The question of character

None of us are who we say we are – none of us. Each of us is defined by our actions, our values, and how those actions reflect and support our values. We are all measured by what we do, not what we say. Our words are only meaningful if they are supported by deeds, for in the end, it’s only the deeds that count.

Most of us judge the character of others, and of ourselves, by what is done. If we value honesty, we don’t cheat others; if we value truth, we don’t lie; if we purport to be decent people, we don’t harm others. And so on. In another time, questions of character would be posed, “do you walk the talk?” Ultimately, it is not the words that define, it’s the deed.

Deeds are especially important in our public lives. If you enter the public sphere as a business person, a teacher, someone in the medical or legal professions, a member of the clergy, or as a political figure, it is how we conduct ourselves that define us in the eyes of the members of our communities. Nobody wants to be cheated by the businessperson, we don’t want to entrust our kids’ education to teachers who are not committed to the well being of kids, and we don’t want to go to a doctor who has no time for us or a lawyer who will steal from us. We get to know who to trust and who not to trust because we live in an exponentially shrinking world.

In a democracy, we get to select those who will act on our behalf and in our interests. We do this by analyzing what they say they’ll do, and hopefully squaring those promises with past performance.  In the end, most of us know that we’ll never get the ideal officeholder, one who will agree with all of our concerns and positions on the issues. We know that we will need to make decisions, often based on imperfect information, about imperfect candidates.

As has been said better elsewhere, if you want perfection, see a philosopher; if you want truth, see your clergy; we live in an imperfect world populated by imperfect beings. In a democratic society where people vie for our votes, we have to choose between two imperfections. It’s in this decision making process that while we may not get our ideal, we expect to at least get someone of good character. And the analysis of character, as stated above, is not based on words but, rather, on deeds.

The presidential election of 2016 is a weird election. It has come down to a choice between one historic but flawed candidate pitted against a businessman reality TV star.  One is closely guarded in her comments and the other is an unfiltered self-promoter. The media is no help as it obsesses over the emails of one candidate and, like moths to the flame, the torrent of invective and abuse meted out by the other.

In the end, with issues concerning most of us being subsumed by the theater of this political season, it is hard to make choices about who has what platform to meet our needs. This year the election has focused – rightly so – on the question of character. In many ways, service to others is mostly, if not solely, about character.

Today, one presidential candidate who got his political start on leading the so-called “birther movement” admitted that our first African-American President was, in fact, born in the United States. He did so on September 16, 2016, more than five years after it was conclusively proven that President Obama was born in Hawaii. It will be little noted that the night previous, in an interview with Robert Costa of the Washington Post when the issue of Obama’s birth was posed to him, Donald John Trump refused to answer that Obama was a native born American.

Today, in a theatrically staged event at his new Washington hotel, complete with medal of honor recipients and other courageous men who served in defense of all of us, Trump in an address that took less than one minute said three things, two of them lies. The one truthful thing he said was that Barack Obama was, indeed, born in the United States. “Period.”

Before we get to the lies, a brief comment about the birthers. When I was young, along with my family I traveled through the south and for a brief period lived in the south for a couple of years. It is impossible to convey the hostile power of a “whites only” sign on a restaurant door, or a hotel’s billboard ad.  The racism was deep, broad and palpable. And as we discovered over the years, it was not limited to the south.

In March 2008, weeks prior to the start of my agency, I worked outside a polling place in the democratic primary on behalf of Hillary Clinton. The polling place was located in my general neighborhood, which made what I saw and heard even more disturbing. Many voters, using language that I hadn’t heard since the early ’60s in the south, came in and loudly proclaimed that they would never vote for Obama because he was black. This anecdote is merely offered to remind us all that not all racists wear sheets and burn crosses, or are located in the south.

The questions raised about Barack Obama’s birth are racist – pure and simple. It is the same overt, virulent racism of my youth. Put another way, how many of the 43 presidents before Obama were asked for their birth certificates? (Later this racist onslaught would demand disclosure of Obama’s grades and other college records.)

What started in 2008 as a fringe right-wingnut screed gained mainstream traction when a famous TV star decided to champion this cause.  Donald Trump breathed life and, dare I say, respectability into this issue.  Debunked year after year as false, this racist perpetuation of the lie gained more traction year after year after year. Finally, in 2011, to finally quiet the howling mob of knuckle-dragging cretins – including Trump – President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate, satisfying for all time any question of his birth. Except for Donald Trump.

Beginning in November 2011, Trump consistently challenged the validity of Obama’s birth records via his favorite medium of record – Twitter. Twitter is a perfect vehicle for those with a dearth of facts and low attention spans as it enables them to communicate with 140 bytes or less. No wonder Trump uses it so much.

The number and content of these “tweets” are too numerous to recount but if you’re interested in seeing how unhinged he got on this issue, follow this link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/09/16/donald_trump_s_birther_tweets_in_order.html

But sometimes events conspire to drive one to where he doesn’t want to go. Today was one such day where Trump was forced to admit the truth of Obama’s birth. And he told two lies in the process. I’m reminded of something Harry S. Truman once said about Richard Nixon, “If he ever told the truth, he’d have to tell a lie just to keep his hand in.” So it was today.

Since Trump has gained all the racist cred with the alt.right that he could, he tried to deflect the issue away from him and onto Clinton, blaming her for for starting the birther movement. It’s kind of like blaming the foundation of ISIS on President Obama and equally untrue. As was reported in 2008, a Clinton volunteer in Iowa wrote a memo asking if Barack Obama’s birth was fertile ground for an attack. Her idea was quickly discarded and she was summarily sacked from the campaign.

In a 60 Minutes interview that same year, Hillary Clinton was expressly asked whether she had any question about Obama’s citizenship and she was direct in her answer of no. That is where it stayed regarding Clinton until Trump once again accessed his Twitter account and posted, “”The birther movement was started by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She was all in!” That was a despicable lie then, and his comments today were equally despicable.

Donald Trump does not have the same public record as Hillary Clinton and because of that, he’s been able to skate too often. But on the issue of race, he has a long and consistent record of deeds, stemming from being sued twice by the Department of Justice in the 1970s for indicating applicant’s race on a housing application, a violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968; did not dispute a quote attributed to him that “Laziness is a trait in blacks”; he has consistently dodged any strong refutation of support from avowed white supremacists; not to mention his attack on a federal judge, born in Indiana, who is of Mexican heritage; the description of a group of people as rapists, drug dealers and criminals, solely because of their heritage, and of course assuming the leadership of the birther movement.

Deeds, especially over time, are a reflection of values that define a person’s character. So it is here. Donald John Trump is not worthy of succeeding Barack Obama to the presidency, let alone lead the party of Lincoln or sit in the seat of Jefferson.  By his own words and deeds, he has disqualified himself from the presidency.

Believe me.

 

Open Letter to Donald Trump…

Dear Mr. Trump,

Before I begin, let me provide a little context. I’m not a fan. Frankly, you lost me right after you got off the escalator in June of 2015. You really lost me when you referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers.  Your actions since that time only serve to highlight your announcement speech on that June day as the high-point of your campaign.

You use music before and after your rallies to incite and inspire your crowds, which I will say are sometimes impressive in number. I have always found it curious that at the end of your rallies you play the Stone’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want. For a guy whose great claim to fame is branding, this is a curious way to brand your campaign. If I may, a small suggestion for the sake of properly and accurately branding your campaign; at the end of your rallies, why not play ACDC’s Highway to Hell?

Also, for the sake of disclosure, I wrote an open letter to Hillary asking her to have a press conference in order to, once and for all, answer the allegations made by you and others regarding her email servers and the family’s Foundation. Today, she has announced that, beginning Monday, she is going to make herself more available to the press and that she intended to hold a press conference soon.

I take no credit for this change of heart. Frankly, she didn’t read the letter – hell, I doubt if anyone did. All I claim is that I plugged into the zeitgeist associated with this issue, nothing more. Unlike you, my ego doesn’t need to take faux credit for a result that I had no part in achieving.

This reason I’m writing you is because, like Hillary, you might – through some cruel twist of fate, the cosmic practical joke as it were – become the next President of the United States. So like Hillary if she wins, if you win you will become my President. As a citizen, I have the right to communicate with my President, sharing suggestions or criticisms with the person who leads our nation in this changing and somewhat perilous time.

So let me begin by saying that you are without doubt, by far, the worst candidate for president in my lifetime.  Since tomorrow is my 68th birthday, that’s a considerable time frame. It isn’t that you haven’t studied real issues that impact real people, it’s that you trade in on your ignorance to gain the applause of those fearful folks who hear bluster and mistake it for leadership.

You get away with this approach, when nobody else could, because you’re a seemingly “successful businessman” worth “billions” of dollars. The former is subject to discussion and the latter is unproven. I won’t focus on the “successful businessman” part but I will state that you absolutely need to release your tax returns. We both know that the invocation of the audit as a reason not to release these returns is a dodge, pure and simple. But to be fair, I’ll concede that you don’t want to release the returns currently under review – those who hound you for the release don’t know why the IRS is auditing you, so you may have a very good reason not to disclose the initial filing.

But, that is no reason not to release the years of returns not under review. Failing to disclose those returns makes it look like you’re hiding something, either that you’ve made money in partnership with unsavory characters, of haven’t paid any tax in years, or – and this goes to branding – you’re not (gasp!) a billionaire. If you do not release these forms you will become the first nominee of a major political party, in modern political history, not to do so. You accuse Clinton of running from media scrutiny, so why not lead? Isn’t that what Presidents do? Or is hiding from public scrutiny is what passes for “unconventional” in the Trump campaign?

And while you’re at it, how about releasing real medical records? That letter, written in five minutes (to be fair, he did think about it all day) by your Gastroenterologist stated that since all your tests came out “positive” you would be the healthiest President in American history.  That letter is an insult to the body politic, exhibiting the cosmic disdain you have for the  process in which you have voluntarily engaged. And one question: why have you seen a Gastroenterologist each year for 35 years if there’s nothing wrong? Explain that and maybe I’d even consider voting for you.

Aside from your shameless self-promoting, your bully tactics when people can’t respond in kind, your slanderous representations and demonization of others’ characters, intellects and physical attributes, what bothers me most is your nearly total lack of anything akin to knowledge of public policy issues, even your signature issue of immigration reform. One contrasting example: when Rick Perry in 2012 couldn’t remember one of his signature positions, he at least had the decency and dignity to smirk and say “oops!”  When you don’t know something, you make stuff up and then double down when challenged. This is more surprising coming from someone who professes to have a “good brain.”

Let’s look at two issues from this week: your immigration gambit and your meeting Saturday in Detroit. Regarding the former, I think it’s safe to state that over the past ten days, you’ve been all over the park on this issue. Are you softening then hardening? Or are you doing the reverse hard to soft maneuver? You have been tumbling and twisting like an Olympic gymnast who can’t stick the landing.

Behind on points in this competition, you decide to go big or go home. Thus your trip to Mexico City to meet with Mexico’s President Peña Nieto to discuss problems common to both our countries, especially immigration. Don, this was your moment, the stuff dreams are made of. In the way that only fate can arrange, man and moment have met to stand tall and represent your supporters and your country as a whole. You, Donald J. Trump, blessed with implacable conviction and unshakable resolve had the opportunity to stand tall and strong.

And then you shrunk and got soft right before our eyes. How do I know that? Easy, I saw the statements given by both of you. The statements themselves were largely unremarkable; what was remarkable was your response to a question as you were getting ready to leave regarding any discussion of the “Wall.”  Your response was that you discussed the Wall, but not who was going to pay for it. WHAT?

So let’s review – you discussed the Wall with Mr. Neito but not who would pay for it. Then, almost immediately after you leave Nieto tweets (God I hate this) that he broached the issue at the beginning of you meeting and declared that Mexico would not pay for it. Then, a few hours later, safely back in Arizona, you stated that not only would the Wall be built, but that even though they don’t know it, Mexico would pay for it, 100 percent. Raucous applause ensued.

Now here’s my problem. If your version is to be believed, then you didn’t bring up paying for the Wall. Not exactly a profile in courage is it? But then, it’s on to the speech where you get all bold and boisterous. Then in an interview the next day you say that you wouldn’t have brought up the payment in the previous night’s speech if Neito hadn’t tweeted about the payment.

This is junior high school on steroids. I can almost accept ambiguity, I can even accept people changing their minds when new information is entered into the mix; what I can’t accept is someone who is gutless, especially when they present themselves as you do as a strong resolute “leader.”  You, sir, are gutless.

As for the afore mentioned speech, aside from taking credit within your 10 point policy for policy already on the books, you have dissembled on the number of deportees. On the kinder and gentler side, the side that courts white suburban women, you talk about your efforts to be humane and to look at those who are left after the first round of deportations, and decide what to do with them. On the tough Arizona white guy side of you, you talk about immediately, on your first hour as President, getting rid of gang members, criminals, and people taking public benefits like food stamps. You also raised the specter of doing something with those “illegals” who work in low wage jobs, taking those jobs away from American citizens.

I’m not a big math guy, but using your math, if you deport everyone you say you will, there won’t be a lot of people left to be humane towards. Put another way, if your math is right, then there are 11 million illegal aliens in the United States. Assume now that there are 4.4 million households that comprise your total. Assume your stat of 62% of these households receive some form of public benefits, then members of 2.728 million households will be deported, leaving 1.672 million households. Assume these households comprise 5.183,000 people left. Now from that number, subtract 2 million gang members and that comes to 3,183,000 left and we haven’t even adjusted for the “criminals” and low wage laborers in our midst. In other words, there aren’t a whole lot of folks left for you to be humane toward.

Your “policy” is a joke. The blame for this placed on President Obama is not for him alone – in order to do what you ask, Congress has to appropriate the funds, something you may one day find out. How Clinton gets blamed is beyond me as ICE is connected with Homeland Security, not the Department of State.

Saturday you will wade into the waters of inner-city race relations. Another staged event, complete with pre-screened questions and scripted responses. That’s a lot of lines to memorize, are you sure you’re up to it? Evidently, the media is excluded from this meeting thus limiting scrutiny. Once again, substance and seriousness takes a back seat to the performance art of your campaign.

I want to think you’re better than this. I know America is better than this and deserves more than you’ve given over the past nearly 15 months. You owe it to people to do better, to be better. But I think you’re in way over your head. I dare you to prove me wrong.

Respectfully,

Geoff Schoos

Open Letter to Hillary

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I and my wife are supporters. In fact, we financially supported your effort, me having maxed out and my wife nearly so in 2008, and we continue to financially support your effort this year, although because we’re now retired with less financial robustness. I tell you this to let you know that we’re on your side.

As a supporter, I am urging you to do that which you so far haven’t and no doubt hate to do – publicly and openly confront and put to bed the issues regarding your State Department emails, and now alleged conflicts of interest involving  your family’s Foundation.

I have been involved in the study of and participation in campaigns throughout my life, and I’ve learned that in instances where a candidate’s actions or character are attacked there are two response choices: either to hunker down in the belief that the storm will blow over, or confront the issue head on.

Clearly you and your campaign have chosen the former. I get it. For nearly three decades, you’ve been the target of some of the most vicious allegations ever directed toward a person in the public arena. You have many enemies, even more than does your husband who was a two term president and who also withstood an impeachment trial. It’s no revelation that your husband has enemies, but to no level does he have the enemies that attack you. To put it another way, although he was impeached by the House and tried by the Senate, he was never accused of murder as you’ve been – once regarding Vince Foster and a second time, more recently, regarding the sudden passing of Mark Weiner.

Now that’s cold. And it’s no wonder you don’t want to engage in the daily exercise of political battle with those whose hate is so deep and so profound that they will never let go. I get that being in Theodore Roosevelt’s arena that has made you “marred by dust and sweat and blood” as a result of specious attacks delivered by those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  But then you have entered that metaphorical arena of your own volition.

While many of the political and personal attacks have been delivered by knuckle-heads, recently arrived from Fantasyland, or Trumplandia if you prefer, the emails and Foundation attacks are different.  These cut to the heart of your public performance as Secretary of State, coupled with the perception of public corruption.

Aside from the occasional denial or a brief public comment to the media, your campaign has decided to basically hunker down and wait for the storm to blow over. Aside from a brief meeting with the FBI in July, some of which has been either leaked or made public, you have said nothing. I’m certain that it hasn’t escaped your notice that after one year of constant speculation and comment on these “damned emails,” and statements by FBI Director Comey that you did not commit any offense meriting prosecution, the storm of this issue still rages.  I know you’ve got a lot of smart people advising you on how to handle this so I have one question – exactly when do they think this will blow over?

Add to this is the whole ruckus about the financial contributions to the Clinton Foundation and allegations of play-for-pay.  At minimum, these recent allegations plug into pre-existing narratives about how the “Clintons” (it’s always the “Clintons,” never just one of you) play by their own rules, that they engage in public service in order to enrich themselves, and that they always manage to escape responsibility because of…well, you get the idea.

There’s no evidence of wrong-doing mind you, but this stuff just won’t go away. The media clamors for answers from you and absent a response is free to speculate. And you know that any speculation of your actions will never inure to your favor.

You’re a lawyer, no doubt well aware of the definition of an adoptive admission. If, as I believe they are, these allegations are baseless, why not say so? Why not confront these allegations head on? To do otherwise is being viewed more and more as an adoptive admission in the only court that a person running from president should care about – the court of public opinion.

To put it another way, politics is perception, and in politics perception is reality. Your continued silence is being viewed more and more as confirmation that you have something to hide. And absent a direct comment, fielding questions by the media, the public is left only the accusations and speculations of those who mean to do you political, if not legal, harm.

This letter is being written with 70+ days left in the campaign. There’s much that can happen in that time frame. What happens if there’s a third allegation leveled against you and your family? Each layer of controversy only serves to validate the layers that came before.

Only you can put to rest the concerns of those who perhaps are not solidly wedded to your campaign. Those who are still undecided are less likely to move in your direction over the next two months without an assurance by you that there is no substance to the allegations levied against you.

As someone who has also been in a public arena, albeit differently than you, I have learned that the best way to deal with an attack on your actions and character is to meet them head on. Any occupant of the arena knows that s/he will be bloodied. The only question about this is how to respond? I think the best way is to confront the allegations and those who make them, head on.

The key thing to understand is that if you’re in the arena, you’re going to take a beating. The key question is how you take that beating: either passively, waiting for the opponent to tire; or actively, making a defense and controlling at least part of the action and narrative? You are doing the former; you should do the latter.

You can take little solace from the fact that you’re still “winning.” In this election, you are running against the living physical manifestation of an existential political evil. Every minute spent by the media reporting on your issues and lack of response is a minute not spent on your opponent’s glaring lack of knowledge, political competence, along with his personal and business character. And we both know that there’s enough there to consume the next two months, sending this evil to oblivion on November 8.

We both know that the first question posed to you on September 26 will be either about the emails, the Foundation, or both. You’re going to get it, with another month of non-response baked into the political atmosphere. By sitting down with members of the press, you can at least change the arc of that first question, if not effectively take it off the table.

In this election cycle, as much as people are looking for programs and policies to better there lives, they are also looking for political and personal accountability and transparency. Without the latter, the impact of the former – no matter how well thought out they are – will be reduced with the public.

And you’re good at meeting allegations head on. Remember your response to assertions that you benefited by several financial dealings involving commodity investments and the famous Whitewater “scandals”?  You put yourself in front of the press and told them that you’d be there until there were no more questions. Aired on four networks, people got to see you, your body language, and your demeanor. They heard your responses and most determined that those scandal could be relegated to the dustbin of history.

And who could forget your attendance before Trey Gowdy’s Bengazi committee? Eleven hours of testimony and responses to questions coming at you from all angles, and you didn’t even break a sweat. When it was over, Gowdy basically cried the political equivalent of “uncle.”

In both instances, you were able to demonstrably show that when it came to the allegations against you, there was no “there there.”  You have to do this one more time for yourself, for your supporters, for those who you seek to convince before the election, and most of all for those who you seek to lead beginning on January 20, 2017.

Only you can dispel the clouds hovering over your campaign and possibly over your administration. From what I’ve seen you’ve got the facts on your side, you’ve got the ability to handle these allegations, and to do so now can pave the way to election day. Sure you will take some hits and you might be bloodied a little but which would you rather do; mend a bloodied nose or die of a thousand paper cuts?

I choose the former and urge you to do so, too.

Respectfully,

Geoff Schoos

 

 

 

Don’t drink the sand…

Before I go any further, please take a few minutes to look at the snippet from the 1995 movie, The American President:

In this election of 2016, life imitates art. In this election, we have the human incarnation of the fictional character Bob Rumson, a hyperbolic, mean spirited, conniving megalomaniac whose only ambition and concern is that he be elected President, no matter the harm to our political system.

Donald J. Trump has debased our democratic processes. The heir to the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan performed a hostile takeover of that proud political party, and in so doing callously defamed its legacy. Once a home to reformers, the Republican Party under Trump is now a party of hate.  As one of the two major American political parties, the Republican Party thrived on consensus, inviting divergent views to join in common purpose. Under Trump, this proud party is relegated to one narrow purpose: electing Donald Trump to the presidency.

Once a conservative home, home to a conservative philosophy of limited government and self-reliance, of free markets and strong communities, and of an abiding patriotism in its zeal to engage the world in order to ensure our national security, it is now a home to Trumpism. Trumpism is a “philosophy” of no substance, no consistency, no governing focus but instead is nothing more than the celebration and aggrandizement of its leader, a virtual captive cult of personality.

Who could have guessed that June day of 2015 that the optics of Trump descending down an escalator to make his announcement that that image would be later seen as a metaphor for his campaign.  Trump’s campaign has dragged us all down in a continuing spiral with no bottom in sight. We continue to be sucked into the vortex of his black heart and inexorably pulled into the black hole of his mind. We are all damaged by the actions and antics of this most damaged man.

Trump’s entire campaign is predicated on exploiting the fears of good people. There is no doubt that many of our family, friends, and neighbors are confronted by forces unseen and by a world that appears to be spinning out of control. All of us, no matter who we are, seek answers and explanations for the events that impact our daily lives. We want to know if we’ll have jobs, secured savings and pension plans, will continue to live in safe and secure communities, and leave this place better for our kids. It’s what most of want and we work hard to get it. We play by the rules, pay our taxes, obey the law all in the expectation that those we charge with serving us will do their best to look out for us and act in our interests.

There is no question that we don’t always get the government or leadership that we hope for. Whether at the federal, state or local levels, office holders and government employees fail in their duties. That’s life. All of us, in spite of our best efforts, fall short of our goals or responsibilities. But in a democratic society, the remedy is available and our duty clear. We, the voters, have the ability to replace those who have failed us with those who will reflect our values and aspirations.

In a pluralistic democracy such as ours, there are numerous and divergent values and aspirations. In order that we all progress, we need to blend these values into a workable whole and develop policies and programs that reflect our shared values; for the one thing that keeps us “united” is a recognition and honoring of our shared cultural and political values.

Chief among those values is having respect for those with whom we disagree. This, of all our values, is the one that Trump blatantly disregards. There is no individual or group that he will restrain himself from attacking. Women are targets of his scorn; political opponents who have the temerity to suggest alternatives to Trumpism are liars, crooks, low-energy, and just today, the devil; officeholders are stupid and losers; ethnic groups are rapists, drug dealers, and criminals; immigrants are suspect and millions are to be denied entry to the United States for the sole reason of their religion; and a Gold Star family, Muslims who immigrated from Pakistan and became naturalized citizens, are vilified because they dared question Trump on his immigration policies.

Trump is the ringmaster of a three ringed circus of hate. Never was there heard chants at major party’s nominating convention chants of “lock her up” referring to Trump’s opponent; a chant that has carried over into his “rallies” and one he last week endorsed. Never has a president’s qualification to hold office questioned because of his citizenship status, an attack Trump led for many years. Never has a major party candidate placed our national security in jeopardy by raising the specter of not meeting our NATO obligations to member nations due to that nation’s non-payment of dues, a base mercantile approach to our treaty obligations.

Trump’s ignorance of the world is exceeded by his ignorance of policy, both foreign and domestic. He neither knows nor cares whether Russia has annexed the Ukraine; he glibly argues that Japan should have nuclear weapons, and perhaps South Korea as well; he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, a reminiscence of Nixon’s secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. He doesn’t know anything about economic policy, trade policy, employment policy or else he’d disclose them to the American people to be read and judged. Instead, we’re asked to trust and believe him.

We would do well to remember the old adage, “trust everyone but cut the cards.” It’s hard to cut the cards when the dealer won’t show the deck.

Each week is some new outrage. Does Trump have a relationship with Vladimir Putin? Either we take his word from over the past three years that he does, or the more recent assertion that he doesn’t. Do we accept that he is a mult-billionaire who can’t show his tax returns because he’s being audited, or do we accept his assertion that there’s nothing unsavory or incriminating in those returns?

Do we accept the notion that he’s the smartest and strongest among us, the only one who is able to lead us, to “make America great again?” Is he the quintessential man, uniquely qualified to be President at this time in history, and without whom we will further descend into the dystopian hell he outlined in his acceptance speech?

Because in the end his swagger and bluster is only designed to stoke greater fear among those whose world is rapidly passing by and who fear change of any kind. Trump promises that which he cannot deliver, a world of fifty years ago when the rules were better defined, change occurred much more slowly, and the American economy was the envy of the world. Bear in mind that America of fifty years ago wasn’t good for everyone; if you were a person of color, a woman, gay, or the wrong religion things weren’t so good. But if you were a white male, coming of age at that time, could you be blamed if you were constantly told that the life you knew was taken away by selfish people for their own gain?

Donald Trump is the most dangerous candidate for the presidency that has ever run in my lifetime, and maybe for all time. Each day brings new outrage, worse than those of the previous day. His bigotry is only exceeded by his self-absorption. He has no loyalty to anyone or anything but himself and his business and brand. His lack of knowledge about anything having to do with any public policy is staggering. Donald Trump is the playground bully that we all have met at some point in our childhood, the kid who has nothing to offer but fear.

Trump runs for the presidency as the star of his own “reality” show, spewing hate and fear in order to establish himself as the strong man whose ascension to power is the last gasp we can take in order to preserve and protect our way of life. That isn’t leadership, that’s demagoguery. History teaches what happens when people like Trump attain power, which afterwards becomes absolute power in order to protect the state. In the 1930’s, Sinclair Lewis wrote a book entitled It Can’t Happen Here, a cautionary tale about a totalitarian regime ruling on the basis of fear and division, promising a return to American values.

To those people, those good people, who support Trump, please understand that he is not a leader, rather he’s a demagogue. If you love your country as I know you do, if you treasure our cultural values as  i know you do, if you care about the future of your families as I know you do, then please do not vote for Donald J. Trump.

Please, don’t drink the sand….