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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Monday, April 27, 2020

A Biden-Abrams Ticket Sounds Like a Winner

Image: The Hill

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden already narrowed the field of potential running mates last month when he pledged to select a woman. For those who had hoped that Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg or Juli├ín Castro among others to be selected will have to wait for another shot with this revelation.

The names of several prominent women have emerged as potential candidates including Senators Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren as well as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.  Except for the latter, all of these women vied for the nomination and all had dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Biden. All would be outstanding running mates. And all indicated they would accept the number two spot if asked.

But the former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, would be the best pick to help defeat the increasingly defective and dangerous Donald Trump.

For her part, Abrams is unabashedly lobbying for the post, which is a break from traditional waltzes the nominee and prospective running mates dance to leading up to the selection.

“I believe in doing the work,” she said on Meet the Press on Sunday. “I’ve been doing it since the day I did not become governor and I will continue to do so. And I do so at a national level.”

She added, “As a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one else would, so ... my mission is to say out loud if I’m asked the question, 'Yes, I would be willing to serve.’”

Since Biden is in his late 70’s, a vice presidential candidate takes on added importance. Though she lacks significant executive experience other than leading the Fair Fight national organization aimed at combating voter suppression, Abrams is the best choice. Fair Fight grew out her contested razor-thin loss to Brian Kemp in the Georgia gubernatorial race whereby alleged voter suppression most likely determined the outcome.

The number one priority among Democrats is to defeat Donald Trump. an already impeached president. One could only imagine what a second Trump term would do to the country and the world given his penchant for vindictiveness and incompetence. At a time of a worldwide pandemic, Trump’s performance is shockingly inept and frightening.

Despite Trump’s numerous foibles, his approval numbers continue to reside in the 40’s when they should otherwise be dipping into the low 20’s. His stubbornly loyal base sticks with him through thick and thin, and there has been scant evidence that his support peeling off, according to polls.

Trump defeated the far more qualified Hillary Clinton in 2016 with similar numbers. Therefore, it behooves the Democrats to take nothing for granted, dot every i and cross every t to defeat Trump.
With Stacey Abrams on the ticket, Biden’s chances improve. Abrams will excite the African American base especially women who are the most reliable Democrats and they do vote in large numbers. Imagine if that energy among African Americans during the 2016 election existed in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee. Trump would have not won the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and we wouldn’t be in this position today.


Her selection should warm the hearts of Bernie Sanders supporters, which would further unify the party and the ticket.  Biden needs a vast majority of these supporters, especially young voters, if he is to succeed. Abrams being three decades younger than Biden would go a long way.

Electorally, this excitement provided by the charismatic Abrams as the vice presidential candidate could put Georgia into play as well as North Carolina, Florida and even Texas. Down ballot, she could help the Dems as Georgia will have two open Senate seats. And there is an open seat in South Carolina; it’s time for Jamie Harrison to defeat Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham. A massive African American turnout there could do the trick and provide help for Doug Jones in Alabama.

In March a poll conducted by Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, showed that a Biden-Abrams ticket would match up best against Trump-Pence. Joe Biden would not be in this position were not for the strong support he’s received from African Americans and especially the game changing endorsement from Representative Jim Clyburn.

To defeat Trump, Democrats will need to turn out in large numbers. Biden-Abrams: that’s the ticket.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trump's Leadership Takes You Back to the Land of Oz

Trump's leadership during the Coronavirus pandemic lacks intellect,
courage and heart.

As we watch the President Trump’s daily monotone, lie-filled campaign rally disguised as a Coronavirus press briefing, it is remarkable how his reaction to and the handling of the virus parallels the characters in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. While that story was a fictionalized fantasy, the current situation is serious and deadly with no end in sight. Yet, it is hard to escape the comparisons.

There was the Scarecrow who lacked a brain. Trump has a brain to be sure, but he has not utilized it the way the leader of the free world should. He pretends he is capable of offering medical advice and touting drugs and other therapeutics that have no scientific basis for success. In fact, they are considered dangerous. 

And his brain failed him again when he pushed to “re-open the country” to further death and hardship against the best medical advice by experts and the better judgment of most of the country’s governors.  Most recently he offered the astoundingly stupid suggestion of injesting disinfectants to fight off the virus.#hocopolitics

There was the Lion who lacked courage. This deficiency is manifested by Trump’s declination of responsibility while blaming others, such as Democratic governors who are “complainers” as opposed to Republican governors who are “doing a great job,” the World Health Organization, President Obama, and the media among others.

The lack of courage also shows up while Trump demonstrates an unwillingness or incapability of telling the truth.  His first misstep was to deny the existence of the pandemic and in his true divisive style called it “another Democratic hoax,” even after he was warned about it by his own administration including intel organizations.

Then in an attempt to quiet the nervous stock market, he downplayed the severity of the outbreak. 

 “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” 

"Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” 

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”   

He has consistently lied about the readiness of the country for dealing with the pandemic and the availability of testing and personal protective equipment for the front line medical workers who are toiling to save American lives as they risk their own. Trump has overstated the work his administration has accomplished and congratulates himself almost on a daily basis by falsely claiming the great job he has done. The lies and misinformation spewed from these briefings are breathtaking. 

Finally, there was the Tin Man who lacked a heart. Whenever there has been a tragic moment in Trump’s presidency (Charlottesville, Parkland shooting, wildfires and natural weather disasters especially his disgusting response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as examples), Trump has shown an incredible lack of empathy towards the victims.

Saying repeatedly that we are doing better than other countries is small consolation to all those families and friends of those who perished from COVID-19.

I cannot recall a single time during the Coronavirus briefings when Trump convincingly and sincerely expressed his compassion for not only the victims of this pandemic but also for the courageous work of the healthcare professionals.
Trump holding notes during his empathy-deficient listening session
following the Parkland mass shooting.

He doesn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of the loss and believes so many more lives would be lost if he did nothing. 

Then what about the over 50,000 lives lost since COVID-19 first surfaced in the U.S. when he was made aware? Think about that. If the average baseball stadium was filled to capacity and included standing room only, every single person in that packed ballpark represents an American death due to COVID-19. That is a lot of people for the president to be patting himself on the back.

As mentioned earlier, he treats these briefings as campaign rallies brimming with self-congratulatory hyperbole, touting his TV ratings, comparing the crowd size at the Mall in D.C. last 4th of July with the Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech from 1963, ripping Democrats every chance he can, doing absolutely nothing to unite the country as all other presidents have done in previous crises, and more.

“He has failed abysmally in that and he has also failed just in the notion of what he’s telling people. Saying liberate - free Michigan, Virginia. Encouraging people to come out and trying to turn this health crisis into a political rally for himself,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren on MSNBC.

“That is absolutely the wrong kind of leadership. It is the kind of leadership that puts lives at risk, and it is the kind of leadership that undermines the very strength of this country.”

This lack of intellect, courage and empathy has proven to be dangerous. This is, of course, far more serious than the imagined dream in The Wizard of Oz. Trump reminds me of those characters, though, but based on his leadership or lack thereof, he’s certainly not a wizard.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Exposed by the Virus


Trump’s character flaws spring up during the coronavirus pandemic.
Photo: AJImpact
Throughout our history, presidents have often used their intellect, judgment and the expertise of advisors to rise to the occasion when called upon to meet the challenges of a crisis facing our country. Franklin D. Roosevelt in World War II and John F. Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis immediately come to mind. George W. Bush failed his test when dealing with Hurricane Katrina, for example, though he demonstrated leadership in unifying the country following 9/11.  #hocopolitics

President Donald Trump has failed miserably so far in addressing and managing the novel coronavirus pandemic, which, as most are aware, is simultaneously an existential threat to the health of the population, to our economy, and to our well-being as a nation and world leader.

From the very outset of this crisis, Trump squandered the opportunity to act swiftly to help combat the effects of COVID-19 and to acknowledge the dangers posed. His denial of the seriousness of the virus and his generally cavalier attitude towards it led to critical delays in getting much needed supplies and equipment to hospitals and health officials and establishing widespread testing so that scientists and medical experts can determine the scope of the pandemic.

His every word, every statement and yes, every tweet, were uttered with his re-election bid in mind. He played down the seriousness of the situation lest the financial markets get even more rattled than they had from the beginning of the crisis. The gaudy stock market numbers prior to the news of the coronavirus and the overall strong economy were keys to Trump’s re-election rationale. They have since evaporated, and the country is facing a severe recession and historic unemployment despite a $2 trillion relief package passed by Congress. And that stock market continues to tank with no floor in sight.

As the number of cases in the U.S. and the world spread and the shocking number of fatalities was increasing exponentially, Trump no longer could paint a rosy picture and blame this as a new Democratic hoax. His response to the crisis has been abysmal, incompetent, dangerous and a manifestation of his numerous character flaws that he has demonstrated throughout his term. But they have been laid bare and have come into focus especially when this pandemic hit the U.S.
The following is a breakdown of how several of these flaws have been detrimental in dealing with the crisis:

Lying. Trump is a pathological liar, and even his most ardent supporters recognize he has a wobbly relationship with the truth. His lies, mistruths or whatever you want to call it has been detrimental in providing clear direction to a frightened population.

He lied about the temporary nature of the virus in that it will simply disappear, that it was Obama’s fault, that anybody who needs a test gets a test, that Google engineers were building a testing-related website, that we have outpaced South Korea’s COVID-19 testing, and on and on.  

Then there was this gem: “I’ve always known this is a real—this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic … I’ve always viewed it as very serious.”  This even as he claimed it was a flu and minimized the seriousness.  

And this one: This kind of pandemic “was something nobody thought could happen … Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.”  Prior to Trump’s taking office, the Obama administration warned him about a potential pandemic and the World Health Organization as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned administration officials about the danger of the coronavirus hitting the U.S. well before Trump acted.

There have been many other such whoppers over this period that have led to a confused public.

Narcissism. Nobody can name a more narcissistic president than Donald Trump. At a time when he should be concerned about the welfare of the American people and demonstrating even a modicum of empathy, like everything else, he makes the coronavirus situation about himself.

He dubbed himself a “wartime president” to demonstrate strength and leadership prowess but unlike other strong leaders past and present, he refuses to take responsibility for the lateness of the response to the virus and blames governors (mainly Democrats) instead.  He probably used the moniker of wartime president as a shield against criticism.

He actually states that governors desperately in need of supplies should be more appreciative of his efforts and be more deferential to him.

Then there was his bragging about his TV ratings from his rambling, contradictory, confusing, dreary and uninspiring daily briefings and boasting that he has done a tremendous job.

Partisanship.  Ever since Trump showed up at a CDC meeting wearing his red campaign cap, he continues to be partisan during the crisis. As mentioned above, Trump faults Democratic governors for not being able to obtain much needed supplies, masks, ventilators and other equipment.  Trump attacked such Democrats as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as well as Sen. Chuck Schumer.  

He has praised Republican governors including Florida’s Ron DeSantis even though he allowed spring break parties on Florida’s beaches violating social distancing guidelines and being late in issuing a stay-at-home order.

Trump has directed needed resources to Republican governors over Democratic governors. Cuomo has been begging Trump for ventilators and other supplies as the coronavirus toll mounts in New York, but DeSantis had no trouble acquiring immediate help for Florida, a battleground state in the 2020 election.

And as also mentioned above, initially he called the coronavirus a new Democratic hoax.

Nepotism.  Despite any qualifications or government experience, Trump saw fit to make his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner principal advisors to the president. Kushner became the latest in a succession of individuals to be the front person for the coronavirus response team.
Never mind that Kushner has no experience in medicine in general or epidemiology specifically or crisis management for that matter, he was given the reins nonetheless. America will now have to turn its lonely eyes to him. With all the military leaders and medical experts to choose from to take charge, the only reason for Kushner’s presence is the fact he is married to Trump’s daughter.

Photo: Reuters
Vindictiveness. Throughout Trump’s presidency, he has displayed a level of vindictiveness that is beyond normal. In 2018 Trump disbanded its National Security Council pandemic team most likely as a result of it being President Obama’s creation.

He continues to spar with members of the press at his daily briefings labeling questions as “nasty” and “gotcha” when they were essentially softballs lobbed to him to help make Americans feel hopeful. It is almost like his retorts were pre-conceived without even listening to the question. Trump has been particularly harsh with female reporters and especially towards one who is a person of color when he responded to her with the indelicate phrase, “you people.”

When Navy Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his duty by the Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly because he did not follow strict protocols in complaining about the outbreak of coronavirus on the 5,000 crew aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, many observers believed that Trump had his fingerprints all over it. Count me in on that suspicion.

____
President Trump has demonstrated he lacks the bandwidth, intellectual acuteness, curiosity and temperament to effectively deal with complex situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic. However, when you add in his myriad character flaws, the results can be potentially catastrophic.