The Election Chronicles 2020; Volume 9: The Democratic Field Winnows

Last night I reported on the results of the New Hampshire primary. Unlike Iowa, these results came to us clearly and soon. Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar did well.

To the surprise of many, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren did poorly.

Primaries tell voters who to vote for but they also tell voters who they shouldn’t work for. Since last night we’ve learned that Andrew Yang, Deval Patrick, and Michael Bennett suspended their campaigns. I give props to Andrew, Deval, and Michael while recognizing that none of them saw a road to the White House.

A year ago I looked at Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren as the favorites to defeat President Trump. Now, in February of 2020 it appears neither of them will win the Democratic nomination. Most Democrats will vote for anyone who can defeat President Trump and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have expressed anxiety that they will vote for someone President Trump can defeat.

In the next few weeks voters in Nevada and South Carolina will vote. Both states have voters who aren’t as white as Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll see how our candidates will do with black and brown voters.

On March 3rd I (as a Californian) will have a vote on Super Tuesday.

The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 8: Thoughts on New Hampshire at 7:30PM Local Time

As I write this the polls in New Hampshire have been closed for 2 1/2 hours. There will probably be more to write tomorrow morning, but I wanted to share my thoughts tonight.

Every four years political parties choose their candidates but in reality only two parties really matter: Democrats and Republicans.

Clearly the Republicans will nominate President Trump and frankly I feel no need to cover his campaign, only because it’s a fait accompli.

But the Democratic field doesn’t give us a path forward. Months ago we expected that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would dominate.

Bernie has done well in both Iowa and New Hampshire but I think many of us were surprised by the poor showing of Joe and Elizabeth. And I’ve been pleased by the success of Pete Buttigieg.

Pete has limited political experience and he’s openly gay and I recognize that many Americans don’t see him as a viable candidate. But I do. As a moderate Democrat I don’t want us to become socialist and I don’t want a revolution. I just want someone who will reverse the damage of the current administration and give us a path forward to care about the young, the elderly, the poor, and the sick. I want someone that knows we were all once young, we (hopefully) will all be elderly, we may someday be poor, and we will all be sick.

Tonight we learned that Democratic candidates Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet have suspended their campaigns. It’s not a surprise and I’ve been waiting for them and others to suspend their campaigns. For those of us who haven’t voted it’s hard to see the candidates we support drop out, but that’s what happens.

As a Californian I recognize that Nevada and South Carolina will make their choices before I can but I hope that my ballot on March 3rd will give me viable candidates I can support.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 138; The Justice Chronicles, Volume 36; The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 7: Impeachment and Acquittal In the Rear View Mirror

I write this post in three categories and suspect that for the next nine months that several of my posts will also join these three.

This past week we learned, to nobody’s surprise, that President Trump was acquitted by the Senate. It didn’t come as a surprise and it’s worth asking why we even bothered.

President Trump and his allies argue that the American people will decide whether or not he remains in office and they have a point. Like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi I opposed impeaching the President after the Mueller report because there was not bipartisan support for it.

But while the Mueller report reviewed interference the 2016 election, we learned in July that President Trump attempted to use his Presidential power to throw the 2020 election in his favor. At that point both Nancy and I recognized that even though he wouldn’t be removed from office, he needed to be impeached.

Make no mistake: President Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the their President announced he would begin an investigation of a charge against Hunter Biden that no adult believed was true. President Trump had no concern for the truth, he simply wanted to create suspicion on one of his opponents.

He won in 2016, in large part, by falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton’s emails were somehow subversive. She was cleared of wrongdoing and all (all) investigations showed she did nothing wrong. But President Trump successfully suggested that “there must be something there” and it was enough for voters in key states to either vote for him or stay home.

Fast forward to 2019: President Trump wants to be reelected, and it’s no surprise as most Presidents want to serve 8 years. But on some level he recognized that he can’t win without foreign interference. And in Ukraine he found his path.

In an impeachment proceeding the Senate are jurors and they voted to acquit the President. But in a larger sense the real jurors in 2020 are the American voters and I pray we show more courage than the 47 Republican senators who voted for their job security over patriotism.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 137; The Justice Chronicles, Volume 36, The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 6: Thoughts on Impeachment, Removal From Office, and Where We Go From Here

I began this blog and called it “my thoughts and musings” knowing that I’m interested in politics. Blessed by growing up twenty five miles south of Washington D.C. my school field trips took me to the Smithsonian, the Capitol, and Arlington National Cemetery.

But most importantly I grew up reading the The Washington Post. A month after my 12th birthday we read about a burglary at the Watergate Hotel.

It’s a long story but let me edit it here: In 1972 President Nixon ran for reelection against North Dakota Senator George McGovern. While President Nixon’s reelection campaign appeared to be a lock, he demanded that his campaign dig up dirt on his opponent.

President Nixon named his reelection campaign the Committee to Reelect the President. They called it CRP but it quickly took on the acronym CREEP. The committee tried several things to upset the McGovern campaign and most of them either didn’t happen or didn’t work. On the night of June 17th several people working for CRP were arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel

Nobody believed President Nixon either planned or knew about the break-in but within a few days it became clear that he used his office to ensure nobody would connect the break-in to his campaign. He directed several people to bribe those under arrest to plead guilty and shut up. By 1974 his actions became public and he resigned because he knew he would be impeached and removed from office.

It was different time. President Nixon resigned after Senators from his own party told him that they couldn’t, in good conscience, vote to acquit him. They recognized that their obligation to their country mattered more than their obligation to their party.

Fast forward to 2020. Like President Nixon, our current President Trump used his office to illegally advance his reelection. Both believed that his reelection would benefit our nation and anything they did in advance of their reelection would benefit our nation.

The fact with President Trump are clear: he threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless its President announced they were investigating Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Only this time Republicans aren’t recognizing that they have an obligation to their country. They aren’t recognizing they have an obligation to their constituents or the Constitution.

Clearly their only obligation lies in their job security. The Trump administration has made it clear that any Republican who doesn’t support him is disloyal and will pay the price. And he will be acquitted because Republican senators are afraid to cross him.

I pray we can survive this President

We Still Miss Those Who Flew on the Challenger

On this day 34 days ago many of us gathered around a television set to watch a horrific event. That morning the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch and all seven astronauts died. That day we lost:

At the time I was the Director of Religious Education at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, Virginia. It was ordinary morning until my secretary Edye McIntyre (1928-2008) got a call and expressed her grief. When I heard the news my first reaction was: “Oh no, not with the teacher.” It was a hard day.

We humans have always felt the need to explore. What’s over those mountains? What’s across that sea? Can we reach the moon? Can we reach other planets or galaxies? Let’s try.

All attempts put us in danger but we explore nonetheless.

Thirty four years later let us honor these brave Americans whose sacrifice made our exploration better. And let us honor the teacher, and all those teachers who have inspired us.

Auschwitz, 75 Years Later

Today, January 27th, we commemorate the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated the most famous of the Nazi’s concentration camps, Auschwitz. From 1940 to 1945, 1,100,000 men, women, and children were murdered. Most were Jews, but the Nazi’s also murdered Roma (Gypsies), political prisoners, and gays. It’s important to remember them too.

Seventy five years out it’s easy to parrot the phrase “Never again” but that’s not enough. This genocide didn’t begin with the opening of Auschwitz, it began much earlier and “never again” commands that we challenge and call out antisemitism before it becomes the norm, before it becomes acceptable.

Germany after World War I was a mess. Not only did they lose the war, but they were forced into poverty by England and France who demanded crushing reparations.

A few years into this an Austrian who fought for Germany as a lance corporal saw an opportunity. His name was Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). He decided that the real source of German suffering wasn’t the Treaty of Versailles but the Jews.

He was a brilliant communicator and was able to convince much of his adopted country that if they could only get rid of the Jews their future would be bright. He was raised Catholic and used a longstanding myth that the Jews killed Jesus Christ to make antisemitism reasonable to Christians. It worked.

Seventy five years ago, when we learned the horrors of the Holocaust, antisemitism became unacceptable in most quarters. But every year since then we’ve seen antisemitism become more and more acceptable. In August of 2017, at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, we heard, to our horror, the phrase: “The Jews Will Not Replace Us.”

This was part of a larger campaign called “Unite the Right.” Our President, when asked about this campaign, claimed that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

He’s wrong. Fine people aren’t white supremacists. Fine people aren’t anti-Semites.

If we want to ensure there will never be another Auschwitz we need to call out antisemitism when it begins, not when it becomes deadly.

Reflections on Yosemite and birthdays

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Alas, when I retire I can give more content.

Nancy and I just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park. Twenty years ago we learned of a program called Chefs’ Holidays and we’ve been attending ever since.

There’s much to enjoy there: it’s a beautiful park with incredible views and it’s cold enough to see snow. The elevation of Yosemite Valley (4000 feet) gives us a taste of true winter and hiking on the valley floor can’t be replicated at home.

Oh yes, and then there’s the food. Yosemite invites famous chefs to cook and teach. Nancy loves the cooking demonstrations and often brings home recipes that we enjoy at home. The last night of our stay we attend a 5 course dinner (with wine). Normally we’re seated at a table with four other couples and we enjoy meeting new people. This year we sat at a table of four with just one other couple.

It was magical. The other couple (Chris Kenward and Steve Sosnowski) made us laugh and enjoy the meal better than we expected. We hope to see more of them.

We also got to share breakfast and lunch with our niece Katie and her boyfriend Nate.

The only thing we missed was the birthday of Nancy’s dad. Last year we celebrated his 100th birthday recognizing that none of us is promised our next. I’m pleased to report that on the 23rd he celebrated his 101st.

The next day he was invited to St. James Academy, the catholic school attached to his parish. The students not only celebrated his birthday, they all wrote notes to him to thank him for his support of their school.

We don’t know how much longer God will allow us to enjoy him, but in the years and decades after he is gone his support will continue to bear fruit.

It might be selfish to ask for a 102nd but count me selfish.

The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 5: And the Field Narrows

Yesterday we learned that California Senator Kamala Harris ended her campaign for President. As a resident of California I have mixed feelings about this. I believe she has represented us well in the Senate but I wished she had spent more time as our Senator. The Democratic race for 2020 is crowded and it’s a given that good candidates would be pushed aside.

I don’t know who will win the nomination next summer but I pray it’s a Democrat who will win in 2020 and 2024. I hope Kamala either finds a place in the next administration or runs in 2024. She has my support.

The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 4: The Democratic Field Begins to Winnow

We Democrats didn’t expect to lose the 2016 election. I spent most of the fall of 2016 telling people that there was no way Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton and we didn’t need to worry about being led by a narcissistic sociopath. I was wrong.

Given that it’s no surprise that several democrats are clamoring to make certain he isn’t reelected. I know this makes people nervous as we democrats have a habit of circular firing squads and they fear that we won’t all unify behind whoever wins the nomination.

I don’t think that’s true. I speak for myself, but I think I speak for others, when I say that I care for nothing more than returning sanity and empathy to 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue. Anyone who is running for the democrat nominee will get my vote.

That said, I recognize that at some point some candidates need to understand that they have no path to the nomination and should step aside. Earlier this month Beto O’Rourke suspended his campaign. He famously ran against Texas Senator Ted Cruz and nearly won. But his Presidential campaign simply didn’t get traction. I liked him and his platform and I wish him well.

I also hope he doesn’t walk away from public service.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 136: We Have Betrayed the Kurds Again

From the middle of the 20th Century we’ve seen conflict in the Middle East. As Americans we’ve often looked through the lens of Israel and their Arab neighbors. But the Middle East is more complex.

Eight years ago, in 2011, a civil war broke out in Syria. Any conflict in this part of the world complicates easy answers and I wrote about this conflict here.

I described the war as having three sides: President Assad, revolutionary Syrians, and Isis. The United States supported Syrians who wanted to overthrow Assad and we allied ourselves with the Kurds. The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East.

The end of World War I redrew the map of Eastern Europe and the Middle East and the Kurds hoped they would be recognized as the nation of Kurdistan. Unfortunately that didn’t happen (and if you want to read an excellent book on this I recommend Paris 1919). The Kurds found themselves living in parts of Eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, and Western Iran, and Western Iraq.

In 1991 the United States invaded Iraq to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Then President George H.W. Bush encouraged Iraq’s population to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. The Kurds in northern Iraq did just that. But once the United States forces liberated Kuwait we pulled out, and Saddam Huessin turned his guns on those who followed President Bush’s encouragement. Saddam Hussein used poison gas to slaughter the Kurds.

Fast forward to Syria. When the United States decided to support Syrians who wanted to overthrow Assad we also decided to support the Kurds who populated Northern Syria and opposed Assad. This troubled Turkey because the Kurdish population in Eastern Turkey have wanted independence since 1919. Some of the Kurds formed a terrorist group called the PKK in the 1970s. Since then Turkey has viewed all Kurds as possible members of the PKK.

So here’s the question: Is there overlap between the PKK and the Kurds in Syria who wish to overthrow Assad? Turkey is clear: these aren’t two groups, but one. Allow the Syrian Kurds any encouragement and they will use their power to fight against Turkey. Frankly, I haven’t found proof of this, and not for lack of trying.

And now enter President Trump. On October 7th he tweeted that we are pulling our troops out of Syria. I imagine he thought this would be seen as a good thing as he has often promised to keep out people safe.

It didn’t happen like he thought. The Kurds have (once again) been good allies. In addition to fighting against Assad’s troops they have also successfully rounded up and imprisoned members of Isis. But now the Kurds need to pull out of guarding the members of Isis and fight the Turks.

The freeing of Isis fighters makes us less secure, but it also reminds the Kurds that the United States is not trustworthy.

Going forward the Middle East will continue to be a volatile place. I don’t think it’s in our best interest to become an isolationist nation and pretend that what happens in other parts of the world don’t matter (and I hope that 9/11 makes my point). Our retreat from Syria does nothing more than make us less safe and tell the Kurds that only idiots believe promises made by the United States.