Tag Archives: dc

My “Morning Joe” week & my monthly call for civility in politics

I write posts like this often enough that I feel a bit like a broken record but I am not going to be deterred.

This morning, someone sent me an article that lambasted Bruce Springsteen’s “41 Shots” and said he supports the killing of cops.  He continued to say “IF YOU LIKE KILLING COPS, YOU ARE A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT.”  (Emphasis HIS)  As a liberal Democrat, who does not support cop killing but lived in NYC at the time of the incident that inspired that song I think the writer has really misunderstood the situation (in the interest of full disclosure, I will blog about my thoughts about that sometime this week).

If we are going to succeed at turning things in this country around, both parties need to stop seeing each other as adversaries and more like partners.  If our economy tanks this summer, for example, it won’t be only blue or red states that are hurt; it be all of us.

While this is not solely the media’s fault, it isn’t helping.  Shows where people yell over each other or merely wait for their turn to talk without listening – these are not discussions, they are debates.  And no one really learns anything.  That was my problem with “Crossfire.”  I knew where each person stood on each issue and it became a huge waste of my time.

One thing about the popularity of some shows now that baffles me is that I hate being yelled at.   I don’t want other people’s opinions screamed at me (after admitting my political affiliation, it should be a given that I am not a big fan of FOX News) but I don’t need to have my own yelled at me either.  I am pretty clear on where I stand; I don’t need Ed Schultz to holler it at me.  And for the record; Keith Olbermann makes my ears bleed.  When my TV yells at me, I end up yelling back and I really don’t need my neighbors to think I have lost it.

Joe Scarborough

And now we come to the “Morning Joe” portion of my point.  I love this show.  LOVE IT.  It has even eclipsed “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” (love that, too but I don’t watch it for three hours a day, five days a week.)  This is something that I never thought I would write.

The show’s creator, Joe Scarborough, is a former politician.  He was elected in 1994 to represent Florida’s first congressional district and was part of the “Republican Revolution” that year.  This was not a freshman class of moderate and liberal Republicans.  It was a bunch of fire breathing conservatives.  My first job was for Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and that’s where I was working when he took office.  From my side of the aisle, he looked a bit fringy.   I am not alone in this theory – he has said it, too.  One of my friend – a former Congressman himself, one who was the only member of the Conservative Party when he was in the House asked me, “How can YOU like Joe Scarborough he was a right-wing nut job in Congress!”

One belief that I will surrender only upon my death is one of the reasons I like Scarborough.  When I meet someone who is active politically, either on a professional or volunteer basis, I assume (until/unless I am given reason to think otherwise) that they are in this business for the same reason I am – to make the country and world a better place.  If you start conversations with people who disagree with you assuming that makes them Hitler, you are never going to get anywhere.  If you start from the position that your disagreements are more akin to having differing opinions about the route you should take to the same destination, you can have a real discussion.  Have you ever heard of someone thinking someone else was evil because you thought you should take one road to the grocery store and they thought you should go another way?  No?  Right, because it is a ridiculous thought.

Mika Brzezinski

“Morning Joe” provides these kinds of discussions.  From the hosts themselves – Scarborough, Mike Brzezinski and Willie Geist – to the guests they bring on, the topics they discuss and the atmosphere they provide, real ideas can be exchanged and I learn something every morning.  I have not been keeping track of how often I agree with Scarborough on his politics but it’s not often but then again, agreeing with me has never been a prerequisite for me liking someone.  I have no patience for that sort of thing.

Willie Geist

So why was this week more of a “Morning Joe” week?  Well, I’ll tell you.  (My job does require me to keep up on the news but even if it did not, I am a total political/news junkie and all around nerd, I know this already, no need to tweet me about it.)

On Wednesday, I went to a Politico event on Capitol Hill.  Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough were doing a book signing for her new book, “Knowing your value.”  I have never recommended a book as much as I recommend this one.  At first, I thought that I wanted to buy it for all the women I have ever – or will ever – meet but now I just want to buy it for the entire planet.  I was able to talk to both and it was really fun.  So when I was thinking about writing my monthly plea for people to remember we are all really on the same side, “Morning Joe” seemed like a good example of a way we can communicate and not just yell.   You can download part of the book from iTunes here.  You can also buy it from Amazon here.

As cheesy as this feels to end with, I often think about President Clinton’s line that “There’s nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what’s right with America.”  I think we can say the same about our political system.

My post mortem on the Trump candidacy

Donald Trump was never in the 2012 presidential campaign for the long haul.  I am not saying he had no interest in being president, I think he did.  He probably still does.  But this is my take of how this all went down.

 The 2012 campaign began almost the day after the election in 2008 but it really started up after the 2010 campaign.  Speculation about who was going to run on the GOP side seemed to be everywhere.  If there is anyone who understand the adage that “no press is bad press,” it’s Mr. Trump.  I grew up on Long Island where we seemed to get a ring side seat to the Trump Show.  I think he had been asked to do this and thought his campaign would be credible; a credible stunt.    Now, because he has a considerable ego, had been considering this, maybe his real interest was at 10 percent.  Anyone who has worked on a presidential campaign has seen the cottage industry that springs up when someone looks like they are running for president.  Would be candidates end up surrounded by a growing chorus of people telling him to run.  I used to wonder about candidates who have no chance, do they have no one in their life who can tell them this is a bad idea?  No, no there is not.

 So after a bit of this, Mr. Trump’s seriousness may have grown but I can guarantee that he did some checking into this – before he announced he was looking into it – and one of the very first things he would have learned,  was that he would have to release his financials and anyone who has ever really followed his career understands that this was never going past the summer.  Add to that his discomfort at shaking hands (a campaign must-do) and hatred of being seriously questioned (another campaign must-do) and you’ve got your three strikes.

 I think Mr. Trump started this thinking it would get decent press and raise ratings (can they ever be too high?  Not to him).  He starts out talking about the issues that he thinks makes him a credible candidate – the economy and our relationship with China.  He makes progress in the polls but the progression is more of a stable growing of support (good for politics, not so much for TV ratings) but not the meteoric rise he was looking for (bad for a campaign of a year and a half but good for TV ratings).  What’s been the hottest topic for many on the right?  President Obama’s birth certificate.  Mr. Trump takes a hard turn right and into loonie land, his polls numbers soar and the media eats this up like crazy.

 Note to the news media:  you have what, 17 months left of this campaign to cover?  Ask yourselves if you took his candidacy more seriously – or claimed to – to give you an excuse to cover something interesting.  If your answer is that he repeated (over and over and over) how serious he was – his stunt would not have worked without that.  If you really believed this, you would take Chris Christie at his word when he tries to make that same claim the other way.  Oh, and I also have a bridge in Brooklyn that you might be interested in.

 With his poll & ratings numbers soaring (not sure about his actual show but he dominated the 24 hour news cycle), the White House sees some of the crazy rhetoric is having an effect on what average people were starting to think about the President’s place of birth.  They release the long form certificate.  Mr. Trump is a allowed a small victory lap before his Icarus (thank you Chris Cillizza) candidacy crashes to earth.  We all know what happened next, Mr. Trump is eviscerated a few days later at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and to add that last nail, his NBC show is interrupted by the announcement that President Obama caught and killed Osama bin Laden.  Done.

 I would like to draw a clear comparison between this media type candidacy and that of Mike Huckabee.  Governor Huckabee was the clear front runner, which means as much as that can in 1.5 years out.  He also wanted to be president but this is a long grueling process.  One thing I always try to remind people about campaigns is that there are two things that you always run out of.  While you can theoretically make more money (as hard as that is), you can’t get more time.  Once the race starts, you get a finite amount and that’s all you get.  I think he looked at his life and weighed the real chances – even locking in the GOP nod would not guarantee him the prize, and it probably just seemed to be too much.  I am only laying all that out to show just how genuine his reasons for ending his campaign were.  No, Cenk Uygur, he did not “get too fat and happy to run.”  That’s just petty and mean.

 PS.  Dear Mr. Trump, this might be a good time to revisit that plan you had to save the Mets.  That’s a financial/sad situation that really might need you.

Not sad but not excited by the death of a terrorist

When something is thrown upwards, there is a point at which the object’s upward momentum and the force of gravity are equal. For some time period — even if it is incredibly small — when the object hangs suspended. That is the emotional space I have occupied since learning about Osama bin Laden’s death. Any relief/closure/positive emotion has been tempered by my normal instinct that death is bad and deaths, even of bad people, are not meant to be celebrated.

Now, I should confess a few things. I grew up on Long Island and live in Washington, DC. My emotional location vis-à-vis 9/11 had been a strange place. It remains one of the worst days of my life and few things would make me happier than seeing the towers built back exactly the way there were and despite knowing New York as well as I know any place on earth, I still get lost in lower Manhattan sometimes because I still look for the WTC when I get out of the subway. Growing up, that was my compass in the city. It may always be. These are the reasons, my liberal friends tell me my opinion of anything 9/11 related is less valid because I am too close to it.

At the same time, I will never think we should do to ourselves what the terrorists could not; destroy out way of life and take away our belief in the ideals that inspired our republic. Racial intolerance cannot be mistaken for vigilance against terrorism. We cannot convince anyone outside of the US  to believe that we believe in the importance of the rule of law if we do not apply it uniformly within the US. And the Bill of Rights is as important today as it was on 9/10/2001. These are the reasons my conservative friends tell me my opinions on this subject are less valid because I “do not understand the impact 9/11 had on America.”

You can see the paradox. One might think these opinions would give me more reason to hate Osama bin Laden but I don’t. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve that. The closest thing I have had to “joy” at seeing him be killed was when I laughed at a photo of President Obama that had the caption “I am sorry it took me so long to get you my birth certificate, I was busy killing Osama bin Laden.”

At the end of the day though, if I were to become the kind of person who celebrates any loss of life — even of someone as reprehensible as this mass killer — I just become more like them and I don’t want that.

Thank you, Dan Snyder

That’s something I don’t get to say very often.  In fact, I have never even thought anything remotely like that.  This morning changed all of that.  Being the insomniac that I am, I was up tweeting when I came upon this gem:  http://www.tbd.com/articles/2011/03/washington-redskins-to-washington-post-stop-using-our-name-56518.html.  I’ll save you having to read it; Dan Snyder was the Washington Post to stop using the Redskins’ name because he “wants to protect the brand.”  Personally, I think he would do more to help is brand by making them team suck less but that’s just me.

You see, I am a fan of a baseball franchise called the New York Mets.  Anyone who follows the sport knows the past few years have been tough ones for the team.  Two years in a row we had historic collapses – in fact last year was only marginally better because they sucked earlier in the season and no one had any illusions that they would make the post season.

Recently, my Mets have made news for other reasons.  The owner, Fred Wilpon, a man who has made breaking fans’ hearts an art form, lost a lot of the team’s money to Bernie Madoff.  Seriously.  Donald Trump has talked about stepping in to save the team.  If Trump makes one big public statement this year; I hope it will be that he has bought the Mets. (That’s wishful thinking, no one thinks he will only make one big announcement this year).  As big as this part of the team’s story is, it is only a distraction in the offseason.  The real story is that the team has a huge payroll and little to show for it.

All of this brings me back to Dan Snyder.  He makes me feel proud to be a fan of a team other than the Redskins (full disclosure: I am a 49er fan and thus required to hate the Skins).  As Mr. Wilpon has a talent for trading players in ways that give me nightmares, Mr. Snyder knows how to be a douchebag.  From suing season ticket holder to local papers for writing mean things about him, he likes being a jerk.  Soon after he bought the team, he had to move his family to a gated community because fans were ringing his doorbell to let him know what they thought.  Really.

So this morning’s news was only a surprise in that it made me happy that Fred Wilpon owns my favorite team.    That’s a second first this morning.

So much going on and so little time to write about it.

1. Wikileaks; as a liberal, what is the party line I am supposed to follow here?

It seems there is one thing Americans of all political stripes have found something they can agree on; Julian Assange.  Politicians and pundits hate him.  My personal views are more nuanced.  Few ideas reside closer to my heart than freedom of the press.  I may not like that these documents were published but Mr. Assange is not the bad guy here.  Neither is the New York Times.  There is a villain here and that’s the guy who pretended to be downloading Lady Gaga and was really trolling for secrets to share with world.  A secondary villain is the piss poor security that let this guy access all these cables in the first place.

Mr. Assange seems to be a bit of a douchebag; arrogant and possibly delusional.  I do not share his worldview but that does not invalidate his right to have it.  US politicians have no business calling an Australian citizen that he is a traitor for leaking anti-US documents.  I also find it ironic that some people who fear the coming of a ‘one world government’ are under the impression that non-US citizens who don’t live in this country can possibly commit treason against us.  I have no idea if he is guilty of the crimes Sweeden has charged him with but see no reason for him not to face them.  It would not make sense for any court on the planet to send him to this country.  It is pretty clear that he would never receive anything close to a fair hearing here. We are just pissed off that we are embarrassed.

The New York Times also seems to have tried to be as responsible as possible when it came to what documents they released and what information was redacted.  Our system of government relies on the ability of the press to print the information they receive.  Again, it is not their job to keep US government secrets hidden away.  That’s the government’s job.

I read today that someone leaked tons of credit cards as a protest against any action against Mr. Assange.  Again, I am all about the freedom of the press but leave my personal credit information out of your protest, please.  That’s identity theft and your outrage does not justify this.

2. Tax cuts for everyone!

I think President Obama is doing pretty good job.  I feel like when he took office he faced what I like to call a Himalayan array of problems; each is gigantic when looked at independently but not so much when compared with each other.

My final verdict on the tax cut plan that the White House has worked out with some in Congress is both the best deal he was going to get and a little too far.  Well, not too far but too far, too fast.  I think the deal on the tax cuts for the uber-wealthy might have been a necessary evil but I would have liked him to publicly fight it.  I think Joe Scarborough has been dead on about this.  I would have liked to have heard him use the term hostage a week ago.  Truthfully, I would like to have heard that before the election.  Here’s the exact wording I would have liked to hear, “As a candidate for president, I said that I oppose the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year.  I understand that the definition of wealthy differs in areas of the country where the cost of living is high.  I have asked the Republicans to consider extending all the tax cuts but those on individuals making more than $1 million a year.  They have refused to even discuss this and are threatening to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage.  We cannot let them.”

That would not have guaranteed anything but would have made the lefties among us feel like he remembers who elected him.  It also may have made if this package was the best they could do, that the lefties in Congress could support this.

This is a minor point, really in the overall scheme of things.  Even more minor is one problem I did have with President Obama’s press statement.  He said “if they are (wondering) if I am itching for a fight I suspect they will find that I am.”  You suspect.  YOU don’t know if YOU are ready for a fight?  Seriously.  You should have a clearer idea of what is going on in own head.

3. Can we all agree that we all want the economy to create more jobs?  Can we get our politicians to skip to the part where they tell us what they propose we DO to make that happen?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering running for president.  Today he gave a speech in which he railed against Washington gridlock, partisan bickering and reiterated his desire to see the economy grow.  He was short on specifics and long on rhetoric.  It may not be fair to signal him out for something all candidates or would be candidates do but something about this speech got under my skin.  I wish we could just stipulate that we all want the economy to improve, kittens are cute and all humans are mammals and just get on with our lives.