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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Assault

("Going Beyond Bad Trump")

At a time when the President is being poked and prodded like he is the lead patient at a proctology convention, when his health plan makes us sick, his budget leaves us wanting, his administration is sinking faster than the Titanic, his accomplishments could fit in a shoe box with room to spare, his wall is unbuilt and his immigration orders don't have the constitution to survive, a candidate from his party who just committed a physical assault upon a member of the media is elected to Congress. So much for the theory of trickle down.

For those who thought that this disaster of a President would bring the Republican behemoth to its knees, that impeachment was but a special election debacle away, that the stench from Washington would smell all the way to Montana and beyond, think again. Donald Trump and his party still have a beating heart and are still attacking those who have the audacity to question their conduct. They are still winning. Bigly.

The President is everything we feared he would be, and less. And yet the vast majority of those who voted for him on November 8, 2016 would pull that same lever tomorrow. We who recoil in horror at his every thought, who project our disgust into the minds of every citizen of this country, have to awaken from our dream of a Trumpless tomorrow and a Republican party in free fall.

The nightmare is alive and well, still shoving aside those who stand in the way, still kicking ass and taking names.

Ouch.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Let's Go to the Movies

("Where Did the Great Hollywood Baseball Movie Go?")

We became intimately acquainted with all too flawed heroes in baseball in the generation of Clemens, Bonds, McGuire, Sosa and A-Rod. The greatest were revealed as lesser beings. But is there not some wonderfully redemptive tale lurking in the shadows of these failures?

And, while we have sometimes been saddled with questioning what our eyes suggest, we have also borne witness to the life and times of Derek Jeter, the intersection of talent, grace and class. And now, in its embryonic moments, is the tantalizing possibility of the latest unfolding of this fable featuring the Paul Bunyonesque sized talents of Aaron Judge.

So let us not be so quick to bury the idea of baseball as catalyst for an Oscar moment.

We are certainly not as readily willing to air brush shortcomings and idealize on film those like the Babe whose prodigious talents on the field were matched by his prodigious appetites off it. 

But if the great baseball epic of tomorrow does not appear, it is not because the game has lost its magic, its tragic, enigmatic or compelling characters. And while Hollywood may have long since moved away from the biopics of those like Jimmy Piersall, Monty Stratton, or even the incomparable Lou Gehrig, there is still in the belly of this undertaking the stuff of legends . 

No, if we fail to discover the next great story between the foul lines, fail to produce the next wondrous role for this era's version of Jimmy Stewart, Robert DeNiro (Bang the Drum Slowly) or Kevin Costner,  it is not that the fault lies in the stars (fallen or not) but in ourselves.

Or maybe I am mistaken. Maybe with the advent of 30 for 30, Real Sports, MLB Network, MLB Tonight and countless other options, there are no more mysteries, no more myths, no more room for the mind to conjure up its own suppositions, its own version of reality, its own  demons and angels. Maybe our minds have been oversaturated to the point of exhaustion. Maybe the field is just too crowded for it to encompass another dream. Maybe imagination has died.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Crybaby

("4 year-olds don't act like Trump")

It stands as proposition that immaturity and impulse control are issues that both pre-K children and the President find most challenging.

Yet toddlers do not require the coddling of Mr. Trump, do not need sycophants to assuage a forever wounded soul, do not mandate the fealty of servant to master.

Four year olds are definitely more emotionally resilient than Mr. Trump, not infinitely harboring their psychic injury and plotting ultimate revenge​, as we are informed the President's decision to run for the Oval Office was but retribution for the lambasting he suffered at the hands of Barack Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondent's dinner. 

It is why on Mr Trump's current foreign tour, those with whom he will meet have apparently been warned to compliment rather than confront, to speak of the size of his electoral victory and not of the countless errors strewn across his presidency.

4 year olds have learned, through time outs in the corner, to reconsider their worst ideas and gain some insight into their shortcomings. But Mr. Trump treats his reprimands, like the defeat of his unconstitutional ban on Muslims or his health care debacle, not as moments of clarity but as deep offenses, not as a time for somber reflection but for lashing out, not as a failing of self but of others.

Mr. Trump has now been in office 4 months and maybe a more apt comparison is to a baby that age, unable to stand on his own two feet, uncertain of his surroundings, unable to perform the simplest of tasks. Or maybe that would be deemed the ultimate insult to 4 month olds.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Bard of Washington

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes I all alone beweep my outcast state and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries and look upon myself and curse my fate."
 
While the Bard of Avon may not have quite imagined this particular invocation, there is more than a little Shakespearean resemblance in the travails of the embattled and embittered monarch careening from one self inflicted wound to the next.
 
"No politician in history- and I say this with great surety - has been treated worse or more unfairly." While this phrasing may be plodding and not possess the depth or gravitas of the great poet, Mr. Trump does wax inelegantly as one unjustly persecuted, maligned and mistreated.
 
It is as if we are witness to a play of universal and epic proportion, unfolding scene by scene, the audience in rapt attention, the scrivener a master at bringing those in attendance to an emotional fevered pitch.
 
I believe Shakespeare would have much admired the complexity of this work,  the stage filled with characters of intense passions, the maelstrom created by a person of moral depravity, immense ego, consumed with an insatiable desire to be revered. From the most elevated of heights, performing a high wire act where the next strong gust could result in the most incredible of falls.
 
A tragedy both unimaginable and as real as today's news. From the mind of the Bard of Washington.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Unsuited but Not Unable

("The 25th Amendment Solution to Remove Trump")

Is incompetence really the same as incapacity? Does being unprepared, uninformed, uninterested, unthinking, uninspired, unpredictable, unintelligible,  really translate to being unbalanced and unfit?

Donald Trump is a walking, talking neon sign of incompetence, seemingly constitutionally unsuited to get from one moment to the next without the possibility of creating a monumental crisis, but is this really a 25th Amendment disability?

This is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Amendment which permits removal of a President who is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."  Other sections of this Amendment have been invoked on three occasions to permit temporary transfer of power to the Vice President during surgical procedures for the President (involving Reagan once and George H. Bush twice) but this particular provision has not been tested.

It is said that serious contemplation of the utilization of this clause occurred in 1987 when Howard Baker became Reagan's Chief of Staff and concern grew over the President's apparent lack of attention, ineptness and laziness. There was question as to whether Reagan was losing control of his mental faculties (and as we would subsequently learn, he may well have been, given his later battle with dementia). But the determination was then made that there was not sufficient cause to believe that any deterioration of Mr. Reagan's mental state warranted a 25th Amendment challenge. And so, for half a century, the meaning of "unable" in this context has been a matter of mere speculation and conjecture.

"Unable" has been defined as lacking the skill, means or opportunity to do something. Certainly, Mr. Trump has both the means and opportunity to do much (damage) in his current position and there is no impediment in either regard. The question really is whether Mr. Trump's unambiguous lack of requisite skill in performing the tasks required of his office falls within the contemplated penumbra of the intent of the 25th Amendment or whether it is mere folly to suggest that being really really bad at your job is the same as being unable to do it.

In the course of but a few short days we have learned that Mr. Trump has either committed several acts of obstruction of justice regarding James Comey (both as to his firing and also as to his being asked to end his investigation of Michael Flynn) or come within a razor's edge of doing so. He has also blundered his way into revealing intended secrets of the intelligence community,potentially jeopardizing lives in the process. Each week brings new revelations of disastrous missteps by this President.

But, all that being said, Mr. Trump is not Ronald Reagan and he is in full control (well maybe not full) of his faculties (limited as they may be). So, if I were asked to predict whether a Republican controlled Congress will really attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment to unseat the man who presently occupies the Oval Office, I would clearly and unequivocally answer no.

You see giving us fits does not equate to being constitutionally unfit.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

First Do No Harm

("Trump Shared Classified Data with Russians, in Break With Ally, Officials Say")

So yesterday the President apparently revealed some intelligence. If that is true, it is the first time he has accomplished that feat while in office.

Each day brings new reason to worry that this man, armed with nothing but ego, will by ignorance or intent, do serious harm to this nation. Today it is jeopardizing alliances through carelessness, boast or indifference to the dictates of the moment. Tomorrow it is anyone's guess.

As Mr. Trump is set to begin his first trip abroad as President who among us does not believe that some serious international faux pas is virtually an inevitability. Don't we all wish he was just opening up a Trump golf course in Saudi Arabia or the Jerusalem Trump Towers? Something innocuous so that the risk is minimized that his rather small foot lands squarely in his very big mouth.

The Hippocratic oath is to first do no harm. If only it was also the maxim of this President.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tragic


The last decade of my mom's life was hard, ugly, filled with times none of us would ever want a parent to endure. Yet even in the midst of the indignities, even as we recoiled at the deterioration, even as my mom receded further and further from this universe, even with all the sadness and pain, there were moments of joy and laughter, often unintended, unexpected, and thus precious. 

My mom was an extremely positive person, a cheerleader who made my sister and me believe in the greatness of marriage, of our father and ourselves. I was told by her that I was the cutest, the smartest, the nicest, the best athlete, the best singer. Maybe a little of it was exaggeration (ok, it was all lies) but it was just her way. She never belittled, she never made me feel the choices I made or the people I loved were anything other than perfect. So it was fantasy, but it was her fantasy.

As the dementia overtook my mom, it robbed her of many of her abilities. First she had difficulty in recalling events of the day. Later she would be unable to retrieve words or thoughts. The English language began to slip from her grasp, as sentences would contain non-sequiturs, English and Yiddish would bump into each other, sometimes only incoherent sounds would be uttered or speech would totally disappear and my mom would sit there in silence.

My children adored my mom in the way grandchildren are supposed to. If she spoiled me, and she did, there was no length she would not go to for them. If she loved me and was proud of me, and she was, she loved them and took pride in their accomplishments with equal intensity.

With my mom's decline, our children came to visit their grandma to give her the attention she deserved and to spin tales of the day to bring her happiness. She was noticeably more alert and animated when her grandchildren appeared, often able, in short bursts to show a glimpse of the person she once had been.

On this one particular day, about two years ago, my daughter was spending an afternoon with her grandma. My daughter  had recently been to her cousin's wedding. There she had met a young man who quickly and clearly captured her heart. And now, she was telling her grandma what a wonderful thing had just occurred.

"Grandma, I was at the wedding and I met a boy." She continued on, recounting the event, the thrill in the beginning of this courtship clear and unequivocal. If anything, to try to make a point that could be easily understood, she was even more animated in her tone and more effusive in her phrasing.

My mom took this all in for a long moment and then began her response.

"Why that's......"

The term she was searching for was clearly beyond her grasp. Her eyes darted up and to the left, as she reached into her brain for just the right word, the one that this woman, who adored nothing so much as her grandchildren, who showered them and their every decision with praise, who would never question or demean, could remove from the basket as the perfect choice. She hesitated for one second more, and then almost bellowed the following to complete her sentence:
"tragic"

My daughter is marrying that young man in less than a month. He has filled her heart with happiness, her smile is bigger, her laugh is louder, her life is better because he is in it. And I know that my mom would have adored her newest grandchild, would have thought him the smartest, the cutest, the nicest, the best athlete (I can't vouch for his singing) in the universe. She would have been at the wedding with a smile that would not disappear, with a love that was boundless and with words that conveyed how beautiful and extraordinary a pairing this was.

It is tragic that my mom is not going to be there, that she will not get the chance to attend the wedding of a grandchild she cherished. And I would like to think that this is what she was communicating when she uttered that totally foreign and incomprehensibly inappropriate reply to the news that her granddaughter was so smitten.

Or maybe it was that she just wanted us to tell this tale so that she could always give us one more reason to  remember her with a smile and a laugh.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sleepless Nights

("Erick Erickson: The Fantasy of Impeachment")

Impeachment talk is but a way of allowing those who find Mr. Trump unfit for office to sleep at night. But unless and until Mr. Trump stops doing his party's bidding by opposing the Republican heartbeat of protecting the wealthy and reducing the safety net for the suffering, he will be deemed nothing more than an acceptable, eccentric annoyance.

This President is a walking, talking offense but not an impeachable one while the Republicans remains in control of Congress. While there is much to suggest that the firing of the FBI director was a blatant attempt to obstruct justice, there is nothing to suggest that this incident will move those in his party to do more than shrug their shoulders and shake their collective heads.

So while there is great irony in President Trump dumping the man who may well have been the catalyst to his ascension, and great suspicion that his motivation was merely self preservation, there is little hope that Mr. Comey can prove  both Mr. Trump's "doing" and his undoing.

This episode, like so many others in the ongoing farce that is this presidency, will soon be but SNL fodder and will merely take its slot alongside the myriad theatre of the absurd moments that constitute the daily saga of Trump being Trump. 

Our constant search for a way to dump Donald will have to move on to tomorrow's disaster while we continue to harbor the fiction that too much is enough can somehow turn disgust into dismissal. I am not holding my breath. 

And I do find sleep elusive.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Mother's Day Present

This Sunday is a time of celebration, a time of recognition for a task performed well, a time to applaud and give heartfelt thanks for the joy you brought to so many lives. It is a moment of reflection, a moment to contemplate all that you accomplished, all the ways in which the world is a better and different place because of you.

Sunday is the day that Derek Jeter's​ number is retired. What, you thought I was talking about something else?

This is the first Mother's Day that my mom is not here, and there is much sadness. But I will forever be grateful for the thousands of smiles she gave me and her presence will remain deeply embedded in my heart. 

Yet, I digress. This piece is intended not as tribute to my mom, who is deserving of my words and so much more but contemplation of the existential dilemma I face. To be or not to be, that is the question. To be at my daughter and her fiancee's Mother's Day party with our family and his or to accept the kind offer of two tickets to watch number two take his rightful place among the gods.

I am 65, a Medicare recipient and far too advanced in years to have a baseball player deemed of such great meaning. Yet I woke this morning with more than a hint of sadness when I discovered that Jacoby Ellsbury had been cut down at home plate for the last out in a one run loss last evening. The heart of a six year old still beats fiercely inside me.

Number two took up much space in my life for two decades. How could I not give him one last standing ovation? And yet how could I be so puerile, how could I not find blood thicker than a $5 bottle of water at the Stadium? How could I not choose my present and future kin, who are my world, over 3465 hits and five World Series rings?

On Sunday night, if you get a moment to watch the game, and the camera turns to Section 321, see if you can locate me among the cheering throng. Or if all you can find in your search are two empty seats. 

Does number two come before or after number one?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kaopectate or Imodium?

First, a brief grammar lesson. Mr. Comey, you were mildly nauseated, not nauseous, at the thought that your October 28, 2016 massacre of Hillary Clinton was ground zero for Mr. Trump's elevation.

Now we are all more than mildly nauseated by your firing at the hands of a man who is running this country like an X rated version of The Apprentice.

US Attorney Preet Bharara, initially praised by Mr. Trump and requested to remain in his position once 45 took the reins, was soon booted for trying to find the fire behind the smoke of the Russian imbroglio.

Sound like a familiar pattern? It seems that the "guts" Mr. Comey demonstrated in taking America's mind off  Billy Bush and that infamous boys will be boys conversation with Donald on the bus, was not such a courageous act after all. It turns out that this bungling misstep was incompatible with his role as director of the FBI. Hey Donald, does this mean we can get a do-over on the election?

No, Mr. Trump, you are not being persecuted, but you may be prosecuted. That is, if there is anyone left to handle the job after you finish your purge.

This all has the feel of a surreal movie, a plot that would be rejected as far too outlandish to be credible. Few of us believed that the Oval Office would be occupied by someone more paranoid and malevolent than Tricky Dick Nixon. But Mr. Trump has proven that he is in fact the best at something.

Has anyone seen the kaopectate or the imodium?