerned about Donald Trump dragging our country through the gutter are Democrats. (This is particularly strange because he talks so often with Ross Douthat — they do a podcast together every week. You’d think he’d realize, “Hey, maybe there are more people like Ross?”)

It’s a thoughtful column, inspired in part by my friend E.J. Dionne’s latest book, Code Red. And he makes a good point when he writes:

A Sanders or Warren presidency would have more in common with Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency than a second Trump term would have with either of them….

Good point, as I say, but not very comforting. But it does make me think: Why can’t one of our two political parties come up with an option as attractive as Ike? Or Adlai Stevenson, for that matter?

The closest we can come to the kind of sanity Eisenhower and Stevenson offered is Joe Biden.

Yeah, I know, there are other “moderate” choices: Buttigieg and Klobuchar. But I don’t see either of them winning the general election. I just don’t. I also think it’s kind of nuts to nominate either of them when you have Joe Biden available, whose experience is light years beyond Mayor Pete’s. The experience gap is not quite as great with Sen. Klobuchar, but I don’t see her as being as likely to get the nomination, either.

And if it’s Warren or Sanders, Trump wins in a walk.

Donald Trump is an idiot, but again and again he demonstrates a sort of animal cunning with regard to what it takes to win — or at least, what it takes to keep his base behind him and motivated.

And that low, Hobbesian instinct caused him to betray our country’s interests in an effort to bring down Joe Biden. That’s the guy he doesn’t want to run against. And he’s right to see it that way.

After the farce of Iowa, everyone’s trying to write Joe off. Not the sensible people, of course, but a large coalition of others, from ideologues to journalists, who’ve been itching to write Joe’s political obit from the start.

Listen, folks. Here’s the way I’ve looked at it from the start: I didn’t really expect Joe to win Iowa, and wasn’t particularly optimistic about New Hampshire. I’ve been holding my breath waiting to get through those ridiculous, unrepresentative contests, hoping we could get to the point that the rest of us, most of the country, could have a say in the matter.

And what’s happening? The wave of negativity out of Iowa, and increasingly out of New Hampshire, is reportedly causing cracks in Joe’s South Carolina firewall. Although I’m not seeing it yet.

But folks, if he doesn’t succeed here and beyond… well, I’m telling you, and no malarkey: Get ready for four more years of Trump…,

 

The world according to Elizabeth Warren

Warren ad

I couldn’t miss the huge banner ad that Google Adsense had placed on my blog.

Intrigued, I did a work-around to check out what she was trying to get me to look at. (If I click on an Adsense ad, Google is likely to cut me off for cheating. So I right-click, copy the link, and go open it on another browser.)Warren survey 1

It was this survey, asking me to “share what issues matter most to you.”

Of course, to me, this election isn’t about issues. It’s about replacing Donald Trump with a decent, normal, qualified human being. Which is why I’m for Joe Biden — who fully fits that description and actually has a chance to win.

Biden’s biggest barrier to the nomination, of course, is the ideologues who are all about their “issues” and their fantasies that they will get their way on those issues if they nominate Warren or Sanders. When in fact, all they will get is four more years of Donald Trump.

And folks, it’s not that I don’t care about issues. I do. That’s just not what concerns me most, especially at this particular moment in history.

Anyway, the survey tells us what we already knew about Warren — and indeed about most Democrats in the party’s ideological wing. It’ all about domestic social programs.

It was nice to see that the first item on the second screen of the survey (see below), right after “Medicare and Medicaid,” is “National Security.” Which causes one to pause for a moment and think, “I wonder what ‘national security’ means to Elizabeth Warren?”

And then, hey, something else that in my book is a core concern for the presidency: “Nuclear non-proliferation!”

But then we immediately return to “Opioid Crisis,” “Pay Equity,” “Prescription Drug Costs”… Important things, to be sure, but not top-of-mind, to me, in selecting a president.

Note how she ends the survey: “Is there anything else you’d like to share about why you’re in this fight?”

Which of course takes us to reason No. 1 why I never have not been, and probably never will, be interested in having his particular senator become POTUS. To her, politics in our representative democracy is always a “fight.” She just can’t get through a minute without saying that word

warren survey 2

Joe Walsh to ‘walk away.’ But Don Henley will hang in there, won’t he?

"Guys, if I drop out, will one of you carry on? And what are we playing now, an F7...?"

“Guys, if I drop out, will one of you carry on? And what are we playing now, an F7…?”

So I was surprised to read this:

Surprised because I didn’t even know one of the Eagles was running.

Well, Walsh may have thrown in the towel, but I’m sure Don Henley will hang in there until the end, right?

I have some sympathy for those poor wretches in Iowa. Some.

Screenshot 2020-02-04 at 11.33.09 AM

In 2000, there was “Palm Beach stupid.” Now, we have Iowa.

At least, I could swear there was such a (pre-social media) meme as “Palm Beach stupid,” a rather unkind reference to Floridians who lacked the ability to punch a hole in a card corresponding to the candidate of their choice. Yet I can’t find it by Googling, so maybe I dreamed it.

But we definitely have Iowa today, and similar scorn is being directed at it. Especially by Trump’s minions, such as his campaign manager:

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who can’t spell “Democratic.” But hey, Iowa sort of asked for it, right?

The good news is, all this scorn could have a salutary result: Maybe it will finally spell the end of the Iowa caucuses, at least as anything the rest of the nation pays attention to. That would be a good thing.

But while we’re slinging insults at them, and pondering a return to older, more legendary ways of picking leaders:

… I have to admit to a certain fellow-feeling for those poor losers up in Iowa. I’ve kinda been there.

I’ve been the guy in charge of election coverage at three newspapers in my career, in three states: Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina. Pulling together results from a long ballot and publishing them accurately in the next days paper is — or at least, was in those days — an extremely complex affair that required a lot of different things to happen in different places simultaneously, and without a hitch.

My fellow editors would kindly surrender the resources of the newsroom to me — a hundred or so trained professional would be at my disposal — but it was always on me to figure out exactly who would do what at precisely what time, and how it would flow through the newspaper production process without things clogging up, so that the presses would roll on time and readers would actually receive their newspapers crammed with all that information.

One piece of that puzzle was getting the numbers and putting them into tables — candidate by candidate, county by county, and in the metro area, precinct by precinct. The numbers not only had to get into the charts, but to the reporters writing the stories, so our numbers would match. (We generally kept the use of numbers in the stories to a minimum, though, to simplify the coordination somewhat.)

In other words, a part of my job was doing what the people in Iowa have failed so spectacularly to do.

It usually went pretty well, but not always.

One of the lowest points of my professional life occurred in the early ’80s in Jackson, Tenn. The Jackson Sun was then an afternoon newspaper, which meant we had all night and part of the next morning to get things right before going to press, which meant our report needed to be more complete and accurate than what the morning papers had. And it generally was.

But one election, things went horribly wrong. After working all day on Election Day, and then all night pulling the results together, at mid-morning — about an hour before the presses were to roll — I realized the tables were wrong. Completely wrong. All the totals were wrong, and we couldn’t figure out why. We’re talking about full-page tables, densely packed with numbers.

I’d been up and going at full speed for more than 24 hours, and my brain just froze. What was I going to do? There was only one thing to do. Check every single number, and try to find a pattern that showed us what had gone wrong.

At that moment, my boss stepped in. Executive Editor Reid Ashe was and is a very smart guy, for whom I’ve always had the greatest respect. And he had a lot of respect for me, respect that I valued. For his part, he valued excellence. He had this art deco poster, a reproduction of one that had once hung in French train stations, that had this one word over the image of a locomotive: EXACTITUDE.

Precision.

It was, if I recall correctly, the only decoration in his office. His walls bore that one message for the world. This is what mattered to him. Therefore, we understood, it needed to matter to us.

With a rather grim look on his face, he sat down at a table in a conference room with a calculator, and started to crunch all the numbers.

While he did that, I sat on the floor against the wall with my face in my hands. I had tried to sort it out, but my brain was too fried at that point — those numbers were sort of dancing around before my eyes. I had to wait while Reid had his go at it, with — at least, I imagined — steam coming out of his ears.

He figured it out (hey, he had had some sleep!), and we got the paper out. Eventually, I went home  and crashed.

I don’t know if there’s ever been a moment in my life when I felt more like a failure.

So as I say, I have some sympathy for those people in Iowa.

But it would still be great if this was not the way we started presidential elections going forward…

He had this one poster in his office...

Reid had this one decoration in his office…

I fixed that picture for you. No need to thank me…

Joe instagram

Below you see the centerpiece section of the front page of The State‘s print version today.

It seems the best part of the picture was cropped out. I think even Doug (were he with us) would agree with me on this point, since not only Joe was cropped out, but Tulsi as well.

So I’ve fixed it for you, with a screen grab from Joe’s Instagram account

front page

A busy MLK Day in Columbia

Joe MLK

Y’all, I’ve been too busy to post today, but as you know this was a busy day in Columbia for presidential candidates.

Of course, it was a lot more than that. It was MLK Day, which for me has generally been a rather busy holiday. It all started 20 years ago today, when the Columbia Urban League, under the leadership of J.T. McLawhorn and Dr. David Swinton, decided to do something BIG to show how much folks wanted the Confederate flag off the State House dome.

With the help of a coalition of like-minded groups, they succeeded. J.T. and I went on Cynthia Hardy’s show (Cynthia, by the way, was J.T.’s right-hand person at the Urban League at the time) on WACH over the weekend to talk about that event. Why have us old guys on TV to reminiscent about something so long ago? Because it was amazing. There’s been nothing like it before or since. Here’s a picture. The crowd was estimated at 60,000.

In the years since, the march at rally at the State House has become branded as more of an NAACP production (it was one of the organizations that helped with the first one), while the CUL has put its energies into a huge breakfast event at the Brookland Baptist convention facility. Both are magnets for Democrats with national ambitions. I was at the Urban League event this morning, with friends:

It was great to see and hear Joe, of course — and to a lesser extent Pete and Tom and Deval.

I didn’t get a chance to speak with Joe — and was jealous that my friend Samuel Tenenbaum got to sit next to Joe. For my part, I sat at one of the tables dedicated to the Biden contingent, and got to visit with Joe’s state political director and fellow Smith campaign alumnus Scott Harriford.

While I didn’t speak with Joe, I did shake hands with Pete. I didn’t set out to, but we sort of bumped into each other while trying to squeeze through the crowd back to our seats. So I did the civil, and stuck out my hand and said, “How’s it going, Mayor?” And he took it and nodded and moved on. (Yeah, I know. I just didn’t have anything pertinent in mind to say.)

Anyway.

I’m not going to try to report on what everybody said. I leave that to the reporters. Here’s The State’s story, and here’s the Post and Courier’s.

I just thought I’d share how I observed the holiday. How did you?

Cynthia shared this pic taken just before we went on her show. That's Jim Felder on the left, J.T. McLawhorn on the right, and some old white guy in the middle.

Cynthia shared this pic taken just before we went on her show. That’s Jim Felder on the left, J.T. McLawhorn on the right, and some old white guy in the middle.

Thoughts about Democratic debate Number Umpteen?

jan 14 debate

Did you watch it? I watched about half of it, caught up on what I’d missed by reading written accounts this morning. I didn’t expect to learn anything new, and I didn’t.

Joe Biden is still the one candidate for me, and increasingly the voters in Iowa seem to be agreeing, after flirting with other possibilities. Not that I care, normally, what all those white people up there think. I’ve been to Iowa. Covered the GOP debate there in 1980. Slid around in the ice a good bit. Flew through an ice storm in a four-seater airplane. Not overly impressed.

Joe did fine. Nobody else made any particular impression that he or she had not made before. Bernie and Elizabeth had me about to start banging my head against a wall with their idiotic back-and-forth about whether Bernie had, or had not, said something about the electability of women. But I got through it. I seem to recall that there was another thing just as stupid that a couple of the candidates got into during the last debate, and I’ve managed to forget what it was, so there’s hope for the future.

That’s about it. Your thoughts?

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, and other thoughts on the killing of Soleimani

1200px-Qasem_Soleimani_2019-10-01_05

Why have I gone so many days without commenting on the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the United States?

Because I’m still not sure what to say. I don’t have enough information to say “this was a good thing” or “this was a bad thing.” And ever since I made the move from news to editorial in 1994, I’ve been disinclined to write about anything that I couldn’t offer some sort of judgment on.

What follows is a few of the thoughts that have been going through my head since this happened…

We can’t get around the fact that this is Trump doing this.

First, if this is a classic “wag the dog” move, Trump has miscalculated. Because this incident underlines more starkly than anything else that’s happened in the past three years why it is an extraordinarily bad idea to have such an ignorant and deeply flawed person in the role of commander-in-chief.

Yes, the natural impulse in such a situation is for the American people to close ranks with the president and give him the benefit of the doubt. But how can anyone, other than the blindest of his base, do that with this man? Most people in the country know that he only cares about his own self-interest. There could be a situation in which his interest and the country’s coincidentally line up — the stopped-clock principal — but we know that to him, the country’s interest is simply not an operative variable.

And he lies. About everything. He doesn’t misspeak and then backtrack when the untruth is exposed, the way other people in politics do. He lies with utter abandon, and when the lie is proved beyond any doubt, he doubles down on it.

In a situation like this, in which (I’m assuming here) the American people can’t be shown all the evidence without compromising intelligence sources, it is essential that we have some faith in the truthfulness and judgment of the president, whether we like him or not. That is utterly impossible in this situation. So instead of persuadable people going, “This is a dicey situation, so we’d better rally around the president,” they are more likely to go “Oh, my God, how soon can we get someone else — anyone else — into the White House?”

Forgive me for starting with the political calculation, but the fact that this guy is in this job affects all the other things I have to say.

This is a job for the Deep State.

I can’t trust anything Trump — or anyone who owes his or her job to him — says about the situation. I know I can’t trust Republican members of Congress, either, based on their completely surrender of their minds to Trump. Nor am I terribly interested in what the Democratic presidential candidates think about it. (Yes, their statements may help us choose between them, but their reaction isn’t helpful in assessing the immediate situation, which is what I’m talking about here.)

What I want, what I need, to know in order to form a judgment is what the Deep State thinks. I need the views of experts who have no political dog in the fight.

Is it the consensus of our intelligence community that there was an imminent threat that justified taking the extraordinary chance (given that we don’t know what Iran will do) of killing this guy? Oh, and while I’m asking, what do they think we should do next?

Often in these situations, within a few days after the story has initially broken, there will be a piece — probably in The New York Times — from a reporter with excellent intelligence sources who has interviewed them about the situation and gleaned some sort of consensus from those sources.

This would be a great time for such a story. I’m not asking for the moon — I don’t expect something as definite as, for instance, the fact that ALL of our intelligence agencies agree that Russian interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. I’m not greedy. I’d just like to know in general what people who know a LOT more about this than I do are thinking. That might help me decide what I think.

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

When in doubt, quote a Clint Eastwood movie, right?

I don’t think anyone in this country, outside of people like this out-of-work football player, doubts for a moment that Soleimani had it coming.

But he’s had it coming for a long time, and we’ve had the ability to kill him before now, and we haven’t done so. The question isn’t, “Did he deserve it?” The question is, what changed that switched the calculus toward a decision to kill him now? And was that calculation sound?

In other words, someone might be a bad guy, but killing him may be a bad idea. (In fact, as an opponent of the death penalty, I would argue that it’s usually a bad idea to kill someone just for being a bad guy.)

And we just don’t have enough reliable information to know.

No one, but no one, thinks war with Iran is a good idea.

No matter how crazy and bloodthirsty you may think neocons are, I can’t think of anyone in that camp that has ever put forth outright war with Iran as a good idea. (Neo-cons don’t usually count John Bolton among their number.) I’ve never seen the case credibly made that it would be in anyone’s interest, except maybe people on the sidelines who don’t like us, such as Russia or China.

So, you know, we probably need to do what we can to avoid it from this point on… which brings us back to my fervent wish that a normal human being of any party was in the White House right now… Something I heard on the radio earlier today struck me as ironic in the extreme: A Republican member of Congress (I think; I didn’t catch the name) was making the point that the Iranians aren’t totally crazy; they don’t want war with the United States. How weird is that? We’re counting on the ayatollahs to be more rational and mature than the president of the United States

I could say much more, but I figure that’s enough to get a conversation going. Sorry to have taken so long, but as I say, I was hoping to know more….

No, I’m not. I’m something else, and Joe speaks to that

John Lewis

Having made all sorts of virtual connections as James Smith’s director of communications last year (no, wait — it’s now the year before last!), I’ve grown used to emails such as this one, ostensibly from John Lewis, who as you know is very ill:

Brad,

My team flagged you as a Top Democrat, so I need to you to take my most important survey yet. Will you give your Democratic input in this personalized survey?

Your team is wrong. Their database is wrong. I’m not a top Democrat. I’m not a bottom Democrat. I’m not an in-between Democrat. And Lord knows that in this era, I’m no Republican.

I’m just this guy, you know. A voter. One who looks at teach candidate in each race and does his best to discern whether he or she would do the best — or the least-bad — job in the office in question. I’m a thing undreamt of in your philosophy.

But I’m not unusual, even though so many people involved in politics (and so many who cover politics) act as though I were. There are a lot out here like me. That’s something Joe Biden understands, which is why he says sure, he’d consider a Republican running mate.

Which is an indication of why he’s the one guy running who speaks my language. Just as James Smith was in 2018. James ticked off some Democrats when he picked me to be his spokesman. I hear some Democrats are ticked off now at Joe’s openness to running with a Republican — and by the way, that’s all he said: that he’d be open to it.

James’ openness was an invitation that not enough independents or Republicans took him up on — which was their, and our, loss.

But some of us yearn for that openness, because framing everything as us against them is a dead end for the country. If any of you Democrats doubt that, reflect on the fact that that way of thinking is the main reason Republicans have thrown principle to the winds in their defense of Trump.

What this country desperately needs right now is some open-mindedness among Republicans. That may be too much to hope for right now, but at least there’s a Democrat willing to show them how that’s done…

Anyone have anything to say about YET ANOTHER Democratic debate?

Joe on TV

These things are getting to be as regular as Prime Minister’s Questions, but less entertaining.

Anyway, I watched as much as I could stand, and I more or less agree with the assessments I read this morning that it was a good night for my man Joe, and for Pete Buttigieg, and that Amy Klobuchar did well but probably not well enough, and beyond that… bleh. As for that seemingly never-ending back-and-forth about wine caves, double bleh

Anyone have anything else to say?

Oh, give it a rest, Elizabeth!

Warren ad

This is ridiculous. I was doing something that in NO way indicated I was interested in seeing a political ad. Specifically, I was looking up the word “Inca” to confirm that it could be used to refer to that people’s ruler as well as the people as a whole.

And then I turned away for a moment. Then I turned back, and saw the above pop-up ad.

I’d read this morning that she’s been scrambling to refocus her message now that she’s not the flavor of the week. Trouble is, I was never really susceptible to her message to begin with.

And of course, there’s one thing about her that bugs me more than anything else. But she doesn’t care. She’s going to keep throwing that word at me anyway. So much for ads being guided by artificial intelligence.

There are only seven words to the message on the screen. (I’m assuming this is the last frame of a video, which I missed, fortunately.) And she managed to make one of them “fight.” Of course.

Oh, give it a rest, Elizabeth…