Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Olympics, Donald Trump and the GOP's dangerous 'September Surprise'

In part of his excellent work on the seminal 1960 Summer Olympic Games — aptly titled, "Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World" — David Maraniss writes about the cunning strategy of the West German rowing team.

As I remember the story, the German rowing team was something to behold: efficient, strong, unbeatable. But occasionally the Germans would seem to falter. Sensing an opening, the other team would expend great energy in pulling alongside the mighty Germans, building confidence with every stroke.

Then … poof! … the Germans would kick into another gear and easily win. It would be a complete victory, physical and psychological.

The Republican Party of 2016 is the German rowing team of the 1960 Olympics, luring the Democrats into dreaming of a November victory then kicking into another gear. How? The Trump card.

I'll give it to you straight: Donald Trump will drop out of the presidential race, quite possibly within days. I'm increasingly convinced that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are practicing their debate points — and it will be no accident.

With Romney/Ryan (one or both) riding in to "solve" the problems their party created — continuing a standard GOP theme of the past four decades — Republicans will win the White House, both houses of Congress and pick a couple of Supreme Court justices to shape American society for the next 75 years. As no small bonus, they also get to stick a hot pin in inflated Democrats, who have already been celebrating a Hillary victory, and dismantle the Clinton Machine to boot.

Call it a "September Surprise."

But at what price? Certainly some Trump supporters will jump on the GOP ship, but many of them threw in with Trump because he built his whole political image at the summit of anti-establishment. He is the king of the Baby Boomers, feeding off the anti-government anger that Republicans previously harnessed, most recently as the Tea Party, and used to catalyze the so-called conservative movement.

This time, however, the self-destructive energy is loose and, now, it will be rampaging in various directions.

I'm sure Donald will find a way to spin the story to appear that he was forced out. He is prepping this with his dangerous and ludicrous claims that the media is rigged, the debates are rigged, the elections are rigged. And this is the Party of Personal Responsibility?

This chicanery will only fuel the Trump faithful — after all, everything is a C.O.N.S.P.I.R.A.C.Y. with this crowd. (So, of course, I offer my own conspiracy here.)

Trumplodytes are beyond angry, though — they're desperate enough to believe that Donald has their interests at heart, merely because he mocks women, the disabled and the family of a decorated veteran, spits on the Constitution, casts the media as villain for speaking truth, paints Central American-born Americans as rapists and says the civil rights movement (yes, that's what Black Lives Matter is) instigates cop killings.

Trump is their Great White (stress the white, hold the lettuce) Hope. If they believe Donald was forced out — or that he ditched them in the middle of the party, especially if he doesn't run as a third-party candidate — their anger will strike out against him, the Republicans, the Democrats, people of color, immigrants, intellectuals … anyone and everyone not them.

While the Romney/Ryan Republican strategy would be clever and cunning, on the world's most important political stage, it also is dangerous. Republicans can win in November and change the world, but at what cost to the American psyche and, more importantly, democracy?

Sunday, February 14, 2016


It was a Sunday like any other Sunday, yet different.

I don't know what had cut into my early-morning dreams — perhaps the upstairs neighbor's fourth trip to the bathroom. More likely, it was two smacks against the pavement by tightly wound newsprint encapsulated by thin plastic. The Times and the Chronicle — they were like sausages tossed from a car to the entryway of my San Francisco apartment building but without the big, meaty mess.

As it was, the building’s not much to look at: three floors of wood and sea salt from the early 1960s, awaiting the next six-point-something so the owner could have it red-tagged, collect the insurance money and sell the hilltop lot to some tech tool.

But if you squinted long enough, through the fog and between the scaffolding of the million-dollar homes across the street, there was a view of the bay. You could even see Oakland’s Coliseum, not that you’d want to see what was going on inside.

The building’s got four units, including a home for me and my dame. She’s a lithesome blonde number, straight from one of those online catalogs. Yeah, she comes across all nicey-nice, but she's an ink-stained wretch like me.

But I didn't know her history when she walked into my office 22 years ago. She had legs like Lolo Jones and a voice like Bacall — measured, asking, but already knowing the answer.

"Are you, Ron?" she said.

I didn't look up from the computer terminal on what passed for a desk underneath piles of worn-out clich├ęs, candy wrappers, yellow sticky notes and old newspapers covered with words printed so long ago even they had forgotten why the electrons were wasted on them.

Let's just say the cleaning lady didn't give a damn; neither did I.

Dangling like the participle on my screen, I let my pen hang from my mouth as I typed.

"That's what they call me."

I slowly hit the period key, finishing my sentence but knowing I could return for an umpteenth rewrite. "Just one of many things they call me."

My eyes finally fixed on the vehicle for that voice. I grinned at the doll.

"Of course," I said, grinning, "you can call me anything you wish."

Long and short of it, about a year later, she ended up calling me "husband." I liked the job and the benefits.

Yeah, a rug-rat eventually came along — a kid named Benny, who the stork plopped on our doorstep 12 years ago. He's a good kid. I only hope he can keep his nose clean in this snot-filled world.

Call me his tissue.

That's why I was on stakeout this particular Sunday. I had some cleanup work to do.

Someone had been stealing our Sunday newspapers, our little luxury in this hardscrabble world of sound bites, “likes” and retweets. I was here to make sure that didn't happen again.

Here's the skinny: The dame and I like to read. We like to be informed. We don't like it when someone tries to get the news for free.

You see, there are two kinds of stupid — one where a man takes off his clothes and dances naked in Dolores Park; the other when he does the same thing on your doorstep. The former you can ignore — after all, it is Dolores Park — the other you're kind of forced to deal with.

All of which parks my butt on this fake-marble stairway at 4:17 in the blessed a.m., trying to keep the naked man off my stoop.

You see, I'm a journalist — not a blogger, not a "citizen journalist" — and I get paid to cover the news.