How the Democrats are Losing the Online Game

Tell the truth, how many fundraising e-mails did you delete this weekend? For me, it got so bad that I unsubscribed from close to a dozen e-mail lists. Back in the dark ages when I was in college (2002-2006), I got myself on every e-mail list I could. It felt like I actually got information about the 2004 Presidential candidates back then. That’s not what e-mails are used for on political campaigns in 2019.

Democrats now view digital campaign organizing, e-mails, and even their website as an ATM. In the wake of McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, Democrats face a real challenge in keeping up financially with the right-wing financial machine. They’ve exasperated that by ingesting the poison pill rhetoric that all lobbyists and political action committees (PACs) are terrible, and we can’t take their money. The Bernie purity rhetoric, and even President Obama’s a generation ago, puts Democrats behind the eight ball. So what’s been the answer? Go grassroots. Ask for $27 over and over again. We still can’t keep up, but it’s worth a shot. Pledge to take no PAC money or federal lobbyist money at all- even from unions, Planned Parenthood, or Environmental groups- to try and motivate activists who have little understanding of campaign budgets to fund your campaign.

The net result is a million micro-messages from every group and candidate on the left to try and motivate you to give some cash. It turns into annoying white noise. It works fine for interest groups in DC, who do the best in this messy void, but leaves everyone else all over the map. It leads to the “Democrats have no message” meme.

What about the Republican Party? They don’t have quite the same issues. In 2016 everyone knew that the Trump message was “Make America Great Again,” and “Crooked Hillary.” Hillary Clinton was a criminal that would take the America you and your descendants built away from you, and give it to “other” people, but Donald Trump would stop that and restore it to you. Yes, they did field, television, and mail to get that message to you, but on a far scaled down level from what Mitt Romney and John McCain has done. They understood that the race would be decided at the margins, so they went cheaper and more straight to the point- they talked to you online. Sure, maybe some GRU guy in Moscow was giving them an assist, but don’t underestimate what the GOP did. They were getting 20 impressions on your brain through Facebook, for the price of one TV ad, at a far more efficient clip too. They hit their audience directly with one simple, straight forward message- Make America Great Again. The whole right-wing took part.

So what’s going to happen in 2020? Look no further than this week’s Wisconsin election for the State Supreme Court. Democrats narrowly lost, despite hitting their turnout targets across the board. Republican turnout simply spiked. What was their message? Socialism. It didn’t matter if it was the Koch funded groups, the NRA, or religious conservatives, they simply told you the Democratic “socialists” are coming to take what you want away from you. They’ll take your guns, your church, and your tax dollars, and give America to those “others.” They will spend hundreds of millions of dollars into digital ads on the internet that tell their voters to fear Democrats, because socialism.

As the really smart friend of mine that does digital campaign work explained this to me yesterday, I realized just how messed up the Democratic Party is on digital. We’re trying to use the internet to finance our campaigns, while they’re using it to poison the Democratic brand. It’s a mismatch. If no one in the Democratic Party figures this out soon, it could be too late- and Donald Trump could be basking in “four more years” chants.

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Making Sense of Barr, Rosenstein, and Mueller

Donald Trump and his campaign will not be charged with conspiracy to collude with Russia to interfere in our 2016 Election. While the Mueller report makes no final recommendation on charging Trump with obstructing justice, Attorney General Barr will not charge him. Mueller and the Department of Justice have found that Russia did interfere in our election.

Those are the official legal findings as the Mueller investigation ends.

In pure legal terms, Mueller does not believe there was a legal conspiracy between Trump or his campaign, defined as a two-sided agreement, to interfere in our last election. He is not saying Russia didn’t interfere at all. He is rather saying the Trump campaign and candidate weren’t a part of that interference. This may seem odd, since Don Jr. met with Russians about Hillary dirt, and Paul Manafort shared polling data with Russians. Mueller seems to be saying neither had any actual part in the Russian interference though. Perhaps because they were inept, or perhaps because Russia never wanted their help, but they seem to be but a footnote in what he alleges happened.

There is the question of obstruction, which remains more murky and incomplete than it may seem right now. Mueller did not charge Donald Trump or exonerate him on this question, in part because Trump used legitimate Presidential powers to seemingly stonewall the investigation, as well as vague and not-so-vague attacks to intimidate witnesses. With the question left to Barr, who is both a believer in executive power and an appointee of the President. He was never going to charge him, if left with an open question. That’s not the end of the story though.

I tend to believe in and accept Bob Mueller’s findings. With that said, there are still some important questions. Why did Trump associates keep lying about Russia? Did Russian interference determine the outcome in 2016? Did finding out about Russian interference later change Trump’s behavior or policies towards Russia? These aren’t all Mueller’s questions to answer, but they still remain today.

A lot of people on the left seem despondent, and even willing to engage in crazy conspiracy theories over this. It’s important to understand that those conspiracy theories aren’t grounded in any reality. After indicting 37 people, Bob Mueller is certainly not going to cover for anyone. Rod Rosenstein put him in place and supervised him, and doesn’t seem to be a figure who would cover for the Administration. While there are questions about Attorney General Barr, it’s worth noting the obvious here- Congress can subpoena all of these men. Mueller can talk about his report. Barr won’t be afforded cover to lie to Congress. Neither would Rosenstein. The room for anybody to be lying right now is non-existent. The potential exposure is too great.

Which all leads back to where this began- Mueller was never going to indict Trump, nor would Trump’s Department of Justice allow it. The only body with legal oversight of the President’s activities is the Congress. The House Judiciary Committee should call all of these men in to testify about their findings. Mueller can tell us what he found in the first person. I suspect the real question here will be on the judgment of Mueller to not recommend either way on obstruction of justice, and of Barr to say he will not charge the President for it. If the House reaches a different conclusion, after hearing the evidence, then they should act. Even if crimes were found, that committee would have been charged with deciding this then.

One Month of Christmas, Day 10

Happy December 4th, 2018. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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R.I.P. Mr. President

So last night I went to the U.S. Capitol and paid my respects to President George H.W. Bush in the Capitol rotunda. It took me about 90 minutes to get through the line, and I spent a few minutes there at the casket, then moved along. It was the quietist I’ve ever heard the Capitol.

When I was five, the 1988 Election captivated my mind. I obviously knew nothing about it yet, but it was interesting to me. It’s weird to bury powerful people from my childhood, as it does really mark the passage of time.

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Don’t Lock Him Up?

Apparently Robert Mueller doesn’t want to lock up Michael Flynn, because he cooperated fully and he served the nation in uniform. He probably gave Mueller some great information. All the redactions suggest some juicy stuff is in there.

Luckily for Michael Flynn, Robert Mueller is a better man than he is. While he could have made an example of Flynn, he chose not to. He didn’t lead an arena in chanting to lock Flynn up. He allowed him due process. He treated him humanely. It was the right thing to do.

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Tonight’s a light night for writing. I’ll be back at it more tomorrow.

One Month of Christmas, Day 5

Good day, today is Thursday, November 29th, 2018. It’s really windy out. Despite my rant yesterday about the Stones’ prices, my dad bought up a few seats for us today. My hypocrisy with things I want knows no end, I guess. On to today’s thoughts…

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Where the Action Will be, 2019 Governing

What will happen the next two years in government? The most common answer is nothing. Congress is divided, the nation is divided, the states are divided. Yet, in the past two days, I’ve sung a different tune to two PA State Reps I’ve advised in the past.

One is a newer representative (not a freshman), who asked me what committees she should ask for. I told her almost instantly “transportation.” I told her the only thing coming out of Washington the next two years is an infrastructure bill. When that money hits state capitols, you’ll want to be helping craft the state’s bill.

The other is a more senior state rep, who will be Democratic Chairman at Agriculture. My advice? Stay there. Trump will desperately want to help farmers across the Rust Belt heading into his re-election. The U.S. House Agriculture chairman represents probably the reddest Democratic seat in the country, and makes his political bones by being very engaged with the agriculture community. I think they may be sending some money to the states.

Just a hunch, though.

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The 30 for 30 Bobby Knight Special was Wow

I just watched the “30 for 30” on Bobby Knight and was absolutely stuck on it. It was incredibly well done, and paints a picture of an unlikable Bobby Knight. What an awful guy.

It was also a super sad story. Neil Reed was tortured by his experience at Indiana. He finally had escaped the shadow of his time with the Hoosiers, had happiness, and then he died. There was no happy ending.

The business of college sports was once again on trial. Like Ohio State and Michigan State’s recent problems, or Penn State and Baylor’s past problems, it’s clear that money causes questionable decision making. The NCAA never looks good when we view these sagas.

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Cohen Blows the Lid on Trump-Russia Connection

There is no question if Russia tried to help Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, only whether or not he and his associates knew. I’ve long since believed they did, but I had mostly assumed Donald Trump himself was largely shielded from that. I never thought he himself would get hit.

Today I’m not sure. Now we’re getting into connecting not only Trump’s campaign to Russia, we’re also connecting Trump’s company and finances to Russia. This is new territory for this case. Perhaps this was more than just an operation by Russia to influence an election, but also to control a foreign asset. If that is so, this is a new chapter, and not a good one.

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Back at it tomorrow…

One Month of Christmas, Day 3

Good day, today is Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. Christmas is now 28 days away. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Paul Manafort? #LockHimUp

Paul Manafort is going to prison. That was true when he was found guilty in his first trial. That was more true when he plead guilty before his second trial. Now that he lied to prosecutors? Lock.Him.Up.

There seems to be a convergence of events that is entirely circumstantial, but you can’t turn away from. First, the revelations that Manafort both violated his plea deal, AND that he had a secret meeting with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, before the Wikileaks attacks on the Clinton Campaign. Second, Jerome Corsi’s bizarre rantings about rejecting a plea deal for perjury- which both seems to be the least of his crimes, and not the crime he’s describing. Third, Donald Trump just submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions.

The only thing that makes clear sense to me is that Bob Mueller is trying to establish a back channel between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks, and Russia. Manafort probably wasn’t totally forthcoming about something related, Mueller had the goods on it, and the deal fell apart. Manafort is pretty much screwed. This isn’t great for Mueller either, as he loses a star witness. Things are at least beginning to become clear though.

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Goliath is Back, and Goliath is the Phillies?

As I write this, Twitter is buzzing with news that Patrick Corbin is at Citizens Bank Park. The elite left-handed pitcher on the market seems to be high on the Phillies wish list, along with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, every major free agent, and every major trade candidate.

The Phillies are a big market team, with a big market TV deal. In fact, they’re the biggest market with just one team. They have a low payroll and young team. While 80-82 isn’t a great season, it’s good enough to now buy your way back into the playoffs. They have plenty of prospects to work with, one of the richest owners in sports (John Middleton), and a fan base that can fill the seats in a hurry.

The expectations for the Phillies this off-season are high, but not beyond their abilities as a franchise. I’m obviously most interested in getting Bryce Harper, but Machado, Corbin, Kimbrel, and major trade targets are all fine too. I’m just ready to watch a major superstar hit upper deck homers to right again, like the good ole’ days. The possibilities seem endless, and so does John Middleton’s desire to win. Goliath is back in the NL East.

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Make Gritty the new Flyers GM

Here’s some real talk- the Flyers have been a directionless, “good enough” to make a profit franchise for a long time. Here’s some other tough talk- over that long time, the Flyers keep putting ex-players in charge of the team. They haven’t done so hot though. It’s been 40 years since the team won a Stanley Cup. It’s been almost a decade since they blew up a team that lost in the Stanley Cup finals. The team is perpetually disappointing. The most successful thing they’ve done is make Gritty their mascot.

So, I put in the title here “Make Gritty the new Flyers GM.” I’m not really suggesting that, but I guess I am if they’re really going to let Paul Holmgren call the shots in the organization. Holmgren, the ex-GM that failed in his previous role, was rewarded for losing by being promoted to the Team President. If this is the kind of decision making the Flyers do here again, why not let an orange mascot run the operation?

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Democrats Should Stop Fearing White Voters

Over the weekend, I was watching Roland Martin on MSNBC, and he said something profound- Democrats need to stop fearing white voters. His point wasn’t to ignore them, it was to actually campaign at them. His point was pretty simple- what are they getting for voting for their guns, or against immigrants, or any other social issues? Campaign to them on health care, on education, on wages- because these issues apply to them. Will Democrats win white voters? I don’t know, but it’s unlikely. Will they do better? Most likely. This doesn’t mean stop campaigning to the Democratic base, or stop talking about civil rights. It means walk and chew gum.

I do know this- this will work far faster than waiting for demographic changes to get us to victory.

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My Favorite Christmas Specials?

  1. Rudolph
  2. The Grinch
  3. California Raisin
  4. Frosty

I basically make my picks based on the music. You can’t hate.

For the Republic…

I never thought Paul Manafort would flip, but he did this morning. He plead guilty in Washington and agreed to cooperate with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. For Mueller to allow this, he must both have had Manafort dead-to-rights, and felt he had useful information to the prosecution. Manafort was already guilty on eight counts in Virginia and facing a long prison sentence. Mueller didn’t need this deal as bad as Manafort.

I’m still very skeptical of the Mueller probe getting Donald Trump. He’s going to be hard to impeach and remove, there’s no good reason for Republicans to go along, politically, as long as their base loves Trump unconditionally. They probably will indict him and try him after his Presidency, but there’s no guarantees of a conviction. Today certainly moves the ball forward. Manafort was the head man of a campaign that took aid from Russia. I think Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner should be terrified. Manafort can probably put them at the middle of it. If Mueller can convict them, the Republicans in Congress *might* start pushing Trump to get out of the way and let Pence govern.

It is important that we don’t lose sight of the bigger issue here though, which is not Donald Trump himself. The problem of Russian meddling and a fractured society that can fall victim to their misinformation is the issue. The gulf between the two sides allowed one side to fall victim to a con-man and Kremlin stooges, and the other side could fall victim too, if other stooges re-affirm what they want to hear.

I’m glad to see Manafort flip. He deserves jail, and the people he is exposing deserve this fate too. Hopefully this investigation will expose the traitors among us. Even if it does though, our civil society needs work.

Donald Trump, Impeachment, and the American Right

Donald Trump is in a lot of trouble. Ultimately speaking, he’s in serious jeopardy of being indicted and tried after his Presidency. His company and his Foundation have probably broken laws. His campaign almost certainly operated in a conspiracy with Russia to win the election, which is illegal, based on the statements of he and his son. He has probably used the powers of his office to obstruct justice. Many close associates of Trump’s are now facing prison. The situation for the President is full of peril.

This is probably the point where I remind you that none of that is likely to make a difference in your life. The only thing of impact to the public that can happen to Trump is his removal from office. That can only happen by his being defeated in 2020, or impeached and convicted in Congress before then. It’s too early to tell about 2020, but it is likely to be another cliffhanger finish, given how close 2016 was. That leaves the impeachment process, and the many pitfalls that Democrats could encounter along the way. Looking at them, I don’t believe Trump will be removed from office early, based on what we know.

The first step towards impeaching Trump is Special Counsel Robert Mueller issuing a report that details specific crimes that he believes Trump committed. For historical reference, the Starr Report leading to impeachment on Bill Clinton wasn’t issued until his second term, so we may be pretty far away. Then the House Judiciary Committee would draw up articles of impeachment, hold hearings on them, and have to vote them out. This step in the process really can’t begin until next year, and would probably require a Democratic House Majority to even have a chance. Only then would the full House consider impeachment, and again, a Democratic Majority is a pre-requisite to even consider that. After all of that, you get a Senate trial where 67 votes are needed to convict and remove Trump. There will not ever be 67 Democrats to push this. In other words, at some point Democrats will need some Republicans to hold Donald Trump accountable, as President.

So I guess I’m saying Trump is in real personal trouble, but the Trump Presidency is safe and secure as long as he’s sporting 90% support from Republicans. I suppose it is possible at some point that Senate Republicans will decide it’s in their self-interest to remove Trump, provided that Mike Pence is in no real trouble, and that their base turns on Donald Trump for some reason. What would that reason be though? Conspiracy with Russia? They’ve rationalized that. Crude conduct with women and paying hush money for cover-ups? They quite literally don’t care. Tax cuts for the rich and huge deficits? They’ve always supported that. Latino kids in cages? They think they shouldn’t be here in the first place.

The things that activist Democrats hate about Donald Trump are what his voters like about him. The societal change the left wants is what the Trumpers support, and what makes the “American Middle” squeamish. A large portion of the voters who will probably vote to give Democrats a Congressional majority are probably conflicted on the cultural issues that divide us, and will mostly be voting against Donald Trump for poor performance in office, not diametric opposition to his vision. The most offensive issues about Trump, to the left- his cheating and covering up affairs on his wives, his nationalistic view towards immigration, his “traditionalism” on social issues in general- are exactly the kind of things that probably make him safe from removal. Those in the “pink hats” hate him for it, those in the “red hats” love him for it.

Donald Trump is a reflection of the world view in Conservative America, and for that reason, Republicans in Congress won’t turn on him. Obviously things change, and something could change the calculus. That’s unlikely though. As a result, impeachment is really unlikely too.

#LockThemUp- the True Criminals

If we now want to be honest, we can say the 2016 Election was a complete and total joke. It was covered as the complete inverse of reality, the person who more people voted for lost, there was rampant cheating and lying, and a foreign government was allowed to interfere in our elections, without any repercussions. There is no way to properly quantify just how unfair the 2016 Election was to Hillary Clinton properly, but we can safely now say that an unqualified person, who employed underhanded tactics and people, took the job of a more qualified, prepared woman- full stop.

Let us be clear- Hillary Clinton has never been charged in conjunction with any of the partisan investigations the Republicans trumped up against her. I didn’t say not convicted, that’s not even in the conversation, because she was never charged. She was not charged with any crime from her email server, Benghazi, Whitewater, or any other crazy conspiracy theory the American right-wing made up in the last 25 years. All she did was serve the public and try to solve problems for a quarter century, while Trey Gowdy, Lindsey Graham, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, and yes, James Comey drug her name through the mud, literally for no reason. I don’t think she was the greatest candidate, or possessed a magnetic personality, or hired the best people to run her campaigns, but I am damn proud to have worked for Hillary twice, and I don’t think she ever embarrassed any of us.

You can’t say the same for her detractors though. Donald Trump raised the spectacle of Hillary going to prison or being on trial, but now his campaign chair, his deputy, his former national security advisor, and his personal lawyer are prison bound. Michael Flynn lead the “lock her up” chants, but his next sentencing hearing is September 17th. Michael Cohen joked of Hillary Clinton going to prison on Twitter, and plead guilty to eight counts in federal court yesterday. Paul Manafort lead the campaign against Clinton, and he’s jail bound on eight counts too. All of these people are criminals. All betrayed America.

But we heard months of squawking about Hillary’s emails, of which no crime was committed. We heard several years of Benghazi. The press treated the accusations of thugs and criminals as a legitimate story. Even now they put Rudy Giuliani on TV, despite the fact he says “facts are not facts.” They attend Sarah Huckabee Sander’s press briefings, even when we’ve seen her willingness to lie and obstruct on camera. The coverage of the 2016 Election, the obsession with “her damn emails,” was clearly a joke- and it has continued.

What we now also know, in addition to the fact of Russian cheating in our election, is that Trump’s campaign violated campaign laws to hide damaging information. Trump had Cohen pay money to two women that Trump had affairs with, specifically to silence them in the closing days. Cohen paid the money, taking a loan, and the money exceeded the maximum limits for a contribution to a federal candidate. The campaign did not report the payments as expenditures. Trump commanded Cohen to make the payments for him, to avoid detection. All of these are campaign finance violations. The act of silencing the women may have influenced voters, by not giving voice to more negative stories about Trump. Like the Russian interference issue, we don’t know exactly how much the cheating impacted the election- but it probably exceeds the margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Even the primary season needs to be re-visited. Tad Devine testified in the Manafort trial as his business partner, because he knew of Manafort’s financial secrets. Devine had the same connections with the Kremlin from their work together in the Ukraine. Devine’s 2016 client, Bernie Sanders, made the same accusations that Hillary was corrupt and worked for the elite. With all we now know about that message, and Devine’s connection to Manafort, it’s time we question what we heard then, too.

The criminal enterprise that was the Trump campaign got less votes in 2016 than Hillary Clinton. Criminals that accused Hillary Clinton of crimes are now going to jail. The press treated illegitimate characters and their stories with more fairness than they did Clinton.

Now it’s time to lock these criminals all up. It’s in the best interests of the country.

It’s Time to Re-Think Who “Won” the Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, and World Wars

It’s 2018, and Germany has a roaring economy, universal health care, and an impressive infrastructure. China is building a world order that doesn’t center around us. France, the United Kingdom, and Canada are adjusting to life without an absolute alliance with us. Russia interfered in our elections, got away with it, and is being rewarded with Presidential summits. We have a President who is a reality TV star, who bankrupted a casino, and who tweets in all caps, LIKE THIS!

You’d have to pardon anyone wondering out loud if the story of American Exceptionalism that came out of the 20th Century was a myth.

While Europe built strong social-safety nets, Asia innovated, and Russia put their energy into mastering the internet, the United States built the largest military industrial complex in the world. While America built up corporate profits, built up a credit bubble, slashed taxes for the wealthy, and increased the income inequality gap, Germany went in the opposite direction, in a span of less than 30 years. While America assumed the success of the 1950’s and 60’s Civil Rights Movement, the electoral polarization that came from it became bad enough that Russia preyed on our racial tensions in interfering with our 2016 elections.

At the end of the 1980’s, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union was in collapse, and China was “modernizing” their economy towards capitalism. Kids were taught about the progress that had been made by the Civil Rights movement in school. The 1990’s were a period of remarkable, broad-based economic success in America. The United States was considered the world’s greatest military superpower, and used that power and influence in places like the former Yugoslavian republics. We were instrumental in peace agreements in the Middle East, even bringing the Palestinians and Israelis together in the Clinton years. It seemed as though America had defeated the evil of the world, and was creating a peaceful, prosperous world order.

The 21st Century has to make us ask questions- children in cages, Iraq, white nationalists coming out of the shadows, Russian hacking of our elections, mass shootings with no government reaction, Abu Ghraib, tens of millions uninsured, massive student debt, Gitmo, sham summits with foreign dictators, no action on climate change, a massive bank meltdown, and so much more. Is the United States still making progress? Does our federal budget and government match our values? Have we made the right choices on how to spend our dollars? How did we squander the booming economy and budget surpluses we ended the 90’s with? How did we end up with a crumbling infrastructure, school shootings, a health care system that leaves millions behind, no plans for clean energy development and energy independence, white nationalists in the streets, school students testing out rather mediocre against other countries, but the largest military budget in the world, by leaps and bounds?

It is clear now that things were not quite what they once seemed, at least to me. It’s clear to me that our priorities for spending our collective dollars were wrong. It’s clear to me that Germany, who lost both World Wars, is set to be in a much stronger position moving forward than we are, 100 years after World War I. It’s clear to me that China has become far more effective and innovative at solving societal and global issues, without matching us in bombs. It’s clear that 30 years after the Cold War, Russia is effectively meddling in our elections, and causing America to damage itself. It’s clear to me that the successes of the Civil Rights movement have given way to a tyranny of the majority, where resentment and re-segregation is happening both politically and in regular life. It is entirely fair to me that we question how America spent it’s capital, it’s hard-earned global power. Rather than enriching our people, building a strong, stable society, we enriched the few and built a strong country for yester-year. Obviously in the short term, we have to defeat Trump, and get his ilk out of power. In the longer term, we have to reconsider our entire paradigm, ditch our toxically polarized politics, and reconsider the decisions and actions we’ve taken with our great power.

Sinatra and the Kennedys, Tiger Woods Divorce, and the Trump-Putin Drama

One should not assume another person’s guilt based on indirect evidence, however one should also not neglect behavior that clear-as-day suggests something is happening. Not knowing what Robert Mueller knows, I can’t tell you if Donald Trump knowingly took material support from Russia during the 2016 election. What I do know is that his behavior does not suggest innocence. His behavior suggests that there is more to his relationship with Vladimir Putin than is clear to us.

We should start by at least acknowledging the possibility that Trump and Putin’s relationship is based on shared values and goals. Putin is the kind of “strong-man” dictator Trump tends to respect. Both men espouse very nationalistic world views and policies. Neither has much use for NATO, the G-7, UN, or any other global-view groups. Both men view the Western order of the world with disdain. That may be all there is to this. Evidence just suggests otherwise.

Trump’s performance in the Helsinki Summit with Putin suggests there is more to it. Given that Russian interference on Trump’s behalf is common knowledge to all who accept it, and that we know with near certainty that Donald Trump has accepted loans from banks with Russian ties, there really shouldn’t be much to hide. Trump’s base has heard this stuff at some point along the line, or just refused to, and they don’t care. Trump’s continual submissive deference to Putin, and his refusal to show his financial statements, suggests more is there than meets the eye.

When nothing more is present beyond rumor and innuendo, Presidential history suggests that Administrations don’t proceed as though they have guilt to hide. Perhaps the most famous example is the Kennedy Administration’s posture towards the mafia. Political legend has it that the Kennedys sent close friend Frank Sinatra to meet with Chicago mafia boss Sam Giancana to secure his support in winning Illinois over Richard Nixon. Giancana seems to have delivered on his end of the deal, as JFK narrowly won that state in 1960. We have no way of knowing today if Giancana and the Kennedys has a deal in place at that time, but it was a well known rumor, even then. How did the Kennedy Administration treat the mafia once in office? Attorney General Bobby Kennedy prosecuted them across the country with no fear at all. If the rumors about Giancana’s help were real, they clearly didn’t scare the Kennedys. There just wasn’t anything more lurking there to scare them.

If you have nothing to hide, you don’t hide stuff. Trump’s behavior towards Putin and Russia don’t resemble RFK with the mafia at all. What does Trump’s actions resemble? The best pop culture example that stands out for me is Tiger Woods during his divorce proceedings. It was well known publicly in the press that Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegren left him over the golfer’s serial infidelity. Woods infidelity was not a secret at the point he gave her a $100 million divorce settlement. Nordegren came from a well-to-do family and didn’t need his money. Woods still gave her a settlement rumored to be ten times as large as their pre-nuptial agreement specified, in exchange for her promise of silence about their marriage. Why would Woods give away so much money for silence? Clearly because there was more to the situation than we could see.

Even if Russia did help Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election, that doesn’t mean Trump himself committed a crime. He’s at very little risk of being removed from office, or being prosecuted, despite the clear bad behavior of others in his orbit. There’s no really good reason that Trump doesn’t behave like JFK and his administration did towards the mafia after the 1960 election- if we truly already have heard the worst of it. Trump is paying no political price for the widely reported Russian interference on his behalf. He’s unlikely to ever pay a legal price either. The only reason I can come up with for his behavior in Helsinki is that like Tiger Woods in his divorce, Trump has more to hide in his relationship with Russia.

I would suggest we don’t sensationalize this with talk of prostitutes and “pee tapes”- would that shock us? It is far more likely that Donald Trump’s fear of Russia stems from his financial entanglements, which may reveal he’s not actually that rich, or worse yet, crimes he committed prior to entering the White House. No matter what Trump’s hidden secret is, he seems intent to do whatever he has to in order to keep the Kremlin happy. He’s clearly compromised, and fearful of what they could do to him.

That should scare you a lot more than the thought of Russian escorts urinating on a rich American businessman.