Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump’s Slide into the Base

The President’s obsession with his core supporters reveals who he really is and is debasing our country like no other.

It’s tough to do, but I am characterizing August 15, 2017 as the second “Day of Infamy” in U.S. history.  For it was on that day that President Donald Trump lost whatever declining moral standing he had when he defended elements of the white supremacist/neo-Nazi crowd in Charlottesville, Va. on August 11-12 as “fine people” while criticizing those who are standing up to racism and bigotry as “extremely violent.”
 “What about the alt-left? They came charging at the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?... I think there’s blame on both sides,” he said during a combative, unfiltered press conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower.

“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of to them a very, very important statue and then renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

Trump, who claimed he closely watched the events of that fateful weekend in which Heather Heyer was murdered when a vehicle driven by one of the Nazis slammed into a crowd of counter-protesters and two police officers who were killed in a helicopter crash monitoring the protests, was unable to unambiguously go on a verbal rampage against the neo-Nazis and racists.  Instead, he gave false moral equivalence to the two sides in the clash.

Trump apparently had the sound off on his TV; otherwise, he would have heard the anti-Semitic, Nazi chants “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” among others carried out by torch-carrying white supremacists and KKK members.

Fine people indeed.

Trump was roundly criticized when on Saturday he gave a brief and tepid condemnation of racism in general but not the individuals who carried the torches. He said “many sides” were responsible for the mayhem. 

Then on Monday, he gave the “hostage speech” off of a teleprompter saying some right things but it was clear to any observer, he was simply not into it and appeared he was forced by staff and aides to rectify the wrongs from the earlier attempt.

Then came the horrific performance on Tuesday, the 15th when an unplugged Donald Trump crashed and burned to the dismay, anger and sadness of much of the world.  Except for former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and others of his ilk who applauded the president.

What’s behind this? 

One can surely make the point there is racism in Trump’s royal blood given his father having been arrested in 1927 following a KKK rally though there is no evidence that the elder Trump was part of the organization. 

There are examples of his record on race relations.  Trump reinforced this reputation by surrounding himself in the White House with the likes of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.  And let’s not forget the birtherism movement he led, his comments on Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, a federal judge of Mexican descent, the Gold Star Muslim Khan family and others.

Regardless of what prejudices he holds inside his soul, there is one glaring fact that must be considered: he thrives on his base. 

As approval ratings decline, he is comforted by the fact there is a small but enthusiastic sector of the population that adores Trump.  This is his lifeline.  This is his fix.

He sees himself as a victim, treated unfairly by the “fake news media,” the establishment Republicans and Democrats, and he and his followers must battle the odds.  This base of support provides him the blood to exist.  Trump must be adored.  Trump must be adulated.  Trump must be idolized. And Trump must be unquestioned.

In his nearly eight months in office, Trump has made absolutely no attempt to reach out beyond his base to try in some manner to unify the country.  He never made the effort, and it looks like he never will.
Bizarrely, Trump holds campaign-style rallies even months after the campaign is over to re-invigorate his ego.  There he blasts the media and re-litigates the election by bragging about how big the victory was, demonizing his vanquished opponent, and spews a lot of nonsense that these people swallow whole and without question.

He cannot afford to risk losing this support.  His ego and depraved narcissism demand it.  Many in his base are either the same racists who took part in Charlottesville or like-minded folks.  Trump’s demeanor on the campaign trail, his post-election period and ever since the inauguration has made it comfortable for racists to surface from under their rocks and show themselves.  Thus, the pathetic, disgraceful, and disgusting performance the last few days.

As the rest of the country (and the world) continues to observe this president with horror, one can imagine them thinking, “Mueller time can’t come soon enough.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Former Owner of The Drinkery Dies

Frederick “Fred” Allen, the former owner of The Drinkery, a longstanding corner gay bar in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, died from natural causes on August 7 at the age of 86, according to his granddaughter Amy Miller. 

Allen, who had owned The Drinkery since 1972 and maintained an apartment above the bar for over 40 years, transferred the Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License to Miller this past January 19. 

The Drinkery, situated on the corner of Park Avenue and Read Streets, made news when the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners voted 2-1 on May 19, 2016 not to extend the bar’s liquor license based on a petition from neighboring businesses and residents alleging rowdiness, excessive noise, drug activity and violence in and around the establishment.

Allen, frail and wheelchair-bound, was among those who testified on behalf of the bar at the liquor board hearing. 

Two weeks later on June 2 a motion for reconsideration hearing was held, and the liquor board reversed the earlier decision based on an appeal by Allen.  One of the individuals who signed the petition and testified against the license extension is listed on the liquor license of another Mount Vernon establishment and therefore, as a competing licensee, he was not permitted to participate under the board’s rules.  This led to one of the commissioners to reverse her previous vote thereby overturning the previous ruling by the board.

The Drinkery re-opened the next day to much relief and jubilance by its patrons.

“Mr. Allen formed a mainstay institution in the Mount Vernon neighborhood and the Baltimore LGBT community,” said Brian Dolbow, a long time patron of The Drinkery and resident of the neighborhood. “He cared deeply about his employees, his customers, and his community. Thanks to Mr. Allen, I have met so many wonderful people and have made lifelong friends. May he Rest in Peace.”

Carlton Smith, Executive Director and CEO of The Center for Black Equity Baltimore, agrees.

“I have been a ten-year patron of The Drinkery in which I visited so often in the gayborhood. I’m sure Mr. Allen’s death is a kind of shock to many of his patrons who especially had a long time relationship with the bar and family members. This bar has been a staple for many young men and women in the gayborhood. It was our ‘Cheers’ where everyone got to know your name,” he said.

Allen’s body was donated to the Maryland Anatomy Board.

R.I.P. Fred.

(This story appears in the Washington Blade.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Trump's War for Survival

Despite Donald Trump’s bellicose “fire and fury like the world has never seen” threat to North Korea, there probably won’t be a war.  I said, “probably” not “definitely.” 

Nothing would be gained from it, and both nations have been issuing threats to each other for over 15 years without direct military action. North Korean leaders over this time are just seeking relevance and respect on the world stage—that they are a force that no longer can be ignored.  They are not looking to be annihilated.

Of course, there is no guarantee that there will be no hostilities given the half-crazed leaders of the two nations.  Kim Jong-un already won the first round of the latest exchanges by baiting Trump to react.  His threats are likely to intensify knowing he has Trump in the palm of his small hands and will toy with him like a cat does with a mouse.     

Kim is aware that military actions may be on the table during high level security meetings in Trumpdom but reality has a way of interfering with such matters.  Kim is holding millions in South Korea, Japan, Guam and U.S. troops stationed in those areas hostages, not to mention portions of the U.S. homeland that could be targets of an attack.  With that grim prospect, I believe we will not be launching a strike on North Korea unless there is a direct attack initiated by Pyongyang.

Nonetheless, Trump needs a war to survive.  With approval ratings sinking and no ostensible hope they will improve in the near future, his oversized ego is taking a big hit. Sure, he will discredit the polls as “fake news” and that polling was off prior to the 2016 election (he’s right about that one), but deep-down Trump knows better.

His refusal to reach out beyond his base is a disgusting display of cynicism and clearly does not have the good of the country on the front burner.  Trump has a bunker mentality whereby he surrounds himself with similar-minded novices, charlatans, unqualified family members, generals he admires, and holds rallies re-litigating the 2016 campaign for those who stubbornly cling to him regardless of his performance.  Never mind that he has failed to deliver on most of his signature promises.

That’s a formula for 33 percent not being the floor but the ceiling.  He’s losing independents at a torrid pace and conservative Republicans are beginning to seep out of his domain.  To be sure, Trump stands no chance with Democrats though he had been one for most of his gilded life.
Then there is the Russia thing.  

With Robert Mueller casting a wide net around Trump, his finances, his family’s business dealings, his campaign staff’s ill-advised and probable illegal meetings with Russian officials, Trump must be feeling squeezed.  And most recently, the FBI’s raid on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s residence should sound alarms.

Donald Trump and Robert Mueller facing off  Courtesy:
He has been warned against firing the special counsel to prevent the investigation from proceeding further though he calls it a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” Only his base, which includes his propaganda arm, FOX News and Breitbart, believe that spin.

I am sure Trump and his advisers are aware that the GOP has a good chance of turning over the House of Representatives to Democrats in 2018.  If that holds true, the “I” word would surface like a dead fish in the ocean especially if Mueller’s report ever sees the light of day.
But will it?  #hocopolitics

If the matter with North Korea escalates, it could have a profound effect on the investigation.  To be clear, I am not suggesting Trump would deliberately start a war with potentially tens of millions of casualties to protect himself and his interests.  That would be over the top; however, there are many folks on social media who cynically believe he is capable of such a hideous act.

But should there be a war of some magnitude, I suspect Trump would try to find a way to end the investigation.  He would go in front of the American people—not just his base—to simply state the country is at war and the ongoing investigation is a needless and harmful distraction for the Commander-in Chief.  It’s a matter of national security.

Getting the public to support a war if there is no direct military attack on the homeland or our allies can be dicey.  Generally, public opinion shifts to the president in times of war but as we have seen in the past 50 years, war divides the country.

As tragic as war would be, "fire and fury" could save the Trump presidency in the short term.