Emergency!

Alan Zendell, February 16, 2019

The nation is faced with two emergencies this week. Neither of them is the trumped up entirely specious non-emergency at our border with Mexico. The State of Emergency declared by President Trump is nothing more another rallying cry to his base. There is no emergency. Ranchers along portions of the border that have no barrier look out their windows watching for hordes of illegal immigrants Trump says are streaming toward them, but all they see is endless desert in which the only living things that threaten law-abiding Americans are rattlesnakes and scorpions.

The president justifies his national emergency claim with falsified crime statistics and fantasies of caravans filled with thousands of drug smugglers and other assorted criminals flowing toward our border. Every Congressional Representative whose constituency includes the border, and all the border city mayors who have spoken publicly not only say that additional walls are unnecessary, but have voiced their support for landowners who would be seriously harmed by construction of a new border fence.

There is a different emergency, however. We can’t believe a word our president says, even when he’s discussing a national crisis because his only concern is the size of the cheering crowds who love his divisive racism. Far Right Conservative author Ann Coulter, until recently one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, said yesterday, “The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot,” and that he’s “trying to scam the stupidest people in his base.”

We also face a different burgeoning national emergency masquerading as a victory for progressivism against corporate greed. At times, Democrats seem united in their belief that defeating Donald Trump is the most important priority in ensuring the future health of the country. Most of them also agree that the surest way to guarantee the re-election of a president whose approval rating rarely tops forty percent is for their party to spend more time tearing itself apart than making the case for why they are the better choice. Unfortunately for those of us who would do anything to avert another six years of Trump, that’s exactly what seems to be happening.

The most visible example is the debacle over Amazon’s HQ2 decision. Mayors and governors all over the country believed that locating Amazon’s second headquarters in their areas would be a huge boost to their local economies and citizens. In pursuing Amazon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even said he’d change his name to Amazon if that’s what it took to win the competition. The full court press to win Amazon’s approval even resulted in a rare show of harmony with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York won the larger share of the competition by committing $1.5 billion in tax breaks and other concessions in exchange for 25,000 jobs with average salaries of $150,000 a year. The state of Virginia won the other part by offering concessions of $750 million, a deal which was finalized this week. I don’t know enough economics to take sides in the argument over whether tax breaks for corporations in exchange for promised jobs are ultimately in our interests as taxpayers, though at first glance I’d guess that if Amazon planned to be a stable presence in Long Island City, the investment of $1.5 billion would have paid large dividends over time.

The more important argument is that the overwhelming majority of the Democratic Party favored the arrangement. Amazon is hardly an evil corporation from the point of view of the Green New Deal – rather, it is the non-polluting success story of the twenty-first century. I believe that in convincing Amazon that New York City wasn’t worth the trouble, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with help from Elizabeth Warren and other prominent Progressives, committed the very same sin Trump does whenever he opens his mouth.

Ocasio-Cortez played to her base rather than asking what was best for her city and state. It must have been a heady experience for her to suddenly find herself in a position to wield that kind of political leverage only a month after taking her seat in Congress. I imagine there are very few of us who could have restrained ourselves in that situation, but the sad fact remains that her victory dance against what she termed “Amazon’s greed” only widened the divisions in her party.

I’ve sung Ocasio-Cortez’ praises since she first came on the political scene. But the most serious emergency facing the country today is that if she and her followers can’t reign in their ambitions and find a way to work with the mainstream elements of their party, Trump will win again in 2020. That will be a true catastrophe.

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The Big Lie – the Wall

Alan Zendell, February 12, 2019

Throughout his presidency Donald Trump has displayed a disturbing combination of ignorance and narcissism, which was never more apparent than during the January government shutdown and the successive three weeks of bipartisan budget negotiations. Back in elementary school, I had a comic book version of the Constitution that explained how the government was supposed to function in simple terms that any second grader could understand. I wish I still had it – I’d gladly relinquish it and send it to the president.

Between his indomitable ego and his unwillingness and inability to absorb detailed information, he seems unable to include the U. S. Constitution in his world view. He thinks that because he’s the president, everyone in the country works for him and must follow his orders. Anyone who disagrees with him is either an enemy or an incompetent, or both.

With virtually the entire country sick of the stupid debate over the wall, and even sicker over Congressional gridlock, seventeen representatives and senators have spent the last two weeks doing the jobs we elected them to do, the jobs prescribed for them by the Constitution. Trump has done everything short of blowing up the Capitol to sabotage the bipartisan negotiations. At the outset, he mocked them, telling the nation that they were a complete waste of time, and spent the entire period of negotiation baiting Democrats and spreading lies, made up facts, and distortions. That is not the way either the founders or the 2016 voters intended for the government to be run.

The media characterized the shutdown impasse as a personal battle between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the president. Pelosi was accused by many of pettiness, of being motivated solely by a desire to defeat and humiliate the man in the White House. Moreover, she was set up for the one-on-one confrontation with Trump by none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced that he would block any attempt at a compromise that didn’t have Trump’s prior approval.

McConnell claimed he took that position because pursuing things the president wouldn’t sign would waste the Senate’s time. What he actually did was abrogate his constitutional responsibility to act independently of the Executive Branch, to serve as a check on presidential power and edicts. The Congress’ most important function is allocating the funds needed to implement federal statutes and regulations. To allow Trump to usurp that responsibility would be to concede king-like powers to a president who believes they are his right as the holder of the office.

So you see, when Pelosi pulled off said defeat and humiliation, while I’m sure she savored the taste of it, she had a far higher purpose in mind. When she decided to stare Trump down until he blinked, she was addressing the millions of Americans who have been watching this president attempt to trash our values and institutions. They wondered when it would stop and whether the damage he caused would be repairable. Pelosi was fighting for the integrity of our political process as it is particularized by the Constitution. If the awful trend of Trumpism was to be stopped and reversed, he had to be made to understand that he is neither king nor dictator, that the power held by the autocrats he worships is not and never will be his.

The shutdown and the weeks of negotiation since also demonstrated once again that our brilliant negotiator and deal-maker president is actually neither. The only negotiation style he knows is demand, intimidation, and punishment. That’s why Pelosi’s act of defiance was so important. It was the only way to stop him.

The bipartisan budget negotiations handed Trump an even more devastating defeat. He would have us believe that the Democrats are to blame for the deal he must swallow to avert another shutdown. That’s the most outrageous lie he’s told since all this started. For two years, his Republican controlled Congress was unwilling to fund his wall, and the current Congress won’t either. They’ve all heard from border patrol agents and security experts, and they’ve seen the falsified crime statistics for border cities like El Paso. The whole country has been listening to border Congressmen and local residents, who are nearly unanimous in their disdain for a wall along the entire southern border.

This is a complete repudiation of Trump’s attempts to soothe his base. He won’t learn anything from it, but it’s a message to the rest of us that the Trump nightmare will soon be over. We can’t be complacent, though. It’s going to be a struggle, and we can’t ever take our eyes off the ball.

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The Battle of the New Yorkers

February 10, 2019

We’ve just begun a two-year-long election campaign during which we will hear about Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal ad nauseum. No-one wants to be beaten over the head with the debate for twenty-one months, but there’s really no alternative. 2019 represents a critical fork in the road that will determine the quality of life in America, and possibly the world for at least a generation. We cannot defer those conversations any longer. 

The voices of three New Yorkers will frame this fight. If I were writing a fantasy about a nation in desperate need of a champion to put its house back in order, who rises from obscurity and inspires a revolution that redirects the future of the country in two hours of screen time, my protagonist would be modeled on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Congresswoman from New York’s 14th District. 

Ocasio-Cortez’ message of Medicare-For-All and a Green New Deal is both noble and vital for our future. But just as Dusty Springfield and Burt Bacharach once warned us that “wishing and hoping won’t get you into his heart,” dreaming and fantasizing won’t pay the bills. Former New York Mayor, billionaire, and media mogul Michael Bloomberg cautions that full implementation of Ocasio-Cortez’ dream would bankrupt the country, and I believe Bloomberg is right.

We can’t forget the third voice, quintessential New York huckster Donald Trump, who reacted to the progressive initiative by swearing that he would never allow the United States to become a socialist nation. Thank you, Donald, for adding your bigoted hyperbole to the debate. To be fair, it’s not all his fault. By foolishly and unnecessarily labeling themselves Democratic Socialists, Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren gave Trump and the right-wing media red meat for their fear-mongering divisiveness. Among prominent Progressives, only Kamala Harris seems to get that.

If Democrats allow themselves to be splintered by competing egos and ideologies as the Republicans did in 2016, 2020 will end in disaster. Democrats can never lose sight of their first and only priority – Donald Trump must be defeated for their progressive agenda to have any hope of success.

Can Ruth Bader Ginsburg survive six more years on the Court? Imagine a future in which Trump gets to replace her with another Brett Kavanaugh, or six more years of xenophobic isolationism, enabling of racist ideas and policies, and continued unrelenting attacks on women’s rights. The damage could be irreparable.

It’s imperative that Ocasio-Cortez and her followers continue to allow themselves to be educated and guided by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to learn the difference between rabble rousing and effective politics. Pelosi understands that voices of reason like Bloomberg’s are the most effective weapons against the combined forces of darkness that elected Trump. She knows the United States is a massive organism with virtually incalculable inertia. Our economy, our beliefs and traditions, and our understanding of how the world works are all in transition, but with an entity as huge and complex as our nation, positive change can only occur incrementally.

The kind of soft revolution Ocasio-Cortez foresees is pure fantasy. The alternative to gradual change for the better is a violent revolution no one wants. If we allow the divisiveness Donald Trump exposed and built on to explode into open conflict, or if we push our economy to the breaking point, the United States as we know it will cease to exist.

I don’t know what Pelosi’s guidance will be, but we can’t balance military ambitions, the health and welfare of all Americans, and protecting the environment by screaming at each other and making unreasonable demands. I absolutely believe in health care for all Americans, but that’s something that has to be baked into our economy over time or we’ll crash and burn. On the other hand, a sensible proposal like gradually reducing the eligibility age for Medicare over time should satisfy Progressives without scaring off independent voters and wrecking the middle class.

And if you believe as I and most reputable scientists do, that a Green New Deal is essential to our long-term survival, you still have to ask yourself if Ocasio-Cortez’ goal of meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources in ten years is realistic. It’s a wonderful goal, but any proposal that has a chance of becoming law must approach it incrementally without fixed time limits. Healing the environment has much in common with treating desperately ill patients with new, untested drugs. We don’t know how much to administer or how often. We just have to feel our way while we work out solutions to other problems, like whether we still need to police the rest of the world.

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The State of Trump’s Union

Alan Zendell, February 5, 2019

Most of us are engaged in some form of negotiation all the time. Raising our kids, managing relationships with significant others, haggling over the cost of rugs and chickens, negotiating business deals, getting along with coworkers – all involve ongoing negotiation.

What these situations have in common is that to be successful, they all hinge on truth and trust, and you’ll never achieve the latter if you can’t depend on the former. If people  repeatedly lie to you and fail to keep their commitments, it becomes nearly impossible to coexist with them. In the absence of trust we resort to tough love with our kids and risk ruining our adult relationships. If we feel cheated by a merchant or business associate, we find someone else to do business with, and if we’re not fairly treated at work, we start looking for a new job as soon as possible.

Sometimes we’re stuck. We don’t always have the option of looking elsewhere. As voters and concerned citizens, we’ve spent two years watching a tennis match of hurled insults and accusations. Our representatives in Congress have been at the center of it every day. Lies, fake news, insults, bullying attacks – it seems to never stop.

It’s always been that way to some degree. When I watched the movie Lincoln, I was shocked to see that partisan bickering was as bad in his time as it is now. It was a critical moment in our history. We were on the verge of acknowledging that slavery was evil, and those on opposite sides each believed they couldn’t negotiate with the other. Regardless of the cost to our economy, some wrongs simply needed to be righted, and the people who suffered financially did everything possible to stem the tide including attempting to demolish our Union of states.

The Civil War that nearly wrecked the nation is an example of what can happen when extreme positions lead to non-negotiable impasse, and the parallels between then and now are starkly clear. Racism, bigotry, hatred, fear, and lust for power and wealth each played a role 160 years ago. Those same things are driving the divisiveness in our country today, with one notable exception. In 1860, people had sharp differences, but each side’s position was clearly defined and understandable if not defensible; other things aside, the decision to abolish slavery was clearly one of principle.

In 1863, two years into the Civil War, Lincoln faced the worst National Emergency in our history. Believing that the moral future of the nation was at stake, and realizing there could be no negotiated resolution, he issued an Executive Order, bypassing Congress and the Courts to declare the Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation was to be the guiding principle on which a reunited Union would be preserved. 

Replace slavery with immigration and we might be looking at a similar fight today if no agreement is reached, but there are important differences. First, compared to what Lincoln faced, the problem of securing our southern border does not approach the level of a National Emergency. 

Congress came together to pass bipartisan legislation which would have been an important first step in a long-term solution, only to have it scuttled by the president who had previously promised to support it. Nor was Trump pulling the rug out from under a deal he had informally endorsed an isolated incident. He did the same sort of thing on every major bill Congress drafted during his two years in office, and from everything we know about his history he conducted his businesses the same way.

Worst of all, he has never taken a meaningful negotiating position on any issue except reducing taxes on the wealthy, and rather than observe the basic courtesy and etiquette that are the hallmarks of professional negotiation, he has been belligerent and offensive to everyone that didn’t support his views. He daily picks fights with Democrats who make him feel threatened and does everything possible to intimidate them.

Remember how he attacked Mitch McConnell as weak and ineffective? I guess it worked,  as he’s been Trump’s Senate lap dog ever since. And remember Paul Ryan? Don’t feel bad, he didn’t leave us much worth remembering. Trump’s tactics worked on his own party, but they won’t work on Schumer and Pelosi as long as the majority of the country continues to side with them.

Trump put himself in this box. Are you cowed by his bluster? Neither are they. When he talked about unity and reaching across the aisle to heal old wounds, last night, do you think any Democrats believed a word he said? I don’t know why anyone would.

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Is This God’s Fault?

Alan Zendell, January 31, 2019

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the Christian Broadcasting Network that “God wanted Donald Trump to be president, [and] … he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.” Of all the hypocrisy, hyperbole, and outright lies this administration has perpetrated, that has to be the most outrageous.

I have no wish to offend the minority of Americans who believe our daily lives are directed by divine guidance. It’s not something I believe, but after all, our republic was founded on the basis of religious freedom, speaking of which, if Sanders is right, the Judeo-Christian God must hate Muslims.

Let’s assume for a moment that her notion that there is a supreme being who actually cares who wins our elections is correct and take her at her word. Think about what that implies. Pope Francis, who is the nearest thing the western world has to an expert on God’s will, has called Donald Trump immoral and unchristian on a number of occasions. He described Trump’s obsession with walls as a symptom of “the fear that makes us crazy,” and said that if he were truly pro-life (instead of using that phrase to pander for votes) Trump would join the rest of the world in trying to mitigate the effects of climate change and seek to protect innocent young immigrants who are undocumented through no fault of their own.

Does Sarah think God caused Trump to believe the lie that millions of people in Central America love nothing more than raping and murdering Americans, and are willing to march over a thousand miles with their spouses and children just to create mayhem? Does God condone Trump’s attitude and treatment toward women?

If I recall my Old Testament, when God saw his people succumb to pride, arrogance, and narcissism he punished them by scattering them to the winds, each group with a different language so they could no longer communicate and conspire to achieve godhood for themselves. Does Sanders think that same Old Testament God would select someone like Donald Trump to lead the most powerful nation in the world? Would He favor someone whose most notable attributes are the same ones that caused the survivors of the Great Flood to build a tower to heaven in order to subvert God’s ends? If God used confusion and divisiveness to punish his errant flock, does Sarah Sanders believe He would favor a leader who dealt exclusively in those tactics?

Maybe Sanders assumes God believes that the end always justifies the means, that the mission God has given Trump is so critical that He was willing to suspend all the normal rules of behavior to enable him to accomplish his goals. Thus, His minion on Earth was given a free pass to ignore morality and ethics, to lie and confound, to behave as though he never heard the word integrity. Oh wait, where have we seen those characteristics before? Sanders must believe that to be an effective leader in the fight against Satan, you have to be equally ruthless and devious. Let’s see if Trump qualifies. Imagine him filling out a resume based on the seven deadly sins.

Pride – Trump’s wins hands down; Envy – it drives Trump crazy when someone else has what he wants, thus his attraction to dictators like Putin and Kim; Gluttony – no amount of opulence is enough for Trump; Lust – his boasts of his alleged sexual prowess speak for themselves; Anger – his knee jerk response to anyone who disagrees with him; Greed – amassing greater wealth has been his only guiding principle throughout his life; Sloth – the final piece of the puzzle, never study, read or consult when you can wing it.

Looks like we have a winner!

It’s said that Sarah’s God works in mysterious ways. Maybe she’s onto something. If Trump seems more like the Antichrist than a Christian, Sanders must believe he was put here to be a twenty-first century serpent, tempting us to practice everything God abhors. If our Eden is Earth itself, and Trump is simply a tool, a means of testing us to see if we can be trusted to preserve our Garden for future generations, what happens if we don’t pass muster this time? Will humanity be banished from a planet rendered uninhabitable?

I don’t know if Sarah Sanders is capable of such deep thoughts, but if she truly believes Trump was selected by God to lead us, what else makes sense?

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Who the Hell is Stephen Miller?

Alan Zendell, January 29, 2019

Like most people whose ethnic or religious heritage is associated with groups that tend to be the targets of bigotry and hate crimes, I’m extremely sensitive to actions by people with a background similar to mine that exacerbate the situation. When Bernie Madoff was unmasked as a thief who robbed thousands of people of their savings and retirement nest eggs, people were angry and disgusted, but my reaction went much deeper.

I felt an intense mix of rage and embarrassment. It was bad enough that Madoff was a crook, pure pond scum, but he was also a New York Jew of my generation. That made him a poster child for anti-Semitism and fodder for the Alt-Right/Neo-Nazi movement, something I took very personally.  

I’m sure Italian-Americans cringed every time an Italian Mafia boss was indicted.  Likewise, every law-abiding African American when black faces appear on local television news as perpetrators of rapes and murders, and the vast majority of Hispanic Americans when an illegal immigrant with a Spanish surname is implicated in drug or human trafficking.

I experience the kind of anger I felt toward Madoff whenever I see the name Stephen Miller. If you’re not sure who he is, let’s ask his uncle, David Glasser, a neuropsychologist and retired professor from the Boston University and Jefferson Medical College faculties. Last August, Doctor Glasser published an article with Politico entitled: “Stephen Miller is an Immigration Hypocrite.”

The article speaks of Glasser’s shame over his nephew’s history as a right-wing anti-immigration extremist, which the doctor believes helps embolden people like the Nazi marchers in Charlottesville. “I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.”

I feel Glasser’s pain because the story of his family’s flight to freedom from persecution in Czarist Russia mirrors that of my own and my wife’s families. We understand what America symbolized to our grandparents, and we know the fate of those left behind when the hatemongers destroyed their villages.

If you’re wondering what Stephen Miller did to cause such angst among his own family, consider that he is the chief architect of Donald Trump’s hateful, racist immigration policy, and the author of some of Trump’s most offensive speeches. He was also the chief proponent of making the Wall the cornerstone of the Trump presidency.

I cannot fathom how an intelligent young man living a life of relative privilege based on three generations of antecedents prospering from living the American dream can have his mind twisted the way Miller’s is. His Wikipedia page quotes Miller attributing his conversion to what he describes as a committed Conservative based on the writings of Wayne LaPierre.

There is no definition of modern era Conservatism that includes isolationist paranoia about immigration. Nor is there any reference to religious intolerance or replacing truth and integrity with lies and hyperbole. The advantages and opportunities Miller grew up with were attributes of a free society built on the backs of immigrants. For someone like him to espouse the immoral, offensive attitudes he whispers in Trump’s ear is unconscionable.

When the Grim Reaper, aka Steve Bannon was fired by Trump, many of us hoped that represented a repudiation of his take-no-prisoners assault on the courts, the press, and truth in general. We didn’t realize that in every way that mattered, Miller was a Bannon clone, albeit one who appeared more civilized and urbane, at least on the surface. That was because when the administration sent out its surrogates to spout favorable talking points, they kept Miller under wraps. Most of us had no idea who he was.

When Trump started running out of surrogates and Miller briefly made the rounds of the talk shows, we saw why. Unlike the president, whose insults and belligerent attitudes were often borderline inarticulate, Miller was eloquent and seemed to know his subjects well. But he was insolent and rude during every appearance. Barely into his thirties and clearly full of himself, he mostly came off as a nasty little twerp. Every time I heard him speak, I thought God, I wish he wasn’t Jewish.

Like a canary in a coal mine, Miller actually has positive value. His demise as an administration official, when it comes, will signal the death of the most vile attitudes that have come out of the Trump White House. If the president wants to improve his approval ratings, getting rid of Stephen Miller would be a brilliant first step.

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Bullies 101

Alan Zendell, January 26, 2019

Sometimes when I tutor kids, it’s clear that they never learned some of the basic skills they need in elementary school, so I have to go back to Arithmetic 101. The lesson is the same, no matter what your endeavor. Whether you’re an athlete, a politician, an engineer, or an entertainer, if you don’t put in the time, study your craft, and do your “reps,” you’re probably going to fail.

In 2015, Donald Trump said that was nonsense. He knew more about politics than the professional politicians, more about the military than our career generals, and more about dealing with other nations than our entire Diplomatic Corps. Yet, from his first day in office he demonstrated an appalling lack of knowledge about how government works, the Constitution, the Courts, diplomacy, and the responsibilities of the Congress and the free press.

He constantly behaved like a bully and an autocrat because that’s all he knows. From his father to his mentor, Roy Cohn, and the mobsters he hobnobbed with, he always got the same message. Always project strength, never concede or admit a mistake, say and do whatever is necessary to achieve your objective. When Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” Trump, in his childishly simplistic view of the world took that to heart. But Lombardi was talking about football and the obvious truth that when the game is over no one remembers anything but the final score.

Trump spent his life bullying people with his money and his lawyers, and his visceral sense that his ego and narcissism give him a competitive edge over those who value things like honesty, courtesy, and scruples. He used that edge relentlessly throughout his life. He was successful most of the time because his opponents, notably the entire Republican Party, cut class when they were supposed to be studying Bullies 101.

Need a refresher? Appeasement and concession never work. The rapid growth of the Nazi Axis, the Japanese Empire, and  Soviet Union in the last century should have taught us that lesson, but Trump understood that most people lack the stomach to face up to a tyrant.

I said most people. Fortunately, there are some like Nancy Pelosi who learned that lesson growing up in Baltimore’s Little Italy in the 1940s and 50s, when tough guys ruled the streets and the Democrats who controlled Baltimore had much in common with mobsters and protection rackets. She was schooled by a mother who was a political organizer and networker, a father who was a Congressman and a Mayor of Baltimore, and six brothers, one of whom also became mayor. Sweet young Nancy earned an “A” in Bullies 101.

When she was finally in a position of political strength after the 2018 midterm elections, the pundits thought the young Turks who had just been elected in an anti-Trump wave would defeat her bid to be re-elected Speaker. We don’t know what happened behind closed doors, but 77-year-old Pelosi came out on top.

The pundits then wondered if she could stand up to Trump and if her finger was on the pulse of what her Democratic base wanted. She stared Trump down through a number of staged television events that he assumed he would win because he had always won them before. We watched her stand firm, and were cautiously elated as one after another, Trump’s threats and boasts proved to be empty.

The government shutdown dragged on for five weeks, and Pelosi reacted to Trump’s barbs and insults by smiling calmly, confident as only someone highly skilled in her craft can be. She knew her opponent well, and knew that public opinion was on her side and eventually would erode Trump’s support. Nancy held firm, publicly predicting that the tipping point would come when the shutdown compromised airline safety. Again, she was right on.

Throughout, Trump was revealed as the outmatched political novice he is. Despite his bluster and his claim that re-opening the government was “in no way a concession,” yesterday marked the end of his Imperial Presidency. The Emperor’s guns are loaded with blanks and he’s not wearing anything but his fake hair and makeup.

Thanks, Speaker Pelosi. I admit that I didn’t have enough faith in you before, but you’ve won me over.

***

Washington was hit hard by the shutdown in more ways than one. It began at the height of the baseball free agency season. Nowhere was that more apparent than Washington, where superstar Bryce Harper spent his first seven years in the major leagues. Harper is loved by Washington fans, who were all on the edge of their seats in mid-December, waiting to see if their Nationals would win the bidding war to keep him.

The government shutdown stopped the free agency process in its tracks. Harper would have signed weeks ago, if not for the spectacle his huge ($350 million) contract would have been with so many fans not getting paid.

On behalf of all Washington baseball fans, I thank Nancy for getting things going again. We should know where Bryce will be playing in a few days.

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