Thursday, March 9, 2017

Trump Monkeys

The Trump administration puts to the test the “infinite monkey theorem,” since so many journalists are typing away chronicling the daily saga of the new president. Very little Shakespearean prose has yet resulted, but we have to consider the source. Trump’s address to the “joint session” of Congress produced amazement at the new Trumpian focus, his ability to read – and stick to – the Teleprompter for an hour or so. Two times, though, he did deviate, letting the inner Trump ooze out: claiming some sort of record for applause had been reached and the soul-churning idea that the deceased Seal, William “Ryan” Owens, was looking down at the assembly and smiling. Perhaps Trump was channeling the apostate Mike Pence sitting smiling behind him.

This brings me to the chief spectacle of that night, the sight of the Seal’s widow, sitting, standing, crying, mumbling, suffering. It is cheering that the earliest critics of that display were other military people calling this for what it was: exploitation. Trump, understanding television if nothing else, along with his obsession with ratings, knew he had a winner: Who can not be riveted by the sight of a good-looking woman in extremis?

I tried to imagine which American actress (or British, French, etc.) could have done what the widow was doing so convincingly. What the viewer got to witness was, seemingly, minutes of high-quality grief porn. Always a big draw, though only if the woman involved is attractive. In this case, a willowy blonde in a black dress.

Why did she consent to be used this way? Evidently, she has a military background herself and when the commander in chief asks, she responds. But, she was obviously still traumatized by the recent death of her husband, but Trump knew she would be a good show.

Trump’s treatment of women was already well broadcast during his campaign, but since he assumed the presidency he still is treating women badly. On his inauguration day, pictures showed him neglecting his wife repeatedly, and the largely absent first lady was hauled out finally in Florida on Feb. 18th , ten days post the news of her libel lawsuit against the British tabloid The Daily Mail broke, detailing how it would cut into her future income, to give her brief I-am-not-a-hooker speech. Her remarks began with a recitation of the Lord’s prayer (aka, the Our Father), the protestant version, which no one could accuse her of plagiarizing. Yet another weird spectacle.

(Though it needs to be said that Michelle Obama took a while to get her footing. Back during her first year as FLOTUS, she was stuck hoeing that godforsaken garden built at great cost on the White House lawn. Even I wrote a column back then claiming I would lose my mind if I saw another picture of her holding a yam in her fist.)

But the prize this past week goes to Trump’s tweets on Saturday morning, calling President Obama “sick”, a bad guy, for ”tapp”-ing his phone in Trump Tower. As they say, these tweets dominated the news over the weekend and into this week (below is the last):

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! 7:02 AM - 4 Mar 2017.”

How low can he go? Good question. We’re now back to Trump the unhinged, rather than Trump the presidential, according to the rounded-up usual suspects among commentators. I did like the continuation of Trump’s new evangelical rhetorical streak, given his “very sacred election process” characterization. In the same vein as the dead Seal smiling down at us. See, Mike Pence is exerting influence.

Speaking, as did Trump, of the former president, contrary to the gushing coverage, Obama’s “last” speech as president in Chicago was completely delusional – it can be summed up in this paraphrase: We’re doing swell and the rest of you are screwed. And given his vacation photos and the family’s alleged $65 million book deal, it appears that he is. Obama, ironically, is enjoying the traditional honeymoon period, not Trump the nut.

One reason Trump was apparently comfortable during his speech to Congress was that he was speaking largely to an audience of millionaires. Consult the statistics of the average wealth of the typical Senator or Congress person. It’s somewhat like the crowd at Mar-a-Lago.

But as the news cycle speeds up, the attention span of the audience slows down. Trump monkeys have to keep feeding the beast and can barely stick to a story beyond twenty-four hours. (On to The American Health Care Act! – Trump, I expect, will want to tweet that Obamacare should be renamed The Kenyan Health Care Act.)

We have all lived with “false equivalency” for a few years now and Trump’s “Obama bad” tweets seem to have worked their dark magic and Republicans are already to drag Trump’s wiretapping accusations into their investigations into the Russian campaign hacks. False equivalency rises in committee hearings, costing money, time, and attention. The Swamp needs more muddy waters. It wasn’t enough for Trump’s drained swamp to end up in his cabinet.


The Huffington Post version appeared on March 8, 2017, and can be found here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump, Trumped, Trumpery



Trump’s executive orders are most assuredly public relations stunts first and foremost. Secondarily, they echo his campaign promises and that is the point, wanting to claim at a later date he fulfilled all his promises pronto. How else to explain the haste, shoddiness, and their language, a mixture of simplemindedness and obscurity?

I can’t recall previous presidents holding up such signed documents to the assembled cameras, as if they were large glossies of Miss Universe candidates. All that was visible was Trump’s EKG-inspired signature, an alarming sight. The executive orders haven’t been coordinated with the applicable agencies and one reason floated for that is Trump’s fear that bad guys in the bureaucracy would bollix up his good intentions. The travel ban has become the most notorious, but the others are future poison pills.

It’s government by spectacle, not a surprise, given the previous campaign. Trump continues to tweet his semi-literate bon mots, contradicting himself anytime he feels like it, subletting his responsibilities as quickly as possible to his underlings, such as giving over the decision on “torture” to his Defense Secretary.

Trump continues to say he believes in the efficacy of torture and that doubtless comes from his self-knowledge that if he was pinched on the arm he would give up all his secrets. It’s been clear for decades that those who are deterred from wrongdoing by the thought of going to prison are only those who never imagined themselves in one.

It appears Trump himself finds it hard to believe he’s actually president. Why else go on so long about the size of the crowd at his inauguration? And claiming he would have won the popular vote except for the 3 - 5 million illegals who voted, thereby showing more civic engagement than regular Americans who couldn’t be bothered. Unfortunately, such complaints are catnip to television news, which loves to compare pictures. No visuals, no story, in our age of looking, caught in a culture of seeing. This was especially true during the campaign, so many fixated on the size of his fingers, the size of his whatever.

Worse, of course, is to come. The Gorsuch selection for the high court is a Trojan horse for the second pick Trump expects to get. The Republican-controlled Congress won’t be a rubber stamp for Trump, Trump will be a rubber stamp for Congress. Former Indiana governor Mike Pence, who thought he would lose his reelection and hitched his wagon to the Trump campaign, is all over the early policy changes, and the Breitbart creature, Steve Bannon, who seems as aggrieved by the so-called elites – actually people who are culture celebrities – as his master Trump. Regardless of both Bannon’s and Trump’s own Ivy League credentials, they look at the world as an internal, eternal, high school Darwinian experiment, jousting with the in-crowd and the out.

They want to beat what they can’t join and they have. Thanks to the disgruntled blue-state voters who put Trump over the top, individuals Trump and Bannon would be appalled to spend any real time with, they now have the power to beat and pulverize all the adherents of the former in-crowd, especially the arugula-loving Obama followers.

Where will it end? I have no faith Democrats will rise up in less than two years and capture either the Senate or the House. The Republicans have gerrymandered their way to semi-permanence in state-houses and in Congress. Trump’s America will be gaudy and crazy on the outside, but mean and punishing on the inside, thanks to the Pence/Bannon/McConnell/McCarthy/Ryan view of America.

The Huffington Post version appeared on Feb. 1, 2017. It can be found here.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Similarities

A small number of commentators have pointed out some similarities between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. The actor, Chuck Norris, provided “Top 8 Similarities between Trump and Reagan,” and, at the other end of the pundit perspective, Josh Zeitz, attempted to answer the question, “Is Donald Trump Like Ronald Reagan?” Zeitz has taught at Cambridge University and Princeton and Chuck Norris is, well, Chuck Norris. Both published their pieces during the past campaign, Zeitz in March and Norris in July.

One similarity that Norris leaves out is all the race baiting, dog-whistle tactics, that both successful candidates employed, the fact that Reagan held one of his first large campaign events at the Neshoba County Fair, some seven miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town notorious for the killing of three civil rights workers. But race-baiting long has been a staple in American elections and both Trump and Reagan weren’t pioneers in that muddy field.

But what interests me is the flip-side similarities between Reagan and Trump, the 180 degree comparisons. Similar but different. Reagan the optimist, Trump the pessimist, Reagan the civilized, Trump the barbarian, that sort of thing. Ronald Reagan strove to be a picture of decorum, the modest superstar, humble with his successes as well as his failures. His televised apology for lying to Americans during the Iran-Contra scandal is a model of the latter.

Indeed, when Reagan began his campaign in 1980, as I have written before, most of the coverage treated him, if not as a clown, as an amusement. It was only during the summer of that year that reporters realized that he might actually win, given all of Jimmy Carter’s accumulating troubles. Ditto Trump. It wasn’t necessarily Obama’s troubles, but Hillary Clinton’s, that were piling up, thanks to the usual suspects, the Russians, the head of the FBI, etc. But, earlier on, it was the fecklessness of Trump’s primary competitors that let him emerge, and then Hillary became the likely villain and victim. Crooked Hillary.

I had heard from a reliable source in early 2016 that the CIA would not let Trump become president. I wasn’t necessarily picturing drones over the Trump Tower (which, ironically, may now happen, military drones that is), and didn’t take the prediction seriously till the former head of the KGB entered the fray. Putin must have heard the same thing and it became a stimulus, a challenge, to his institutional pride. Hence, all the email hacks.

Some observers wonder why the emails interested journalists so much, whereas all of the Trump scandals - Trump University, charities, foreign entanglements, etc. - didn’t seem to hold the same allure, or promote the same daily coverage. Well, unfortunately, journalists read and send emails all the time, whereas very few, almost none, attend bogus universities, or fly around the world to luxurious hotels and golf resorts. They write what they know.

But, as the old Ted Kennedy joke goes, they’ll drive off that bridge when they come to it.

Two other presidents have the same, numerically, assortment of similarities: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I still can’t get over the fact that the last two Democratic presidents who served two terms didn’t have their biological fathers in their lives. That grandparents played a role in their early upbringing. That both are left handed and both made very strategic marriage choices, breaking their earlier - and in Bill Clinton’s case, continuous - dating patterns and history.

And, of course, both saw their two terms as president almost go for naught. Clinton being replaced by his opposite, George W. Bush, the scion of an entitled family, a man reckless and oblivious to the responsibilities of the job. And now Obama, leaving everything at risk to another heir, a ludicrous choice foisted on the American public by less than a hundred thousand disgruntled voters distributed in three states, a man who seems more devoted to his twitter account than the presidency.

Both Clinton and Obama were children of the meritocracy. Bush and Trump not so much. But both Democrats failed, leaving office with their annulled presidencies, insofar as they had eight years to encourage successors and neither seemed to find that important, crucial, to everything they stood for. And it’s small comfort that in both elections that followed their terms the popular vote went to the losers. Another bothersome similarity that could have been predicted.

The Huffington Post version, which ran on December 31, 2016 (uncorrected version), can be found here: Huffington Post version

Friday, November 18, 2016

It's the voter suppression, stupid!

Voter suppression is the big, somewhat neglected, story of the 2016 election, insofar as that phenomenon is what caused Hillary Clinton to lose and Donald Trump to win. And it wasn’t just the well-planned and rigorous voter suppression being carried out by Republican-controlled states throughout the nation, photo-IDs, exaggerated myths of the fraudulent individual voters, fewer places and days to vote, etc., but a more insidious sort, a by-product of negative ads and the atmospherics of disenfranchisement.

What the Republicans succeeded doing was to trumpet Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings and, more cunningly, they helped raise Donald Trump’s negative ratings, too.

Indiana was a test-case for this, given all the attack television advertising aimed at the senate and governor race. Hard to count all the faults of both the Republican and Democrat candidates viewers were exposed to: Whoever was to be elected was already branded a crook, a criminal, or worse. Unfortunately, most of these ads were accurate, though less so the NRA’s.

In the presidential race, the statistic the media most often repeated, either wittingly or unwittingly becoming co-conspirators to suppress the vote, was both Trump’s and Clinton’s “unfavorable” ratings, higher than any other candidates in history commentators crowed.

The general distaste for both Trump and Clinton was promoted relentlessly over the course of the campaign and had its effects, both intended and accidental. Hillary Clinton’s own weaknesses played into this version of events, as did the outstanding boorishness of Donald Trump. Weirdly, the “high-road” behavior of President Obama and the First Lady drove up the contrast between themselves and those vying for the office.

The result of the 2016 election had a variety of causes, but voter suppression proved crucial. The distribution of the votes echoed the 2000 contested election: It’s cities vs. country, college towns vs. rural towns. Hillary Clinton, like Al Gore, won the popular vote. The enthusiasm gap between the contenders reared its head. A lot of people tried to deny it existed. This election may, or may not, be the last hurrah for a couple of generations of white folk. What do I think? As Jesus purportedly said on the cross while soldiers cast lots and divided up his garments: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Yes, we live in a divided America. But, as Bernie Sanders showed in the primaries, dividing garments and casting lots was in vogue.
But, unlike the Bush vs. Gore contest, the 2016 campaign itself suppressed the vote. The statistics are now just starting to come out that prove the point. Donald Trump barely received more votes winning than Mitt Romney received losing. That could only happen in an election where the chief attribute was voter suppression.

Americans tend to suppress the vote in any case, since barely half even bother to vote. But, in addition to those tendencies, this time there was a certain sort of not voting that led to the outcome. In Michigan, Michael Moore pointed out on MSNBC after the election, some twenty thousand voters who did vote skipped voting for any candidate for president.

This sort of thing has happened before and I wrote about it in my book on the 1996 presidential campaign. In the race for the senate in New York State in Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992 tens of thousands of voters did not vote for anyone for senator in that election. The reason was the Democratic primary had been so cantankerous and ugly that voters, mainly women – that primary was full of women candidates (Geraldine Ferraro, Liz Holtzman) and the eventual winner, Robert Abrams, was wounded by winning – voted for neither candidate. Alfonse D’Amato, the Republican incumbent, won narrowly. Republicans retained the seat because some Democrats felt aggrieved. Sound familiar? See Bernie’s boosters.

After that contest, in an autobiography, D’Amato wrote, “A significant number of liberals were so turned off by Abrams that they voted for Clinton and then did not vote in the Senate race at all. I may not have won liberal Ferraro voters, but Abrams lost many of them. As I learned...in a close election every vote and every non-vote counts.”

I am sure the non-vote count in the 2016 presidential category will be the largest in modern history. Voter suppression takes all forms and we have just witnessed the pernicious result of its success.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hillary's Voice

Hillary Clinton's speaking voice when addressing large crowds is something of a disaster. I know I am not alone in this opinion. Early on in the primaries there were a number of articles. Just last weekend on MSNBC both Chuck Todd and Jonathan Alter referred to her troubles, yelling at crowds as if she wasn't holding a microphone in her hand. No "modulation", etc. I've wondered about this particular voice she uses and how it plays into the ears of even the micro-misogynists who hear it, much less the full-bore sexists. They, doubtless, as I do, associate it with the voice she used in the past to yell at Bill.

Voices get a lot of play in presidential campaigns, especially this one, where Donald Trump declared at the GOP convention, "I am your voice." Though superficial, voice problems have crippled careers. The once rising great non-white hope of the Republican party, Bobby Jindal, for instance: His Waterloo took place at the site of his great triumph, selected to give the GOP reply following the first Barack Obama State of the Union address in 2009. It was universally panned.

But, I had always presumed, since some of the criticism focused on the speech's "delivery", that the problem was that Jindal was likely having some cosmetic work done on his voice, in an attempt to rid himself of the traces of his pronounced ethnic accent. In other words, I speculated he was undergoing some voice lessons that hadn't yet concluded. He was in a mid-voice-change moment and, boy, did it seem odd. Now, Jindal speaks with the American equivalent of BBC English. You can hear the difference over the years on You Tube, not that it matters anymore.

Part of the problem is the continuing degradation of journalism, especially television's version. Take the more or less universal praise of the Trump children, each shilling for their father at the GOP convention. Many commentators were handing out participation trophies to them, since it was all about public speaking. We've gone from a literate world to an oral one. No reporting about the kids' histories marred the surface presentation. And, as Joe Biden would say, they were all certainly "clean".

In Hillary's case it seems to be a matter of audience. Also on the web you can listen to her speech at Wellesley in 1969. That voice she used then, though not to a crowd in the thousands, only in the low three figures, is certainly modulated. Wellesley put out an edited recording of that speech, often referred to in biographies, leaving out her mild criticism of Edward Brooke, the first black Senator, a Republican, elected by popular vote, who was on stage with her. Hillary Rodham knew her audience, took them as equals, her fellow students and their parents.

When she talks to large crowds, the masses more or less, I don't think she sees them as equals. They are not intimates, folk she necessarily respects. They are the ones she shouts at. Bill Clinton, of course, as a public speaker, has intimacy in his voice in spades. It's his philanderer voice, as if each person in the crowd is important, because he is trolling the audience for a conquest. All that biting of his lip business. Rodham Clinton doesn't have such remarked-upon mannerisms. Hillary isn't looking for conquests. But she should.

To throngs at rallies her high-pitched delivery is a louder version of her exasperation voice, highlighted during the Benghazi hearings, when she exclaimed, "What difference does it make?", now a favorite attack line employed by the Republican right smear machine.

Unfortunately, when it comes to making history as the first woman major party nominee to the presidency, it's not quite pure, unadulterated history. It's in the Lurleen Wallace mode, George Wallace's wife, who became the governor of Alabama in 1967, after George was term-limited out. Other American political wives have gained office in this manner. We'll all have to wait for a woman to become president whose husband hasn't been there before.

Nonetheless, it surprises me, even at this point, that Hillary's speaking voice hasn't been addressed by anyone in her circle. She, too, could have used some voice lessons. But a chilling fact is that it is possible no one around her is brave enough to tell the candidate she should do something about it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pensive Pence



On July 7th I tweeted this: My pick for GOP veep is Newt, since he’s the only one whose career won’t be ruined, since it’s already ruined. A lot of commentators were picking Newt, right up to a few days before The Donald picked Mike Pence, my governor. I have been living in Indiana for over three decades and have seen a number of governors come and go. A couple of times I have even been down in the Governor’s Mansion in Indianapolis, back when Evan Bayh was governor. Never met him, but I did speak with his wife. It was an arts in Indiana gathering.

Now Bayh is running for the open Senate seat, vacated soon by Dan Coats, who won it when Evan skedaddled for the greener pastures of lobbying. Now he wants back in. I’m all for him, given the Republican competition.

But, it was Mitch Daniels’ two terms as governor that most upset me. Mitch sold (“leased”) the Indiana Toll Road, I-80, America’s Main Street, thereby reaping monies for him to lavish on his cronies and favorite projects, however ill-advised. I wrote about all this in 2006. I drove the length of the Toll Road in early June this year and admired, a decade later, its ruins, the closed highway “Travel Plazas,” now looking like sets from Mad Max movies, the road itself so pockmarked that repairs can no longer be put off.

Daniels is a lot like Paul Ryan, elevated as a Republican intellectual regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. Currently, Daniels now heads Purdue University, hoping to privatize as much of public education as he is able, repeating there his experience as governor. Daniels led Indiana to be one of the first Right to Work states while championing school vouchers. The only luck for the population is that he won’t be returning to national politics anytime soon, given the controversies surrounding his marriage have left Mitch in a matrimonial ditch.

Now we have Mike Pence, who is Mitch Daniels with fewer brains. The litany of Pence’s many missteps as governor (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act anyone?) has been covered by the media, more or less, since he was selected as Trump’s veep. Since looks, appearances, are important to Trump, I presume he thought Pence passed muster - Trump evidently didn’t want to be paired with either Newt or Christie, two overweight court jesters. Pence has always seemed to me as if he was beamed down from the Mothership, someone who could easily be cast in Star Wars, a few strands of DNA away from android.

But Pence does fit the double-mask Janus candidacy that Trump wants to run, though, in fairness to Janus, this campaign is more a comedy/tragedy masquerade: Pick which one applies to Pence. Whichever, Pence is on the ticket to “shore up” the GOP base, all those rabid evangelicals and anti-abortion zealots. Pence is nothing but a Republican talking points machine, now augmented by lines about how great Donald Trump is and how he hears the heartbeat of the American public.

So, who is Hillary going to pick? Her choices aren’t much more appetizing than Trump’s. I had always favored Sherrod Brown, but no one wants to lose a Senate seat from Ohio, where the convention no-show GOP governor would name a replacement. Tim Kaine, though, is also a Senator, but Virginia has a Democratic governor. Kaine is a favorite of many, though, in the Trump mode, lookism being supreme, Kaine is too much of a feminized male, soft in aspect, not the sort of masculine image Hillary Clinton may need at her side. He’s definite second husband material. She’s doubtless tired of alpha-type males, but who she picks will matter. She needs younger, but experienced, though Pence has certainly lowered the veep-debate-ready bar.

And speaking of Indiana vice presidents, Dan Quayle has taken too much blame for his sorry service to George H. W. Bush. Quayle contributed to H.W.’s second term loss to Bill Clinton. Recall that Bush was having health problems toward the end of his first term, which brought on fears of Quayle being able to ascend during Bush’s second term, if he secured one.

But, I have always held that Quayle all along was a brainchild of 41. George senior wanted to prepare the way for his sons, one or the other, George or Jeb, neither of whom went off to Vietnam. He went with Quayle, knowing that someone of the Vietnam generation had to go through the crucible of public opinion about that issue, and Quayle’s time in the National Guard protecting the golf courses of Indiana would provide the precedent. And Quayle did survive the fire of that debate. But, of course, what Bush senior did not foresee was that the career he ironically protected was that of the draft-dodger Bill Clinton, though Bush had no idea he would be running against the guy when he ran in 1988.

But when George W. finally came along he did escape the Vietnam-service gauntlet, barely. He “beat” a man who actually served in Vietnam, Al Gore. I don’t think Hillary will play the veteran card for her veep pick, since the most likely veterans available would have served in a war she supported and her base abhors.

The July 19th version on the Huffington Post can be found here.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Birther Business

A number of publications have been running President Obama assessment articles, given that he is nearing the end of his second term. And the campaign of Donald Trump is also fomenting retrospectives on the Obama administration, given The Donald’s role in the “birther” controversy during the president’s second term contest.

During Obama’s initial campaign in 2008 there was not that much mention of birth certificates, more of Hawaii, though — the media seemingly needing to acquaint the mainland with its existence back then. No birther blather rose all the way to the top, since John McCain had been born somewhere in Panama, so that fact made Obama’s place of birth rather moot.

It always struck me as funny that so many people wanted to believe that Obama had been born in a hut in Kenya. The contemporaneous birth notice in a Hawaiian newspaper would have been, by itself, far beyond the heroics of the most Manchurian Candidate-esque conspirators.

What the birther controversy was about, however, was Obama’s blackness, his alleged foreignness, his presumed shadow religion — linked to that unfortunate picture of him with the cloth head wrap — the not American-ness of our president, running for his second term. What might be hard to remember is that the country’s native latent racism had been fairly suppressed, muted, during Obama’s first run for the office.

One odd reason for that was the charges made, at first, by Hillary Clinton’s original African-American supporters claiming that Obama wasn’t black enough, that he hadn’t grown up with the usual African-American experience back on the mainland. There was too much Hawaii and Indonesia, only turning up in the contiguous states permanently when he went to college. Like his father, the Kenyan.

None of the Obama-isn’t-black-enough critics made that last charge back in 2008, to my knowledge. In fact, during that campaign year there was much more made of Obama’s mother and his white Kansan grandparents who played such a role in raising him when he was young. The not-black-enough campaign, however short lived, had unexpected positive results.

The birther business coming again before the second-term election was the tip of the spear of all the finally released accumulated racism that had built up during Obama’s first four years. And Donald Trump’s antic search for Obama’s birth certificate let all that simmering racism be focused.

But what has always struck me as strange, was the singular fact that of all the American presidents, Obama was, is, the only one whose father wasn’t born himself in America, or Ireland. Three Presidents (Jackson, Buchanan, Arthur) had fathers born there. Even George Washington’s father, Augustine, was born on American soil, in the Colony of Virginia, in 1694.

When Obama was/is referred to as African-American, it is truly literal. He is first generation. His father was an African. Obama is half Kenyan. I always thought that was remarkable in and of itself. Forget birth certificates. The only birth certificate I ever wanted to see back in 2008 was LeBron James’. He looked like he was in his mid-twenties when he played basketball in high school. I would have been interested in seeing proof of his date of birth.

Early in Obama’s presidency I was also struck by the fact that the last two Democratic presidents, both ending up with two terms, grew up without their birth father. What were the odds for that? In Bill Clinton’s case, his father died and was unknown to the future president; only his step father, whose name he eventually took, figured in his life. In Obama’s case, the father was there, largely invisible, in the world, until he wasn’t, certainly inspiring all those dreams from his father that resulted in Obama’s first book.

Both of these fatherless boys married women suitable for their nascent political careers. Bill Clinton seemed in his youth to favor bimbos, but he knew he would have to have a serious wife if he wanted to rise in politics. Obama’s calculations were a bit different, but no less obvious and political. Both men, it is clear, lucked out in their choices.

Yet, the Republicans have taken it upon themselves to stress Obama’s blackness, even in the current election of 2016. They may, or may not, given their liking of archaic terms, favor the word mulatto to speak of our half-white, half-black president, but they have made it clear that such a person only gets a seven year term as president, not an eight year term. Mulattoes, according to the GOP leadership, are only entitled to 7/8s of a presidency. Hence, no movement at all on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, the last and most blatant example of Republican obstructionism.

And, of course, the presumptive Republican nominee, The Donald, keeps denouncing immigrants of whatever sort, along with claiming right of ownership of various races (“Oh, look at my African-American over here.”). But President Obama’s father wasn’t even an immigrant, illegal or otherwise. Yet, Trump’s current wife is an immigrant, filling, as she did, that important immigration fast-track category of supermodel.

I haven’t thoroughly checked, but if her husband gains the office, unlikely as that now seems, she might well be the first foreign-born First Lady. It’s not that I am a raging jingoist, but I am trying once again to make the obvious more clear: The world is getting smaller and smaller. That changes most everything, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t make the people who want to run it any larger.

The July 1st version on the Huffington Post can be found here.