Is Donald Trump Sent From God?

December 3, 2019

A recurring theme brought forth by the evangelical right is that Donald Trump is sent by God, which in many respects accounts for the unwavering support for the President from this segment of the voting population. How can members of the Christian right leave their president when he stands up for all the policy issues that have been ignored or ridiculed by liberals – anti-abortion, anti-transgender, anti- gay marriage, pro- religious liberty, pro-conservative Supreme Court and pro-ending separation of church and state. To this staunchly religious group of Americans God has ordained Trump to end the reign of the secular left and its hedonistic, self-centered, and anything goes value system.

Now as someone who believes in God, tries to follow the model of Jesus Christ and is a regular churchgoer, it is not my right to judge the beliefs of others, after all the First Amendment gives all of us freedom of religion. Yet I do have to ask the evangelicals a simple question – how do they know that God sent Donald Trump to save America from the progressive left? Isn’t it enough just to thank him for embracing their policy agenda and their personal values? Why make him a deity?

The answer comes from my instincts as a political scientist. With the impeachment hearings moving forward and a vote to pin a huge I on Donald Trump’s red tie, there apparently is a political need to further solidify his base and ensure that no one on the religious right leaves the fold or worse yet decides not to vote for the President next November. As a political scientist I don’t think it necessary to raise the President to the level of a deity, but there may be a concern in the White House and among his political allies like the newly departed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry that further revelations during the impeachment process could soften the evangelical base.  There is nothing better to strengthen political allegiance then to tag the head guy as God directing the nation from heaven.

Not surprisingly, those on the left snicker at the claim that Donald Trump was sent by God, but those snide smiles do little to change the mindset of the evangelicals. Such condescending attitudes only verify what the right has been saying all along – the godless left has ruined the values of this country and only Trump can return America to the way of life of the 1950’s. The Trump is God strategy will likely be ignored by most Americans as an amusing side light to this bizarre presidency, but it does show how it will be difficult to defeat the President , especially in small town America,  when he is supported by a godly army of true believers.


How to Watch the Impeachment Hearings

November 19, 2019

Week One of the impeachment hearings was certainly not the equivalent of watching the Super Bowl or even Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions.  The reviews from across America described the hearings as “boring”, ” hard to follow”, “partisan”, and no where near a “game changer.” Those Americans who bothered to inform themselves about “Ukrainegate” often turned to their favorite cable talk show for the analysis that solidified their position about whether the President was impeachable. There is  some poll data that suggests the public is slowly coming to the position that President Trump should be impeached but with so much opinion gathering that is often unreliable it is difficult to determine whether the work of the Democrats is really having an impact.

Unlike the Nixon Watergate hearings we live in a far different world of politics and media. Most Americans don’t sit down after dinner to watch the evening news or watch the inquiry from their favorite watering hole. Because we are so divided and angry as a nation, the questioning of witnesses creates a glaze effect as viewers just can’t bring themselves to see the drama unfolding as diplomats challenge the veracity of the President or Republicans try their best to debunk testimony. Back in the 70’s Americans watched with rapt attention to see which Republicans would turn on Nixon. Today what we see, at least for now, is Democrats talking about the end of democracy while the GOP provides a staunch defense of President Trump as just doing his job; it is all so predictable and indeed “boring.” Some wiseguy pundits have suggested that to get the peoples’ attention somber background music should be played or a running scorecard “hits” or “misses” in the questioning; anything to get the attention of a tired audience.

Perhaps this week will bring a bit more public interest to the hearings as the Democrats try to link the President to the only Latin phrase Americans will remember – quid pro quo. But even if the Democrats score a game changer, the Republicans will not lose their base of support or see some of their members bolt from the ranks. Remember Trump’s base agrees with him that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and nothing would or should happen to him. Because Trump has effectively developed what is often termed a “cult of personality” die hard fans in and out of Congress are not going to move over to the other side.

So what we are faced with is a litany of witnesses trying to convince Americans that their President did wrong, Democrats hoping that their efforts will galvanize support for impeachment, Republicans holding fast with their leader, and Americans knowing that impeachment is not going to remove the President, while they wait for the 2020 election. In a real sense many Americans believe they should judge the President rather than Congressional committees in large part because they don’t trust Democrats or Republicans

And so the impeachment soap opera continues, daily installments of bland bureaucrats trying their best to deliver the truth, while Democrats and Republicans try to juice up the proceedings with ominous claims and the President sending along threatening tweets to get the attention of the audience. The television ratings are weak because the American public have either made up their mind, don’t care or are waiting for their chance to make a decision of President Trump. The only drama that has occurred in the hearings is the face off between Fox and CNN over which cable network deserves the attention of the American people. So far Americans aren’t watching.


“You Can’t Handle the Truth”

November 6, 2019

Movie goers will likely remember the exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Cruise, the Navy attorney, shouts at Nicholson, the commander of Guantanamo Base in Cuba, ” I want the truth.” Nicholson, fires back, with the classic line-“You can’t handle the truth.” Whoever was responsible for that line, perhaps director Rob Reiner, was way before his time when it comes to the dilemma we face today in American politics – there is the truth and then there are those who “can’t handle the truth.”

One of the core issues of the Trump presidency (there are too many to mention) is the President’s unrelenting attack on the truth. Since mid-August the President has made over 12,000 false or misleading claims, some of them so outrageous that even a middle school kid could recognize a blatant lie. And yet Trump’s base has held steady and the vast majority of his supporters don’t seem to buy the argument that their president is lying. They either don’t care; they see lies as part of the political game; they have bought into the fake news argument;  or most likely, they simply love their guy who can do no wrong.

Critics of Trump and his base point out that Nicholson’s outburst about Cruise not being able to handle the truth may be at the heart of the problem of a president who has clearly set the record for lying while in office. Besides being the 45th President of the United States, Trump is a cult figure who has shrewdly developed an appealing (to some) persona around himself. By speaking the language of largely white, working class Americans, talking tough to his adversaries, promising to defeat the liberal elites, Trump has made it difficult for his supporters to embrace truth and reality. Simply stated, Trump is their guy and no amount of fact or reasoned criticism is going to change their devotion to the cult figure. They can’t handle the truth because to embrace the truth would destroy their political soul and dismantle the underpinnings of the personality cult.

At the end of the courtroom drama Cruise deftly gets Nicholson to admit that he ordered a Code Red that led to the death of a soldier under his command. As Nicholson is hauled out to face serious charges he can’t believe what is happening, after all he was held in high regard by those in the military and was likely destined for promotion to a White House position. But the message of the story is that eventually truth wins out and that thinking people can indeed handle the truth; it may take some time, courage and unrelenting pressure but truth does overcome falsehood.


To Boo or Not To Boo, That is the Question

October 29, 2019

Much has been made of the fan response during the 5th game of the World Series when President Trump and a coterie of his supporters showed up to watch the game. In short, many of the fans took a page out of the Trump rallies and booed the president, shouted “lock him up” and waved signs that called for his impeachment. Almost immediately liberal critics tried to remind folks that when Republicans go low, Democrats go high, meaning such behavior was uncalled for and unnecessary. Such a position did not sit well with the “boo birds” who had been waiting for an opportunity to get Trump out of his comfort zone among his base and embarrass him on national television. Many simply stated that it just made them feel good to give the President some of his own medicine.

Of course booing a siting president is nothing new in American politics. Anytime a president goes to a sporting event or throws out the first ball during the World Series there is always evidence of contrarian viewpoints expressed with the old fashioned “Bronx cheer.” Does this kind of juvenile outburst do any good or change the course of national politics? Certainly not. But we live in a time when emotions are ragged about the President and the state of our country. Rather than rational discussions about our president, the impeachment inquiry and our divided nation, we have descended into middle school chants and barroom antics.

Sadly as this impeachment process moves forward expect heightened unsportsmanlike conduct – smear campaigns, slandering true patriots, unsubstantiated charges and  counter charges, conspiracy theories, and daily tweets from the Commander in Chief, Nancy Pelosi, Rudy Guiliani and a host of other characters from both sides in his epic struggle for power and control. Perhaps public hearings on the charges likely to come from the Democratic leadership in the House may serve to lessen the emotional outburst, but don’t count on it. There is always a way to spin statements and contradict testimony. We will just have to live with this political circus, even though impeachment is serious business and the fate of the presidency and indeed the constitution is at center stage.

So as Americans if you relish political spectacle, mean-spirited comments, partisan hi-jinks and cable news that isn’t news, then sit back and enjoy returning to the theater of the absurd. It’s only going to get worse.


Sicily Without Corleone

October 24, 2019

My wife and I and our good friends Kathy and Tony recently visited the island of Sicily, which is off the mainland of Italy and a semi-autonomous province. We rented a car and toured the edges of the island from Palermo to Cefalu, Taormina, Ragusa, Agrigento, Trapani and back to the capital city of Palermo.We simply had a wonderful time – gorgeous weather, excellent food (and of course wine), beautiful historical sites, and friendly people. I would enthusiastically recommend a visit, especially a trip up to Mt. Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, the stunningly white Turkish Steps along the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, the well preserved Valley of the Greek Temples outside Agrigento and the crystal clear waters off the islands of Trapani.  In most of these locations we were high up in the mountains overlooking not only the blue waters that surround the island but fields of olives, grapes and lemons.

Where we didn’t go is inland to Corleone, the mythical birthplace of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. The Sicilians don’t accent the movie story of The Godfather, except for a few t-shirts and refrigerator magnets, but rather concentrate on beauty of the island and its long history which dates back to the Greek conquest and a long series of other interested parties from the Romans, the Visigoths, the Normans and the Byzantines. Throughout the island there are signs that Sicily has a multi-cultural history in its architecture, its language and its culture.

I must admit that before I left for Sicily I had the mistaken impression that Sicily was all about the mafia and the criminal element, some of whom left the island and headed to America to continue their lawless ways. But Corleone is now a major wine producer with its own brand that is marketed not with Marlon Brando on the label, but the seal of the town. It is important to point out that in the major cathedral in Palermo there is an altar set up to remember Blessed Fr. Pugliese who was assassinated by the mafia in the 1960s for daring to establish a Christian-based community of faith and kindness, which the mafia felt weakened their hold. The Sicilians hope that Fr. Pugliese will soon become a martyred saint.

In Palermo we saw a ramshackle boat in front of the Royal Palace that memorializes the 18,000 migrants who died a sea as they journeyed from Africa in search of a better life. Thousands of migrants did survive the journey and are making Sicily an island with an African character. Although we only stayed on Sicily for  a short time there were no visible signs of discrimination but rather inclusion and diversity. And still they come.

Our trip to Sicily will remain in our hearts and minds, especially the connoli, the gelato, the swordfish,  the bread, and the after dinner cordial, Amaro. Our taste buds have been forever impacted by our visit. We left Palermo confident that this island is not identified by the Godfather but by its beauty, history and food ( and of course the wine).


Polish American All-Stars

October 16, 2019

It’s mid-October and the baseball season is heading into the final showdown, with one team emerging as the champion of America’s sport- no that’s not football. As I am a Red Sox and Brewers fan I cannot help but be distracted by the World Series, and one of my distractions is to return to my Polish-American roots and recall the great baseball players, the sons of immigrants, who rose to prominence playing America’s sport. So here we go, my take on the Polish-American baseball all-stars.

In the outfield it is all Hall of Famers – In left field is Boston’s own Carl Yastrzemski, Triple Crown winner and hero of the 1967 Sox. In center field is Al Simmons, aka Al Szymanski,of the Philadelphia Athletics and a Milwaukee boy, a three time All-Star, two time World Series champ and two time batting champion. And in right field is Stan the Man, Stan Musial, who outside of Ted Williams was the greatest hitter in baseball hitter, and also a wonderful human being.

In the infield starting a third base is Whitey Kurowski of the St. Louis Cardinals of the 1940s, a five time all-star and three time World Series champion. Kurowski overcame a disability- one arm shorter than the other-  to personally win the 1946 World Series for the Cardinals.  At shortstop is Alan Trammell of the Detroit Tigers, a Hall of Famer, World Series MVP in 1984, with four Golden Gloves. At second is Bill Mazeroski, also a Hall of Famer, who hit that memorable walk off home run to win the seventh game of the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Finally at first is Ted Kluszewski of the Cincinnati Reds, a four time all-star who would come up to the plate and show off his bulging arm muscles as he knocked the ball out of the park -the 1954 National League home run king.

Behind the plate is the White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzinski, who is only one of ten catchers in major league history to reach 2000 hits in his career, a two time all-star and World Series champion in 2005.  And on the mound is Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski of the Cleveland Indians during the 1920. Stan was a two time ERA leader and strike out champion in 1920. Also to be remembered is Phil Niekro of the Atlanta Braves. An expert knuckleballer who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997 after a distinguished career that included a no-hitter.

I must admit that listing an all-star baseball team based on ethnicity is not the norm these days, although with the rise of players with an Hispanic background more attention may be paid to their ancestry. But because too often Polish-Americans are pushed further down the list of achievers ,whether in sports or other fields of endeavor, it is important to remind folks that the sons of Polish immigrants had a profound and lasting impact on America’s sport.


Greta

September 23, 2019

Political leaders of all persuasions, especially those running for governmental office, ought to take a lesson from Greta Thunberg, the fiery sixteen year old Swedish climate activist, on how to make a case for an urgent public policy or deal with phony, hypocritical leaders.

Despite her age and size Greta is consumed with passion about the threat that looms for her generation and indeed the world from long delayed action on global warming. While Democrats in the House and Senate dilly dally about whether to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and the President makes preposterous statements about how he is for clean air and water, Greta gives a no holds barred speech to the United Nations. As the old line from the movie Network says, she’s mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. If only our politicians could show so some spark and anger when faced with a governing crisis instead of spouting platitudes or half-hearted promises.

In her speech at the UN Greta stated that she,” will never forgive them (political leaders) for failing to act on climate change… We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.” She went even further by filing a complaint with the United Nations alleging that five of the world’s major economies have violated the human rights of the world’s population by not taking adequate steps to stop the climate crisis. I have yet to hear Speaker Pelosi match Greta’s outspoken toughness when faced with obvious illegality in the White House or President Trump admit just once that he must take the lead to avoid a looming catastrophe rather than be a shill for the oil and coal industry.

Sadly, we live in a time when political leaders are constantly looking at the polls and their base to determine how to act in the public arena, rather than just say, ” the polls and the base be damned, I am going to do what is right for my country and the world.” From gun control to health care to climate change the people of this country have spoken clearly and unmistakably that they want their political leaders to take action to improve the quality of life. But unlike Greta they refuse to muster the will and seem fine accepting their politically driven weakness.

It is increasingly clear that the future of this country and the world is now in the hands of the fearless dynamos like Greta. Too bad Greta is too young to run for office, but she and millions of others will soon be old enough to vote and take the mantel of governing from those who are afraid to act.