Trump

Invoking the 25Th Amendment Must Be a Last Resort

The anonymous Trump Administration “senior official” who penned a piece in Thursday’s New York Times said nothing new.

And there is the shame of this piece.

The Trump Administration has been a vortex of fire and fury, a cacophony of boasts and lies, a scandal of incompetence and fawning since January 21,2017.

Virtues – we know – are the flip side of faults. In my case – I do not suffer fools – politely or patiently.

Personally, the President Donald J Trump’s behavior disturbed me even before his election.

I’ve known and worked with more than a few multi-national company CEOs with egos and tempers. But none of them displayed the lack of self-control or self-awareness of our President.

In July,2017, I penned a blog that included illustrations of the President’s behavior — far out of the norm and so potentially fraught. My bottom-line even then — time to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.

Now we learn that some Trump Administration members were discussing the remedy as well.

But they decided it would – “provoke a Constitutional Crisis”. They were correct.

Removing a Sitting President Should Not Become a Norm

Invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Donald J. Trump from office would be a very serious step — create a precedent.

The Amendment – ratified in 1967 – was first discussed toward the end of Woodrow Wilson’s time in office when he was at least partially incapacitated by a stroke. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s declining health and death in office raised the issue again. Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack was another data point as Congress pondered a process forward. The tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy was the final impetus needed.

Subsequent Presidents have used the Amendment during medical procedures in which they were sedated. The Vice President assumes the responsibility until the President can “sign back in”.

In 1973 when Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation resulted in the ascendance of Gerald Ford to Vice Presidency and subsequently the Presidency – the 25th Amendment succession provisions were followed.

The 25th Amendment has never been used to involuntarily remove a President from office.

There is no doubt majority of Americans – including members of both parties in Congress — do not want use of either Articles of Impeachment or the 25th Amendment to become “politics as usual”.

Unless the President is unable to do the job or has provably committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” – average citizens and politicians, alike, prefer to use the traditional expression of our disapproval — removing a President at the ballot box.

If Vice President Pence were to become convinced President Trump was incapacitated, he would initiate the 25th Amendment process by securing agreement from a simple majority of administration’s cabinet secretaries that the President could not perform the duties of his office.

Next, he would petition Congress to appoint him as the Acting President based on the President’s incapacity. Congress would hear testimony and vote. If two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed, President Trump would be replaced by the Vice President.

The moment a request to remove President Trump reached Congress, some members would release a hue and cry claiming the request was an act of political retribution perpetrated by the “elite media” and the “political elite” – the “Hollywood types” — the “Resistance” – the (awful) “pink hats”.

And there in lies the risk. No matter how justified the use of the amendment in this instance, the Freedom Caucus, the “base” – the Grand Old Party of Trump (GOPT) — would claim it was “political”. The leadership of both parties fear most of all giving voters the impression they are allowing the far left or far right “base” to use politics to remove a President they could not beat at the polls.

Dissent Begins at the Ballot Box

But can a President who uses Twitter daily – many times a day – to underscore how impetus, dishonest, bellicose, belligerent, and banal he is be allowed the “nuclear football”?

Can a President subject to fits of temper and flights of fancy about his own accomplishments in office be allowed to continue careening from issue to issue without ever reaching resolution?

Can a President who refuses to tell his own Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense or Director of National Intelligence what he discussed with Russia’s Putin be trusted to conduct foreign policy – to keep our nation safe?

As fraught the potential precedent of invoking the 25th Amendment might be – isn’t it equally perilous to cheer Donald J. Trump on as he redefines the presidency in the model of “mad King George III?

The anonymous “senior official” correctly cautioned the greatest risk to our democracy is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility”.

It is not enough “senior official” to invoke the memory of Senator John McCain or to pray – between the lines of your op-ed — for a Mueller Miracle. It is time for you to do what John McCain would do if he were able.

You must come forward and confront head on the danger President Trump presents to the nation. You must force Vice President Pence to do what he knows is his responsibility to the country.

When the smoke clears, the American people will laud you for the courage to “put country first”!

The Folly of August Impeachment Talk

President Trump’s business and political associates had a bad week this week.

Based on the 16 guilty findings, it is clear the President does not pick the “best” to work for him.

It is, highly likely, as Michael Cohen’s guilty plea tried to establish, President Trump and his presidential campaign violated at least some Federal Election Commission rules – if not some election laws.

But is a combination of poor hiring decisions, technical campaign violations, a clear record of misogyny, erratic tweeting, and a failure to comprehend what it means to be President of the United States – leader of the Free World – enough to overturn the legitimately decided 2016 election?

Based on precedent, the answer is NO:

  • The Obama campaigns paid roughly $350K in fines for campaign finance law violations and no one suggested a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” had been committed.
  • John Edwards was charged with directing campaign contributions to the support of his mistress and the jury found him not guilty.
  • Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican House of Representatives on charges of perjury. The Senate acknowledged his wrongdoing but did not vote to find him guilty of either a high crime or misdemeanor.

In fact, President Clinton’s approval rate rose two points during the impeachment trial in the Senate.

But Clinton did have to surrender his Arkansas law license after admitting that he had lied to the Special Counsel under oath — felony perjury.

Impeachment is not a political instrument. That’s the purpose of elections.

It must be used only in defense of Constitutional liberty or the rule of law. It requires strong bi-partisan support from the American people.

Smoke or Fire: The President Still Has A Job to Do

Privately, some fellow Republican members of the House, agree with Oklahoma Republican, Tom Cole, who told CNBC, the day after the guilty plea and guilty verdicts he is “concerned about the President’s potential wrong doing”. Where there’s smoke, and there’s a lot of smoke, there may well be fire.”

But, at this point, the President is not charged with any actual misconduct – except the excessive and intemperate use of his Twitter account.

“Former government ‘experts’ are earning millions reading the legalistic T leaves on cable television through a lens of politics – pro-Trump (“it’s a witch hunt”) or anti-Trump (forecasting the proverbial “other shoe to drop”). The result is a more polarized electorate.

Meanwhile the Mueller investigators and the US Attorney in Manhattan continue their work – in silence – realizing that they must reach an incontrovertible conclusion based entirely on proven facts. Nothing else, either clearing the President of any wrong doing or finding him an “an “un-indicted co-conspirator” will be accepted by the American people.

And in the meantime, we have a country to run.

On most days, the main stream media and social media are so taken up with rumor and innuendo about the President’s state of mind and potential criminality – sometimes punctuated with brief coverage of a fiery conflagration or massive hurricane – the average citizen can easily forget:

Congress must pass a $857 Billion budget package by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate is scheduled to confirm a 9th member of the Supreme Court to replace Justice Kennedy before the Supreme Court resumes deliberations in October.

Congress Needs to Step Up to Do the People’s Business

And while all these problems remain critical and unresolved, where is Congress?

Chris Collins is probably negotiating a deal with the US Attorney in Manhattan to keep his son out of jail after their indictment for insider trading and lying to the FBI.

Duncan Hunter is defending himself against charges of misappropriation of $250K in campaign contributions by throwing his wife under the proverbial “bus”.

Paul Ryan is in the Grand Tetons with a bunch of wealthy Republican donors. I “liked” his Instagram picture rock climbing with his brother!

And 432 others are running to the microphones to argue for President’s impeachment or alternatively to “rile-up” the GOP base to prevent Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Issues Instead of Sound Bites

Fact is, unless Robert Mueller’s crack team of federal attorneys and investigators build a case against President Trump clearly demonstrating his guilt on charges of conspiracy with the Russians or the use of the Presidency to obstruct justice or tamper with witnesses — there are going to be no Articles of Impeachment.

Even if the President is found to, also, have cheated on his income taxes there will be NO Articles of Impeachment. Too many members of Congress, also, cheat on their taxes!

This is true even if the Democrats, as expected, take back control of the House of Representatives.

Why waste the time and national energy when there is no conceivable path to the 67 Senate votes needed to convict and impeach this President?

It is time you and I – the voters and taxpayers — demand that Congress return to Washington and do their job: Run the country. Act as the co-equal branch of government they are! Lead!

Find bi-partisan compromises to address the issues facing the nation and send legislation to the President to “take it or leave it”.

If the members of Congress cannot tackle the nation’s critical issues with public, not political purpose, then we should impeach them at the ballot box in November.

$25 Billion Investment in Border Security

My parents were refugees from Hitler. They were well educated, English speaking and able to rapidly assimilate into American life in the late 1930s.

Despite their best efforts; government bureaucracy, anti-Semitism and the speed with which Hitler seized most of Central and Western Europe thwarted their efforts to save their families from Nazi concentration camps.

They lived the American Dream but they both died in their late 90s still suffering from “survivor guilt” – still wondering what more they could have done for their parents and siblings – still missing them, still grieving for them.

On the day she died, my mother asked her care giver to pack a bag for her – saying she was going on a journey to visit her mother – my grandmother.

Desperation Drives Migration

When a young mother in Guatemala or Honduras makes the decision to pay a smuggler several thousand dollars to help her and her child/children leave their home, traveling thousands of miles north, she recognizes she is leaving everyone else in her life behind.

What drives her is the same certainty my parents felt – there is no other choice but to flee or to perish.

She is setting forth – knowing it is likely she will never see her parents or her siblings again.

She realizes – though she must dismiss the possibility in order to start the journey – she may not survive to reach the United States border with Mexico.

She, also, realizes – but is told by the smuggler not to worry – that US authorities may not let her remain in the United States.

If she is allowed to remain, alone except for her child/children, in a strange land with a strange language — the life that lies ahead will be full of new danger and challenges.

To leave everything familiar behind, to undertake that journey in the face of such overwhelming uncertainty – she must be truly desperate.

America Should Spend $25 Billion Wisely

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson points out – to stop the flow of undocumented migrants we have to change the conditions on the ground in their home countries.

Underlying all the murder and mayhem – the fear and the poverty these families are fleeing — are the two dependent scourges of illegal drugs and the cartels that have become rich and powerful from Los Angeles to San Salvador — growing, transporting and selling these poisons.

The combination of leftist guerilla bands – supported by Cuba — and drug cartels have left innocent populations terrorized and victimized for generations.

It is estimated that 3.4 million Central Americans have fled to the United States since 2012.

What they are leaving behind is a triangle of failing nation-states that represent a clear and present danger to the safety of the United States’

Without a population able to resist, the cartels become the only “government” in the region – armed, violent, and aggressive toward their neighbors – an opportunity for Hezbollah and Iran anxious to expand their participation in the cocaine trade north from South America.

Without a “legitimate” economy, cocaine and violent gang members are the region’s chief exports to the United States.

Since the later years of the Reagan Administration various American governments have provided intelligence and drug interdiction support to weak governments throughout the region but a few brave Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers are not an army equipped to fight the cartels.

Deter Migration by Reducing Central America Violence

US Special Forces are in Syria training Syrians to fight for their homeland. They are in Iraq training Iraqis. They are in the heroin capital of the world – Afghanistan – training Afghanis.

Navy Seal (and other Special Forces) advisers can help the military of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to fight back.

Why not send American soldier/advisers south to intervene on the behalf of the families who are suffering under intolerable conditions.

If we deploy a portion of President Trump’s $25 Billion “security budget” to train soldiers in Central America to fight back against the drug cartels and remaining rag-tag guerilla bands, the US military advisers can do what a few DEA agents can’t — help Central American police and military forces to slow, if not stop, the production and transport of cocaine to the United States.

Slowing the flow of cocaine from Central America will save US lives while reducing health care costs.

US Special Forces have more than just military skills. They train farmers to raise legitimate crops profitably. They help civic leaders to create the basic instruments of governments – community councils, schools, health clinics – that serve the people, build civil societies.

But none of this potential to change conditions on the ground can be achieved without the precursor of a strong diplomatic effort to persuade and reassure Central American governments. But diplomacy cannot begin until the Trump Administration appoints ambassadors to these war-torn countries.

Process Asylum Claims Locally

In addition to fully staffed embassies, the administration should use some of the “security budget” to expand our consular services so that people who have a legitimate fear of persecution from gangs etc. can easily and safely apply for US asylum from a facility in their country of origin.

Asylum affidavits begun in the country of origin would be easier and faster to verify.

If asylum is warranted, these families – mainly women and children – would be able to travel safely to the United States. Their arrival and settlement pre-arranged.

If asylum is not warranted, they would be saved the dangerous and costly journey and an even more uncertain future upon their return.

In addition to expanded consular services, the US government – including our security services – should encourage (and partner with) US and international “non-governmental organizations” to provide shelter for those seeking asylum and an escape from violence in their home countries – create “safe zones”.

An Antidote to Desperation

The antidote to desperation is hope and the United States of America must give these people hope.

The people of Central America are young and hard-working. A cessation of violence would open the opportunity for economic expansion in the region — a benefit to the entire North American continent.

A reduction in the fear of violence and expanded economic opportunity are, in fact, the only way to stop the northward migration no matter how high the wall and how difficult the journey.

These goals are worth fighting for and our neighbors to the south would surely agree – if the United States came with a rational solution — no different than in Teddy Roosevelt’s time – “speak softly” but offer a “big stick”.

President Trump’s Opioid Plan Falls Short

President Trump declared his determination to end the opioid epidemic — over the next “7 years” in a New Hampshire speech.

The location was not a coincidence. New Hampshire has the third highest rate of death by opioid overdose — ending the crisis a cornerstone of state politics.

Opioid addiction and related deaths have reached a crisis point in the United States.

The death of more than 64,000 Americans in 2016 (the last year for which there is total data) underscores the urgency of the problem.

My head was nodding in agreement as the President tick-off his administration’s planned actions:

  • Research to develop non-addictive pain medications.
  • New pain management training for doctors to discourage unnecessary use of opioids.
  • Changing Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) opioid prescription reimbursement policies to minimize over-prescription and over- dispensing.
  • Increased spending for in-patient treatment of addicts.
  • Increased reimbursement for mental health treatment in the Medicaid program.
  • Donations – by the manufacturer – of two boxes of the overdose antidote Narcan to every high school and college in the country.
  • Stiffer jail sentences for drug dealers.
    • Even the potential of the death penalty for drug dealers
  • New vocational training programs in prisons to help first-time offenders get the skills they need to become “productive citizens” when they leave prison.

Illegal Immigration Not the Root Cause of Opioid Crisis

And then the President went further – returning to familiar themes we hear at campaign-style rallies, reporter gaggles and other formal speeches:

  • The Opioid Crisis is worsened by Sanctuary Cities that protect MS 13 members.
  • Fentanyl is smuggled in from Mexico. USA must build a southern border wall to keep smugglers and their drugs out of USA.
  • Countries that have the death penalty for drug dealers don’t have a “drug problem”. “Maybe the USA needs a death penalty for drug dealers.”

One does not have to support Sanctuary Cities to see how coincidental the relationship between sanctuary cities and a flood of drugs on the streets of America.

MS13 is a criminal cartel formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s – who deal in drugs and other criminality because that’s where the money is! The majority of members are birthright citizens who can be imprisoned but not deported.

Didn’t Attorney General Sessions, sitting in the audience, brief the President on current law?

  • There is a federal death penalty for drug dealers who peddle more than $20 million of “junk”.
  • The majority of drug convictions are in state criminal courts muting a federal death penalty.

Time for a War on Fentanyl

116 preventable deaths every day – 365 days a year for several years is not an epidemic — it is a “black plague” requiring drastic action not “happy talk”!

Most of these deaths involve a synthetic opioid known as fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a legal drug, synthetic opioid, used in some medically appropriate anesthesia and pain killers – under government license.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported an increase of 512 percent in fentanyl related opioid deaths from 2012 to 2016.

A 512 percent increase in deaths from the illegal distribution of a controlled substance is an exigent circumstance.

The distribution of fentanyl on American streets must be stopped – stopped now — stopped at the source.

Kill the Opioid Crisis at the Source: China

The principle source of illegal fentanyl, today, is China.

The opiate trade with China dates back more than two centuries to when American clipper ships made the dangerous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to trade opiates, tea, and silks with China.

Clipper ships have been replaced with airplanes that carry cargo for the United States Postal Service (USPS).

In January,2018, following a year-long investigation, the United States Senate reported $766 million worth of fentanyl was “imported” from China via internet purchases delivered by the USPS. The Senate further reported the postal service had failed to purchase or deploy electronic tracking equipment to identify and stop suspicious packages from China or anywhere else.

According to NBC News, industrial quantities of Chinese fentanyl slip into the USA from Mexico.

This fentanyl crosses at perfectly legal ports of entry smuggled in cars or trucks. In terms the President would understand, fentanyl drives through the “gates in the wall” he wants to build.

The Rand Corporation argues, stopping drug trafficking through legal ports of entry requires the deployment of additional uniformed and trained personnel using sophisticated electronic detection equipment. Like the postal service, US Customs has failed to deploy these proven and effective assets.

China Can Stop Fentanyl Trade

The Chinese government gives lip service to cracking down on the fentanyl trade but has done little or nothing to close down a plethora of online sites in Chinese cyber-space that are selling fentanyl.

The President should impose serious and immediate trade penalties on China for their failure to crack down on the $766 million China to USA illegal fentanyl trade.

  • More than tariffs, perhaps some outright product bans.
  • Conduct an evidentiary hearing at the UN Security Council.

In addition, the President should issue an Executive Order authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USPS to purchase and deploy the currently available electronic tracking equipment needed to identify suspected fentanyl shipments from China or Mexico.

The equipment must be installed and operating reliably within 90 days – by the first of July! There can be no excuses.

Then the President must activate sufficient numbers of well-trained National Guard members to support, train, and supplement the postal and customs personnel.

The goal of this effort, in addition to all the other steps the President suggested in New Hampshire, should be to reduce the death rate from 116 people per day to less than 50 per day by the end of 2018 and to reduce that number to less than 25 a day by the end of 2019.

Cutting the fentanyl supply chain is the one thing that will make the rest of President Trump’s “plan” work to eradicate death by fentanyl.

Illustration courtesy of The Brookside Associates

No Teenager Next Door Should Own a Gun

The children of Florida are demanding #NeverAgain.

Never may not be possible in a society awash with guns — but America can do much more to prevent school children from being murdered in their classrooms.

The students of Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School are showing us the way. Through articulate arguments and determination, they (and their parents and teachers) are turning their grief, fear and anger into action.

Florida politicians would be wise to heed their resolve and their promise to use their first vote to insure that “something changes”.

It’s not just Florida politicians who should take notice.

In 2020 3.9 million children born since the 1999 Columbine Massacre will vote in their first presidential election. These young people have grown up accustomed to “active shooter” drills in their schools. In the 13 years since Sandy Hook there have been 200 school shootings and 400 students have been killed.

 

Their fear is our shame. When our legislators took campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA) instead of passing reasonable gun safety legislation after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after any one of 198 other school shootings – voters should have voted them out of office. But we didn’t.

In business when we see a pattern of adverse activity, we quickly work to identify the potential corrective action and implement them to alter the trajectory of the pattern.

For example, most of these child killers have a lot in common:

  • All of them exhibited signs of social alienation or mental illness
  • All of the school shootings were student on student violence
  • Most of them obtained their weapons legally
  • Many had parents who overcompensated — repeatedly – effectively covering-up and excusing for their child’s abnormal behavior
  • With few exceptions, they were able to pass a National Instant Criminal (Background) Check (NICS).

It’s time to implement sensible corrective action:

  1. Raise the National Gun Ownership Age to 21.

Science tells us that the adolescent brain is not fully formed – that impulse control is not yet mature. It makes zero sense to allow an adolescent who cannot buy a beer to buy a powerful semi-automatic gun and high capacity ammunition magazines. Congress should raise the national age limit for gun ownership to 21.

The lack of impulse control magnifies the normal angst teenagers experience as they evolve from childhood toward adulthood.

The lack of impulse control leads teenagers to sometimes treat one another cruelly. Bullying is not new, but bullying magnified hundreds, thousands of times through social media can have deadly consequences.

  1. Include Juvenile Mental Health Records in NICS

Pediatricians no longer believe that children who exhibit mental illness as early as during their toddler years will “grow out of the problem”– mental illness – ranging from Asperger Syndrome to bi-polar disorder (manic depressive) to attention deficit disorder and anxiety disorders.

While juvenile criminal records might appropriately be sealed in most states the same is not true of mental health records because those illnesses are likely to follow the child into adulthood.

It is not necessary to unseal those records to put a “flag” into NICS requiring further investigation for juvenile offenders and diagnosed mental illness.

Such a flag would not preclude gun ownership, but would require further investigation before granting the permit to purchase.

  1. Authorities Must Follow-up On Every Credible Threat Reported

The FBI was warned twice about Nikolaz Cruz and did not follow-up. The FBI has committed to improving their threat evaluation process.

Many states have laws that require the temporary surrender of fire arms in cases of spousal abuse or if law enforcement deems the gun owner to be a danger to themselves or others. These are called “Red Flag Laws”.

Florida does not have such a law. Even if the Miami Field Office of the FBI had contacted Nikolaz Cruz – it is not likely they could have disarmed him.

  1. Implement Strict Training and Licensing Requirements

A gun is a powerful weapon. A life can be transformed or lost in an instance – deliberately or by accident. No one should be allowed to own or use such an instrument without rigorous training and evaluation.

No state would issue a driver’s license to an adolescent (or adult) who cannot demonstrate the ability to drive a car – cars can (and do) kill.

Why is it different for guns?

An examiner testing an applicant’s ability to use a gun safely might, also, be able to pick-up signs of a potential risk.

A gun licensing program would not be a guarantee against gun violence but it might reduce the number and frequency of shootings.

None of these measures would infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

March in Solidarity #Neveragain

Strengthening the NICS background check system and, even licensing firearms, wouldn’t guarantee the elimination of gun violence in our schools, churches, concerts, or airports, but tighter controls might save lives?

A complex, urban society needs realistic checks and balances between personal liberty and the common good.

That’s why all of us need to mark March 24 on our calendars.

It’s time to MARCH in solidarity with the students of Parkland, Florida, our own children and in memory of the 400 school children killed over the last decade.

Graphic courtesy of (WKYT TV) Nicholasville, Kt.

Las Vegas: Why Money Beats Mass Murder. Every Time.

Sunday was an ordinary evening. The Seahawks beat the Colts on Sunday Night Football.

It was 10:30 PM. Could I squeeze in my recorded episode of Blue Bloods before the 11 o’clock news and bed?

I turned the television back to a breaking news story: A mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas.

By the time I went to bed at 1:45 AM, the Clark County Sheriff had given the first casualty report: 2 dead and 50 some odd injured.

When I woke at 7:30 AM the numbers had changed as the gun smoke cleared: 59 dead and 527 (plus) injured.

The massacre at the Highway 91 Concert is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Perhaps country star Blake Shelton expressed it best – ending an early Monday morning tweet with one word: Why?

Uniquely American

There’s nothing more uniquely American than country music. Music descendent directly from the folk traditions of Appalachia –family stories and legends set to a tune and sung so that they could be remembered and passed down generation upon generation.

People from all walks of life were in Las Vegas because they love their families, they love country music, and they enjoy the party atmosphere of a music festival.

And then gun fire broke out. In less than 10 minutes 59 innocent Americans were dead – killed by an enigma hiding in a hotel suite nearly a third of mile away from his victims.

It happened because there is, also, nothing as unique as America’s fascination with guns.

More specifically: Semi-automatic guns.

Begging the questions:

Why Do Americans need Semi-Automatic Weapons?

  • Why do sportsmen (hunters) need or want guns (semi-automatic assault rifles) manufactured for the sole purpose of killing human beings?
  • Why didn’t Congress renew the Assault Rifle Ban in 2004 – when it expired?
  • Why didn’t Congress act after the shooting at Fort Hood in 2009 when 13 service members and law enforcement personnel were killed?

Between 2009 and 2014 9 more mass casualty events caused by semi-automatic rifle fire took innocent 209 lives including 20 children under the age of 7 at Sandy Hook (Connecticut). http://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-are-the-10-deadliest-mass-shootings-in-us-history-2017-10-02

In 2011 Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was shot and nearly killed by a semi-automatic rifle at a constituent meeting in Arizona.

Or what about Congressman Steve Scalise who was shot and nearly killed on a baseball practice field in Arlington, Virginia early this summer?

Why isn’t it alarming enough – horrific enough — that 93 people die by gunfire in this country every day?

The answer is simple: Money.

Here’s Why Money Wins Over Mass Murder

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has made millions for its officers, executives, and lobbyists over the years by claiming that any limits on gun rights would inevitably lead to the revocation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution – the right to bear arms.

The NRA collects $350 million in member dues by promoting the idea if citizens cannot buy semi-automatic assault weapons, the government is going to come into their homes and take their guns or worse.

The NRA uses their member’s contributions to bribe (campaign contributions), scare, and cajole members of Congress into supporting their nonsensical argument – even when the bullets are whizzing over the heads of Congress members!

But lobbying and campaign contributions are not limited only to the NRA, there are, also, the manufacturers of assault rifles and ammunition. Those weapons start at $1000 – they can be really expensive.

All that money is drowning out the 90 percent of Americans who support both stronger background checks and limits on the sale of semi-automatic rifles and armor piercing bullets — including a majority of members of the NRA.

Time for Voters to Mobilize

Based on precedent, the deaths of 59 innocent people in Las Vegas and the injury of some 500 more will not move Congress very far.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said it is likely that Congress will not now bring up legislation to allow “silencing” of automatic weapons but that is little comfort to the families of the dead and wounded.

What is needed a national mobilization of voters. It is time that the voices of innocent Americans are heard more loudly on Capitol Hill than the voices of lobbyists.

It is time to call or write – or do both – your Congress member and your Senators and demand a debate on and passage of legislation to ban the sale and manufacturing of semi-automatic assault rifles, armor piercing bullets, and the kits that convert semi to fully automatic rifles – banned since 1934.

It must be made clear to every member that a failure to vote for reasonable gun safety legislation means that you will not vote to re-elect that member in November 2018 – it’s a matter of your life and safety.

 

Bump stock image courtesy of CNBC

Trump versus the People

4th of July weekend – the time we commemorate the moment American patriots threw off the shackles of a crazy English King George III and began the world’s longest experiment in democratic republican government.

While the rockets are firing into the sky, we should take a moment to wonder much longer we can claim to be a functioning democratic republic unless our elected officials turn from fighting each other to fighting for us.

Average earnings of Americans have continuously declined since the late 1970s.

The health care industry puts profits over the quality and quantity of American lives.

Our tax system favors the richest among us against everyone else.

Our infrastructure is decaying and crumbling:

  • Water Supplies
  • Flood Control
  • Power Grid
  • Roads
  • Bridges
  • Public Transit
  • Airports
  • Sea Ports

Good, middle class American industrial jobs are disappearing faster than innovation can replace them.

Immigration is flooding the top and bottom of our society sandwiching and compressing the middle class – upon which the fabric of democratic government depends.

Our nation is not secure – not from foreign adversaries, not from domestic terrorism, not from a debt crisis much worse than 2008.

Enter King Donald

In complete frustration the American people took a chance – electing a businessman/TV personality best known for the phrase “you’re fired” to occupy the highest office in the land.

A business person, voters reasoned, would shake up the impenetrable institutional government – Washington, D.C. – and might bring opportunity back to the American heartland.

Hillary Clinton was the epitome of that fossilized, institutional government – explaining why Donald Trump is now residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Accepting the Republican nomination, Donald Trump promised to be the “voice of the forgotten” American.

But he has forgotten that promise.

This man — whose actions have the potential to impact every person on earth — listens only to the voice of accolades and acolytes.

Fail to flatter and you will be fired. Ask James Comey!

Personal presidential loyalty tests have stalled State Department policy nominees denying Secretary Tillerson the staff he needs to navigate a world fraught with challenges – several of which could easily erupt into shooting wars involving the United States.

Presidential briefings must be kept short because the president has a “limited attention span” – when he listens to his advisers at all.

The Trump Cabinet agenda includes some praise worthy ideas and initiatives but they are completely subsumed by President’s impetus behavior, incoherent tweets, and blatant nepotism.

This Form of Governance Can’t Continue

The President’s tweets demonstrate the significant mismatch between the skills the President gained as the “boss” of a small, family-owned business with a deceptively large bottom-line and those needed by the Chief-Executive-Officer of the United States – the titular “leader of the free world”.

The celebrity business man had a reputation for personal charm that masked unethical business practices and a penchant for “getting even”.

His tweets attacking the press call into question his understanding of the roll of the press. As far back as the 1763 Tea Party the press has been an institutional “opponent” intended to keep the government honest.

Following his Inauguration, @realDonaldTrump tweets demonstrated the depth of the President’s narcissism and how much of that narcissism is driven by deep seated insecurity. Something that voters did not expect!

Some tweets have been simply self-destructive, while others demonstrate a lack of impulse control. The tweeted potential of White House tapes gave James Comey the idea to leak a contemporaneous memo to New York Times (via a cutout).

Voila – instead of suppressing the “Russia investigation” those tweets prompted the appointment of a special counsel more interested in determining whether the President “obstructed justice” than clearing him of charges of “collusion” in the 2016 election.

This week’s tweets concerning the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe are further evidence of the President’s lack of self-discipline, lack of self-awareness, misogyny, bullying and limited acquaintance with the truth.

Those are not the skills of a national leader. Leaders accept the role of criticism as part of the job! Criticism forces self-awareness, begs the question “what-if”.

History demonstrates criticism becomes the genesis of consensus – which has been the life’s blood of the American experiment with representative democracy.

Criticism forces our leaders to re-examine their own beliefs and – perhaps — to alter them. They are not, after all, infallible.

American democracy flourishes when our leaders acknowledge their own fallibility and, as a result, are able to listen, facilitate and bring together the people and their representatives — whose disparate ideas and experiences hold the common kernel of solution.

Instead, this President’s tweets have, sadly, become the “bright shiny object” sowing confrontation and confusion instead of building consensus.

Donald Trump has no real beliefs and no grasp of policy. For example – one day championing a Republican health care plan and the next day calling it cruel and on day three championing total repeal of the law it claims to “fix”.

Convene the President’s Club

It is time for the Presidents’ Club to convene a meeting with their latest member. These five former Presidents are best positioned to evaluate the potential of this President to grow into the office he now inhabits.

They will put the best interests of the nation before all other considerations.

If they conclude the President is “unfit” – that he lacks the skills and personality characteristics needed to learn to lead the nation and is unwilling to learn – he must go.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified for just such a situation.

Some Democrats in the House of Representatives have formed a committee to investigate invoking the 25th Amendment against President Trump. They should stand down – their efforts are blatantly political and this is not a time for politics – but for patriotism.

In this case, if the five members of the Presidents’ Club were to find Mr. Trump “unfit” to discharge the duties of the office of President of the United States, they could petition the Congress to create a law to empower them to petition for the President’s removal.

Such a law would have to have some stringent requirements for removal that would protect the process from accusations that the motives were political.

And the five former Presidents (3 Democrats and 2 Republicans) would need to meet directly with the American people and make a detailed, objective and impartial case for removal.

Then Congress would need to vote yes or no to remove the President

in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

Fireworks photo courtesy of mountvernon.org

Good Grief President Trump!!

Good Grief President Trump!!

Since your Inauguration barely a week ago – President Trump – you have managed to upset important allies and trading partners, blindsided your national security team, frightened legal immigrants, and angered your own GOP majority in the Congress.

The majority of voters in over 30 states voted for you because they believed you would create jobs — not nationwide and global chaos!

I am troubled by both the pace of activity and the lack of strategic direction in your early actions. What’s the goal?

I was troubled enough to throw down $12.95 for a Kindle copy of your oft referenced “Art of the Deal” to see if I could make sense of the chaos.

Any Art in Your Executive Orders?

So far I’ve learned that Trump, the builder, sees himself as an “idea machine”; an entrepreneur who leaves the details to other people. He dislikes structure. He sometimes enjoys playing the “bad cop”.

His “bad cop” has stirred more global protest in just one week than the United States has seen since the end of the Vietnam War – over 40 years ago.

For a year and half you talked about all the “good deals” you were going to make for America.

It is time to stop stirring up the pot and start delivering DEALS that will keep Americans safe and prosperous at home and abroad.

Those are deals that heal the divisions within the United States as well as between the United States and its allies and “friendenemies” around the world.

Confrontation Does Not Lead to Good Deals

Good deals can be defined as deals where both sides in a negotiation get something they need by giving up something they want.

In my world we call it “finding the win/win”.

In the senior ranks of management consulting firms, my performance was judged on the ability to develop new business and manage executive relationships (i.e. new clients and new projects with existing clients). Execution – getting results – was always the foundation of success but revenue and relationships were the bottom-line.

Building a good deal does not start with a confrontation – as have so many of your actions in the last 10 days.

The art of building relationships and negotiating good deals starts with being a good listener and empathizer – not a frenetic actor!

Robert Gates, the highly respected former CIA Chief and Defense Secretary to both Presidents Bush and Obama, did not support you before the election. But – a patriot – he met with you at Trump Tower after the election.

Gates has generously described you as “thoughtful” and “open to advice”.

I found that description comforting – those are absolutely necessary characteristics in the President of the United States.

But, if you are a good listener, then the next two questions should raise alarm: Who have you asked for advice and – more importantly — who should you ask for advice as the “leader of the free world”?

Why Experience Matters

Based on the public evidence, you appear to be listening less to the experienced generals you’ve appointed to lead your national security team and more to the under skilled sycophants in the White House.

Is proximity the only source of power in your White House?

Press reports and the actions of General Kelly suggest that Homeland Security was not consulted before you issued new travel and immigration restrictions on Muslims from seven countries already under strict review.

Who persuaded you that announcing Mexico would pay for the southern border wall “one way or another” was the way to open negotiations or improve our relationship with Mexico?

Humiliating the Mexican president publicly instead of meeting with him privately this week in Washington makes NO sense!

Your actions and words will make it more difficult from Rex Tillerson (when he is confirmed) and General Kelly to negotiate a border security deal that serves the interests of both Mexico and the United States:

  • Stop illegal immigration transiting Mexico into the United States whether Mexican, Central American, Chinese or would-be terrorists and
  • Stop the drug smuggling that has cost countless lives on both sides of the border.

The reaction by the Mexican people and their political establishment to those words will, also, complicate renegotiation of NAFTA.

Nothing was gained. You can’t even check-off a campaign promise kept.

Start Firing the Right People

This week, President Trump, you need to restart your administration. The success of your Presidency hangs in the balance.

Bold action is required.

You’ve got to eliminate the people who have proven their advice is bad advice.

Time to tell physically and intellectually over-inflated Steven Bannon and the self-aggrandizing political errand boy Stephen Miller “you’re fired”.

Next ask the “4 Stars” what to do with “3 Star” General Michael Flynn. Then follow their advice!

Good luck – the nation is counting on you not to screw this up beyond repair in just two weeks.

Modernize the Electoral College and Revitalize Democracy

Modernize the Electoral College and Revitalize Democracy

I am officially sick of the media drumbeat for dumping the Electoral College after Hillary Clinton’s loss.

A one-time divergence between the popular and Electoral College votes of a couple million is not a reason to dump an institution that has insured the peaceful transfer of presidential power for more than two centuries. https://www.reimagineamerica.org/2016-electoral-college-worked-as-designed/

The actual difference turns out to be a 2 percent advantage for Mrs. Clinton nationwide in a total of 126 million votes cast — concentrated in Southern California.

Coincidentally that’s the margin of victory Mr. Trump enjoyed in the 13 so-called “battleground” states.

These facts do not make a compelling case against the continuing utility of the Electoral College.

Dragging Electoral College into 21st Century

Amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College won’t happen. It is obvious that the small states in the country’s center would not ratify any proposed constitution amendment.

Modernization must retain the original rhythm written into the Constitution –checks and balances

Happily there’s a lot of room for improvement – changes — the large and small states can agree to.

First, we must minimize the ability of state legislatures to interfere with the voters’ freedom to directly select the electors from their state.

Second, we can increase voter participation by showing each voter how their individual vote matters.

Third, a revitalized system may encourage better candidates to run by re-engaging the center of the American body politic – which is turned off by expensive media campaigns dominated by negative advertising and fear mongering.

Let’s Have a 50 State Election

The Electoral College is made up of 538 members:

Each state is awarded a number of electors equal to the number of their House members. Based on the most recent national census, each House member represents 720,000 people – or less.

Additionally, each state is awarded the same two additional electors.

The total electors representing the 50 states total 535. The remaining three electors represent the District of Columbia.

Currently, the states’ electors are “block-granted” to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote in that state. The votes cast in one or two large urban areas in the state drowning all other voters in the state. This tends to decrease the incentive of suburban or rural voters to go to the polls.

What if –

State officials apportioned their state’s Electoral College votes – one elector to each House District in that state. The elector would be awarded to the candidate who won the most votes in that House District. The last two electors would be awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote.

For example: California would apportion our 55 electoral votes 41D/14R based on the votes cast in 2016.

  • 39 urban votes to the Democratic candidate
  • 14 suburban/rural votes to the Republican candidate
  • 02 statewide Democratic majority popular vote

The Democratic candidate would need to make-up 14 votes from another state. Perhaps they would come from – predictably Republican – Texas (11 Democratic House Districts)?

One of the lessons learned from the 2016 election is that nothing is guaranteed. In Michigan at least one district re-elected their Democratic House member even though her district voted majority Trump in the Presidential race. Voters do “ticket split”.

Winning would require a 435 district campaign — the 21st century version of the Truman whistle stop campaign of 1948.

Like 1948, the 2016 election defied all polls and predictions for the same reason – President Truman and Donald Trump both “went over the heads” of the political and media elites with a direct appeal to voters.

The heart of America beats in what coastal elites deride as “flyover country” while rushing from one big donor meeting to another – New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco to Washington.

The “30 thousand foot candidate” should not be surprised when these states’ voters don’t embrace him/her.

Reaching the Voter through Retail Politics

The more suburban political culture in the United States depends less on Facebook and television and more on retail politics – the Jefferson Day or Lincoln Day dinner, the Town Hall meeting, etc..

The folks who attend these events are not big donors to the party – Hollywood movie stars or Wall Street bankers.

The people who attend these functions are middle class Americans who worked — all day before coming to the event –to earn the $100 it costs to buy a ticket.

The presidential candidates themselves – not their surrogates — would need to convince a lot of individual voters they care about the individual and not just the statistic –less black or white or Hispanic, male or female –more as a three dimensional human being with real dreams, fears, and possibilities.

To win the Presidency, a candidate would have to be a great retail politician with high energy as well as 21st century media skills. Relative youth would be a distinct advantage.

Policy positions and proposed solutions might change as a result of meeting the people they’d impact.

Better government could be one potential result of this modernization.

Leveling the Playing Field Will Increase Voter Participation

The Constitution places no limit on the number of Presidential candidates who can compete for Electoral Votes.

The limitations are imposed by the cost and infrastructure required to mount a campaign based on the current major media market, winner-take-all model.

The 50 State Electoral College Model could, over time, level the playing field for third party candidates who lack the $1 billion available to our current political duopoly.

Retail politics are less costly to conduct. Don’t need big hotels or stadiums or celebrity “opening acts” – just a Facebook post, a few Tweets and a corner Starbucks.

Reporters for local media will show up to cover the story free – “earned media” is just that – earned by action not paid for as advertising.

Citizens inspired by a handshake could grow into an army of volunteers to post on Facebook, share on Instagram, knock on doors, recruiting their friends and families.

Inspiration would lead to higher rates of voter participation – perhaps bringing back balance between the unofficial popular vote and the official Electoral College vote.

Photo Courtesy JeffersonheritageTrail.com

2016 Electoral College Worked as Designed

2016 Electoral College Worked as Designed

Ever since it became clear that President-Elect Trump had a commanding lead in the Electoral College (306 votes to 232 for Mrs. Clinton) the main stream media has been focused on the “growing Hillary Clinton advantage in the 2016 Presidential Election popular vote”.

Look a little deeper and it becomes clear the advantage is coming from entirely from Southern California where we are still counting ballots today.

Trump’s voter tally exceeds Mrs. Clinton’s in the 13 battleground states where the Electoral College was won and lost.

Why We Still Need the Electoral College

The Founding Fathers designed the Electoral College to assuage the fears of the smaller states that they would be reduced to serfdom by the big states – New York and Virginia at that time.

Without those assurances the US Constitution would never have been ratified by 9 of the original 13 states.

In the 2016 Election, the Electoral College worked exactly as it was designed.

It balanced the interests of the large coastal, consumer-driven cities — for example Los Angeles and New York — with the interests of the smaller, producer cities and rural farming and industrial populations — for example the Southern Appalachian Mountain region.

But the founders had a second purpose in fashioning the Electoral College: establishing an “institution” that would blunt an impulse toward “mob rule”.

Fact is – setting aside nearly a century of revisionist history — the Founding Fathers did not believe in universal suffrage. In the earliest days of the Republic not everyone could read or write – i.e. participate in the political debate.

Even Thomas Jefferson, the original Democrat, believed only a white man who owned property – i.e. a doctor/lawyer, a shop keeper or a farmer owning at least 5 acres — should be eligible to vote.

States Elect President

The Founding Fathers believed the job of electing a President was too important to be left to the people.

Both under the original Constitution and the 12th Amendment, that task was delegated to states – not the citizenry.

Popularly elected members of the state legislatures — the more respectable, reasonable men of substance and public repute – were given the responsibility to select electors to the Electoral College.

The practice of pledging an individual state’s Electoral College electors to a candidate based on a popular vote of that state’s citizens evolved as the nation matured. Literacy became common place and the right to vote expanded.

The various state legislatures passed laws that updated how their electors are chosen.

Each state, also, specifies whether the electors have any flexibility to cast their votes in any way other than as instructed by the popular vote of the people of that state.

The (aggregated national) people’s popular vote for President – still today – has no meaning under the Constitution – the states elect the President.

Subverting the Founders Intent

Disgruntled Democrats, along with Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, are attempting to use the Electoral College as a Constitutional Alamo – a fight to the death to deny Donald Trump the Presidency – whatever the consequences to Constitutional principles.

Since the polls closed on November 8th, disgruntled Democrats have tried to use Clinton’s lead in the popular vote as an argument to persuade and, in some cases harass, Trump Electors. They argue these electors should ignore their states’ voters and vote for Clinton when the Electoral College meets in December to formally elect the 45th President.

The argument they make is commonly called the National Voter Plan. It’s not a new proposal.

The argument in favor: The value of every individual vote should be the same in every state.

The counter argument: one state or one portion of one large state should not have greater weight than the votes of any other geography – is illustrated by Mrs. Clinton’s plurality coming entirely from Los Angeles County, California.

The counter argument gains strength when no candidate has a national majority (50 percent plus one vote).

If the National Voter Plan were ever enacted into law – the President would be the absolute choice of only the six large bi-coastal urban media markets including New York and Los Angeles – exactly the circumstance the Founding Fathers sought to avoid in crafting the Electoral College.

Room for Reform

The wide divergence between the popular and electoral votes — and the unseemly attempt the thwart the Electoral College — at the end of a bitter and divisive 2016 campaign underscores the urgent need to modernize the Electoral College.

We can agree at the outset, amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College won’t happen. It is obvious that the small states would not support such an effort.

Reform must honor the original intent of the Founding Fathers – to insure a balance between large and small states is maintained.

Reform must block the National Voter Plan – it would legitimize the “mob” our Founders feared.

Reform begins with the question why did 90 million registered voters not go to the polls and vote?

  • Were they discouraged by the barrage of polls predicting a certain outcome?
  • Were they discouraged by the quality of the candidates and the polarizing campaign rhetoric they used?

More likely, no candidate asked for their vote in a persuasive manner?

No candidate offered them an affirmative case to vote for?

That is the point at which Electoral College reform must begin.