To the Publishers and Editors of the United States: An Open Letter

russian-billboard_getty

Dear Friends and Former Colleagues,

Donald Trump has been dominating news coverage for so long now, the stories have become predictable. There is a larger story about this election playing out which no news organization seems to be taking advantage of. Whoever breaks this story first is going to regain a lot of reader trust and generate a lot of internet clicks.

There are Pulitzers and book deals here in the offing for an enterprising journalist. All that journalist has to do to win them is find the truth and report it honestly. I’ve put together a list of facts to help you on your way.

1. The New York Times has published a long, well-detailed story about President-Elect Trump’s potential conflicts of interest which stem from his business relationships abroad. Time  and The Washington Post have published accounts Mr. Trump’s connections to Russia  and admiration of Vladimir Putin.

2. On Nov. 28, 14 members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee communicated a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that the committee begin a review of Mr. Trump’s finances “in order to identify and protect against conflicts of interest.” Ranking Member Elijah Cummings requested this review two weeks prior, and as of Nov. 28. had received no response from the chairman. The letter of Nov. 28 states that the Committee’s offices have received more calls from citizens asking for this investigation than they have ever received about any other issue.

3. On Nov. 29, seven members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence requested in writing that President Obama take steps to declassify information about Russian involvement in the recent Presidential election. The letter was made public.

senate_russiaAt the very least, this is notable enough to warrant front-page coverage. Intelligence matters are typically negotiated privately. It is highly unlikely that seven senators would make such a communication public unless they were sure the information requested includes facts the American people should have access to immediately. See Rachel Maddow’s report on 12/1 and Spencer Ackerman’s “Senators call for declassification of files on Russia’s Role in US election” in The Guardian to confirm the facts.

The overseas relationships and the Russian manipulation of the election must intersect somewhere. Follow the money.

If I were a publisher, I’d commit serious editorial resources to investigating all this. I would be investing money into the effort. I would have my best people on it and I’d be looking for a long series of front-pagers or cover stories.

The direction of U.S. policy for decades to come, the well-being of future generations, and the survival of press freedom may very well turn on the decisions we make about how we respond to this situation.

Sincerely,

Gene’O

-ed. The Trump/Putin billboard was captured in Macedonia last month by both Getty and Reuters and is verified as authentic by Snopes. The Getty version appears here. I’ve seen several other examples of this sort of imagery from Russia and the former Soviet sphere of influence in the last couple of months.

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Election 2016: Arizona and Utah Edition

Arizona primaries, Utah caucuses, and the Democratic caucus in Idaho happen in a few hours. Here’s what I’m paying attention to once the returns start coming in tonight.

On the Republican Side

Trump and Cruz are expected to win Arizona and Utah, respectively. Cruz needs something like 80% of remaining delegates to win, but he might just do that, and Trump’s path to an easy nomination is so tenuous at this point, it likely runs all the way to the California primary and that doesn’t happen until June.

It’s vital that both campaigns at least meet expectations. A surprise upset in either of these states will be a harbinger of disaster for one candidate and a windfall for the other.

What Ted Cruz Needs

Cruz needs all of Utah’s delegates and he needs a strong second in Arizona, even though he’s probably losing. Because credibility.

Utah is the closest thing to a lock Cruz has had going in since he started. It’s more certain than his home state of Texas was. Mormon Republicans distrust Trump almost as much as liberals do. His hate speech against immigrants, the way he runs his businesses, and his conduct on the stage all fly in the face of Mormon teachings.

You might not know this. When all the Republican governors issued a joint statement saying they would not accept Syrian refugees awhile ago, Utah’s governor was the only Republican governor who refused to sign on. He has said publicly in recent days that Trump can’t win the general election in Utah.

Mormonism has as many faults as any other religion, but tolerance and acceptance of outsiders is deeply, deeply ingrained in their theology. Which makes sense when you consider they fled to Utah to escape persecution in the east. They have not forgotten where they came from, and they do not appreciate Donald J. Trump one bit.

Trump will be lucky to win 15% of the vote in Utah. Probably less than 10. He’s polling behind Kasich there by quite an astounding margin.

What Donald Trump Needs

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Trump needs all of Arizona’s delegates, and he needs Cruz to win less than 50% of Utah so either he or Kasich can shave off some of those delegates. Even if Trump does so poorly he gets none, if he wins enough votes to keep Cruz below 50% — which is the threshold for winning them all in Utah — that’s a win for him.

He also needs to beat Cruz convincingly in Arizona. Cruz is Hispanic, has a good ground operation, appeals to religious Republicans who actually go to church once a week, and has talked about immigration. Unless I am wrong, neither of these candidates will win Arizona emphatically. But one of them is getting all the delegates because AZ is winner-take all.

Trump needs a 5-point win, and ten would be better. He’s put a lot into this state and is backed by several high-powered state officials. If he loses here, or even if it’s super-close, that’s an indication his support might be flagging. The technical problems with his campaign like not enough fundraising and a mediocre ground operation will be exposed a little and he runs the risk of the media getting wise and turning on him.

What John Kasich Needs

Kasich needs to keep Cruz from getting 50% of the vote in Utah, to make the most of the media time that gets him, and to get himself to Wisconsin as soon as this round is done.

At this point, I think he is an establishment ringer. His job is to keep Ted Cruz from winning outright. He’s working for the faction of the Republican party that would rather risk a Trump nomination than a Cruz Presidency. His job is to get as many votes as he can everywhere, and to come in second where Trump is weakest so as to prevent a head-to-head matchup until the math says it’s impossible for either of them to win outright.

That’s why he’s all over Utah, but barely seen in Arizona. The moderates are playing for a contested convention, and Kasich is their agent to make that happen. He will never be President, or even VP. He may not be viable as governor of Ohio or even as a high-profile Republican once this is done. Seems like he’s just in this race to save us from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

On The Democratic Side

(This one isn’t nearly so complex)

What The Democrats Need

Clinton needs to widen her delegate lead. There were no projections for Utah, Arizona, or Idaho last time I looked because there’s been too little polling for anyone to make reliable predictions. She doesn’t need big wins. She just needs wins, and she can absorb close losses if need be.

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Sanders needs wins also. A big one would be good, and he can’t afford to get blown out. Since I last posted about the delegate margins, some uncommitted delegates have been assigned, and Bernie only needs to win 65% of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. He was looking at 75% a week ago.

Bernie has to either narrow the delegate gap, or come close enough to make news. Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington State Democrats caucus this weekend. Even if Sanders only breaks even today, he could win a small advantage going into these next three states, and I have to think he has a chance to do well in two of them.

All About Wisconsin

Assuming there are no big surprises that change the whole character of the race, these primaries today are really about influencing Wisconsin. Every candidate in this race needs Wisconsin. It’s a slighly-blue state that’s easy to flip and doesn’t compare to any other state in its region. Wisconsin is as inscrutable as Florida in its own unique way, and it’s one of 10 or 15 states that can swing the general election.

Wisconsin votes on April 5 and after that, the next major contest is New York on April 19. Then the whole thing moves to the East Coast at the end of April. We have a handful of primaries in May (Indiana and Oregon, yay!). And suddenly it’s June 7 and we have six states, including California and New Jersey, all on one day.

So these elections are important today because if there are surprises on either side, the winners get two weeks to spin their victories and use Wisconsin to work up some serious momentum going into New York.

I’m pretty sure Trump and Cruz will win AZ and UT. Not at all sure Cruz is getting all Utah’s delegates. And got no idea what’s happening today on the Democratic side.

I’m not voting third party in November. Here’s why you shouldn’t, either.

I’ve seen a definite uptick in heated (and worse) conversations between Clinton and Sanders supporters lately, so I’m gonna go ahead and toss this one out.

I’ve been open about the fact that I like Bernie Sanders. I think he’s done great things for us in this election. He still has a chance of winning, but it’s an outside chance at best.

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At one time, I was ride-or-die for Hillary Clinton. I’m more ambivalent about her these days and I’m sure I will not like her foreign or economic policies. But I know she’s not a bigoted demagogue who condones violence, and I know she’s not an evangelical fundamentalist who bars “liberal” journalists from his rallies and wants to ban specific musical intervals because they are Satanic. That’s all I can afford to care about in this election.

So, if the time comes when it’s necessary for me to do so, I will cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. My conscience tells me it would be irresponsible to do otherwise. My conscience also tells me to try and persuade as many likely Democratic voters as possible to stay on board and turn out for the nominee in November, no matter who that happens to be.

If Sanders wins, I promise you this. I will do everything in my power to work against the onslaught of ignorant socialist caricatures his enemies will use to erode his support. And to keep my centrist Dem friends on board with him. I could work myself up and become genuinely enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders. But only if he wins the primaries, and that is out of my hands.

Should Clinton win, she gets the same consideration. I’ll work against all the half-truths her enemies formulate by digging through her long career in public service and ripping things out of context. And against the inevitable misogyny that will be slung at her from all directions. I will do my best to work myself up, to be a genuinely enthusiastic advocate for her, and to keep my lefty friends on board.

I’ve stayed out of this primary argument because I tend to make pretty bold, sometimes provocative, statements when I wade off into politics and I have a low tolerance for ignorant bullshit. I’ve felt so far that taking a strong position in favor of either candidate, for me, could only be counterproductive. I think that was the right call.

I’m not attacking either candidate. I’m offering my opinion on how I think things, realistically, will play out for the remainder of this election season. And encouraging you to show up for the Democratic nominee in November.

There have been a few positive developments for Bernie Sanders over the last couple of weeks, but I honestly don’t believe he is on a trajectory win the nomination. If I’m wrong, I’ll good-naturedly admit it and support him in the general election. But I don’t think I am.

From where I am sitting, the only way Hillary Clinton loses this nomination is if the RNC legal shenanigans turn up something so scandalous as be a career-ender and she has to bow out. I doubt that’s happening. I think if they were going to find something that juicy, we’d already have an inkling that it’s coming.

So I’m laying the groundwork to minimize nastiness among Democratic voters and maximize turnout in November. I don’t have much reach or influence, but I’m using what I’ve got to keep people positive and engaged.

Now let’s talk about what the Republicans are doing, and then about what we should do.

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Rubio is gone. His delegates will be reapportioned and his exit probably helps Cruz and Kasich more than Trump, but Trump is still in the lead. And he is still Trump.

Kasich is in for awhile longer. He may or may not leave the race. At the moment, he seems to be looking for enough support on the East Coast to play for first or second place in California and New Jersey, then walk into a brokered convention with RNC backing.

This will not happen, in my opinion. Kasich is just a spoiler at this point. The nomination will be won by either Trump or Cruz outright. The country club Republicans and the CEOs are already showing signs of holding their noses and lining up behind the crazy-like-a-fox Tea Party guy, but I think if Kasich stays in through the summer, Trump wins.

As titillating as I find the idea of a contested convention re-aligning the GOP toward the center, I don’t think it’s realistic. I don’t see anyone in their camp with the influence to broker a deal that big, and it’s not the sort of thing parties do all at once. A contested convention can only have three outcomes.

  1. Cruz gets the nomination and the Tea Party ends up in the driver’s seat;
  2. The whole thing descends into chaos, the conservative coalition shatters, and all bets are off but the Tea Party still ends up in the driver’s seat;
  3. Trump makes an alliance with the Tea Party and takes the nomination, then we spend the next four years watching the racists and religious extremists fight it out.

Republican moderates have yielded so much ground over the last 30 years, there simply aren’t enough of them left to restore sanity in the space of a few days at a convention. The GOP moderates are outnumbered and outmatched. They’re losing this one. One of the reasons I can still manage empathy for them even though they did this to themselves is because I know what that feels like. It’s unpleasant.

So we’re likely ending up with Clinton v. Trump or Cruz in the general election. Either way, the Republican will get the most free media time, because even though Trump is playing us all for fools and Cruz does his best to act like a crazy person, they are both more entertaining to the reality-tv crowd than Hillary Clinton.

Pro Wrestling rules are in effect. Airtime decisions are mostly about ratings and ad revenue. Not about giving everyone equal time. Not about what’s best for the country.

So, what do we do with this hot mess of an election? My wife and I have three rules of engagement for November. If you are a U.S. citizen and eligible to vote, I encourage you to think hard about this and consider adopting them, too.

  1. We don’t stay home in November for any reason.
  2. We don’t vote for candidate unless they have a credible chance of winning.
  3. We don’t vote for the Republican.

The rest of this is addressed to all you Democrats, you habitual third party voters who are not represented in any meaningful way, and you people who abstain or write in fictional characters because you’ve lost all faith in the two-party system. I’m even talking to some dyed-in-the-wool Republicans who are shocked at what their party has become.

You seasoned Republicans who remember the days when we were all working for peace and prosperity even though we had strong disagreements about the best way to get there. You Young Republicans who wish we could operate that way again. Everyone, however you identify politically, who would like an economic policy that gives working people a chance at a rising standard of living; and a foreign policy that doesn’t stretch our military to the breaking point and encourage our rivals to challenge us the way Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are challenging us now. I’m talking to you.

Also talking to all you lovely feminists. I am one of you and I wouldn’t even still be blogging at this point if not for your support. You gals and guys are my soul.Feminism_free

I’ve cast protest votes in just about every way possible at various times in my life. I’ve even written myself in for President. I understand what it’s like to feel marginalized in EVERY election and to wonder if the whole thing isn’t just a rigged game. I truly do. But this is not a year for such antics.

In this election, the right thing to do is to vote for whomever survives the Democratic primaries and wins the nomination.

Just in case you’ve not followed this election and you are too young to remember what happened last time we had a Republican President. Let me catch you up.

First of all, Republicans are not all bad and are not inherently evil. We had a guy named Eisenhower as a President one time. He was a thoughtful Army General from WWII. I’m not sure whether he did us any good or not — I’m not up what he actually did. But my sense has always been that he did his honest best not to do us harm.

Eisenhower Portrait from Wikimedia. Fair use applies.

Eisenhower Portrait from Wikimedia. Fair use applies.

The last Republican President who we can credibly argue did the country no harm left office in January of 1961. Let’s pause and let that sink in for a moment.  1961.

That’s better than 50 years ago. The last GOP President we had was ruinous. We’re still digging ourselves out of the hole he left us in. Bush II officially won in 2000 because he carried Florida by fewer than 600 votes and the Supreme Court handed him the office before a recount could be done. There were so many irregularities in Florida that year they ended up having to pass an election reform law after it was all over.

Bush may well have won that election if the votes in Florida had been counted properly. We’ll never know. Even if the full recount had been done, we wouldn’t know for sure. That’s how serious the irregularities were. But here’s the thing I always come back to when I think about 2000.

More than 93,000 Floridians went for Ralph Nader that year. Nader always insisted he didn’t spoil that election, but I don’t buy it. Here’s why.

I know a lot of the people who voted Nader were Green Party true believers fighting for a win that would get them ballot privileges in all 50 states and were trying to build a long-term thing. I know a lot were people who never vote for one of the two big parties and some were Republicans who liked Nader’s message. But if I recall correctly, Nader’s platform was mostly about environmentalism and reining in corporate malfeasance.

That means many of his supporters had to be Democrats and lefties. I know my tribe. A lot of Dems were disillusioned with the party that year and thought Clinton had yielded too much to the conservatives. A lot bought the false media narrative that Al Gore was a pompous, wooden snob who didn’t have a chance against Bush. But I have to imagine at least a couple of thousand of those Floridians who voted Nader did so because they were pissed off that their favored candidate lost the nomination or because they thought Gore was too “centrist” and willing to compromise.

Nader image from Wikimedia. Fair use applies.

Nader image from Wikimedia. Fair use applies.

Those 2,000 votes, my friends, would have swung the whole election, and the reasons I mentioned above are just about the worst reasons I can think of to cast a protest vote.

I’m not sure what kind of President Gore would have been, but he wouldn’t have handed over the military complex to Neoconservatives who thought they could Anglicize the Middle East without burning the entire region to the ground.

He wouldn’t have handed over the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to the free market fundamentalists who allowed Wall Street to turn our banking sector into a casino and nearly sunk the global economy. Nothing else matters when I assess the Bush II administration. In my opinion, that long string of horrors flows from his choice of military, diplomatic, and economic advisers.

So I urge you. Even if you are disillusioned by the two-party system or you can’t stand Clinton or you can’t stand Sanders. Even if you live in a safe Republican state and feel your vote doesn’t matter. Please vote for the Dem this time around anyway.

The popular vote margin matters, even in safe states. A wide enough popular vote margin can make a razor-thin Electoral College win look like a landslide. And we don’t just want the Democratic nominee to win. We want them to be able to claim a mandate. Because the only way our Republican Party has a chance to right their ship is if the voters repudiate them so emphatically they are forced to examine their tactics and re-commit themselves to governing instead of obstructing their adversaries out of spite and playing to the most base parts of our natures to win elections.

I totally buy the argument here that protest voting just because your preferred candidate loses a primary is indicative of privilege. So, let’s all us who have some privilege and know it check ours this time around in the service of the greater good. I’m a white, hetero, Christian man with a graduate degree. I am privileged. I’m not letting my privilege get the better of me this year.

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Wherever you stand philosophically. However you feel about Hillary or Bernie. If you are as alarmed by Trump and Cruz as I am, you’re looking at a situation in which the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

I don’t know how much more clear I can be about all this, and I’ve done my best to provide you with talking points. Short-term alliances and putting aside even deep ideological differences to get it done are the order of the day.

If this turns out to be more than we can handle and we lose, let’s at least face the next four years together with the knowledge that we didn’t go quietly. If we can just make that much progress, this is survivable.

Now get out there and save the soul of your country.