RSSCategory: Politics

Explaining Bill Barr

| April 27, 2024 | 0 Comments

One of the most famous quotes of the Vietnam War was published in an AP story by Peter Arnett on February 7, 1968. Describing an operation at the village of Ben Tre, an unnamed American army major said, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

It was a sentence that seemed to capture the insanity of American policy with respect to the whole Vietnam War. It also explains the insanity of Bill Barr’s support of Donald Trump for president.

Bill Barr is prepared to destroy the country to save it from progressive policies.

He knows that Trump is a danger to democracy. He accused him of “abuse of power,” called his claims of voter fraud that denied him victory as “bullshit” and compared a second Trump term to the country playing “Russian roulette.” Yet, he has declared that he will vote for Trump because the “progressive agenda” is even more dangerous.

One wonders what progressive policies are so threatening to America? Student loan forgiveness? Infrastructure spending? Child development subsidies? Reproductive healthcare for women? (Yeah, that’s probably it).

In a way, his position on the presidential race is a huge compliment to Joe Biden. He said, “I think it’s my duty to pick the person I think would do the least harm to the country.” He’s betting that Trump’s incompetence will save us…again. While that may have saved us in his first term, the team around Trump this time will be fully prepared to impose authoritarian rule in the second term. While Trump is busy nursing and massaging his many grievances, his army of wannabe-be fascists will be relentlessly dismantling the “administrative state.”

What Barr really fears more than Biden’s ideology is his effectiveness. Biden gets shit done!

That’s why Barr is willing to debase himself before Trump. Trump has rewarded Barr for his endorsement with ruthless ridicule. Here’s Trump’s thank you note:

“Wow! Former A.G. Bill Barr, who let a lot of great people down by not investigating Voter Fraud in our Country, has just Endorsed me for President despite the fact that I called him ‘Weak, Slow Moving, Lethargic, Gutless, and Lazy’ (New York Post!),” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Based on the fact that I greatly appreciate his wholehearted Endorsement, I am removing the word ‘Lethargic’ from my statement. Thank you Bill.”

Fortunately, nobody really cares what Bill Barr thinks about the presidential race. The rest of us just have to make damn sure that Biden wins.

A Letter to My Kids on the Occasion of the 2016 Election

| November 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Dear Danny & Bridget,

It’s now two days from the election of Donald Trump as our next president.  As I’ve said to you, the

Bridget accompanying Rita to vote. Bridget voted in PA

Bridget accompanying Rita to vote. Bridget voted in PA

magnitude of this event makes it hard to keep all the negative consequences in your head at the same time.   I keep thinking of new ones that I hadn’t considered or forgotten about.  Most of them are things over which we have no individual control.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change…”

But one thing we can control is how we remember this campaign, particularly the last few days.  As you know, I am always proud of you.  But my pride was literally bursting as I heard of the things you were doing to support the election of the first woman president.  Danny in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Bridget in Pennsylvania. Me in Cleveland and

Photo accompanying NBC story about Bridget and the Springsteen rally

Photo accompanying NBC story about Bridget and the Springsteen rally

Mom holding the fort in DC, anxiously watching us all from home.  I was moved to tears more than once.  I loved the fact that we all stayed in such close touch, even in our various locations.  It was truly a family affair.

You both threw yourselves, heart and soul, into this election.  From the day I heard that Mom was pregnant with Danny, I have always said that my fondest hope is to have children with passion.  Of

Rep. Joe Kennedy greets VP Joe Biden in Scranton Photo by Dan Black

Rep. Joe Kennedy greets VP Joe Biden in Scranton
Photo by Dan Black

course I was hoping that your passion would be consistent with mine, but that wasn’t a prerequisite.

And boy did I get my wish.  You both are passionate and showed it in this campaign.  Danny, your 3,000 miles logged with Rep. Joe Kennedy will be something you remember your whole life.  And, Bridget, your enthusiasm for canvassing is one of the things that brought me to tears.  Frankly, I hate canvassing, but I do it because we have to.  Fortunately, I moved up to “management” on this campaign and only had to dispatch canvassers, not canvas myself.  That was nice.  And I loved hearing about your volunteer gig at the Bruce Springsteen concert, including getting on the news as a result of your Hillary socks.

What I want you both to promise me is that you will compartmentalize this experience.  A bad outcome on a campaign can taint the whole experience.  Don’t let that happen.  I’m not just preaching to you.  I’m preaching to myself, as well.  Let’s all draw a bright line between the campaign and the election.  And lets remember this experience with the fondness it deserves.

You are both extraordinary people and you showed in your “passion” the big-hearted values that were the engine of the Hillary Clinton campaign.  No outcome can change that fact.

Bill meeting Hillary at Kent State University

Bill meeting Hillary at Kent State University

Yes, she lost and it was devastating.  I honestly don’t have any words of comfort on that point.  Our friend Luke said it was like a sudden death in the family.  The only way through that experience is time, the time to absorb it until it becomes part of the new reality.  We’re all going to have to go through that process in our own way.

America is heading into a rough patch politically.  But we’ll get through it.  I would just ask you to keep the values you fought for in the campaign.  And keep that passion.  I love you both more that I can express.

Jay-Z Concert – Chaos

| November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Things were going very smoothly, albeit somewhat slowly.  There were four magnetometers and many thousands of people waiting to get in.  Some had waited since 3 pm and it was now about 6:30 pm.   I was dutifully overcoming my unconscious bias and giving out stickers to everyone that walked by me.

A commotion erupted at the left-most magnetometer.  A man who seemed very intoxicated got into a dispute with the police and the secret service.  It went on for a while before he was shuffled away.

As if this little dustup were a dramatic foreshadowing, a real crisis erupted.  Suddenly a very large crowd of people waving “preferred” tickets arrived from around the other side of the building.  They seemed disgruntled and were demanding to be let into the venue.  Nobody at our station knew what was going on or where they were coming from.  It turns out there was a suspicious package at the VIP/preferred entrance.  The secret service closed the gate and sent them to us.  Maybe somebody was informed, but my team was surprised.  I called the overall leader to let him know and he told me about the package.

The people patiently standing at our gate were understandably reluctant to give up their places to this new folks, irrespective of their “preferred” status.  I’m told that some senior Clinton staffer lifted the gate to allow the preferred people in front of the regular folks and all Hell broke loose.  The crowd surged into the security stations and the Secret Service declared a safety hazard and shut down our gate, as well.  The crowd erupted.  For the next 40 minutes various police and regular people tried to get the crowd to back up to no avail.

Jan Roller, my host in Cleveland, and her sister stood up on some concrete barriers and shouted for the crowd to step back.  “Go back!! Go back!!” they bellowed.  It was pretty scary.  This video doesn’t really convey the crisis situation, but gives an idea.

Somehow, very gradually, some space was established in front of the magnetometers, enough to begin screening people through again. After about half an hour of screening people, some order was restored.   It was pretty amazing that the mood of the crowd became more festive.  It was during this period that the guy said I looked like Bernie Sanders.

Ast a kind of epilogue, we went for Chinese food after the concert.  I walked behind Jan, Joy and a couple of their friends as we entered the restaurant at about 11:3o pm.  As we were being seated, a couple in the booth next to us asked how we liked the concert.  Jan asked how they knew we were there. The guy said, “You were the lady shouting, ‘Get back! Get back!”

Cleveland is a small town.


Jay-Z Concert – Unconscious Bias

| November 5, 2016 | 1 Comment

My job providing replenishment tickets to other team members converting Clinton tickets into venue tickets did not require much work at all.  They all had plenty of tickets.  So, I wondered aimlessly watching the people come through security.

I discovered a large roll of Hillary stickers and decided to distribute them to the incoming Jay-Z fans.  It was an interesting social experiment for me.  As might be expected, most of the attendees were African American rap fans.  Distributing stickers meant going up to people and offering them a sticker.  Some would simply take the sticker, some would lean their shoulders toward me for me to apply.  It was fun interacting with people.

However, I found myself more willing to approach the women with a sticker than the men.  Some of the guys frankly looked scary to me.  Leather jackets, torn jeans, lots of bling and sunglasses.  I realized that my reluctance to approach the men was a clear sign of my unconscious bias.  Most of them had been waiting for 2 hours before they got through security and their expressions were serious, if not grim.  But I forced myself to approach whoever came through security, including the scary guys.  In literally every case, the man’s face would soften into a smile when I offered the sticker.  They immediately went from looking scary to looking benign, if not downright friendly.  No matter how many times this happened, I retained my reluctance to approach many of these guys.  That unconscious bias is very deeply ingrained.

There was, however, one very mean comment that cut me deeply.  I relieved one of the team members and waded into the crowd to do distribute tickets.  One guy in the crowd yelled, “Hey, look, Bernie Sanders is here.”  Ouch.  I reminded him that I had the tickets and he’d better be nice to me.  He claimed that somebody else that looked like him made the comment.

You be the judge.
















Hey, what a minute…

Jay-Z Concert – Sound Check

| November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Waiting for the doors to open, we were able to peak into the auditorium.  The concert was at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University.  Looks to hold about 12,000 people.

Both Jay-Z and Beyonce rehearsed a bit to an empty arena.  Jay-Z was dressed very casually in an untucked flannel shirt and his trademark baseball cap.  Beyonce rehearsed separately wearing sexy shorts and a spangly top.  She came back a little later for a dress rehearsal wearing a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary.  She objected a quote that was projected on the screen behind her.  It was Hillary’s quote from earlier in her career about declining to stay home to bake cookies.  She said it was an incomplete sentence and lacked context.  Sure enough, during the concert, the quote was extended and more clear.

Jay-Z Concert – The Setup

| November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

I was assigned to be an usher at the Jay-Z Concert as part of the GOTV program in Cleveland.  I took as just another assignment and even told my “boss” that I had no real interest in seeing the concert.  Not a big fan of rap.  Fortunately, he disregarded my “sacrifice” and I did get to see the concert.  It was pretty amazing, but more about that in a later post.

Volunteers gathered at 3:15 pm.  Doors were scheduled to open at 5;00 pm, concert begins at 8:00 pm.  The first couple of hours consisted of getting trained and mostly milling around.  My team was responsible for converting the campaign-issued tickets to official venue tickets with scannable bar codes. We were stationed in front of the security stations and make the exchange.  My job was to stand inside the security perimeter and supply the other members with the tickets they needed.  So, I floated.

The Passing of an Era

| October 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Speaker Tom Foley

Former House Minority Leader, Bob Michel, had a very touching remembrance of former Speaker Tom Foley in today’s Washington Post. He starts the piece with this incident:

Try as he might, Speaker Tom Foley could not gavel the House to order. It was Nov. 29, 1994, the last day of the 103rd Congress. I had just offered a resolution honoring him, and the speaker was being given a standing ovation for his 30 years of service. Our fellow members would not sit or quiet down.

It was a fitting tribute to a great public servant who assumed the mantle of leadership in the House at a difficult time.

Tom had just been defeated for reelection, and I was retiring. In an unprecedented gesture of goodwill and comity, Tom invited me to assume the chair on the speaker’s podium while he gave his farewell address. For the first time in 40 years, a Republican presided over the House, if only for a few minutes.

I was there. I was chief of staff to Rep. Steny Hoyer, then Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and I was on the House floor to witness it. I remember it vividly, particular the gesture of Foley inviting Michel to hold the gavel and sit in the Speaker’s chair. Michel was clearly stunned. There wasn’t a dry eye in the House. He sat on the edge of the seat like a kid who knows he’s not supposed to be sitting in a grownup’s chair. It was enormously touching. Continue Reading

The Real Obama

| November 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

Compare this secretly filmed video to Romney’s “47%” video. I’m just sayin’….

FDR Shows the Way

| October 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

There is an amazing video clip that I first saw on Chris Matthews show on MSNBC of Franklin Roosevelt talking about the Republicans’ approach to domestic policy. It is an exquisite clip.  A perfect critique of Republican political deceit.  I’m struck by it’s precise rhetorical construction and  the dripping sarcasm he shows, but most of all, Roosevelt’s good humor in delivering it.  He finishes up with that famous grin, so pleased with himself for delivering the shot so well.  It is a classic.

For some reason, the clip can not be embedded, so click here to watch it.

Elizabeth Drew on the Debate

| October 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

She gives it to Joe going away:

Determined to not let Ryan get away with anything—to dismiss many of his points—Biden, not a subtle man, did patronize him a bit and smiled often, to suggest that Ryan wasn’t to be taken seriously. Biden did overdo this somewhat, and the Republicans complained almost unanimously after the debate that their candidate was treated rudely—the tender-hearted conservative Republicans of course abhor rudeness. But their making a big thing about Biden’s frequent smiling, their criticisms even of the moderator (a familiar effort at misdirection), were clear signs of how they thought the event had gone.

Read the whole piece.