What the Mueller Report Tells Us About Trump

Alan Zendell, April 19, 2019

The redacted Mueller Report told us four important things, none of which is a shocking revelation.

First, we learned that a thorough investigation by highly competent interviewers and researchers found that Russia, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, definitely attempted to hack our 2016 election. The intent of the hacking was to help Donald Trump win the election and to sow discord and confusion among Americans. As I said, not exactly a startling revelation.

Second, those same competent investigators found no evidence that Trump, his family, or his campaign staff acted directly to assist the Russians in their attempt to influence the election. They may have behaved stupidly and incompetently, but there was no direct collusion with Russia. Again, not a startling result. No matter what people may have hoped the report would say, even Trump’s most ardent detractors didn’t really believe he had secretly plotted with Putin.

To the extent that suspicion was raised it was largely as a result of Trump’s own public statements and tweets. Remember when he begged Russia to release more of Hillary Clinton’s emails and praised Wikileaks and Julian Assange? Corollary conclusion: if you run your mouth irresponsibly, don’t complain when people question your motivation.

Third, despite all the claims of Fake News and attempts by Democrats to undermine the president, Mueller confirmed that most of the things reported by The New York Times and the Washington Post were correct. The Trump White House was filled with people who were so upset by the actions of the President and his senior staff, that there was a steady stream of accurate leaks.

Fourth, while there were numerous events that suggested the president wanted to kill the Mueller investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for obstruction of justice under the definition in federal statute. Again, it was mostly the president’s own public ranting that created the appearance of obstruction, beginning with the NBC News interview in which Trump said he fired FBI Director James Comey to make the Russian thing go away.

To the average non-lawyer, that sounds pretty clear, even if it doesn’t rise to the bar of a federal crime. Attorney General William Barr nearly broke his back bending over to explain that while Trump may have wanted to obstruct justice he never actually did, therefore there was no crime. Barr also argued that since there was no collusion with Russia, there was no underlying crime; thus, Trump’s attempts to obstruct the investigation were not motivated by a desire to cover up criminal activity.

Most Americans can be forgiven for finding that confusing if not unbelievable. Maybe we’ve been watching too many legal dramas, but most of us believe that conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime in itself even if the conspiracy doesn’t result in a criminal act. If someone plots to murder you but you aren’t killed, the perpetrator is still guilty of either an attempt or a conspiracy to commit the crime. The fact that the underlying intended act (murder) never occurred doesn’t absolve the perpetrator.

Perhaps the most surprising statement made by AG Barr was that since Trump’s attempts to kill the investigation were motivated by his anger and frustration over fears that his presidency would be undermined, that excused all of his actions. Barr’s defense effectively said it’s all right for the president to throw public tantrums whenever he’s upset. 

The unstated conclusion of the Mueller Report is that Donald Trump did everything possible to kill the investigation. His clear intent was to obstruct justice. The report cited ten different instances in which Trump acted to either create a groundswell of public opposition to Mueller’s investigation or in which he threatened to stop it himself by ordering that Mueller be fired, but was deterred by his own legal staff. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a level-headed attorney with no obvious political agenda, said, “If that’s not obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is.”

It’s clear that Trump’s presidency was probably saved by then White House Counsel Don McGahn who refused to follow Trump’s direct order to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller and then to lie about it. That was part of a pattern of lies and obfuscation that continued for two full years.

Despite exonerating the president of collusion with Russia, the Mueller Report couldn’t be more damning. It paints a picture of a president who continually lies, shoots irresponsibly from the hip, and displays both a lack of knowledge of, and total contempt for law. The most important thing the report does is confirm that Donald Trump is absolutely unfit to be president.

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Our National Embarrassment

The fact that it happens every day doesn’t lessen the pain. The fact that we know everything there is to know about our president’s narcissism, arrogance, and inability to feel compassion, makes it no less shocking every time he reminds us of those things. I’m focusing today on a single incident, a single tweet, because it speaks for itself so eloquently.

Like a lot of other people, I spent Monday afternoon surrounded by coworkers who were literally in tears watching the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burn. They all had their reasons – some were distraught over the likely destruction of irreplaceable religious icons, and the tears came from Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. Some felt wounded by the historical significance of losing what to many is the heart of Paris. And some simply felt the pain of the thousands of Parisians who gathered along the banks of the Seine to watch in horror and sorrow.

They spoke of the irony that the cathedral had survived wars from the French Revolution to World War II. The French were so concerned about the survival of their iconic city that they surrendered to the Nazis almost without a fight to protect it. Yet, something as minor as a vagrant spark or a deliberate act of terror or vandalism in a cluttered attic (no one knows which) brought the edifice to the brink of annihilation.

And what did our ongoing national embarrassment, aka Donald Trump do? He tweeted. By now you’ve undoubtedly read or heard his tweet, but it’s too perfect not to repeat here:

So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!

In three sentences, the president expressed who he is perfectly for everyone to see. Yes, it was horrible to watch the fire burn. It’s also horrible to watch people die in tsunamis, to see planes carrying hundreds of passengers crash in flames into office buildings, and to read about tens of thousands of people dying from opiods. Anyone can say it’s horrible to watch, but how empty and devoid of feeling is that statement? How badly does it miss the point of the real tragedy?

And then, one sentence later here was our president, suddenly an expert on firefighting, who believes that merely saying something anoints his words with truth, no matter how inappropriate and inane they are. Flying water tankers? Seriously. Thank God he remembered to tell the French to act quickly. No doubt the entire Paris fire brigade was confused and running around in circles until Trump energized them.

If you’re wondering why everyone reacted as they did, consider first that like the child he is, Trump was mesmerized by the fire. Not a word about the cathedral being a national treasure or the fact that millions of people, French and otherwise, were experiencing a personal tragedy. And then there was the sheer ignorance of his advice.

In case you don’t know, here are some facts. A gallon of water weighs eight and a third pounds. Flying water tankers can drop between 800 gallons (helicopters) and 19,000 gallons (supertankers). Let’s say the French used an average sized tanker like the Martin Mars, which can carry 7,200 gallons of water. That’s almost 60,000 pounds, or thirty tons of water that would have landed on the human chain trying to save priceless relics from inside the cathedral. And as the response of the French firefighters pointed out, bombing the cathedral with tons of water would have destroyed the building.

Okay, you say. Trump acted like a jerk, but after all it was only a fire in a famous church. At least national security or the fate of health care for all Americans wasn’t at stake. At least he wasn’t playing nuclear chicken with a crazed dictator.

That’s true, but compare Trump’s Notre Dame tweet with most of his others and you see a frightening pattern. They’re all the visceral response of a cranky, mentally ill old man. No forethought goes into them, and they’re posted with no regard for the pain and suffering they cause, much less the risk they often involve for millions of innocents.

Within one day of the fire, three French billionaires pledged $675 million to rebuild the cathedral. Disney pledged $5 million and Apple pledged financial support as well. Yet Donald Trump, who continually touts and exaggerates his own wealth and generosity simply gets angry when people laugh at his firefighting advice.

If you require any more reasons why Trump is unfit to lead this country you need look no further than his reaction to the Notre Dame fire.

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Primary Risks

Alan Zendell, April 14, 2019

The 2020 primary season started far too early. We’ve never experienced a presidential campaign that lasted two full years, and it’s impossible to predict how it will go, but we can make some intelligent guesses.

The biggest risk to Democrats may be ennui. Given the average American’s short attention span for anything requiring thought, voter indifference may be the hardest thing for Democrats to overcome. Two years is a long time – this political season is certain to be exhausting. That won’t matter to Trump’s rabid supporters and his avid detractors, but what about other voters? Twenty different voices competing for attention combined with the Trump team’s skill at sowing misinformation and confusion will turn off a lot of people. The Democrats can’t let that happen.

The 2016 debacle began when the DNC squelched serious competition against Hillary Clinton by rigging the Super Delegate count. This time, DNC Chair Tom Perez is doing an admirable job of appearing even-handed and keeping the playing field level. There’s been no overt attempt to silence Progressives or loose cannons. The primary season for Democrats will be a wide open free-for-all, but that has its own risks.

Democrats need to avoid three critical mistakes: becoming infatuated with a likable candidate who has no chance to beat Trump; competing in the primaries without destroying themselves or each other; and perhaps most important, preventing Trump from undermining candidates with lies and social media bots spreading misinformation.

John Kennedy used charisma to defeat Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton won two terms each with it, and Barack Obama used it to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. But charisma is fickle. Beto O’Rourke was riding the wave he generated by nearly defeating Ted Cruz, and everyone was asking if it could carry him through the primary season. Then, along came Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana who obviously had no chance at all … until he knocked Beto off the wave and took his place surfing through the early polls, behind only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Now voters are infatuated with Mayor Pete. Be careful what you wish for.

Calling themselves socialists or attacking America’s support for Israel are clear nonstarters for Democrats. President Obama’s well-intentioned public statements about the need for a more even-handed approach to the Middle East created a firestorm of opposition. Trump’s love affair with Benjamin Netanyahu capitalized on it.

Outspoken comments like those made by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar represent a different danger. Ms. Omar has the right to speak her mind, whether or not she is anti-Semitic. But there’s an irrational fear of Muslims in America, and Omar’s unfiltered anger allows Trump to stoke it. Outrageous as Trump’s 9/11 tweet suggesting Omar is sympathetic to our enemies is, the uproar hurts Democrats and preys on ignorance. I’ve said it several times and I will continue to − Democrats must turn down the volume on anything that hurts their chances of defeating Trump. A second Trump term is the worst possible outcome for America.

Ever since Democratic candidates began throwing their hats in, the leader in the polls has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Former Vice President Joe Biden is the (non)candidate Trump fears most. We know this from the sudden flood of comments and accusations that attempted to paint him as the Harvey Weinstein of politics. To America’s credit, most people rejected it. We know who Joe Biden is. We know he knows more about running the government than all the other people running for president, and we know his heart is in the right place. 

Biden has made mistakes in the past, and I am not referring to what the media call gaffes. Trump proved that a politician can speak his mind and disparage political correctness with impunity. So let’s stop attacking Uncle Joe for being human.

The Kavanaugh hearings brought back bad memories of Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. That was almost thirty years ago, and if we’ve learned anything about American voters it’s that they’re extremely forgiving when they see evidence of sincere redemption. I wish Biden would quit dancing around the issue and put it to rest. He’s more than capable of expressing contrition and publicly reconciling with Ms. Hill.

If Joe is willing to join the fray, there’s no one more able to take on Trump effectively. No other candidate has the street cred to talk to blue collar voters who voted for Trump and have been misled by him ever since.

Keep your eyes on the ball. Avoiding missteps is the only way to defeat Trump.

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The Health Crisis: Five Decades Later

Patrick Bailey, April 9, 2019

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He stays on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and writes about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

***

 Donald Trump rode to the presidency in 2016 in part on the wave of a hard-line solution to the immigration problem on our southern border. A large part of that solution was a southern border wall that he said would greatly reduce the flow of drugs, undocumented workers, and criminals.

Trump also proposed other plans to reduce the demand for and over-prescription of legal but addictive drugs. In his 2018 , Trump expressed his commitment “to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

Two years into his presidency, the border wall has received vehement pushback from many across the country and internationally. Are other parts of his drug plan working as expected? Not really.

In December 2016, just before Trump took office, the number of national drug overdose deaths was almost 64,000. In 2017, the number surpassed 70,000 . This number is greater than the fatalities from road accidents, gun-related violence, terrorism, or HIV/AIDS yearly. Even worse, only about 10% of all Americans with a drug problem receive specialized substance abuse treatment.

Looking Back

The US has a relatively long history of poor response to health crises—only acting after millions have suffered and thousands of lives have been lost.

The cost of health care has been and continues to be a crisis in the medical care system in America. President Nixon, on July 10, 1969, declared a health care crisis that marked the first attempt to execute sweeping reforms across the medical care system, which would go beyond mere insurance coverage expansion. In 1974, he presented a more detailed plan.

However, the crisis continued unabated. In 2009, the national expenditure on health was 17.3% of GDP compared to 6.9% in 1970. In 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported an additional 17.9% growth in health expenditures. Fifty years after Nixon’s first initiative, the Trump administration acknowledges that the crisis continues.

Another example was America’s slow response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 1990 that the government responded by passing the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. In 1991, the federal government appropriated a $220.6 million to fight HIV/AIDS. It took twenty years to increase that amount to a robust $2.29 billion.

Slow Response

Response to the opioid crisis is following the same path as previous health crises. Rather than spending more time and resources on the actual drug problem—as declaring the Opioid Crisis a National Emergency, rather than the weaker Public Health Emergency, would have allowed—and saving many lives, the Trump administration chose to try to stop the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico by building a porous southern border wall that smugglers can go around, over, or under.

Much of America’s problems dealing with crises have been due to flagrant inaction. People with the power to effect change from above simply will not do it or are influenced by popular opinion. Perhaps because America is so large and diverse, its people express more concern for and only get personally involved in issues that affect them directly.

Participation in political and public policy debates often is limited to the portion of the populace who are affected directly by specific issues. Voter apathy, may explain why there are so few confrontations between the public and the government about the opioid crisis: it doesn’t directly affect enough people.

An economic crisis that directly affects many more people, always results in faster mobilization. (The cost of health care affects more people than the opioid crisis, too, but the costs are disguised because of employer-provided health insurance.) The opioid crisis simply generates less political action than economic issues.

Is the US Doing Enough?

Is Trump’s administration doing enough to solve the opioid crisis in this country? Despite a blue-ribbon President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, many, including New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker don’t think so.

In February 2019, Booker tweeted, “The failed war on drugs has really been a war on people—disproportionately criminalizing poor people, people of color, and people with mental illness.”

Many voices have expressed similar concerns over how effective the Trump administration’s plans are at confronting the opioid threat  . Some experts believe Trump’s drug plan is a lot of talk with little action.

Any permanent solution to the drug problem in America must encompass:

  • An amalgam of more treatment options, including replacement drugs and holistic practices.
  • Harm reduction policies such as needle replacement and safe injection sites.
  • Prescribing dangerously addictive drugs only when needed, in the right dosage, and for a limited time.
  • Increased access to treatment programs and substance abuse rehabilitation centers.
  • Policies that address the causes of the problem rather than just react to it.
  • Mental health diagnosis programs to detect co-existing mental illness (dual diagnosis).

Some of these strategies have been advocated by the president’s opioid commission, but they have received little executive branch attention.

Perhaps most revealing, is that spending on other health concerns such as HIV/AIDS now far outstrips the budget allocated for the opioid crisis.

In 2018, Congress added $3.3 billion to programs aimed at addressing the addiction crisis through the FY2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The total spending on those programs, was $7.4 billion. In comparison, in the same fiscal year, HIV/AIDS programs received $32 billion.

The opioid crisis is greatly underfunded although it is currently acknowledged as among the deadliest crises in the US.. Does this mean that more funding is the solution to this crisis? Certainly not, but it would help.

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If the President Lies, Why Can’t I?

Alan Zendell, April 6, 2019

I’ve heard that question from children and adults, and it always makes me cringe. It underscores what I and many others have feared since the day Donald Trump announced his candidacy.

There is not now nor ever has been any controversy over Trump’s relationship with the truth, and it’s time people starting looking at that properly. He has spent his entire life twisting facts, exaggerating his successes, distorting reality, and inventing outright lies. The only thing newsworthy about his lack of integrity as president is his brazenness.

The media fact check, act shocked and outraged, and keep daily, weekly, and monthly tallies of the lies Trump spouts. It’s the latest in trendy games intended to entertain audiences, but other than increasing ratings, it accomplishes nothing.

During the 2016 election campaign his supporters said if he won he’d never behave that way as president. Now, his most prominent Republican supporters tell us it’s not important. It’s just Trump being Trump. But they’re wrong. When the devaluation of truth becomes the policy of the United States, we all lose.

It’s easy to explain to a child that lying is wrong, but that’s both naïve and oversimplified, and there is nothing simple or unsophisticated about the way Trump plays with the truth. It’s a cynical, premeditated tactic that he has used successfully throughout his life. He lies and exaggerates because he can. He knows how to churn the daily news cycle and use it to his advantage, and he understands that lying is simply a calculated risk that pays off more often than not.

To understand this, ask yourself what a lie really is. It’s neither a moral issue nor a mortal sin. It’s a deliberate act of deception intended to accomplish a specific end, committed with the full understanding that there’s a possibility it could backfire, and if it does some price will be paid. I say this in monetary terms because that’s the way Trump thinks.

If he lies to business associates and he’s found guilty in court, the worst that happens is he pays a fine. If he’s caught lying to customers it might cost him revenue, but ultimately, Trump understands how the system works. He knows he will prevail most of the time because the playing fields in business and politics are both rigged in favor of wealth and power.

We need to stop raging over Trump’s lies and realize that his approach to business and politics is simply his way of competing. When a football coach devises a defense designed to deceive the other team’s offense we applaud. When a hockey player dekes a defender and goes around him to score, we cheer. It’s the same in every sport: soccer, basketball, lacrosse – competition is all about skill at deception. Poker, bridge, chess – whatever your game, the more you deceive your opponent the more you win.

So let’s stop railing about how awful Trump is because he lies, and focus on what’s really important. If you think of a lie as a broken promise, consider that treaties, trade agreements, and legislative proposals are just special kinds of promises.

When Trump walks away from an international agreement he tells both our allies and our adversaries that our word cannot be trusted. When he lies about the intent of a major tax reform law or guarantees affordable health care, he breaks a promise to millions of hard-working Americans. When he misrepresents the motives of millions of people fleeing tyranny and oppression and equates them with radicalized terrorists, he offends everyone whose parents and grandparents came here as immigrants.

Does that matter? Damn right it does. Most of his supporters revel in Trump’s behavior. They cheer him at rallies and chant his hate-filled slogans. They love that he lies and cheats and gets away with it, because too many of them wish they could do the same thing, and Trump enables that kind of thinking every time he opens his mouth.

So let’s keep our eyes on the ball. If this keeps up we will find ourselves in a nation that values nothing but success, wealth, and power in which every means is justified by the end it leads to. That’s the definition of a jungle, and it’s up to everyone who believes in morality and decency to make sure it doesn’t happen.

The longer Trump is in power the deeper we sink into the muck. Whatever else motivates us, if we care about the future of our country, defeating him and beginning to heal from the damage he has caused must be our highest priority.

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Trump Spring

Alan Zendell, March 22, 2019

It’s Spring! With the coming of the vernal equinox, my thoughts turn to renewal. One thing I’m renewing is my Amazon page. I’m lowering the price of updated copies of four of my books to $0.00 for the weekend, beginning today. You can find them at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=alan+zendell&ref=nb_sb_noss_1.

But there are more important things that need renewal, specifically our battered ideals and institutions that have been under attack during twenty-six months of Donald Trump’s presidency. His supporters point to “everything he has accomplished,” and even those among them who are nauseated by his behavior hold their noses and say his flaws are worth putting up with. But are they?

Let’s summarize those “accomplishments.” Chief on his supporters’ lists is the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Every president who passes a major tax law takes credit for it, but this one belongs to the Republican-dominated Congress that had been trying to pass it for decades. It’s no coincidence that Trump and his family realized millions in windfall benefits from it.

By now, most Americans know if their personal taxes were cut and whether their job and income prospects improved. They also know that the tax cuts blew the lid off our deficit to the tune of trillions of dollars, and the same Republicans who desperately wanted the cuts are about to drop the other shoe on what they call entitlements, (what most of us call health care and social security) to pay for them.

The administration said the deficit wasn’t a problem because corporate tax cuts would stimulate the economy, increase our GNP and generate additional tax revenue. But today, the stock and bond markets dropped precipitously because of a near certain indication of an impending recession. That means the GNP will contract rather than expand, which will result in higher deficits and require either serious reductions in government spending or a repeal of all or part of the tax cuts. So much for Trump’s singular accomplishment.

Remember the boasts about how Trump was going to change the way we do business with other countries? With much ballyhoo, his administration negotiated a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada which looks very much like NAFTA, which it replaced. Then he started a trade and tariff war which shows no sign of ending. The most noticeable effect, recently, was the announcement by General Motors that they planned to move five manufacturing facilities offshore because tariffs made raw materials too expensive, though personal attacks by Trump resulted in some retrenchment.

On the diplomatic side, Trump said his personal magnetism would achieve what professional diplomats couldn’t. He made flashy overtures to North Korea which resulted two failed summit meetings with Kim Jong Un. Kim profited from the elevated stature they gave him but the meetings netted us absolutely nothing in terms of the real objective, which was the denuclearization of the Koreas. Events in the last two days show Trump’s Korea initiative for the sham it is. On Thursday, the administration imposed new sanctions against North Korea trumpeted by National Security Advisor John Bolton,  which included punishing Chinese companies that were enabling North Korea to bypass shipping  sanctions already in place. But when North Korea retaliated by walking away from the North-South liaison office, Trump immediately reversed the new sanctions. Who won that confrontation?

Trump’s two most dramatic diplomatic decisions, tearing up the Iran Nuclear Agreement and withdrawing from the Paris Environmental Accords have significantly weakened our relationships with our allies, and they’ve been made worse by Trump’s personal style. He insults and attacks the leaders of traditional allies like the UK, France, Germany, Canada, and Mexico. At the same time he clearly reveres autocrats and dictators, North Korea’s Kim, Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Xi, Philippine president Duterte, and the newest member of that club, Brazilian president Bolsonaro.

Weighed against Trump’s so-called accomplishments are his refusal to condemn racism and white supremacy, his attacks on the courts and the Justice Department, and his attempts to shut down immigration from Muslim and Hispanic (non-white) nations. His complete lack of empathy for the children uprooted from their families by his policies, his crass and vulgar personal style, and his lack of any definable morality all must be balanced against anything positive that might come from his policies.

Trump has chosen to celebrate Spring by relentlessly attacking John McCain and continuing to make outrageous and absurd claims designed to undermine the Mueller Report before it ever sees the light of day. The former is simply sick, a typical response from a mentally ill president driven by a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The latter reflects Trump’s version of the Constitution, in which he has absolute power to do anything he pleases, and no individual or government entity can stand in his way.

Happy Spring, everyone.

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The Great 2020 Dilemma

Alan Zendell, March 18, 2019

The dilemma is simple to explain, but don’t let that fool you. It’s extremely serious. Probably as serious as anything we’ve ever faced. The problem, of course, is Donald Trump. The dilemma is how to assure that the Democrats don’t blow the 2020 election and hand him a second term.

The highest priority in the next election for three out of every five Americans is defeating Trump. Trump’s favorable and unfavorable ratings invariably show a double-digit net negative. That ought to create a stiff breeze behind any Democrat’s sails, shouldn’t it? As we saw in 2016, that doesn’t automatically translate to victory.

Conventional wisdom tells us the most critical attribute a Democratic candidate must possess is electability, and therein lies the problem. With roughly twenty candidates having announced their intention to run, as of today, not one of them has a positive net favorability. The only Democrat who does, former Vice President Joe Biden, hasn’t even said for sure that he’s running. That ought to give everyone a chill. Did we learn nothing from the 2016 disaster?

If Democrats expect to defeat Trump, they need to find a “likable” candidate without shooting themselves in all forty feet with infighting. To accomplish that, each candidate must commit to putting his or her personal ideology and ambition on hold if it becomes clear that Priority One is in jeopardy. New Democrats who think they were elected to rebrand their party must understand that if Trump wins re-election, no amount of re-branding will matter.

It’s time for Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Thom Perez to issue a Joint Manifesto. I’m all for democracy and free speech, but the individual expression of free will without discipline is just chaos. That will not win in 2020, because the incumbent is a master at using confusion and disarray. And hateful as he may be, he knows how to stay on message with his base. If the Democrats allow theirs to splinter, they’re doomed.

The Manifesto should begin by declaring that regardless of the policies they favor, candidates must stop using the word “Socialist” as either a noun or an adjective. The 2020 election will be for the hearts and minds of an American electorate that is woefully uninformed and dangerously susceptible to social media. The truth is that only a small percentage of Americans understand what socialism is, and for the rest it’s a bogeyman that will undermine a candidate faster than shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. No one knows that better than Donald Trump.

Next, the Manifesto must make clear that for the purpose of defeating Donald Trump, fringe theories and philosophies need to be left at the door this year, along with over-sized egos. Candidates have to know that to earn the support of the DNC, their rhetoric has to stay within reasonable bounds. Anything that degrades a candidate’s electability is out of bounds, and should be punished by withholding financial support.

The Manifesto should contain a Twitter section that’s updated daily to remind Democrats of what they’re fighting for. It can begin with the twenty-nine tweets the President posted last weekend. Consider the backdrop:

  • a White Supremacist terror attack against innocent Muslims in New Zealand
  • the disintegration of the national government in Venezuela which, even if we don’t care about Venezuelans, caused gas prices to jump 25 percent
  • flooding that could bankrupt Midwestern farmers
  • announcements that North Korea will likely resume its nuclear missile tests and Russia will begin deploying medium range missiles in Europe that could destabilize NATO defenses
  • an existential crisis at Boeing that shook the confidence of the flying public.

With all that happening Trump used his tweets to attack television shows he doesn’t like and support Fox News commentators he does like, to attack John McCain and General Motors, and to renew his baseless claims of voter fraud and election rigging. As always, Trump’s ego dominated his judgment, canceling out whatever leadership skills he might possess.

Memo to Democrats – that’s what you’re fighting to replace. This president created a national deficit crisis by passing a tax law that to no one’s surprise will threaten Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in this Congress. He started trade wars that have no solution in sight that are hurting Americans. And he has thumbed his nose at everyone who believes our environment is at risk and that our children may inherit an uninhabitable planet. Even worse, he subscribes to no moral code except one-way loyalty to him.

Dear Democrats, if you can’t see what’s really at stake here, or you can’t put the country ahead of your own personal agendas, you’re no better than Trump. God help us if that turns out to be the case.

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