The Enemy of Your Enemy is Not Your Friend

Chuck Schumer’s defense of the Netanyahu Government in Israel has consistently disappointed me. Schumer is arguably the most powerful Jewish government official in American history, and yet he has done his best to defend a leader who has openly spited his own political party, repeatedly.

If I am being honest, I do not believe Benjamin Netanyahu has been a good leader for Israel, or the United States. His leadership has set back the cause of peace. His hard-line position on the Palestinians has alienated their leadership, both in the Knesset and in the West Bank and Gaza. He has sought no ally. He didn’t seek to work with President Obama towards peace at all, and actually sought to undermine him on both policy and politically. He has embraced President Trump’s policies that make peace less and less possible. I find it disappointing that Democrats like Schumer, and even my former boss Bob Menendez, defend a failed government under Netanyahu. I find it even worse, given Netanyahu’s personal corruption.

Notice something there- I never referred to Jewish “money,” “hypnosis,” or any other nefarious scheme by the Jewish people to “buy support.” No “All About the Benjamins, Baby.” My position is that Netanyahu, Likud, and his government are all doing a bad job, and that they are mistreating the Palestinian people. I made that point without making a singular anti-Semitic statement. I used no old-line Nazi slur against Jewish people. I played into zero negative stereotypes. I made the point, no less.

I do not believe Rep. Ilhan Omar is stupid. I also don’t necessarily entirely disagree with her general argument- though I do support the existence and defense of the state of Israel as American policy. Just because we may have some general, partial agreement does not mean that I should defend her though. She is smart and accomplished. She chose her words. She chose ugly, anti-Semitic language and stereotypes to attack a whole nation and it’s people. She chose the oldest, most hateful, negative language in the book. We’ve seen where her language leads in the past.

I don’t want to stand with her disingenuous right-wing critics. We know their agenda. That does not mean I want to stand with her either. Using hate language should be beneath the Democratic Party, Congress, and the country. Stop telling me she doesn’t know better. It’s demeaning to her and her office. She’s said what she means, and we all get the point. Her attacks calling President Obama our for “getting away with murder” only underline the point that the Democratic House Caucus should stop sponsoring the microphone she’s speaking into. Just because she opposes some enemies that we oppose too does not mean that we should support her. Take her off the Foreign Affairs Committee and make a point. Yes, it’s sad- you want her to succeed as an inspiring person that came here as a refugee and won higher office. That ship has sailed now. Make it clear you don’t support her words.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

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Handicapping the Phillies Opening Day Roster

It’s only 17 days until Opening Day baseball in Philadelphia. Bryceadelphia and Phillies mania is coming back north with a 25 man roster to face the Braves on Opening Day. The only question is, who will be on it?

Starting Rotation-

Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin- No real surprises here, despite a lot of people thinking out loud that they could use one more upgrade. Earlier in camp I was wondering if Jerad Eickhoff was ready to come back and challenge here, but it sounds like he had a January setback that makes it for more sense to keep him him in AAA to start. Drew Anderson, Enyel De Los Santos, and Cole Irvin have all thrown quite well at times, but are likely to join Eickhoff in AAA. My guess right now is Ranger Suarez joins them in AAA, while JoJo Romero and Adonis Medina anchor down Reading. Why so little change here? I think in part the Phillies want to let this situation play out longer, to give them more clarity. I also think Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez might still cost too much.

Line-Up:

  1. Cesar Hernandez-2B
  2. Jean Segura-SS
  3. Bryce Harper-RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins-1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto-C
  6. Andrew McCutchen-LF
  7. Maikel Franco-3B
  8. Odubel Herrera-CF

Believe it or not, I think this killer line-up will come north healthy by the end of camp. I’m a little concerned about Cesar, and could absolutely see him starting on the DL, with McCutchen replacing him up top and Kingery playing second and batting eighth. Yes, Odubel has missed time too, but they seem to believe he’ll play this week. I’m betting on health when push comes to shove.

Bench:

  • Back-up catcher- Andrew Knapp
  • Utility Man- Scott Kingery
  • 4th Outfielder/Left-Handed bat- Nick Williams
  • 5th Outfielder- Aaron Altherr

The Phillies bench is not exciting to anyone, particularly because of injuries and players being out of options. Roman Quinn brings a dynamic on-field presence that they need, but he’s hurt. I prefer Cozens to Altherr, but Altherr is out of options and Williams already gives them a lefty pinch-hitter. Williams is on because they don’t know what to do with him, and his centerfield issues don’t matter with Cutch getting most of the back up reps- plus he pinch hit well last year. I’d like to see the Phillies keep another versatile utility option like Sean Rodriguez or Trevor Plouffe, but neither is on the current 40 man roster, and they are out of spots.

Bullpen:

  • Closer- Seranthony Dominguez
  • Set-Up 8th inning- David Robertson
  • Set-Up 8th inning- Hector Neris
  • Set-Up 7th inning- Pat Neshek
  • Set-Up 7th Inning- Juan Nicasio
  • Lefty- Jose Alvarez
  • Lefty/Long-Man- Adam Morgan
  • Lefty- James Pazos

Yes, I’m predicting an eight man bullpen with three lefties. Gabe Kapler is still the manager, last I looked. There’s certainly a question about who will close or pitch the 8th, Nicasio hasn’t locked up a spot yet, Hunter’s health, and even just how many spots will exist, but I came to this group factoring health, options, and needs. I doubt the Phillies will just cut an expensive Nicasio early, or that they would bring a Victor Arano north given his options and early performance. So, we get this.

Injured List- Roman Quinn, Tommy Hunter

Bubble Players- Sean Rodriguez (non-roster), Trevor Plouffe (non-roster), Dylan Cozens, Victor Arano, Mitch Walding

Optioned to the minors/On the 40 man- Eickhoff, De Los Santos, Suarez, Anderson, Edubray Ramos, Yacksel Rios, Edgar Garcia, Arano, Austin Davis, Adonis Medina, Walding, Cozens, Arquimedes Gamboa

Markets and Political Rhetoric- They’re Not Talking to You

A week or two ago, one of my best friends growing up, a teacher and football coach at our old high school text me and asked me “why are the Democrats putting up a candidate” against our popular local Mayor? Easton’s Mayor is a long time incumbent, running for his fourth consecutive term in office, and sixth term overall. His primary opponent is a younger local activist and Vice-Chair of the Northampton County Democratic Party. She happens to be younger, Pakistani, Muslim, and female. He happens to be older, Italian, and male. I stayed away from the demographics in my response though- I went with explaining that sometimes the activists and the commoners want different things, politically. Some of it is ideological. Some of it is identity driven. What I meant to say is that we are moving towards at least three different ideologies in this country, while still living in a two party system.

Let me just get this out of the way early in this piece, because most political people don’t get this, and actually will try to argue otherwise- people involved in politics have very little in common with the rest of the public, politically speaking. I’ve seen this play out in many forms over my 17 years in politics, and it never ceases to amaze me how clear it is. I remember how shocked I was when George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, despite the huge crowds I had seen at rallies and protests against him, despite the success of movies and documentaries against him, and despite the seething passions I had seen while volunteering for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. I distinctly remember the shock of a State House candidate in 2008, when I explained to him that his name identification was 32% in his poll, despite the fact that he was a local elected official, or that his mother was the Dean at a college located in the district. Perhaps nothing struck me more so than learning that 30% of New Jersey’s likely voters had never heard of Bob Menendez, when I was working on his re-election campaign there in 2012. There’s a simple truth that “political people” don’t really understand- they’re different than most voters just because they do read the New York Times, watch cable news, and go to local political events. You aren’t like your neighbor, even if they vote, and even if they vote like you. To be clear, social media and the internet are beginning to narrow this gap, but rather than informing our electorate, they’ve become an outlet for propaganda, partial truths, and insane clickbait.

Politics has become a hellscape since I got involved in 2002. Our politics divides us in ways that we never would be in our every day lives. The level of discourse has fallen off a cliff. To be fair, one could point back to any number of points and say “it began there,” but I think it’s fair to start wondering out loud if somewhere in the last few years we crossed a line that took us past the point of no return (2016 in America). You can see the general public recoiling in real time- it’s why most people identify as independents in America right now. It’s why people across the political spectrum are choosing to not register with a political party. Despite high turnout in elections, much of the public hates to discuss politics, and even avoids it with their family and friends. America hates it’s body politic, and yet both parties are increasingly embrace it. Even their members embrace it, increasingly. Over two in five Republicans still believe President Obama was born in Kenya. For real. Only 38% of Iowa Democrats are sure they would be satisfied if the party nominated a straight, white man. A majority are fine with a more socialist nominee though. I will just remind you that the country as a whole doesn’t really agree though, with any of these positions.

So why is it that partisans are increasingly embracing people, issues, and messages that don’t resonate with the broader electorate? Why is it that the faces in the news for the Democrats recently include Bernie Sanders, AOC, Beto O’Rourke, and Ilhan Omar, and that President Trump makes real-time policy decisions based on the content of Fox and Friends, Ann Coulter’s Twitter, and Sean Hannity? Why did virtually every National Democratic figure call for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation when past racist pictures of him emerged, even while the Virginia electorate was divided, and a solid majority of Virginia African-Americans wanted him to stay as Governor? Why do Republicans that previously opposed Donald Trump openly, and endured his open mockery of them and their families (Senators Graham and Cruz), still fall in line behind him? Why does it seem that both parties embrace their activist base at the expense of broader popularity?

Here’s the ugly truth- the political parties don’t really want to talk to the center of American political life. Party leaders, operatives, and activists alike aren’t really fond of moderates, the center, or swing states and districts. You don’t get into politics because you have middle of the road or mixed views- you get in because you’re passionate. This is bi-partisanly true, and it’s created a damn near suicide pact between the two political parties. There are no “Rockefeller Republicans” really left in Congress, and there are actually no pro-choice ones left in the House. The “Blue Dog Democrats” are down to a hand full in the whole Congress. If your political views are mixed, or just not that ideological, you probably don’t have a favorite Congressman.

But is that all? It’s beyond passions- it’s ultimately a business decision too. Who’s going to donate their $27 a month? Certainly not people less passionate and engaged. Who’s going to volunteer their three hours to canvass or phone bank on Saturday? The entire political model in the two parties is not fueled by the moderate and middle ground voters who decide which party wins. It’s fueled by the base. Not only does neither party’s decision makers want to direct their messaging towards the middle, they literally can’t. So every fundraising email depicts an emergency, talking points are directed towards the political poles, and deviating from party orthodoxy in the name of representing your district or state is frowned upon. Hence, Republicans call Barack Obama a Kenyan Muslim and Democrats call Donald Trump a criminal. Neither party is even trying to appeal to the middle. They don’t have to, as long as the other party doesn’t either. People will still vote, because they’re patriotic and know it matters, and 135 million people will pick between “Make America Great Again” and “Stronger Together.” What’s your third option? Sit it out and not do your duty?

I have been joking on social media lately about the “fun” 2024 “AOC vs. Don Jr.” election that we’re moving towards. I’m only kind of joking. As I said at the top, we’re moving towards a three ideology state, between the people with the red hats on, the long line at SXSW to meet AOC, and the rest of the people who kind of just want their government to function and try to make their lives better. Both the red hats and the AOC fanboys will tell you they are trying to appease the third group. The rest of the people aren’t buying it though, which doesn’t really matter. They increasingly will be forced to pick between two choices that aren’t really trying to talk to them, and really, actually don’t have to.

So You Want to Drag Rep. Ilhan Omar

I’m not a big fan of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. I’m not a big fan of other more hard-line lefty freshman House members like AOC either. I don’t agree with Rep. Omar’s position on Israel. I’m unhappy with her rhetoric on Israel. In short, I’m not willing to defend her position on Israel.

I also understand a few other things. Rep. Omar represents her very blue district, not my swing district. Rep. Omar holds positions that she ran on. Rep. Omar holds positions that I won’t ever have to vote for, unless she seeks national office. Rep. Omar may be something I consider to be bad, but there are limits to her importance.

Perhaps Rep. Omar is worth rebuke. Before we get there, let’s ask ourselves a few questions. Did you defend the violence in Charlottesville by saying there were “fine people on both sides?” Did you agree with the positions of David Duke on racial issues? Have you supported thinly veiled white nationalist lingo and propaganda? Did you defend putting kids in cages because “they don’t belong here?” Defend Congressman Steve King? Refer to African and non-white nations as “shit holes?” Do you normally talk about anti-Semitic code language, such as “the global elite,” talk about how “the Jews control Hollywood,” or otherwise make light of Jewish people and their supposed ties to money? These are important questions that should tell you a lot about yourself.

If your answer to any or all of the questions I just asked is “yes,” I have a request for you- do not worry about Rep. Omar. There are many of us who never supported or said any of that, and we are perfectly equipped to deal with her beliefs and rhetoric without your help. I’m neither defending her or agreeing with her, I’m simply saying your interest in her is not the defense of Israel or the Jewish faith, but probably rather your biases against her race and religion, and Lord knows that we don’t need anymore anti-Muslim rhetoric out there. If you were fine with President Trump’s hateful rhetoric against any number of people and groups, just sit this one out and let those of us who don’t want to make Rep. Omar into the symbol of anti-Muslim propaganda figure out if her words have become too much. Honestly, just sit this one to the side and let the adults handle it.

Happy Days

Sunday night we arrived in Clearwater, Florida for a week of baseball, beach, and whatever else fills the time. What a happy time to arrive, just days after Bryce Harper signed in town. After an off-season in which the Phillies brought in three 2018 All-Stars, a former NL MVP, and a former All-Star closer. And all of this while I’m not home in Pennsylvania, dealing with snow, but rather dealing with sunburn on the Gulf of Mexico.

There hasn’t been so happy of a time to be a Phillies fan since the last time I was here, in 2011. J.T. Realmuto, arguably baseball’s best catcher, is here. Jean Segura, a 2018 All-Star and perennial 200 hit threat, may represent the biggest position upgrade on this team since 2018. Obviously Harper has Phillies fans dreaming of championships, in the plural, over the next 13 seasons. David Robertson’s presence as an elite late inning reliever will allow Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris, and Pat Neshek to all settle into defined roles, avoid being over worked, and thrive as they have in the past. All of this, and I haven’t brought up the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen, my formerly favorite non-Phillies player and former NL MVP- a player who’s gigantic defensive upgrade in left field will both save runs, and all Rhys Hoskins to return to his natural first base. The team’s defense is wildly improved in at least three spots. Expectations are up.

And not to add to those expectations, but I see why. The 2019 Phillies are built much more like the 2008 and 2009 Phillies than any other roster than any other in club history. They will be expected to hit, a lot, and always have a chance to bash their way to victory. They will have a really deep, effective bullpen to hold their leads and win games they lead in after six innings. Their starting pitching isn’t elite on paper, but they are banking on the young arms improving enough, and the possibility of adding the extra arm they may need later. In both of those seasons, the Phillies were resourceful in finding the arms they need in multiple ways.

None of that has been much on my mind though the last two days. It’s been fun watching prospects like Mickey Moniak stroking a double yesterday in a 9-7 loss to the Blue Jays, or Malquin Canelo getting a walk-off hit to beat the Cardinals, and watching our young, big league ace Aaron Nola make his 2019 debut. I watched the sunset from Fort Desoto State Park yesterday, and had a great dinner in Dunedin at Casa Tina (get the enchiladas en salsa roja if you ever go, you’ll thank me). Trips to Spring Training are not much about wins and losses in exhibition games, and are every bit as much about about getting a sunburn at Honeymoon Island beach. You can’t really experience a game over at Blue Jays camp without getting a beer on Douglas Avenue, in my case at the VFW Post 2550.

Tomorrow this trip will come to an end, unfortunately. We’ll get up pre-dawn and hit the road, driving up to my uncle’s in suburban Raleigh to get dinner and crash for the night. Then it will be back to Pennsylvania. The next time I’ll see the Phillies, the games will count, and I actually will really care about the baseball. However I will be there bringing the good news- the Phillies are back, and built for a very bright future.

Bryceadelphia: Where (Almost) Everybody Wins

Later on tonight I’m going to arrive in the happiest place in Florida these days- Clearwater. With Bryce Harper’s arrival and signing, Phillies fans are practically floating on cloud nine. It’s just my dumb luck that a long planned vacation will coincide with one of the biggest arrivals in Phillies history.

Make absolutely no mistake- the signing of Bryce Harper joins the Pete Rose, Jim Thome, and Cliff Lee signings in franchise significance. Signing Harper re-affirms that the Phillies are in fact among the few mega-markets in Major League Baseball. This is the biggest guaranteed contract in North American sports history, and it came against major competition from Los Angeles and San Francisco, two super markets in their own right. This signing is one of those major moments that make you re-evaluate your view of what your team, and city, are.

The Phillies obviously win here. They got their super-star they coveted. I won’t argue that Bryce Harper is currently the best player in baseball, but he is the face of the sport today. They got him with a little bit of money to spare for future free agents. He joins Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto as the first set of three All-Stars from the previous season to join a new club together. He joins Andrew McCutchen as former NL MVP’s joining the Phillies. He will be one of five different opening day position starters from an off-season where the Phillies transformed their line-up from one of the worst offensive and defensive NL line-ups to an elite one. It is fair to now predict them as a playoff team in 2019.

The Phillies aren’t even close to the only winners though, despite a media bias that is slanted against them. Despite the dismissal of his achievement, Scott Boras is a huge winner here for getting his client a record contract in terms of years and raw dollars. Some have questioned his decision to initially turn down the Nationals $300 million offer, but its worth noting that a third or more of that ten year offer was in deferred money. Boras managed to get his target in dollars, and not manage to make his client look like a money-hungry jerk. He signed a record shattering deal, and still left Harper’s new team to make the moves necessary to win a title. Boras deserves credit, even if the slow time line annoyed you.

What about Harper? Some of the critics of this deal seem to want to make their criticisms about Philadelphia. That would be a top five volume media market, America’s original Capitol, and it’s sixth largest city. Philadelphia, the largest market in MLB with only one team, a city considerably larger than Boston or Washington, and a city with an absolutely rabid and loyal fan base. Yes, his last three choices included Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco- a set of three cities that any man should kill to choose from. Three of the great cities in America, and the world. Bryce Harper went to a young, emerging team that improved by 14 games from 2017 to 2018. He went to a team that has a top third farm system, super rich owner, and mega TV contract. In the midst of this great deal, Harper got a team who valued him enough to give him a record contract, and wants to build around him. Philadelphia is really lucky to have Bryce Harper. Bryce Harper is lucky to have Philadelphia, too. Consider this scenario the equivalent to getting a new puppy, for both sides.

Many people will make this about Harper leaving Washington, and indeed it will be such for 247 days over the next 13 years, excluding playoff games. Let’s be clear here though, this was baked in for months. Harper turned down their offer at the end of 2018. The Nationals owner twice this off-season, before the Winter meetings and last week, made clear that the Nationals stopped pursuing Harper along the way too. Nationals fans can be mad at Harper all they’d like for moving up I-95, but they left him as much as he left them. All in the name of young, emerging prospects.

Let’s be honest here though, Harper in defection delivered to the Nationals what they’ve longed for since signing Jayson Werth before the 2011 season- geographic relevance. Just as Werth gave birth to DC baseball mattering, Harper re-affirms for the Phillies their relevance too. In both cases the opposing fan base sneered at their “neighbors” for paying a boat load of money, but in both cases the added value was worth every cent. The Nationals thought at the time of Werth arriving that it would create a rivalry, but it never did- the two teams barely spent a full season both being relevant together. Now DC has it’s villain, it’s nationally televised games, it’s hated rival– the team that dominated them from inception until 2011, the fans that literally took over their park. From an entertainment value standpoint, if the Nats were losing Harper regardless, losing him to Philadelphia is probably the best case scenario.

What about the San Francisco Giants? The reported runner-ups in the Harper sweepstakes obviously lose by not getting him, right? Sure, but that’s an over simplification. With an aging team, retiring manager, and recently deceased owner, one could have assumed they would re-build and avoided big free agents. A 12 year, $310 million offer to Harper let’s us know that San Francisco remains serious. They’re still the real deal.

So who lost? The LA Dodgers. National reporters who wanted to treat Philadelphia as a “B Market.” Maybe the New York Mets. The Dodgers won the last two NL Pennants, but lost the World Series both times, and now passed on making a long-term offer to a player who could have changed their fortunes. The tire narrative of major athletes avoiding Philadelphia, a favorite of the sports media elite, has again been defeated. As for the Mets, they are in position to potentially watch their natural rival suddenly battle the Nationals as their new rivals. Maybe none of this matters. Maybe it all does.

What I do know is that this is perfect for the Phillies. They got their guy. They showed their might. They had an outstanding off-season. This should be a fun week in Clearwater.