Daddy’s Woman

April 6, 2017

It is not unusual for Presidents of the United States to offer key positions in their administration to family members – Eleanor Roosevelt was a valued advisor to her husband, Kennedy gave brother Bobby the Attorney General portfolio, and Clinton tasked Hillary with trying to get his health care bill off the ground. So when Donald Trump brings his daughter Ivanka into his inner circle it is not cause for outrage or even charges of nepotism.  Trump trusts his daughter and apparently values her counsel.

As for Ivanka, she has told anyone who will listen that her goal is to quietly talk with her father and advance policy issues that are on her agenda such as parental leave, women’s pay and matters related to children. This may be true and hopefully she can influence her father on these key domestic issues. I am not convinced.

What worries me is that Ivanka’s advice and agenda, while worthy, seems misplaced. Perhaps she has talked to dear old dad about stupid tweets, perpetuating lies and gross exaggerations, supporting serial sexual harassers, and making unsubstantiated charges that weaken his already declining reputation and popularity, but if she has talked to him about his self-defeating behavior, her counsel is empty and routinely ignored.

There are two possible reasons for Ivanka in the White House – the President likes having her around and she enjoys all the attention that can advance her brand. Ivanka in the White House is not about advancing specific policies but rather protecting Trump Inc. and dear old dad. Ivanka to her credit is a far more attractive face of the Trump presidency; she speaks with more than a six grade vocabulary; her clothes actually fit her; and she is clearly smart and poised. – all those qualities missing from her father. She is not, however, an advisor or counselor or quiet force for change.

President Trump can pretty much bring into the White House who he wants, but Ivanka is more like administrative eye candy and guardian of the brand than a key cog in the governing arena. Until this country sees policies that makes the lives of Americans better, Ivanka will just validate the President’s phony effort to show in his words that he “loves women”, but not women who make a difference.

 

 

 


Branding the USA

March 8, 2017

Americans it is fair to say are brand conscious. Many of us not only know the name of consumer products but we also likely know what the logo looks like, i.e. those golden arches of McDonald’s or the “swoosh” of Nike. Branding becomes important to a company as it is a symbol of a reputation built up over the years. Brands connote excellence, reliability, innovation, creativity and of course market share. Corporations pay a great deal of attention to brand and branding as it is one critical key to profits and growth.

Although we often don’t think of governments and countries having a brand, the concept of a national brand does apply just as it does in the corporate sector. Our brand has in the past been based in freedom, equality, opportunity, tolerance, justice, power and wealth. Now a nation like the United States can’t maintain all aspects of its brand since circumstances change, priorities are reconfigured and most importantly democratic politics can remake a brand.

The United States is currently going through a re-branding process and it is not a pretty sight.President Trump with his 3 am tweets, his choice of advisors and cabinet members, his controversial policies, and his determination to change the rules of politics has changed the American brand, and not for the better.

There is a mountain of evidence that those outside the United States think differently about our brand or at least are confused about what we stand for as a nation. Long time allies are deeply concerned over whether we are a dependable friend, tourists are thinking twice about whether to vacation here, multinational companies are worried about the future of trade and investment, and those new to our country, legal and illegal, are fearful for their futures, if not their lives. It was probably a prank, but the Statue of Liberty went dark for awhile the other day- a symbol of our brand without the promises associated with that beautiful torch.

As any marketing executive will tell you, once you change your brand or worse yet once your brand takes a hit, market share is in trouble. Customers loose confidence; they wonder whether the product of the past is the same today. Branding changes become especially dangerous if the new brand presents a negative image and tells the buyer that all is not well.

President Trump and his minions can be criticized on a number of miscues, false starts and simply stupid policies. But what is most bothersome to me is that they have sullied the American brand and in the process remade this United States into a less attractive country with a less attractive set of values and principles.

Getting back to the old brand of the United States will be difficult and will take a long period of time. Confidence has to be restored, old values and principles have to be re-introduced into the body politics, Lady Liberty’s torch has to shine bright again. Remember when Coca-Cola changed its soda recipe and introduced the New Coke? To say the least it was a disaster. We are going the way of Coca-Cola with a dangerous branding process. Hopefully wiser heads will push the President back to the old United States of America, the country that actually stood for something rather than using the brand to make a buck.

 


White House Scenarios

February 13, 2017

The future of President Donald Trump and his administration is more uncertain than any in modern history. Liberals and the members of the Resistance believe they smell political blood and are waiting to settle scores. But  pushing the 45th President off his White House pedestal is no easy task. Let me tell you why.

Articles of impeachment for alleged conflict of interest, ties to Russia, legal suits for sexual harassment, nepotism ( need I go on) must begin with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. This is highly unlikely as the GOP doesn’t want a long drawn-out public hearing and more importantly consider Trump a strange but supportive partner in their legislation agenda.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment gives the senior members of the Cabinet the power to remove the President if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This would be a political coup that is certain to cause dangerous instability in the country and in the centers of power. Even if the President would act in a way that was viewed as erratic and unstable, those around him would find a way to  work around him or ignore him rather than go down in history as turning the U.S. into a banana republic.

Members of the Resistance are looking to the mid-term elections in 2018 as critical to anti-Trumpism. This strategy may be a fools journey. It is certainly possible to flip the Senate and House but highly unlikely. In the Senate Democrats must fight for 23 seats, while the Republicans only 8; in the House the way representative districts are politicized in favor of the GOP, a major transformation would be very difficult. Now the liberals could hit the ground running and try to regain the white working class and the rural folks but such an effort is long term not a two year project.

What is more likely to happen is that the Trump administration gets so dysfunctional that senior members of the GOP and key cabinet members quietly whisper in the President’s ear that he needs to remove the nut jobs, nitwits, liars and incompetents and replace them with responsible bureaucrats who know what they are doing. The conservative agenda would remain in place but would be advanced by people who don’t embarrass the United States.

In this scenario, Trump stays in place, continues to tweet at 3 in the morning, maintains his pettiness, and deepens his ego-trip. He’ll continue to make stupid comments and probably put this country close to harms way, but the real adult staff members will smooth things over. And no he won’t run in 2020; since his approval rate will be in the Nixon-Watergate range.

Now because these are crazy times in the White House anything can happen. VP Pence could become President Pence, the Democrats could take over and end Trumpism, and the Resistance could expand exponentially to the point that the President resigns, or we become an authoritarian dictatorship. Whatever happens these are times that try men’s and women’s souls.

 


Fasten Your Seat Belts, It’s Going To Be a Bumpy Ride

January 12, 2017

Besides the incomparable Meryl Streep, America’s premier actor, Bette Davis, from another era, was no slouch. Besides a long list of great movie roles, Davis is perhaps best remembered for the classic line, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” No this is not a line from a Washington D.C. melodrama, but it certainly captures what we are in for during the coming years under President ( should I say Emperor) Donald Trump.

As American citizens we are being told by a range of pundits and experts that there is now a ” new normal” in politics and governing and that President Trump will set the rules for how he and his administration behaves and makes decisions. Every president comes into office with their own style and their own agenda; that’s the way transitions of power work. But so far Mr. Trump seems to have little interest in abiding by long standing rules and traditions in the areas of conflict of interest, ethics, intelligence gathering, freedom of the press, nepotism, the rule of law, and oh yes, the constitution.

Inauguration day is a week away, and to date President-elect Trump has taken some positions that make even distraught liberals approve – competitive drug pricing, infrastructure stimulus programs, Made in America initiatives, and day care/family leave legislation. But if these promises are indeed true and not fake news, we Americans will still have to endure stupid daily tweets, brash threats to our friends and adversaries, appointments of D list administration officials,  cringe-worthy jokes, and incoherent monologues as the President goes off teleprompter.

You can say that this is the price we pay for our brand of democracy, but it sure is unsettling and potentially dangerous. President-elect Trump promised to bring change to Washington and the country, and that’s what he is apparently bound and determined to do. But when pressed most Americans like some certainty, predictability and calmness in their lives, not daily rants and domestic and international bullying.Starting on January 20th Trump is our guy in the White House ( or Trump Tower), so fasten those seat belts, we are in for a bumpy ride. I just hope we don’t get in an accident.


A Few Not So Modest Proposals for Liberal Democrats

December 21, 2016

The election is over, Donal Trump won, and liberal Democrats will just have to deal with it. Whining, street demonstrations,complaints about James Comey and Vladimir Putin and second-guessing about what should have been done in Michigan just won’t cut it anymore; it’s time to look to the future and develop some strategies to deal with the 45th President of the United States.

So let’s get serious about what liberal democrats must do as the loyal opposition, if the term loyal has any meaning anymore in the new American political culture. Here are a few strategies that may be necessary if liberal democrats are to survive as an alternative to the new Trump-defined Republican majority.

1. Liberal Democrats must adopt the Republican playbook. Hope is good, but in this post-truth, anti-ethical American political environment fear is better. Republicans have become the masters of using fear to gain votes and power- fear of minorities, fear of terrorists, fear of economic collapse, fear of change. Hope no longer works as a key word for attracting the support of the American people. If liberal democrats are to rebound they must know how to use fear as a strategic tool- fear of job loss, fear of income inequality, fear of corporate indifference, fear of tax injustice. Liberal Democrats don’t like to use fear as a strategy, but let’s face it, fear works.

2.  Liberal Democrats are known to be political weenies who want to be viewed as honorable and non-partisan, but if they are to get back in the game they must follow the lead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and embrace legislative obstructionism, a refusal to compromise, a willingness to delay, and an unyielding and annoying pain in the butt of the presidential administration. So far the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are already talking about working with President Trump rather than following the McConnell strategy and making his life as President miserable.

3.  Then there is always the best opposition tool-sue the bastards. Taking the President and his cabinet to court is an all-American tradition of the opposition. Fortunately, for the Democrats they have the Stock Act, which makes it a felony for a President, Vice-President and high governmental officials to use their office for insider trading and making a profit off of their connections while in office. America is a litigious society where lawyers feed off of challenges to the law, so liberal democrats must take that tactic and use the courts to make the President follow the law and respect the constitution.

4. Challenging the President is no easy task but it is made more difficult because of the weakness of those who deliver the liberal message. There has to be an way to offset the influence of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity, and it is not Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Michael Moore or Lawrence O’Donnell. My suggestion is get Joe Biden on for an hour on CNN and have him take on the conservative right. Sure it will be biased but everyone knows the media is biased anyway, so what does it matter if Joe talks to white America in their language. Maybe he can even wear those aviator sunglasses while he is on camera.

5. Finally, liberal democrats must begin to think about winning rather than making a point or raising up a social group. The Republican have shown that they will do just about anything to win and it has worked. Republicans aren’t ashamed of their tactics against the liberal democrats, in fact they glory in their victories, while liberal democrats complain and wonder how their message just doesn’t work.

Now all this praise for the Republican way of winning and working government to their advantage may blow up in the coming months as President Trump and his conservative minions drive the economy and the country into the abyss. But for now liberal democrats need to rethink how they operate and how they oppose the new political reality. In short, no more whining, no more excuses, no more playing nice, no more needless cooperation, no more being weenies.

 

 

 


I Cannot Tell a Lie

November 28, 2016

Do you remember that old legend of George Washington and the cherry tree. Given an ax at the age of six, the future father of our country cut down a cherry tree to his father’s dismay. But when asked by his father how this attack on the cherry tree happened, the young Washington uttered the famous line,” I cannot tell a lie, it was I who cut down the tree.” Obviously George Washington didn’t live in what we call the post-truth America.

In this two month interim election period when America is supposed to turn its attention away from politics and look ahead to the holidays, we have become a nation still beset by charges and counter-charges, demonstrations and fear-mongering, assaults on ethnic identity and claims of hypocrisy. There is no rest from a campaign of meanness, threats and enemies in our midst.Isn’t this supposed to be the season of giving, healing and brotherly/sisterly love?

But what I worry the most about is the new normal in American politics and national life- a lack of respect for the truth. We hear stories about fake news, Internet conspiracy theories without foundation, and just plain, old fashioned whoppers. Lying has become the accepted form of  political conversation, and there is little being done to stop post-truth America. Where is George Washington when you need him?

When the truth regarding anything in our universe is treated so shabbily that it is without merit and has so little value, the social glue that keeps us civilized starts to fall apart. We believe what we hear and don’t bother to do a simple fact check; the media who a generation ago was trusted to keep us informed and point the way to reality is damaged perhaps beyond repair; and our leaders, especially our next president, seem to value post-truth as a valuable weapon to reduce the influence of enemies.

If we as a people are so gullible that we can be shaped like robots by slick lying; if we are so lazy as a people that we can’t take the time to find what is true; and if we are so cynical as a people that we don’t care that lying doesn’t matter, since everyone does it, then our nation is on a dangerous path.

In an election someone wins and someone loses and the winner gets the opportunity to shape the future, while the loser gets to complain. But when the winners have little regard for the truth and make policy statements and justify their actions based on public lies, then the end result can only be destructive to the common good.

The oath of office administered to our public officials requires them to uphold the Constitution. I would like to suggest that a new clause be added, one that requires them to tell the truth to those they serve. It’s not too much to ask.


Hope vs.The Scream

October 28, 2016

The difference between the presidency of Barack Obama and the 2016 presidential election may best be described through art. You may remember the iconic poster of Shepard Fairey with a depiction of Obama and the word “Hope.” The poster was a big seller and is still probably hanging in some basement playroom of a grown-up millennial. Of course there is always hope but that noble goal has taken quite a beating over the last eight years.

But in today electoral climate the art work that best describes the political climate should be Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. I am sure you have seen the expressionist painting of the gaunt hairless man with wide eyes and a huge open mouth holding his ears and yelling out a loud scream. If there ever was a proper depiction of the mood of the American electorate in this dismal election season it must be Munch’s “The Scream.”

By huge margins Americans can’t wait to see this hateful campaign come to an end and their screams are accurate representations of what they think of the two candidates and the state of our democracy. Screams are usually a form of emotional release, but they are screams nonetheless, and unfortunately, whoever wins, the screams will continue.

If the polls are right, Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States but she may instantly regret winning and engage in her own loud scream. Republican members of Congress, conservative pundits and the army of the “deplorables” will engage in their own screaming and do anything to make President Clinton II miserable and ineffective.

It may be cathartic if on November 9th we all go outside and scream just to let the political frustrations out of our system. But it may be wise to get in the habit of screaming at those in power on the day after the inauguration, January 21st. Who knows, maybe the noise will force them to listen to reason. Not.