Now’s The Time To Seize The Moral High Ground On Liberty And Freedom

Democrats have seized quite a lot of moral high ground this year. But they could set a higher bar for themselves in the home stretch. This year is an unusually opportune moment to seize back the high ground from Republicans on liberty and freedom. The GOP has owned this issue for too long, and this year’s Republican presidential nominee does not show any sign of caring a fig for freedom–on the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” So much for limited government and ordered liberty!

Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic convention this summer, for example, was all about ordered liberty, but the freedom theme got submerged (for both pro-Hillary and pro-Trump people) in the back-and-forth about whether or not he should or shouldn’t be immune from criticism because Mr. Khan and his wife are Gold Star parents. There is a strong case that Trump was a fool, politically, to attack the Khans, but the substance of Mr. Khan’s message in defense of constitutional freedoms could and should be lifted up more by Democrats.

Democrats could and should say more about freedom as equal opportunity, equal economic opportunity, as described by FDR in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech of 1944. The freedom to be left alone is part of freedom, but not all of it by any means. Most of us are not living on the open range, however powerful the fantasy may be. Most of us really do not want government to mess with our Social Security and Medicare benefits–which nobody has a right to look down on as “entitlements” when we spent decades paying in.  Allowing Paul Ryan or the so-called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to get away with entitlement-shaming is political malpractice, not to mention wrong.

This year is a golden opportunity to reframe and reimagine freedom in ways that actually reflect our experience now. Not sure how many undecided voters are really left (or needed) in this year’s presidential election, but seizing the high ground on freedom will have far-reaching, long-lasting positive effects. As FDR said, “necessitous men are not free.” Lifting up that theme is the royal road to reaching swing voters–and beyond.

President Obama: I Came As A Mandarin, I Leave As A Mandarin

In a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi today, President Obama replied to a question about Middle Eastern refugees in Europe by speaking of the “distorting effects” on European politics of the crisis. He came as a mandarin and he leaves as a mandarin. By that I mean that Obama’s mindset is to posit a normative non-messy world. As head man of the men of the sacred bone, Obama has interpreted his mandate as maintenance and restoration of propriety and order.  Not an easy job in the midst of so many unruly Americans.

Our next president may or may not share the mandarin/yangban mindset. Hillary Clinton’s actual starting point on foreign policy, as well as domestic policy, is still pretty much a black box to me. Maybe I am just not paying close enough attention, or maybe she is staying vague on purpose–and why not? She is non-Trump, in any case. Can anyone imagine Trump even thinking, let alone saying, what Obama said today? Trump speaking about the “distorting effects” of any messy situation anywhere in the world is impossible to conceive. If you think I am starting to make a pro-Trump argument here, well, no. Trump’s MO seems worse than that of Mayor Daley’s Chicago police; that is, Trump creates and preserves disorder.  We survived eight years of mandarin rule, and we will, I hope, make it through the next four or eight, with or without a mandarin ruler. The risk-averse choice, though, is clearly the youngest woman ever, not the oldest and crybaby-est man ever.

P.S. President Obama’s reported plan to focus on the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to overcome Republican gerrymandering sounds like a potentially worthy act of political penance.

“I’ll Take A Drug Test If You Take An IQ Test”

Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina (another era!) said that in 1986 (hat tip

And why not? Trump has “been to the best schools” and is “extremely smart,” so to speak, I mean that’s what he says about himself, to the extent he is in possession of a self, but I digress.

Polling indicates that American voters appear prepared to pass the emotional intelligence test on November 8.

Trump Residences and Airplane Said To Be Redecorated In Drunk Tank Pink–But Will It Do Any Good?

Insiders say that Trump’s wife and children insisted on redecorating the Trumps’ penthouse apartment and the interior of Trump’s plane in Baker-Miller pink, colloquially known as “drunk tank pink.” But behavioral scientists and clinicians alike are nearly unanimous in despairing that this radical step will get Trump to settle down. #trumpneversleeps

Update: Reports that a lowland silverback gorilla escaped from a zoo today and was subsequently tranquilized are completely unrelated to US 2016 election coverage.

Hey Pence, Trump May Have Found Jesus, But I Still Believe He Would Be A Terrible Cyrus And An Awful Magistrate

Pence may be sincere but if so he is nowhere near the mark as far as Presidential fitness. I have never expected political leaders to be faultless or saintly. Plenty of saints were irascible and possibly a few were as colicky as Trump. I vote based on the shortest odds that a candidate will protect and serve the people. Trump is no way nohow a smart bet. He may or may not be infused with supernatural grace, or be born again, or become an observant Jew or Muslim. I wish him well on his pilgrimage.

Trump Announces His Spiritual Rebirth: “The Shackles Have Been Taken Off Me”; But His Sickness Unto Death Abides

Trump actually seems more shackled than ever to his own self. But what is Trump’s self? Is it, as Kierkegaard wrote in the first paragraph of Sickness Unto Death, “a relation that relates itself to itself”? If so, have the shackles really been “taken off” Trump? If Trump really is a self, that is “a synthesis of the finite and the infinite…of freedom and necessity,” must we not acknowledge that so understood, Trump does not yet appear to be a self.

At least not a self seemingly inclined in any way toward spiritual renewal or repentance or rebirth, though I should never say never about anyone, including Donald Trump. But if he believes that he has just now been “unshackled,” implying that his ego and superego have until now been firmly in charge of his id  and that his “apology” video was really just a hostage tape made against his free will, one has to wonder what worms are now going to come out of his mouth.

Think Hillary Probably Ought To Be In Prison? Here’s Why You Should Probably Vote For Her Anyway

Even if I believed that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for…whatever, I would still be inclined to vote for her. Here is why: I prefer to live in a democracy, though flawed, rather than a dictatorship. I would rather live in a country with limited government rather than personalized tyranny, which is what Trump promises us when he says “I am your voice…I alone will…restore law and order.”

It might well be, though I do not feel confident either way, that Hillary’s deletion of emails crossed into criminal behavior. It might very well be that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault and should be imprisoned for it.  That we have two very flawed candidates is unsettling and sometimes depressing. But only one candidate, Trump, has shown absolute disrespect for the bedrock of American democracy, which is peaceful transfer of power after elections. The last president who systematically corrupted the federal legal and surveillance apparatus was Richard Nixon, who was reelected in a landslide but two years later resigned in disgrace.  Nixon remains the only president ever to be forced out of office.  Trump is more frightening than Richard Nixon, which is saying something.  Nixon was brought down, and it looks as if Trump has disgusted enough voters that he will not get close to wielding executive power. It is disturbing, though, that if not for a video that revealed Trump’s casual abusiveness vividly enough to shake some undecideds, Trump might now have a 40 or 50 percent shot at the presidency. It may not be so viscerally disgusting as the “Days of Our Lives” video, but Trump’s threat to imprison his political opponent seems to me even more dangerous to our fragile experiment in representative democracy. As Ben Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Update 10/10: in a pitch aimed straight at moderate suburban undecided voters, Maine Governor Paul Le Page said this morning that this country needs a “slimeball” (his word, not mine) to wield “authoritarian power” (CNN, via WVOM radio)

Update #2: Glenn Beck called Hillary Clinton a “moral, ethical choice” for President.  One response: “ice cream now being served in hell.”

Beautiful Compromise! Hillary To Be President But Under Constant Video Surveillance!

You heard it here first–Hillary Clinton will serve as our 45th President, but will be constantly under surveillance. Sounds fair? Well, fair or not, that’s how it’s gonna be. If you have been feeling Fox News is too polite, too restrained, too cuckservative and RINO-ish, your wish will be granted: Ailes, Bannon, and Trump will be running the virtual reality show of your very most feverish dreams.

P.S. Also, there will be 51 Democratic votes in the Senate, and the filibuster will be gone, at least for Supreme Court nominees. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire next June and be replaced by a 15-year-old Wiccan priestess.

Trump May Skip Debate For Snout Crawl

Sources extremely close to Donald Trump indicate that he is lukewarm on debating tonight but red hot for snouts. As the afternoon wears on and Trump rides back and forth between Smoki O’s and Big Mama’s BBQ, it is becoming less and less likely that he will express humility and contrition tonight, or in fact bother to show up at all.

Update: Snoots, not snouts. I apologize. I promise to be a better person in the future, not the immature jackass I was a couple of weeks ago when I was still 59 years old.

Don’t Be Gaslit By That Fake Trump Apology Video

Obviously that Trump apology video put out last night is fake. He is so clearly a hostage. And so obviously subjected to repeated electric shocks. Don’t let yourself be a victim of gaslighting yet again.

Did I really even see Trump apologize? Is that even possible? Maybe he said “I apologized,” and since his previous “apology” was so insincere, maybe it’s all not really happening.

Mormons Dump Trump, “Christians” And Pagans Still Hesitating, Heathens Still All In

A bunch of Mormon Republicans freed themselves from captivity to Donald Trump yesterday. They may or may not be disgusted with Trump, but they showed no particular political courage, since Mormon voters were already lukewarm at best. So no disrespect intended to Mike Lee or Mitt Romney or Jason Chaffetz, but their disavowals are all in the way of business.

How about self-identified “Christian” politicians? John McCain said of Trump’s predatory video, “he alone will bear the consequences.” Probably wishful thinking, and certainly not a profile in courage from McCain. McConnell and Ryan are still struggling to send nuanced smoke signals, tut-tutting without actually lifting themselves out of their particular circle of purgatory. Come to think of it, the togas on McConnell and Ryan are becoming more visible. They have now made themselves into classic pagans, for whom repentance is a category mistake.

Finally, the heathens. In very late-breaking news, they seem to be wavering, possibly because Trump made the mistake of apologizing–though in Trump’s defense, the “apology” was followed immediately by deflections, projections, and threats. And the actual words “I…apologize” were uttered as Trump appeared to twitch, some say caused by electric shocks.

Update October 8 pm: Tic Tac piles on, denouncing Trump.

Update #2: To McCain’s credit, when he finally withdrew his endorsement of Trump Saturday afternoon (10/8), he did mention Trump’s “outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five”–which few if any other Republican officeholders bothered to mention as they sought to escape Trump’s toxic effect on the votes of (mainly) white married women.

So, 50-64 Year Olds, You Like A Big Side Order Of Anarchy With Your Tyranny?

Today’s Quinnipiac national poll shows Clinton way ahead with 18-34 and 35-49 cohorts; even with Trump among 65+ voters, but Trump ahead by 5 with 50-64 year olds.

Please accept my apology, millennials–just keep eating your fruits and vegetables and thinking what you’re thinking.  And good morning,  my fellow 50-64 year olds! What kind of boneheads are we?  Of course in a better world we would have better choices this year. But grow up! Trump showed that he was a clear and present danger the minute he disrespected John McCain last year. Yeah, four years of Hillary on our TVs or VR headsets or whatever may not be inspiring, but how are we going to explain the damage Trump does to our grandchildren and our assisted-living neighbors? Do you think Trump will improve your retirement account? Really? You think a jackass reality-TV guy with zero attention span is going to reassure investors around the world that the U.S. dollar is a safe haven reserve currency? You think Trump is going to get rid of the estate tax when he needs your tax dollars to buy more gold-plated toilets in the White House?  And get real, you are not going to win the Powerball and have to pay estate tax, anyway.  Try betting the short odds for a change!  Do you realize the downside of living in a giant banana republic with thousands of nuclear warheads a fingersnap away from psychologically damaged goods like Trump?

Ammon Bundy, who probably has a bright political future after he gets out of federal prison, finished testifying yesterday in Oregon. He said at one point that “the only thing worse than tyranny is anarchy. We want to be in the middle.” And that’s where we would be with President Trump: a big side order of anarchy to go along with the main course of tyranny.

Update: Since this post, Danielle Allen published a piece in the Washington Post on Trump as a classic tyrannical soul.

Trump Is Not A Ragged Dick, Even If He Pretends To Be One On TV

Ragged Dick, the literary creation of Horatio Alger, “was not a model boy in all respects.” But he did try hard to become ‘spectable, which is more than we can say for Donald Trump. Trump’s “street life in New York” seems to have included losing over nine hundred million dollars in one year. Trump plays at being a blue-collar billionaire, but he might well have been better off if he had taken the loans and inheritance from his father and parked the money in a basic index fund.  What the heck would Ragged Dick make of Donald?

2016 Voter Information Manual: Logic Section

Hello voters!

There are four presidential candidates this year.

Voting for Hillary Clinton is necessary. Of course is not necessarily sufficient. But we can start discussing “sufficient” right after November 8, and we should keep on talking about what is sufficient for at least the next four years, and organizing and protesting and voting in midterm elections to get it.

Regression To The Trump Resumes

Give up, Megyn Kelly! Forget about it, false-equivalence fetishists!  Trump is gonna regress to his very own mean, no matter how many times you tell him to stop talking smack about women and stay within the bounds of normal political behavior. This morning, between 5:14 and 5:30, Trump seems to have found his own bottom–and then topped himself, as it were, by complaining that “some people say…many people say” is unfair and wrong! Ya don’t say.

So much so that “regression to the Trump” could become a new scientific term, sorta kinda like “regression to the mean” but sloppier and meaner.

“Gary Johnson’s White House Bid Suffers Setback”? Au Contraire, Financial Times

I used to think that reading the Financial Times would help me “seek alpha,” and become even more hugely, fabulously rich. No more. Their headline today evinces (a favorite word of theirs) not a whit of comprehension of their American cousins’ presidential contest. Gary Johnson’s voters are asserting their moral supremacy over and against the system that has emitted Hillary Clinton and disgorged Donald Trump. Whether Gary Johnson thinks Obi-Wan Kenobi is his favorite foreign leader (as The New Yorker sniffed–BTW their sniff is unlike TrumpSniff) or not is of no consequence whatever. The Mexican army could invade New Mexico–with the help of drones made in China, of course–and neither Gary Johnson nor many of his voters would even notice, stoned to the gills as ever.

Millennials and burned-out boomers who are looking to Johnson and vaccine-denier-Stein may be disheartened by what they perceive as the low bar in our politics, but they may as well acknowledge that voting defensively for a lesser-evil candidate is the best and only real option this time. Maybe next time will be more fabulous? In the meantime, don’t forget to learn about and vote for down-ballot candidates so that next time may actually become more fabulous.

Mexican Peso Has Stamina And Excellent Temperament Today

Whyever did the Mexican peso go up during and after last night’s Clinton-Trump debate? Trump sniffled but the peso was robust and happy. As the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, “Peso’s With Her.”

We are all the Mexican peso today! (“We are all Keynesians” is so 1970s) The Mexican peso has stamina and an excellent temperament, it seems.

P.S. Mexican coke may no longer be hip, though, now that can be associated with Trump Sniff.

Staying Woke This November Means Holding Your Damned Nose, Not Setting Your Own Rump On Fire

Some election seasons, staying woke does not include utopian dreams. This is one of those years.

Staying woke sometimes means playing defense and voting against a nightmare candidate. Staying woke sometimes means voting for the lesser (this year, much lesser) evil. And then following up to make the best of the situation next winter and spring. It sometimes means not being hypnotized by the mainstream media’s hardcore addiction to false equivalence that is designed to narcotize you.

Charles Blow laid it all out in his op-ed on “The Folly of the Protest Vote” today. In sum–don’t mix up casting a ballot with endorsing a candidate’s shortcomings. Don’t pretend somebody other than Clinton or Trump will be President next year. Don’t forget that federal courts are “where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.” Don’t march for Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland or Tamir Rice and yet do nothing to keep Trump from picking the next attorney general. Don’t let the man who attacked the Flint pastor who interrupted him pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

For young people this year, a protest vote does not make you a better person than any of the impure candidates. It just makes you somebody who just set his or her own rump on fire.

Political Herd Immunity For Millennials

Yet another worry lately for folks sickened by Trump and either pro-Hillary or hold-nose-and-vote Hillary is the possibility that millennials will insult the legacy of Barack Obama and vote for Johnson or Stein. The upside of this is asserting one’s moral purity. The downside is President Trump. Rallying behind the Libertarians or the Greens gives the feeling of political herd immunity–but not the reality. The real vaccine is to take your castor oil and vote for the least destructive option. Too young to vote for the lesser evil, you say? You need to be inspired, you say? Breaking news courtesy of President Obama: don’t boo, vote! Hillary, trust me, will subsidize your adult coloring books next year.

The Best Way To Hold Your Nose On Election Day

The best way to hold your nose on Election Day, November 8–or earlier, if you vote early–is the usual, everyday method: just hold your nose and vote.

The worst way to hold your nose this election season is like the kid locked in the outhouse in Slumdog Millionaire did it, but much worse: you hold your nose, then you jump into a giant toxic waste dump of radioactive slime, and you vote for Donald J. Trump.  No doubt, Hillary shouldn’t have used fancy Latin words like “deplorable” to talk about Trump or his supporters. Plenty of Trump supporters have very real frustrations. And “deplorable” barely begins to express how sickening Trump himself is.

“Undecided” Suburban Whites Cry Tears Of Joy That Trump Is Officially No Longer Racist “Birther”…oops, oops, there he goes again!

Purportedly undecided suburban white registered voters were able to cry unashamed tears of joy for a brief while today that they could now officially vote for an officially nonracist Trump, after Trump officially ended all race-based doubts about President Barack Obama’s birthplace by making it crystal clear that Obama was in fact a natural-born American citizen. Trump’s false claim that Hillary started it and that “I know you are but what am I?” do not count as racist lies for the simple reason that Hillary Clinton is a white woman. Trump’s boastful claim that he, High Sheriff Donald J. Trump, “ended it” is also not a racist lie because we are all obligated to move on now to making America strong and great again. Any quibblers? … oopsie, hold up, he seems to have lost his teleprompter script again… A retired “birther” lieutenant general introducing him (wink) today?  And now Hillary was the founder of birtherism?  Really?  And, again, her Secret Service detail should let her and themselves get shot at?

Suicide By Politician?

Hat tip to Gaye Brown of Portland, Maine (NYT letter today) for the title. Yes, Hillary Clinton has real and serious flaws–but we voters often have to choose the lesser evil, just as we do in daily decisionmaking. Nothing to complain about.

But just in case we do, heaven forbid, commit national suicide by politician, here’s my investment tip: go long on the Russian ruble and your November 9 may well be a little less deplorable. See today’s Newsweek story by Kurt Eichenwald on Trump’s foreign business entanglements. How many millions does Trump personally owe Putin? Who knows?

Crippled Brain-Damaged Habitual Liar–Or Hillary. Take Your Pick!

If I told you I had “instructed my long-time doctor to issue, within two weeks, a full medical report–it will show perfection,” you might take me for a brain-damaged habitual liar. But I was quoting, of course, from a December 3, 2015 Trump tweet. Do you know any 70-year-old taco-bowl-loving men who exhibit “perfection”?

And David Axelrod is surely right to wonder that while “antibiotics can take care of (bacterial) pneumonia, what’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

We’ll soon see in the debates who seems most fit to be president. Iff Hillary (or her body double!) manages to be more cautious and sensible than Trump yet less overcautious than her usual public self, she’ll be good to go.