Preface: This blog picks up on a few threads from the last blog or two. My apologies in advance! Writing purely on topics of public concern; never seditious; but strictly out of the primacy of the concern for the health and very future of our democracy.
Note: This blog was drafted April 2nd, in the wake of the healthcare act drama.
See Post-Script for reaction to U.S. air strikes in Syria.
The recent failure of Trump’s attempt to railroad Congress into passing the healthcare bill, to replace and repeal Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, put the dysfunction within the White House on full display for all to see. As noted previously, not only are the players not working together, it’s not even clear they’re on the same team, or even playing the same sport. The only silver lining is that their damage has been limited so far thank goodness due to their lack of organization, and the checks and balances our founders put in place, anticipating just such a day could come for the fledgling democracy.
At a recent focus group gathering in New Hampshire, Mark Halperin (MSNBC) asked the audience to describe Trump using a single word.
It took me a while, but I finally came up with my word for him: naïve. He thought he could just walk in and, because of his position, tell people what to do, dictate orders, and expect that everyone would obediently fall in line.
That’s not how Washington works. It’s complicated. It’s more like how you move around on a crowded T car. You can’t move too far in any one direction or another without bumping into or stepping on someone. Literally, really, this happened to me one time. The train lurched to a start, and I didn’t have a grip on anything, and I took three steps – step, step, step – and stepped on the feet of three different people. Our president has also lost his grip.
Democracy takes hard work, negotiation, balancing priorities, consideration, courage, compassion, and a conscience. Some people bring up consensus-building. They are dreamers; that’s not reality. Compromise is reality.
Successful negotiation results in everybody walking away from the table feeling like they got something out of the deal. Something, not everything. It has also been described as the process of making everyone equally unhappy. Some very sage old advice is to start with what’s easy; something that everyone can agree on. Don’t start with the most difficult controversial item. But, who am I to give advice to the guy who wrote the book on the art of the deal?
Instead, the chaos continues, now with a dash of Russian influence and intrigue thrown in. We actually made a passing reference to this “alternative theory” in our March radio show, noting that when we came up with our theories to explain how Trump got into office and what his game plan might be, we thought we had been pretty creative, but we hadn’t even considered Russia. I still can’t get over the timing, though. We taped the show Sunday March 12th, a full week before FBI Director Comey testified to the House Intelligence Committee, debunking Trump’s allegations (via Twitter of course) that Obama had ordered the wiretapping or other surveillance of Trump (though some communications were collected incidentally as part of other legal investigations), and revealing that in fact the FBI was investigating potential links between the Trump administration and Russian election interference.
Now, there is the added question of whether Susan Rice (National Security Advisor in the Obama administration) requested the unmasking of names in the collected intelligence for security reasons or for political reasons. Could there have been impropriety on both sides? Is this just another tack to throw the press and the public off the trail leading back to Russia?
What exactly does election interference look like? It sounds like the actual results were not tinkered with, electronically or mechanically. The latest stories seem to indicate the possibility of fake news stories being generated out of Russia, attacking Hillary Clinton, and playing into Trump’s hand (see articles by Posner and Reichmann). These are dark days indeed. So far, Paul Manafort (previous campaign adviser) and Michael Flynn (appointed as National Security Adviser, resigned or fired February 13, 2017) have been implicated.
How could the American public be duped so easily just by these media ploys? We would all like to think that we are smarter than this. It’s not as if they exercised some Vulcan mind control over people. The influence game is real and it’s powerful. If it didn’t work, then there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar advertising industry. We are a highly suggestible, impressionable species. If we see some commercials claiming this place has the best roast beef, or this is the best tasting, least filling beer, we might just bite. If the power of suggestion did not work to some degree, companies wouldn’t waste their money on advertising.
Samantha Bee did a whole riff on this topic:
What is sad is that there was actually a tiny chance that Trump’s presidency could succeed, as he would not be beholden to either party, and could choose to surround himself with the smartest top-notch advisers in the Capitol, drawing from both sides of the aisle.* One must choose their counsel wisely. Good Counsel is hard to come by. Instead, he has surrounded himself with a band of deplorables. His pool of candidates became limited because he alienated so many during the campaign through his childish name-calling, and many respectable Republicans opted to distance themselves.
That was one mistake that Hillary Clinton made: Apologizing for calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.” She would have earned far more respect if she had come right back, no apologies, and owned her words, and said, “Yes, that’s exactly what I called them. Yes, the KKK and white supremacist groups that are supporting Trump, and have been emboldened and legitimized by his campaign, are deplorable, despicable, disgusting. I could go on and on.” Instead she apologized, because she was so afraid of upsetting anyone, while Trump made a regular habit of offending anyone and everyone.
The one glimmer of hope is that the institution of Democracy will prove to be greater than any one individual, and that the systems of checks and balances will continue to keep the White House in bounds. To share a quote from George Packer’s article in the February issue of The New Yorker: “If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.” So, the dysfunction in some ways has been a saving grace.
The problem is that all of this chaos and instability in the White House puts the United States at risk. We are vulnerable because our attention is diverted, and we have lost our focus. The last time there was this much disruption in the White House, with the whole Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair, the leader of a fringe terrorist group declared war on the US, and we didn’t even notice. Maintaining stability and security takes constant vigilance. The chaos, instability, immaturity, naïveté, and dysfunction in the White House is putting our nation at risk. We need leadership with courage and conscience, who can play well with others, and do the hard work to keep our country functioning, safe, and secure, and to uphold the ideals of a democratic society.
The question still remains: Do we let Trump take over our lives and permeate our every waking moment? And, even sometimes our dreams, too? It’s exhausting. Take a break when you need to. Sing a song. And then come back. This is a marathon.
We need to keep speaking up.
I Still Can’t Keep Quiet
Mark your calendars:
· April 8 – #ICan’t Be Quiet Day, announced by Milck. We’re supposed to do something, maybe get together and do a flash mob wherever we are at 1:00 on Saturday. Anybody want to meet up on Boston Common? Put on your pink kitty caps!
· April 17 – Boston Marathon (which is also an actual marathon)
· April 22 – March for Science, 2 to 4 PM, Boston Common. Better get started knitting your green and/or blue caps! I have to believe the March for the Arts can’t be far behind, right?
· HUBweek 2017 in Boston, various locations, October 8 – 15, 2017 https://hubweek.org/
· Walk For Education, United Negro College Fund(UNCF), October 14, 2017
Post-ScriptI woke up this morning asking the question, “Are we at war?” The U.S. launched 60 Tomahawk missiles at Syrian air bases overnight, in response to Syrian President’s suspected use of a chemical agent (sarin, a nerve gas) against civilians. It is described as a tactical, strategic strike against military infrastructure. Seems to strike the right tone. For years, everyone has been asking, “When is somebody going to do something about Syria?”
Perhaps the U.S. could no longer be quiet.
blog post from October 11, 2015 on the refugee crisis:
To stand idly by and watch a leader commit such atrocities against his own people seems wrong, and brings to mind U.S. isolationism during the early years of World War II. We didn’t want to get involved. Sitting here today, we wonder how we could have done such a thing, and ignored the deaths, the murders of those being rounded up and taken to concentration camps. One can wonder, how much did we really know? Today, with modern communication technology, a tweet can travel the globe in seconds, instantaneously, practically in real time.
Life, the news, the world is happening faster than I can write and blog. I can barely keep up.
Maybe Trump has sought and found some good counsel.
Maybe this is the thing that we can find agreement on. After all, nothing unites people like a common enemy. Remember, violence is easy. War is the failure of diplomacy and rationale conversation. And it is a slippery slope. It is easier to escalate, than to bring it back down.
There is this quote I recall from many years ago, but can’t find a proper reference now. It might have been a Native American saying. It went something like this:
Words unleashed, like arrows fly, and once released cannot be called back.
In a similar way, missiles unleashed, like Tomahawks fly…
And, to quote our old friend Mr. Spock again:
“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.”
“The problem for the country and the world remains that Trump could surround himself with the smartest people in Washington. He won’t.”
Interestingly enough, Thursday morning’s newspaper reported that Steve Bannon had been removed from the National Security Council, because he was no longer needed. The story told is that Bannon was added to the Council to monitor Michael Flynn. Since Flynn was off the Council, Bannon was no longer needed on it. Interesting timing given that this happened the day before the air strikes on Syria.
March Radio ShowThe following is the audio link for the March radio show, “Schmidt Happens,” which was recorded March 12, 2017, and first aired Saturday night March 18, 2017 on WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston, hosted by Jumana Hashim and Rosemary Schmidt.
Audio Link via SoundCloud:https://soundcloud.com/rosemary-schmidt-673577789/schmidthappens20170312-marchshow-motivations
About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:WBCA is a community radio station sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2 AM each night.
Radio Beantown is on the air! Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.
Beantown will be playing Hartford Saturday April 8, Quebec April 16, and finally a home game vs. the D.C. Furies April 22 in Amesbury, MA.
Check out www.BeantownRugby.com for more details.
Go Forward, Support!
Songs For The Day:“I Can’t Keep Quiet,” of course, by Milck. The first is my favorite version, taped on the fly, so spontaneous and heartfelt, during the Women’s March in January. The second is from the Samantha Bee show.
And, a fitting song for President Donald Trump: “Naïve Melody (This Must Be The Place)”, by Talking Heads.
References (new ones added since the last blog are in bold)
Abrahams, Yvonne. 2017. Our Chance to Write History. The Boston Globe. February 5, 2017.
“If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.”
Pillalamarri, Akhilesh. 2017. Steve Bannon, Dharma Warrior: Hindu Scriptures and the Worldview of Trump’s Chief Ideologue. The Diplomat. February 3, 2017.
Posner, Sarah. 2017. Today’s Russia hearings actually revealed something new and important. The Washington Post. March 30, 2017.
Raifman, Julia; Ellen Moscoe, Ellen, and Bryn Austin. 2017. Difference-in-Differences Analysis of the Association Between State Same-Sex Marriage Policies and Adolescent Suicide Attempts. JAMA Pediatrics, published online February 20, 2017. Doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.4529
Riechmann, Deb. 2017. Russia disinformation campaign allegedly targets Paul Ryan. Associated Press/The Boston Globe. March 30, 2017.
© 2017 Rosemary A. SchmidtRose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me. Twitter: Rosebud@GainlineRS
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