The Year of the #T_Rump

The Donald wasn’t the worst thing about 2015, but he was the most irritating.

Donald KaulIs 2015 over yet? Is it safe to come out now?

What a bummer. Mass shootings, cops using unarmed civilians for target practice, the Middle East in rubble, terrorist attacks, Donald Trump.

Trump wasn’t the worst of it, perhaps. But he certainly was the most irritating.

It was a spectacle worthy of Tennyson — “Trump to the right of us, Trump to the left of us, Trump in front and behind. Into the valley of Trump rode the 300 million.”

A year ago he was a loud-mouthed reality show host who moonlighted as a developer of ugly buildings. Now he’s the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

donald-trump-immigration-racism-xenophobia-statue-of-liberty-cartoon

Statue of Trumperty, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

To any patriotic American with a sense of history, it’s embarrassing. We are a country of 320 million people — many of us smart, some informed and reasonable. And the best we can do is Donald Trump?

I used to marvel at the Italian propensity for electing ludicrous buffoons to high public office — people like Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi. How could so civilized a place treat the vote so lightly?

But, I reasoned, the Italian national pastime is the opera: the province of great, outsized, slightly ridiculous characters. Their politics seemed to be an extension of that.

Trump’s supporters don’t suffer traditional opera gladly. They’re more the Grand Ole Opry type, a different thing altogether.

It’s as though the Republican Party, a year ago, took an ad in The Wall Street Journal which read:

“Wanted: energetic self-starter to run a large, diverse organization. No experience necessary. As a matter of fact, experience is probably a disqualification.

“Nor is any knowledge required, particularly in the fields of science and arithmetic. A complete ignorance of history would be welcome, too.

“What we’re really looking for is someone who believes. The specific content of the beliefs required will be given to the applicant once he or she wins the job, but a passionate belief in God and the free market will be paramount among them.

“The job offers a handsome six-figure salary, free housing, and a liberal vacation allowance (that’s the only thing liberal about it), as well dynamite retirement benefits.

“Candidates must be prepared to spend the better part of the next two years telling people what they want to hear. Integrity is optional.”

It’s as though they ran the ad and, lo and behold, applicants began crawling out from under their rocks all over the country. And the loudest, most outrageous of the rock dwellers was Donald Trump.

So-called political experts like myself have been predicting Trump’s demise ever since he flashed upon the scene insulting war heroes, women, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, the mentally ill, and worst of all, journalists.

We all thought that, politically speaking, he’d be sleeping with the fishes by now, along with more plausible candidates like Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and that Democrat from Virginia whose name no one bothered to learn.

Well, to make a long story short, that’s not the way it rolled.

Ted Cruz, the meanest kid on the block, is gaining in Iowa, but the Donald is still leading in national polls.

Is it possible that, against all odds, this joke goes on into the general election — with Trump carrying the Republican banner into battle with Hillary Clinton?

I still say no. Not possible. We are not Italy. I refuse to believe that one of our major parties — the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower — would pick a clown like Trump to represent it. Ronald Reagan was bad enough, and Trump makes him look like Thomas Jefferson.

I don’t know who the GOP candidate will be, but not Trump.

On the other hand, one of the pluses of last year was Barack Obama awakening from his six-year slumber to begin acting like the president we elected, actually doing things despite the relentless opposition of the Republican Congress.

It wasn’t nearly enough. But, in the land of Trump, every ray of sunshine is welcome.


 

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org.

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Border Boondoggle

The GOP’s “just build a wall” simpletons don’t know what they’re talking about.

Jim HightowerGood fences, wrote Robert Frost, make good neighbors.

But an 18-foot high, 2,000-mile wall? That’s another story. It just antagonizes your neighbor — and shows your own fear and weakness.

Yet this is what self-described conservatives running for president propose to build to stop migrants from coming across our country’s southern border. Simple, right? Just fence ’em out!

Haven’t we already tried this?

In 2006, Congress mandated the construction of a wall along the 1,954 miles of our border with Mexico. A decade later, guess how many miles have been completed? About 650. It turns out that erecting a monstrous wall isn’t so simple after all.

U.S.-US-Mexico-border-crossing-fence-wall

Tony Webster / Flickr

First, it’s ridiculously expensive — about $10 billion just for the materials to build from the tip of Texas to the Pacific, not counting labor costs and maintenance.

Second, there’s the prickly problem of land acquisition: To erect the first 650 miles of fence, the federal government had to sue hundreds of property owners to take their land. Odd, isn’t it, that right-wing politicos who loudly rail against government overreach now favor using government muscle to grab private property?

Third, it’s impossible to fence the whole border. Hundreds of miles of it lie along the Rio Grande’s flood plain, and more miles cross the steep mountainous terrain of southern Arizona.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the other “just build a wall” simpletons either don’t know what they’re talking about or are deliberately trying to dupe voters.

Before you buy a 2,000-mile wall from them, take a peek at the small part already built. Because of the poor terrain and legal prohibitions, it’s not one long fence, but a fragment here and another there, with miles of gaps. Anyone wanting to cross into the United States can just go to one of the gaps and walk through.

But when they’re just trying to stir up fear of foreigners, what’s honesty have to do with it?


 

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower LowdownOtherWords.org

Is O’Malley an Environmental Champion?

The former Maryland governor’s record is inconsistently green, at best.

— by Alissa Weinman

Commanding the backing of only 2 percent of Democrats in national polls, Martin O’Malley isn’t exactly a big contender in his quest to become the party’s presidential nominee. But like the rest of the growing number of hopefuls, the former Maryland governor is building his campaign around a narrative.

O’Malley wants you to see him as the climate hawk. His website conspicuously boasts the candidate’s “new climate leadership,” and he’s rolled out an ambitious set of climate-friendly policy proposals.

For example, he wants to completely transition the United States to renewable energy by 2050, a half-century ahead of the Obama administration’s target. He opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and arctic drilling ventures, and he’s vowed to create a Clean Energy Jobs Corps that would retrofit buildings for energy efficiency, expand forests, and employ thousands.

O’Malley, who stepped down in January after two terms, is clearly eying the green vote. Too bad his record is inconsistently green, at best.

Hillary or Bernie, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

My home state of Maryland had plenty of environmental mishaps under O’Malley’s watch. It’s now trailing in the race toward a fossil-free future.

Maryland only ranks No. 16 on Clean Tech’s Leadership Index, which evaluates states based on their embrace of alternative sources of energy, the strength of their renewable-energy policies, and how much related research and investment happens within their borders. Maryland’s even behind New Mexico and Michigan, two GOP-led states that are home to some of the nation’s dirtiest power plants.

O’Malley also backtracked on his promise to ban fracking. In a sudden reversal at the end of his term, he claimed that the economic benefits that come with fracking are worth the risk, given strong regulations.

Not everything O’Malley spearheaded was harmful to the environment. Under his leadership, the imperiled Chesapeake Bay began to rebound, along with its blue crab populations. He also pushed legislation to promote Maryland’s offshore wind power industry.

In fact, I became an environmentalist because of the changes I witnessed in Maryland during O’Malley’s governorship. And I couldn’t agree more with his assessment that “there is no future for humankind without a livable climate.” That’s what makes his mixed record harder to swallow.

Polls indicate that voters are increasingly thinking like me. Americans no longer see the environment overall or climate change in particular as a marginal issue. That’s especially true for young people, whose votes will be key in a tight race.

Even though O’Malley is clearly a long shot for the White House, his emphasis on the environment could help shape other candidates’ platforms. But to do that, his campaign will have to glow a lot greener than his governorship.


Alissa Weinman, a recent graduate of the College of Wooster, was a Next Leaders climate policy intern at the Institute for Policy Studies in the summer of 2015.
Distributed by OtherWords.org