Report From Trump’s Alt-Reich (6) Sunday, Mar 5 2017 

Executive tweets, 6:35 a.m. – 6:49 a.m., 3/4/17

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just
before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to anelection? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

In the South of my political youth – the 1950s and ’60s – we took our crackpot chief executives in stride. After a vituperative rant before the Louisiana state legislature – akin to Donald Trump’s recent White House news conference – Earl Long’s wife and nephew put the governor in a straitjacket and shipped him off to a Texas sanitarium. Two states over and a decade later, when George Wallace’s campaign opponents learned that Wallace had suffered a combat fatigue breakdown during World War II, they charged that it disqualified him from holding the Alabama governor’s office.

Discharged from the sanitarium, Uncle Earl roared back to Baton Rouge, claiming, “If I’m crazy now, I’ve always been crazy.” On the stump, Wallace, pointing to a bill of health from his veterans hospital, quipped, “I’m the only candidate in this race who has a certificate proving he’s sane.”

It goes without saying that America’s 45th president has neither the candor nor the wit to match those ripostes. Or to point out that if his family and staff enablers took the minimal step of placing him in a straitjacket, it would save the nation from an endless streak of manic presidential tweets.

To the point, it has been evident for some time that Donald Trump’s mental elevator stops several floors short of the Tower, though politically correct terms like megalomaniac and narcissist have been applied to avoid the embarrassing fact that 63 million adult Americans cast their ballots last November for a man who is flat-out crazy.

Still, as George Packer reminds us in the February 27 issue of the New Yorker, Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution was written and ratified to take care of just such a dilemma. All that’s required is that a majority of the White House staff or the Congress declare a President unfit for office in order to replace him with the Vice President. Given the oligarchical makeup of the Trump Cabinet and plantain-spined nature of a Republican Congress afraid of a Trumpite backlash, however, the odds against that taking place are 10 million to one.

No, what the moment obviously calls for is a will and a voice like that of my former boss Barry Goldwater. Blunt-spoken Barry, never, in his years on Capitol Hill or as a presidential candidate, afraid to call a spade a goddamn trowel.

Millennials should know that was Senator Goldwater who, in 1974, led the Republican delegation to the White House to tell Richard Nixon that it was time for him to resign the presidency. Again, it was steel-spined Barry who, ten years later, whatever the backlash from evangelical voters, told reporters that the Reverend Jerry Falwell needed “a swift kick in the ass.”

So it is that I can see the old man now, after reading the latest presidential tweets, telling his staff “We’ve got a head case in the Oval Office,” then heading for the Senate floor to call for action under Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. TERRIBLE! A NEW LOW!

Sound bite to remember

“If all I knew about Barry Goldwater is what I read in the papers, I’d have voted against the sonuvabitch myself.”

— Barry Goldwater, post-election appraisal / December 1964

An Open Letter To Barry Goldwater on Why I Am Leaving the Republican Party Tuesday, Mar 8 2016 


Dear Barry,

Since your running for president over half a century ago brought me into the Republican Party, I figure you’re the one to tell why I’m leaving it.

To get straight to the point, do you remember the bullshitting New York real estate hustler who made a reputation opening (and bankrupting) Atlantic City casinos when you were still around? The spoiled rich kid who inherited $200 million from his father, was born on third base and brags he hit a triple? Dumped his first wife to marry a young model, then dumped her to marry a younger model?

That’s right, Donald Trump. In your day we thought he was a Democrat because he gave so much money to Democratic candidates. But lo and behold he now claims he’s a conservative Republican and thinks he should be the party’s 2016 candidate for president.

No foreign policy experience. No domestic policy experience. But what the hell, since cursing Washington and looking down at the rest of the world is all the current party base now seems to want, he’s their man.

Oh, I forgot: No military experience either. Four Favorite Son deferments during the Vietnam War, enough draft-dodging to make Bill Clinton look like Sergeant York. Yet he had the rich kid’s temerity to call John McCain a “loser” for spending five years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

Not that he doesn’t have foreign and domestic policy ideas, e.g., he’d round up and deport 11 million Mexican immigrants because, as he tells his crowds, Mexicans are “rapists”; he’d build a wall across the Rio Grande and “make Mexico pay for it”; he’d bar all Muslims from entering the country, put full-scale surveillance on all mosques, authorize torture and waterboarding (“even if it doesn’t work”) and go after Middle Eastern terrorists by killing their families. (No, Barry, I am not making this up.)

Of course, carrying out policies like that is bound to attract criticism, but Trump has ideas on how to handle that, too. He’d tighten the libel laws to muzzle the press, and for those critics who heckle his speeches he’d encourage their being “roughed up” – the roughing possibly carried out by followers of the neo-Nazi Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whose support Trump can’t find the full-throated voice to repudiate.

I can imagine what you’re thinking about now: A megalomaniacal nut case like that is going nowhere in a party that claims to be conservative. Sorry to break the news and I hope whatever cloud bank you’re on you’re sitting down, but barring a political miracle before the convention, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

There’ll be some sideshow skirmishes, of course, since a sizeable number of party leaders will try to block his nomination. They see it as an aberration. Trump’s outrageous posturing, says one such leader, Paul Ryan, doesn’t reflect “who we are.” But the evidence, to my eyes, is otherwise; which is to say that Trumpism isn’t so much the problem as a symptom of the problem.

Remember how, back when you were Mr. Conservative, you’d get together with liberal Democrats in the Senate to work out compromise legislation? Your slogan was, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.” Well for the past decade, Republicans in Congress have considered compromise a dirty word, and those who think otherwise get removed from office by political Luddites who call themselves the Tea Party. You wanted to limit the size of government. The Luddites want to do away with it altogether. They talk about fighting “the Establishment,” but as this year’s primaries show, they now are the Republican Establishment.

Proof of that? The runner-up to Trump in the race for the nomination is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose claim to fame is a penchant for shutting down the government not only by refusing to expand the debt limit but, if necessary, to defund Planned Parenthood. (That’s right, the same Planned Parenthood your wife, Peggy, belonged to.)

Again, sorry to ruin your day, but leaving the party you brought me into is no easy matter; though I have a feeling if you were still around it’d be easier because you’d be leading the exit.

–As ever, Vic


Sound bite to remember

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”

–John F. Kennedy, on refusing to appoint someone to a judgeship he considered unqualified

Citizen Frank Monday, Oct 27 2014 

Other than speaking the same language and observing the same national holidays Frank Mankiewicz and I had little in common other than a passion for politics and sports.

In politics we couldn’t have disagreed more. While he was working for Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern, I was working for Barry Goldwater and Spiro Agnew. But in sports we were blood brothers, lifelong followers of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Frank, who had grown up in Los Angeles, recalled rooting for the Cardinals as the westernmost major league team in the days when there were only 16 teams in both leagues. Growing up in New Orleans I recalled going to Pelican Stadium with my father on weekend afternoons, when the local AA team was a Cardinal farm club.

Together, recognizing the relative unimportance of politics next to the tribal pull of childhood fantasy, Frank and I organized the Stan Musial Society, an informal luncheon group that brought together the wide and equally passionate Cardinal fan base in the National Capital area.

With Frank’s passing last week the country and the capital lost one of the most perceptive, not to mention witty, observers of our political and cultural scene. Like his legendary father, Herman, whose gift for screenwriting gave us “Citizen Kane,” Frank was a treasure trove of incisive one-liners that spoke truth to pomposity in ways few in the world of entertainment and politics dared.

My favorite Frank one-liner came during the 1972 presidential campaign, when his beleaguered candidate George McGovern, accosted by an abrasive heckler, told the man to “kiss my ass.” In a dull campaign, comments like that are seized on by a gotcha press as candidate gaffes and the question was how McGovern’s intemperate (if justified) remark could be explained away.

Other, less resourceful campaign managers would have tried to squirm out with a trite and tired explanation to the effect that the remark was “taken out of context,” but not Frank. Easy to explain, he told the inquiring press the next morning. After all, “George is a Democrat. What would you expect him to say, ‘Kiss my elephant’?”

End of story. No, they don’t make them like that anymore. And even when they did, they made only one.

Sound bite to remember

“Imagine that, the whole world wired to Harry Cohn’s ass.”

— Herman Mankiewicz at the Columbia studio lunch table, on being told by Columbia president Harry Cohn that any movie that made him squirm in his seat was bad (circa 1935). It was the one-liner that got Herman fired at Columbia.

Goldwater for President Wednesday, Sep 3 2014 

Today marks the date of the 50th anniversary of the kickoff to Barry Goldwater’s general election campaign for the presidency. The place was Prescott, Arizona, the small desert town Goldwater’s family had settled in when they arrived from Poland more than a century before. It was where Goldwater had kicked off his first campaign for national office, running for U.S. senator and upsetting Democratic Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland in 1952.

There would be no upset in the presidential race against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Goldwater knew it. Issues aside, he told those close to him, the country was still recovering from the shock of the Kennedy assassination, and wasn’t in any mood to have three presidents in two years.

Not that there were any issues put aside in the campaign the Johnson White House waged against its Republican opponent. Goldwater, having won his party’s nomination running as a heartland conservative, made an easy target for Democratic speakers (and journalists) by telling senior citizens in Florida that if elected he’d privatize social security and voters in Knoxville he’d sell off the Tennessee Valley Authority.

As if that weren’t enough to make Republican strategists cringe, the Arizona senator’s blunt talk about dealing with the Soviet Union inspired TV ads implying a Goldwater presidency would lead to nuclear war.

An electoral disaster was looming, but as the Republican candidate told his cringing advisers, “I’m going to lose this election and lose it big, but I’m going to do it my own damned way.”

And that he did, in one of the biggest landslides in presidential campaign history, the conventional wisdom being that Barry Goldwater was hopelessly behind the times. As it turned out, however, Goldwater’s problem (apart from unvarnished candor) was that he was ahead of his time. Sixteen years later Ronald Reagan would win the presidency on virtually the same conservative platform Goldwater had run on.

Easy to explain, said the Republican presidential candidate of 1964. “If I’d believed everything they said and wrote about Barry Goldwater (during that campaign), I’d have voted against the sonofabitch myself.”

Sound bite to remember

“Politics is like bullfighting and every once in a while you get gored. Forget about it.”

— Barry Goldwater, reassuring his young press aide Vic Gold after Gold had blown an assignment, September 1964

Virginia’s First Lady of swag Sunday, Jun 30 2013 

Have you taken notice of the New Language of Culpability? People are no longer guilty of willful wrongdoing. Like Anthony Wiener, the current front-runner – as distinguished from viral front-shower – in the New York mayoral race, they have either been “stupid,” or “dumb,” in their misconduct.

No moral or ethical factor involved, understand, no reflection on the wrongdoer’s character. He – or she, as the case may be – is guilty only of “staggeringly bad judgment,” the staggeringly fatuous phrase applied by The Washington Post to the First Lady of Virginia’s (1) ordering a $6,500 Rolex watch from Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to present to her husband, Gov. Bob McDonnell; and (2) persuading Williams, in the strongest First Lady-like terms, to take her shopping at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan (a “jaunt,” as the Post called it, that “rang up $15,000 on Mr. Williams’s tab”).

This is the same McDonnell couple, keep in mind, that “persuaded” Williams to pick up the $15,000 catering tab for their daughter’s wedding, in return for which, according to the Post, “the known quid pro quos include the luncheon at the governor’s mansion, hosted by Ms. McDonnell, to help launch the signature product of Mr. Williams’s struggling company, and a plug for the same product delivered by Ms. McDonnell at a conference in Florida.”

All of which, the Post concludes, constitute “damaging revelations” that threaten to destroy Bob McDonnell’s “otherwise admirable legacy as governor.”

Too bad, isn’t it? A good governor and his otherwise admirable wife embarrassed – is that the right predicate, or am I being judgmental? – for merely suggesting and accepting what, in my native Louisiana, we call “swag” from favor-seekers.

No, that’s not right. Comparing Bob and Imelda McDonnell to, say, Louisiana’s last great political hustler, Edwin Edwards, is unfair. To Edwards, that is. Fast Eddie would never have had the bad judgment to take a $6,500 Rolex from a favor-seeker. Too blatant. He would have directed the supplicant to give him cash so he could buy his own watch.

Sound bite to remember

“I think any man in business would be foolish to fool around with his secretary. If it’s somebody else’s secretary, fine.”

– Barry Goldwater

Barry and the Tea Party Sunday, Aug 5 2012 

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be constitutional does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional.” 
Tea Party favorite Rand Paul on the Supreme Court decision on the healthcare case 6/28/12

Translated: La Constitution, c’est moi. Call it the Tea Party credo, otherwise reflected by Ted Cruz’s notion that the only way to get things done in Washington — or in his words, “Take our country back” — is for everyone to adopt his point of view.

Would Barry Goldwater agree? George Will thinks so. In a column cheering Cruz’s victory in the Texas Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination, Will writes that it is Goldwater’s “spirit” that “infuses the Tea Party.”

To which Barry, if still around, would predictably respond, “B——–!” How can I be sure? Let me put it this way: I knew Barry Goldwater. I was on Barry Goldwater’s staff. And believe me, Barry Goldwater would have nothing good to say about the Tea Party.

Nor, let me add, would the Tea Party have anything good to say about Barry Goldwater. Who can doubt that a political faction that finds Bob Bennett, Orrin Hatch, and Dick Lugar not conservative enough would be fulminating today over a Republican senator who in his autobiography wrote:

“For years, the New Right preached little or no spirit of compromise—political give and take. … Public business— that’s all politics is — is often making the best of a mixed bargain….Our Constitution seeks to allow freedom for everyone, not merely those professing certain moral or religious views of ultimate right.”

So much for George Will’s notion that it’s the spirit of Goldwater that infuses the our-way-or-no-way Tea Party. But then, we have to consider Will’s perspective: While Barry was running for president in 1964, Will was away from the fray, taking his tea at Oxford.

Sound Bite to Remember

“Neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness, and other cognitive problems.” — Tea Party fellow traveler Michael Savage on John Roberts’ vote in the healthcare case

Goldwater in 2012? (Too Much Baggage) Monday, May 23 2011 

Mitch Daniels says he’s not running for president for family reasons. Maybe.  I don’t doubt that his wife’s wishes figured into Daniels’ decision, but it’s likely that, along with Haley Barbour, Mitch sees the road to the Republican nomination running through Cuckooland.

Rational men stay clear of irrational callings, and much as I hate to quote Charles Barkley on any subject other than dribbling basketballs, the Auburn blowhard had it right when he said, “The Republican party has lost its mind.”

How else to explain a bloviating horse’s ass like Donald Trump running up double-digit numbers in Republican polls – not to mention the presidential aspirations of the twitter-brained Sarah Palin and her airhead doppelganger Michele Bachmann?

Once the party of Lincoln produced women like Clare Booth Luce and Margaret Chase Smith, either of whom could have qualified as serious presidential candidates, but who today would be blown away by the same inhabitants of the cuckoo’s nest that last year defeated Utah’s conservative Senator Bob Bennett and helped re-elect Harry Reid by nominating Sharron Angle as his Republican opponent in neighboring Nevada.

So why did Daniels and Barbour drop out of the race? A guess: Early on, Daniels suggested we might give the social issues a rest, then had to spend the next three months backtracking; while Barbour took heat from the Cuckooland establishment because he had the subversive idea that we ought to rethink our commitment in Afghanistan.

Rational men, rational decisions. Other than political crackpots like Bachmann or pandering flippers like Mitt Romney, who needs to spend the next 18 months hyperventilating about secession, same-sex marriage, and the socialist secular plot to override the Constitution with Sharia law?

And what would my political mentor Barry Goldwater think about all this? Can’t say, but if he were alive I know he wouldn’t be running. Too much baggage for the cuckoos: His wife, Peggy, was a card-carrying member of Planned Parenthood.