Thursday, December 15, 2016


Open letter to my friends who voted for Donald Trump

Dear friends:

First of all, I will still cherish you as a friend even though I am fearful that you made a fateful decision when you cast your ballot for Donald Trump to be our 45th President. The whole long election campaign has been woefully short in civility and I will not contribute to it. Let’s face it, The People have spoken and it is a fait accompli: Donald J. Trump will be our next President and, for all of our sake, we should hope for him to be successful in the much loftier office than the one he has in the Trump Tower.

Second, I grant you that you did not have a palatable choice. This was a rare occasion where I was content not having to make the choice, as I have no vote as a permanent resident in the USA. Democrats apparently were hell bent to give Hillary a second chance after she had been unceremoniously upstaged in 2008 by Barack Obama; but who was looking forward to bringing the Clintons back into the White House with all the ballast they were carrying? The only thing she had going for her was the unwavering support of the Democratic establishment and being seen as ‘the lesser of two evils’ by a large number of people.

Third, you had good reasons to be looking in a previously unexplored direction because eight years of Bush and eight years of Obama, had done nothing but run up the national debt without solving any of America’s existential challenges. But Donald Trump? Really?

Have you noticed how easily and unapologetically he switches opinion about people and issues? Most remarkably, after vilifying President Obama all through the election campaign, he meets with Obama in the Oval Office much longer than planned and then he calls the man whose nationality and faith he had openly questioned ‘a good man’ and he vows that he will continue to seek his counsel (which he apparently has done even though it is unclear if he has heeded any such counsel.) Similarly, Trump in a Sixty Minutes interview called Hillary Clinton, the person he and you loathed, ‘very strong and very smart’.

After calling Paul Ryan ‘a weak and very ineffective leader’ and refusing to endorse him in the Wisconsin GOP Primary, he now compares the speaker to ‘fine wine’, adding ‘every day I appreciate his genius more and more’.

Mitt Romney is a different case. We know that Trump called him ‘a miserably failed candidate’ during the campaign but then, while looking for a Secretary of State, invited him twice to the Trump Tower. Was that a change of heart or just a revengeful humiliation knowing full well that he would pick someone else for the job?

A change of heart can be a sign of mental agility and willingness to adjust to changing circumstances, but in Trump’s case it looks more like a case of deception: make you believe one thing while carefully hiding the true intent or judgment. The bottom-line is: do you really know what you will get from Donald Trump, the man you voted into the White House?

For the sake of the country, I hope that he will change his mind (or reveal his true intentions in contrast with his campaign slogans) and that you will find yourself led down the primrose path once more if you voted for him based on his campaign rhetoric:
1.       Let’s hope that the three generals in his cabinet and Rex Tillerson will keep him from breaking up the Western Alliance by giving up on NATO and cozying up with Putin.
2.       Let’s hope that he will not wreck the US economy by deporting all undocumented immigrants and withdrawing from NAFTA or any other trade agreements and initiatives that integrate the US economy with the global economy and allow the US to play a leadership role in international relations.
3.       Let’s hope that he will not kill promising new technology, jeopardizing the jobs in upstarts and green energy sectors that can diversify our energy sources, in order to deliver on his campaign promise to keep West Virginia coals miners at work.
4.       Let’s hope that he will drop his belligerent tone towards China and just focus on building inherent American strength in its economy and its social structure. Let’s beat the Chinese on merit not on bluff and bluster.
5.       Let’s hope that he will change his mind on withdrawing from the multinational agreement with Iran on nuclear power and just focus on pressing back on Iran in places where that country interferes with a peaceful world order.

The Romans had a saying that so much fits the mold here: ‘Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur ergo’. Loosely translated it means that ‘If you wish to be deceived into believing what you want to believe, then be deceived.’

Let me quote you from a recently released non-fiction book by Volker Ullrich:
‘How did this most unlikely pretender to high state office assume complete control of a once democratic country? By using an arsenal of demagogic tools (lies, fake promises, theatrical rallies, mantra like phrases) to exploit a constellation of crises, including economic woes, unemployment and political dysfunction.’        
Sounds familiar? No, Ullrich did not write a prospective history of the Trump era. He is German and wrote about Germany in the 20th century. But the parallels are striking and menacing.

Congratulations. You got your wish and you got the president you voted for. Let’s hope he will bely most all of the positions and promises that got him elected.

Monday, November 14, 2016


My post-election counsel to my American friends: Take a deep breath and take a long-term view. This too will pass. America has now elected 45 presidents and less than a handful of them have been statesmen and world leaders. Yet, America has survived and prospered (most of the time). Let’s keep in mind that a prospering and prosperous America has never meant that all American citizens were prospering.

Let’s also acknowledge that, had the election gone the other way, we would be lamenting as well. In fact, it is probably a good thing that the Clintons don’t get a second turn in the White House and that the election defeat almost certainly spells an end to the Clinton dominance of the Democratic Party. The Clintons now go the way of the Bush’ and that is a good thing, because the last thing American politics needs is dynasty building.

Nevertheless, the American people pulled off an astonishing act on November 8, 2016. They defied conventional wisdom, changing demographics, polls and pundits and elected a man who has all attributes of a pied piper but, on paper, zero credentials to qualify him for the toughest and most influential job in America. They have done a lot more that they almost certainly will come to regret:
1.       They have elected a septuagenarian to lead the nation and the world
2.       They have elected a Congress that consists for 72% of representatives of the baby-boomer generation and older and for 1% of Millennials
3.       They have diminished some of the checks and balances by putting the same party in charge of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives
4.       Forty-two percent of them, while eligible to vote, stayed home
5.       They have left it to the Electoral College to decide the election in deviation of the popular vote.

The democratic process and the constitution require that we respect the outcome delivered at the polls. It is undeniably true that eight years of conventional republican management under Bush and eight more years of conventional democratic government under Obama have done nothing to solve America’s most urgent problems brought to the fore in this ugly election campaign: an underperforming economy, the glaring inequality and the unease about race and immigration. So, you can’t blame the electorate for seeking salvation from outside of the political establishment. By doing so, they gave themselves two chances. First you have to accept the possibility that Trump has indeed the answers required to turn the battleship around. He has defied the conventional wisdom at every turn of this election campaign and he may do so again. He certainly has put everything, including his brand and his reputation, on the line to deliver on his promise of a miraculous resurrection of the American experiment. Yet, if he fails in this attempt, the fury of the deprived has a good chance of reaching revolutionary proportions, which may blow up the whole existing political construct. It may have to come to this. Real change is normally not accepted until the pain caused by the status quo exceeds the pain caused by the change. I think we are getting close to that point.

If nothing else comes about under the Trump presidency, he will be able to take credit for having shaken up the Beltway and, like a human earthquake, having lifted both major parties off their foundations. The question is if Trump’s courtship with the deprived, particularly the white underclass, will prove to have been just a campaign ploy or become a strategic underpinning of his administration and a serious attempt at spreading the wealth and reducing the disturbing level of inequality that has resulted from globalization, the technological revolution and an inadequate government response to the changing economic and social landscape.

I have great concerns about many Trump statements made during his campaign. And I condemn him for playing on voters’ fears and bestial instincts with his inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants in general. I am inclined to take a man by his word and his word has been hateful, disrespecting of American values and, more often than not, misleading or outright incorrect.
Yet, already in the immediate aftermath of his electoral victory, Trump has retracted from many of his harshest positions. Just listen to his praise for Hillary Clinton in response to her concession call and his professed respect for president Obama following the first transition meeting between the two. It made me tweet: “will the real president-elect please stand up”. I find it utterly disturbing when you can’t take a man by his word. How can you vote for someone who will say one thing to get elected but without compunction will say the opposite the next day? But the voters have chosen to give him a chance and we should respect that. So, let me put in my five cents worth:

“Mr. Trump, I assume with no hesitation that now that you have been elected you want to be a most successful President. I know that you are not seeking and probably don’t want my advice. But I want you to be successful so that America can get back on track and so I counsel you to use your new office to implement the following policy initiatives:
1.       Push a complete tax overhaul with the intent to simplify, stimulate investment and mitigate inequality.
2.       Push global free and fair trade while protecting the inevitable domestic victims from the ill effects of globalization by means of income protection and re-education.
3.       Adopt the Common Good stance on regulation and facilitate a broad infrastructure investment.
4.       Put the American fiscal house in order.
5.       Get the Congress to help you implement your agenda.

The system is not rigged. The People have spoken. They are now expecting to see results.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I can’t wait for this election to be over and behind us. It’s been too long and far too dispiriting. And it has left me with a worrisome feeling of unease. Unease at multiple levels. In the first place the prospect of seeing the White House occupied by a person who should never have survived a serious vetting process, like a new corporate CEO or a new justice for the Supreme Court would be subjected to, but who survived a two-year long election campaign where sense of entitlement, hubris, bluster and deceit account for more than competency and character.

Unease about the nefarious role our two parties have played in this election. The democratic party by pulling all the strings of power to deliver the nomination on a silver plate to its chosen but deeply flawed heiress and the republican party by given up control of the nomination process to the point that it ended up with a nominee who will destroy the party and is demonstrably unfit to become the leader of the free world. Isn’t it ironic that the democratic party fails as a result of being too controlling while the GOP fails as a result of relinquishing even the marginal control required to keep undesirables out of the halls of power?
Unease about the fact that in two years of bickering and campaigning we have not heard from either candidate how this proud nation can right the ship, get its fiscal house in order and begin to deal with the most serious challenges it faces: inequality, national security, climate control, the cost of healthcare and higher education, drugs and immigration.

It is now more than two years since I addressed these matters in my book NEITHER HERE NOR THERE and offered my suggestions for a more productive American political system, but in our era of being in near permanent election mode, nothing has been accomplished and our problems have only grown.
The unease that feels more uncomfortable than all of the above is the sense that the relationship and communication with my friends and my network have been damaged in the process. There is a long standing unwritten rule that politics and religion are to be kept out of social conversation, unless you have up-front determined that all conversation partners share the same persuasion. But rules are there to be broken and with my best friends I have had numerous conversations about American politics. After all, my book dealt with the subject matter, be it not in a partisan fashion. This time is different though and it is because just about everyone in my social circle sees the upcoming presidential election not as a choice for the better of two qualified candidates, but as a choice for the lesser of two evils. It is different this time because there is very little consensus on which of the two pretenders to the crown constitutes the lesser evil.

I do not trust polls, because I have seen too many times in my life that people will say one thing and do another. Thank goodness, the privacy of the voting booth is still sacrosanct and so I can easily proclaim my support for one candidate and yet cast my ballot for another. In a group of people who have accepted the Donald as the lesser of two evils, it takes superhuman courage to proclaim that they have it wrong and that only crooked Hillary can keep us safe and lead us to the promised land. So, it is better and safer to just keep your opinion to yourself. It is somewhat more acceptable to go half way and say, like governor John Kasich of Ohio says, that you cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate, because both are unfit in your eyes to accept the mantle of the highest office in America and the free world. (How many of us wonder now why, when given the chance, we never gave John Kasich a real shot at the nomination?). But then who do you vote for? We sorely miss a credible third party candidate.

The bottom line is that in the discourse on one of the most important issues of our lives, sincerity and truthfulness are out of the window. The factual negatives that come with each of our two presidential candidates are so overwhelming that it can only be overcome by an article of faith. Faith that, when elected, the preferred candidate will do the right thing in spite of the track record and all the rhetoric used in the election campaign to the contrary. And we don’t argue about faith. End of conversation.
Sometimes setbacks bring out the best in people.  Not in this case, at least not with me. I don’t go as far as thinking of the people in my social circle who differ with me in their choice of the lesser of two evils as irredeemable dummies, but the fact of the matter is that, for the life of me,  I can’t imagine how intelligent, well educated people and upstanding citizens can be so naive to think that the candidate of their choice will throw off all the ballast they have brought into this campaign and magically morph into a reincarnation of the great white knight who will solve all of our problems.

It makes me uneasy that this election campaign is making me question the good judgment of many people who are otherwise dear to me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


With only six weeks to go until the November 8 elections, the country better starts preparing for the inevitable. It will take a miracle now – or an act of God – to prevent the election of an utterly flawed candidate for the Presidency of the United States. And a septuagenarian. A representative of a generation that had its chances and did little or nothing with them. And a representative of a generation that is far removed from the mindset and aspirations of the people who will represent the large majority of the population and the driving force behind the future of this country.

It still blows the mind that this is really happening. That the country with an abundance of proven talent and character has managed to offer up two of the most undesirable egomaniacs as the choice for the future. How much better would we all feel if on November 8 the country could vote for someone like Mitch Daniels, John Kasich or Condoleezza Rice on the republican side or for someone like Jim Webb, Tim Kaine or John Hickenlooper on the democratic side. But it is not to be and we only have ourselves to blame. The question now becomes: how can we limit the damage from this self-inflicted disaster?

The thing to watch out for most is the further creep of the ‘imperial presidency’. The only way to do damage control to compensate for having the wrong person in the White House is for the Congress and the Supreme Court to strictly limit the executive reach of the president to the constitutionally enshrined powers, preferably with a minimalist interpretation. Given the character and the hubris of the two candidates running for the highest office in the nation and given the likelihood of a split Congress, it looks certain that both Trump and Clinton would try to test the boundaries of the executive power and authority, much like Obama has tried in an effort to overcome a hostile and ineffective legislative branch.

The next thing to do is to accept reality and prepare for the future. Whoever wins this time, it is hard to imagine that it will result in more than a one term presidency and in four years we will have the opportunity to erase our mistakes and do it all over again. It would be tremendously beneficial if in the intervening four years a political realignment takes place that would restore the dominance of the moderate center of the right leaning democrats and the left leaning republicans. The impetus for this would have to come from the party that is going to take a drubbing in the 2016 elections. Even with a win for Donald Trump, the republican party will have to decide if it will be the party of Trump or the party of Paul Ryan and Ben Sasse.

What is really missing in our political system is a constitutional requirement for a national strategy. The nation’s challenges are manifold, but we are not in any way forced to have a national discussion about priorities in addressing these challenges and a time-frame within which we expect to get our problems solved. America as a nation should have a clearly articulated vision of where it wants to be ten and twenty years from now and it should have established strategies for implementation. A national strategy like this should be binding upon the Congress and the White House and transcend the changes in administration but be set at a high enough level (like 30,000 ft.) to leave ample room for the two branches to select their ways of implementation in line with their policy views. A constitutionally mandated and protected national strategic plan would limit the freedom of the president to veer off in a direction that would be off strategy.

The existence of a national strategy would also help in restoring faith and confidence in the American miracle. Today there is so much negativity in the media about America’s place in the world that it risks becoming self-fulfilling. The optimism that was so palpable in the Reagan era has evaporated, gone up in thin air. If America had a plan in place that dealt with the future in a constructive sense, people could rally behind it, because in spite of all the political polarization, the love of country has not been lost. People just have very different images of what the USA stands for.

The current election campaign has whipped up passions like seldom before in our recent electoral history. Most people seem to look at the choice in front of us as a choice for the lesser of two evils. But even among friends there is no consensus on which of the two candidates represents the lesser evil and opinions are all based on emotion and extrapolation. The political climate is vitriolic. Some of this is the result of mounting frustration with the ineffectiveness of our politicians to deal with the challenges the country and its people face. But it is raised to a fever pitch by the rhetoric and demagoguery used in this campaign. The genie released by the inflammatory campaign rhetoric will be impossible to be put back into the bottle, regardless of the outcome of this election. At least half of the nation will feel defeated and angered on November 9 and the reaction will either be rebellious or constructive (we lost this one but let’s do something about it). America will have four years to do damage control and offer the people an outlook on a better political future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


If this election was going to be a contest between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, we would be in familiar territory. A centrist Democrat running against a conservative Republican would make it an unremarkable race between true representatives of the two parties that have dominated the American electoral landscape now for more than a century. It would likely cause a low turnout, because passions around these two candidates would not run very high and it would almost certainly result in a Democratic victory, because that is where demographics are steering the outcome of our national elections, all other things being equal.

It is enticing to think that this ‘B-Team election’ might still come to pass, even though it is getting to be late in the day. There are a good number of people who believe that Donald Trump will abandon the race at some point, before November 6 if he sees that he cannot win or after November 6, if he gets elected. The reasoning goes 1) that his candidacy, from day 1, was all about enhancing the Trump brand and proving to the world that a fraud could actually win a presidential election in the USA, even though this would undermine his claim that ‘the system is rigged’; and 2) that he never had the intent to occupy the White House, but just wanted to get on the cover of every magazine and monopolize the media for almost two years. I don’t share this opinion, because I think that he would have picked another, more electable, running mate, if this had been his intent all along. But we can’t rule it out given all the other tricks Trump has already pulled in this campaign, his proven disdain for the GOP and his demonstrated disregard of anyone’s interest other than his own.

John Oliver, the host of HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ show, latched only half-jokingly on this theme when he explained that dropping out would be in the best interest of the Trump brand by saving him from the embarrassment of defeat or being condemned to a government job (and government housing) for the next four years.

On the other side of the race, the pressure on Hillary Clinton keeps mounting. The public seems to have already accepted that she is not trust worthy (not any better than her opponent) and apparently (disturbingly) that fact alone is not enough to deny her a victory in November. But between the continuing FBI investigation of her use of private email servers, the questionable role that the Clinton foundation has played in her service as a public servant (Senator and Secretary of State) and now rumors about her health, more and more facts come out that could derail her presidential ambitions at the last moment.

Given this state of affairs, we can’t completely rule out that, in the end, the race for the White House would be contended by two candidates who were never elected in primaries but nominated by their parties’ first choice candidates. And that, in turn, could mean that America will elect a President who was not vetted in the exhaustive primary process, but simply put in place by a personal decision from a disqualified contender. That does not look like a democratic outcome, does it?

But in this case we simply may have to accept an imperfect execution of the democratic process (who said that democracy is a messy process?) and here is why.

The country could not have come up with worse first choices than it has done in this go-around. Conventional wisdom says that we have to respect the outcome of the political process. That the will of the people, as expressed in the voting booths, will have to be obeyed. But sometimes we have to be contrarian because conventional wisdom is hardly ever forward looking and unequipped to deal with exceptional circumstances.

If we let the A-team have its way, we are going to hand over the leadership of the Western world to a septuagenarian (over the hill) who, for good reasons, is mistrusted by more than half of the American population. If it is Hillary Clinton, we elect someone who has demonstrated to consider herself above the law, of a privileged caste and entitled to the throne. We get a self-serving ‘First Couple’ in the White House that will have put its personal ambitions above the interest of the nation. The only reason why Hillary Clinton would deserve getting votes is to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

If it is Donald Trump, we elect someone who takes advantage of the growing number of dispossessed by whipping up the flames of their anger, hopelessness and frustration. Someone who refuses to do his homework, disrespects the law, disrespects women, minorities and immigrants and makes us wonder, at every outburst of campaign rhetoric, about his mental state and capacity. We would hand over the reins to an unbridled egomaniac who aspires to nothing else than putting the Trump brand on America’s identity.

Is this an acceptable choice for a time when America’s global position and reputation is at stake?

I long for decency, normalcy and predictability and will be rooting for the B-Team.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


One has to wonder if the people who pushed very hard some time ago to get the Republican Party to hold its 2016 national convention in Cleveland are having buyer’s remorse, much like the initiators of the ‘Leave’ campaign for the BREXIT referendum in England.

In a small town like Cleveland, holding an event like a national convention, during a work week in the city center, imposes unreasonable burdens on people and businesses that want to go about their life and business without additional stress. As if the stress of daily life and work in the city in a hot July is not enough! Between the delegates, the security people, the media, the protesters and their entourage, center city Cleveland will be totally taken over, occupied, by the invasion of conventioneers and the people who normally live and work there will be deprived of their normal ingress and egress, their parking spots, their cafes and restaurants and their freedom of movement. No surprise then that a number of businesses, those  that can afford to do so, have chosen to move their offices out to the suburbs for the duration of the GOP convention. Of course, there are beneficiaries too, like the hotels and restaurants that will be fully booked all week and be able to charge top price for their services. And the owners of mansions and condominiums that can rent their real estate out for the week and demand exorbitant prices for doing so.

It looks like the GOP convention in Cleveland is going to be the perfect metaphor for what ails this country and for what drives the anger that is brewing at or just below the surface in this election year: All the burden is going to be on the ordinary citizens and all the spoils go to the select few.

I am a greater Cleveland resident but I have long ago decided that I don’t want to be anywhere near this scene. My family will spend the last two weeks of July at an Atlantic coast beach to escape the madness and the inconvenience.

So far, this year 2016 has been an exceptionally good year for Cleveland. LeBron James has delivered on his promise to bring an NBA championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers and, at the brink of the All Star Game, the Cleveland Indians are overwhelming the competition for the leadership in the central division of the American League. The city, that has worked hard to shed its image of a corrupt and bankrupt place where even the river could catch fire, has justifiably taken pride in being chosen as the site for the GOP convention, that is, until the primaries had played themselves out and it had become clear that what was supposed to be a festive convention would turn into either a coronation of a fraudulent demagogue or an unprecedented last minute power grab by the party establishment. Either way, with all the other protests already alive on America’s streets, it is hard to see how the Cleveland convention can be spared the ignominy of turning into a street fight.

What happens in Cleveland between July 18 and 21 transcends the interest of the Republican Party and its adherents. It poses a dilemma of constitutional significance. It will put the question to the nation: ‘When will the interest in a competent, trustworthy and responsible person in charge of the highest office in the free world trump the expressed will of primary voters?’

I will not go as far as comparing Trump to Hitler or Mussolini, but I will use their names to illustrate a point. And the point of analogy is that Hitler and Mussolini too were sanctioned by the constitutional rules in place at the time in their respective countries. It was only after the constitutional process had placed these misfits in a position of power that they systematically abused that power with disastrous consequences for their nations and the world.

By my book there is a legitimate question: ‘When will good governance require that the expressed will of the voting public be overruled on the grounds that the chosen candidate is morally, emotionally and intellectually unfit to ascend to the highest office in the land?’ Think about all the death and demise the world would have been spared if Hitler and Mussolini had not been allowed to rise to power!

In the case at hand it is important to establish that even though Trump got more votes and won more delegates than any of his GOP contenders only a small fraction of the American voting public gave him a vote of confidence (that is the nature of primary elections).

Our constitution does not offer a ‘work-around’ for situations like this. This is somewhat remarkable given the fact that our founding fathers loudly and repeatedly warned against the rule by the mob. But, of course, in their time only the economically and intellectually privileged men had voting rights, which addressed that threat. In this day and age, under normal circumstances, the general election should expose the flaws in the nominee of either party and lead to the election of the nominee of the other party. But this year is anything but normal with the presumptive nominee of the opposing party despised by many, representative of an un-American dynasty mentality, and narrowly escaping prosecution for mishandling sensitive and secret information. If there ever was a choice between the lesser of two evils, this is it! Our nation, desperately in need of getting things done, would not be well served with such choice.

That’s why maybe, in this case, Republican leaders need to step in at or before the Cleveland convention and prevent a Trump ascendency. You may not want to be in the streets of Cleveland when that happens. But you may not want to live in America when it does not.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Growing up in the Netherlands, my history teachers made very sure that I understood the meaning and the history of the expression “La Perfide Albion”. Albion, of course, being the archaic name for Great Britain. After all, the Dutch had fought three wars against the British, all in the seventeenth century when the Netherlands was a power at par with England and even felt compelled to sail its Dutch fleet up the river Thames to scare the daylight out of Londoners and teach the British a lesson. And we were not alone in our mistrust in the British. The French coined the phrase “La Perfide Albion” after the French revolution when England turned its back on the French Republic and aligned itself with the other great European powers who all had preserved their monarchies.

Seen in this context, there seems to be nothing new in England’s decision to turn its back on the European Union. You can never rely on the Brits to be predictable. Days after the fateful vote in the BREXIT referendum most observers and even most actors in the event are still in disbelief with the outcome. Europe went to sleep on June 24 thinking that the British voters, when it came to brass tacks, would not have the audacity to leave the EU. After all, virtually all the pundits, the markets and even the bookies had told them so. That explains the depth of the shock experienced when people and markets were waking up the next morning to the reality that more Brits had chosen to leave the EU than to remain, be it only by a small margin. To bet against the prevailing wisdom must have paid off handsomely!

But here we are, the British voters have spoken and now the real question is “what’s next”. Judging by the developments of the last few days, that question will not be easily nor quickly answered. Both in Brussels and in London officials are struggling to make sense out of the chaos created by the referendum. One thing has become abundantly clear: Much like after the Pyrrhus victory of the USA over Sadam Hussein’s Iraq, the Pyrrhus victory of “Leave” over “Remain” exposes the ugly reality that the politicians who were actively promoting BREXIT have failed to have even a rudimentary plan in place for how to proceed now that they have won. They may have won the battle, but can they win the war? 
David Cameron made a crucial mistake when he decided to appease the anti-EU faction in his party by offering to put the BREXIT question to a referendum. As much as he believed (and was told) that he could not possibly lose that vote and had, therefore, offered an empty pacifier in an attempt to once and for all end the Conservative party rift on the issue of the EU, he failed to unequivocally stand up and make the argument that leaving the EU would be like turning the clock back forty-three years. It looked like preserving party unity was more important to him than preserving EU strength in solidarity. The other mistake he made is that he allowed the referendum to be decided by a simple majority. If he felt that a referendum was the appropriate tool by which to resolve the dispute, he should have required a qualified majority for an exit decision. The decision to break up 43 years of European integration is so momentous and consequential that it should not have been decided against the will of a large minority, which included almost all business and opinion leaders in the UK.

It seems though that, in the end, Cameron’s principal opponent, Boris Johnson, who ostensibly came out as the winner in this contest, may have made even bigger mistakes and managed to put himself in a no win situation. He has little choice but to run for the leadership of his party now that David Cameron is resigning. If he fails to get the party behind him, he is finished. But if he does, he will have to follow through on the promises he made in the BREXIT campaign, when it is already clear that delivering on these promises is unwise, impractical and virtually undoable. If he fails to give his supporters what they voted for he will also be jettisoned. Finally, if he becomes the Conservative leader and British prime minister and he pulls the UK out of the EU, the UK itself will break up, the EU will play hardball and the British economy and people will be suffering the consequences. There seems to be no way to win for Boris. (He apparently realizes his conundrum and announces just now that he does not want to stand for the leadership of the Conservative party.) Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is in no better position. He failed his party and his people and yet resists stepping down after convincingly losing a no-confidence vote.

There is a real question mark if the politicians who drove the “Leave” vote have the quality, the capacity, to now do the hard work of negotiating the exit conditions with the EU and the bilateral trade agreements they will need, now that they will be excluded from the EU trade umbrella.
The fundamental and serious problem with all of this stumbling is that when politicians fail, the people are paying the price.

I grew up in an era of admiration for the Brits who, at their own peril, stood up against the Nazis and fought a long hard and bitter war against the Axis. Without the Brits (Churchill’s leadership), America would have stayed out of the war in Europe and the Allies would have lost. European unity would have been imposed and enforced by Nazi Germany in a much different way from how the European Union was put together. On the other hand, the perfidiousness of Albion showed up immediately after the war when Churchill, who had engineered the victory, was unceremoniously dismissed by the British voters.

Britain, after the war, has been a faithful and reliable partner for the US in the Cold War and a dependable force in building global institutions, like the UN, NATO, the IMF and the World Bank, that could take the sharp edge off nationalist tendencies that had disturbed the peace for centuries. And it still is. With the continuing globalization, the threat of radical Islam, the resulting refugee problem and the emergence of China as a formidable undemocratic world power, the western alliance, of which the USA, Great Britain and the EU are the linchpins, should be strengthened rather than weakened.And the rift, caused by the British BREXIT vote, can only be detrimental to the strength of that alliance. It should, and easily could, have been avoided.

There is plenty of room for constructive criticism of what the EU has morphed into. It is a valid question if it has been too ambitious in growing its membership, in taking away more authority from the member states than it had to in order to be effective. And the growth of its faceless bureaucracy and stifling regulation is cause for legitimate concern as is the cost of supporting this super national apparatus. But all of these issues could have been addressed inside the union. If there is any good to come out of BREXIT it is that it will compel the leadership of the EU and the member nations to seriously address the merit of significant and structural changes to the system of European super national governance. That discussion should have been had, with British participation, a long time ago.

BREXIT is a case study in miscalculation, political arrogance and unintended consequences. It was brought about by the Brits, voting to give up on the European Union. Which will give the history teachers of my grandchildren good reason to teach them about the Perfide Albion.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


It should not be this way. Democracy is supposed to be an uplifting, inspired and inspiring experiment, but America in election mode is a most dispiriting experience and never more so than in the seemingly endless run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why do we allow the agony, like a slow torture, to be interminable? Who wants it this way? 

I find it hard to believe that the candidates are driving this. Getting up early every day before dawn, for two years and without reprieve, to be ready to confront the press that is following you like a dog on the scent of a female in heat and deliver the same message over and over again at county fairs, high school auditoriums, VFW halls and road-side diners. Who would enjoy this? And what do you get, when you win in the end? An impossible job, where every misstep you make can have catastrophic consequences, while your opportunity to do good is limited by something that is called ‘division of power’ and the fact that about half of your constituents want you to fail.

The two parties don’t want this. A two year election campaign becomes a free for all and the parties are losing control, which has never been as evident as this year.

The public, or at least a majority of the public does not want it this way, because their favorite TV programs get interrupted every few minutes by campaign commercials and the campaigns exacerbate the polarization that divides families and put strain on personal and business relationships. And, in the meantime, the nation’s business gets neglected, put on the backburner.

The only beneficiaries, it seems, of the American way of electioneering are the TV Stations, the cable companies and the press. For them our misery is their windfall that keeps on giving. But is their support enough to continue to play by the same rules ad infinitum?

This year’s presidential election campaign is unusually distressing because it brings to the fore two candidates who, even within their own party, are widely despised and rejected. How can we expect the general voting public—and the world watching us—to get enthused about this proverbial ‘lesser of two evils’ choice? America is in an existential crisis and the lesser of two evils will have to lead it out of the danger zone and into a new era of world dominance? It is now clear that the 2017 inauguration will crown a seriously flawed character, aged at or near 70, as the presumed leader of the Western world. Is that the best America can do? Is that the leadership that we need and deserve? It is maddening to think that in four years this mess will get repeated again and that the world will pass us by, in no mood to wait for us to get our act together. America moves from one era of missed opportunity to the next.

Maybe this is the way it has to be. Maybe, the only way America can get its act together is by letting things get so bad that it will finally dawn on us that fundamental change of our political system is in order to right the ship. In that sense a Trump win might be just the thing America needs. But hold on to your seats, because we would be in for a bumpy and potentially dangerous ride. If Donald Trump is elected President and if he makes good on only half of his promises and threats, America will be in a world of trouble before we get to evaluate the pace setting first hundred days of the Trump Presidency. Ian Bremmer, founder and president of the Eurasia Group and author of the book “Superpower, Three Choices for America’s Role in the World”, gave us an excellent preview of what we can expect from a Trump presidency in his June 3 article for Politico, titled “Trump and the World: What Could Actually Go Wrong.” It is frightening and what is even more frightening is that the defeated and deflated republican establishment is standing by, powerless to stop the madness.

What America needs, but will not get from either candidate, is a fundamental restructuring of the American political system, i.e.
·         An end to the two party system (which may actually result from the party conventions that will show more acrimony than unity)
·         Banning or severely curtailing the money influence in American politics
·         Open primaries in all States
·         A six months limit on the whole process of primaries, conventions and general election campaign
·         Reduced frequency of elections and term limits for all elected offices
·         An end to gerrymandering of voting districts

Without such drastic restructuring of the American political system we will not—regardless of who occupies the White House—be able to begin to address the top imperatives for America’s success in the future that has already begun. Rather than invigorating our economy, reducing the destabilizing inequality, working on a modern infrastructure and a healthier environment, we will continue our internecine battles and abandon the values of tolerance, pluralism, open borders, equality before the law and care for those who can’t care for themselves, which have made America the exceptional nation it once was and still can be.

Friday, May 20, 2016


These days I’ll do just about anything to insulate myself from the election rhetoric and speculation and stay away from the cable news channels on TV. Thus I find myself occasionally watching shows like ‘Pit Bulls and Parolees’ or ‘Cesar 911’. 
I like dogs and I have had two dogs, Duke and Rose, as faithful companions in my life but, unlike my youngest son Michael, I’ve never succeeded in becoming a dog whisperer. I now know that showing your dog unwavering love, attention and respect while all the time asserting yourself as the ‘alpha leader of the pack’ is key to success in training a dog to be the companion you want to have. That, together with plenty of physical exercise and positive reinforcement of desired behavior (and absence of abuse and corporal punishment) will shape or rehabilitate the behavior of just about any dog that is considered aggressive, dangerous or unmanageable by their untrained owners and their community. It is amazing to see what a difference people like Cesar Millan (in Cesar 911) and Tia Torres (in Pit Bulls and Parolees) can make in the behavior of dogs who, by their owners and bystanders, are considered beyond control.

This, as a recurring nightmare, brings me back to thinking about the 2016 presidential election. It strikes me that the voters, who have brought Trump to the top of the GOP ticket and Sanders close enough to give Hillary Clinton and the DNC the jitters about a repeat of the 2008, are much like the misunderstood and mismanaged pit bulls of the dog rescue shows. If a dog’s aggressive and unruly behavior can be blamed primarily on bad treatment and neglect from its owner, so can the voters’ ballots in favor of unconventional candidates like Trump and Sanders and their disdain for conventional candidates like Bush, Clinton and Kasich, be blamed on near criminal neglect of the voters by the political establishment. So many constituencies that, together, form the American voting bloc have good reasons to be raving mad about the disregard for their plight and grievances demonstrated by the ruling political elite. It seems that all three branches of government are failing the American people at the same time, just like dog owners who don’t provide proper care and leadership to their pets are failing their ‘best friends’. None of the pressing issues facing the American public get resolved. Not the monstrous inequality, not the out of control national debt, not the immigration reform, not the addiction problems, not the cost of education or healthcare, not the unfunded future of Medicare and Social Security. The political establishment rather sticks its head in the sand than face the need for corrective action.

It is only logical then that people start looking for a dog whisperer, a pied piper, who gives them a voice and articulates their grievances. In different times and nations this would be a time for revolution, for forced quantum change in government like a military take-over or a dictatorship based in an activist power base. In contemporary America, people seem to be pinning their hopes on a dramatic change in control of the White House and are willing to place their bets on candidates that, in their words and politically incorrect behavior, promise a diametrical change in policy. That is why they flock in droves to the two populist demagogues this campaign has put forward.

But this is where the analogy with the dog whisperers ends. The dogs that end up in the care of Cesar Millan or Tia Torres are lucky to be in competent hands that have the expertise and means to rehabilitate the ones that were about to be given up on. The American people are not so lucky. If they follow the pied piper and put either Trump or Sanders in the White House, they are sure to be more malcontent and mad four years from now than they are today. And if the silent segment of the voting public prevails and brings Hillary and Bill back to the highest office in the land, the next four years will look much like the past sixteen and the frustration is likely to grow. It will make the dogs only meaner and more unruly.

What allows the dog whisperers to turn around a seemingly lost cause is the assertion of commanding leadership, supported by compassion, trust and respect for the beneficiaries of their leadership. All of that is sorely missing from this election campaign.

When, ever, has a populist demagogue become the salvation for a nation? Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines? Juan Peron in Argentina? Fidel Castro in Cuba? Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Abdul Nasser in Egypt? Lenin in Russia? Adolph Hitler in Germany? Benito Mussolini in Italy? Francisco Franco in Spain? They all found the words that soothed the pain of neglect and humiliation in their followers but they lacked the moral authority and statesmanship required to offer their people more than a band aid. To the ears of experienced listeners, the words of Trump sound so hollow, so phony, demeaning and biased and the words of Sanders, while genuine, sound so impractical and retrograde that I find it hard to believe that the voters in November will swallow them as gospel. Yet, if the voters do just that and put their trust in a modern day pied piper they put a nation at risk at a time that it needs to pull together behind a future oriented strategy to stay ahead in the global competition for economic strength and social stability.

Yes, voters have good reasons to be raving mad, but they are barking up the wrong tree.

Monday, May 9, 2016


The overriding promise that brought Donald Trump triumph in the GOP primary season is that ‘he will make America great again’. With that slogan he nailed down, with precision, the popular sentiment that so many Americans are harboring these days. It satisfies a yearning that resides deep inside the American psyche. That, of course, is what politicians do. Obama, in 2008, promised a much desired ‘change’ from the Bush attempt to lead the world. And Trump just carries this a step further and promises to make America great again. What is wrong with that? It has caught on like wildfire and upset all the conventional wisdom about American election politics. The problem is in the presumption implied in the message.

This presumption, that Trump builds his whole campaign on, is false. America is a great nation by any yardstick or measurement. It is just the American political system that stinks and—if that is the problem—Trump is the must unsuitable candidate to do something about it.

For a world power to be called a ‘leading nation’ in this age of globalization there must be a flock of sympathetic nations to lead and Trump has been doing a terrific job of alienating just about every ally we have. Admittedly, there was a time, like when Britannia ruled the waves, that a nation could lead the world simply by extension of power, but that era has come and gone. The world now looks for real, substantive, leadership in world governance, in advancing the world economy and improving the living conditions for the whole world population now and in the future.

America will safeguard and preserve its status as a great nation not by the hollow, boisterous and outrageous pronouncements by a demagogue presidential candidate but only by leading by example, by being better than any other nation in creating wealth, in protecting the environment, in attracting the world’s best talent, in respecting everyone’s culture and religious belief and in giving all of its inhabitants a fair shake. A great nation also accepts responsibility for maintaining world peace and prosperity.

A man should be taken at his word. A true leader will say what he is going to do and will do as he says. The only saving grace in the Trump ascension to the GOP throne is that, to the critical thinker, it should be clear that Trump cannot and will not, probably does not even have an intent to, deliver on his more provocative promises.

Build a wall between the USA and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it? Are we finally going to take revenge for the Alamo?

Deport 11 million undocumented aliens and then allow them to come back through the turnstiles of the INS? A sure way of wrecking the economy by taking out the workers, on the farm, in our yards and kitchens, we rely on to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do anymore.

Refuse people of the Muslim faith entry into the USA? Apart from the dubious constitutionality of such measure, do we really need more hatred, disdain and animosity from and towards the Islamic world?

Put all the mineworkers back to work? To produce coal with nowhere to go than up in the air to give nature an uninvited hand in the speed-up of naturally occurring global warming?

Bringing back waterboarding and a whole lot worse? Apart from the flaunting of American values and the dubious reliability of intelligence gained from these methods, where is he going to find the operatives in our intelligence and security forces, who have already moved beyond such counterproductive techniques, to apply torture in defiance of rules of conduct applied to them?

Revoking NAFTA and other major trade agreements? Can we really afford to ‘go it alone’ in a globalized environment and leave it to China to sign up the trade partners that we now reject? Do we simply ignore the overwhelming evidence that free and fair trade, as a rising tide, lifts all boats?

Reject the nuclear deal with Iran and give the Iranians a clear, unimpeded path, to deployment of their own nuclear arsenal?

It is true that, by the wisdom of our constitution, there is only so much that the President can do on his own and, if elected, Trump will find that he will have to eat crow on most everything he has declared he will do when in office. But, if people are concerned about Obama constantly testing the limits of executive power, wait until you have Trump, who is used to getting it his way in his empire, in his place. And, just by his ‘policy’ statements he can do a world of harm if he does not change his tune once he would occupy the White House.

Ultimately, for the USA to remain the leading nation, it will require a functional system of government in which the executive and legislative branches come together to address the real needs of the nation that are currently unattended to, even as they are at the root of the restlessness of the voting public we see in the emergence of unconventional candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


What we are witnessing in the 2016 election year is a lot of pent-up anger and frustration with the failure of the public sector (the federal government in particular) to acknowledge and address the worries of the average American citizen and now, like eight years ago, people are looking for a ‘fresh face’ promising to finally give them some satisfaction.

That is why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders get so much traction and following.

But are our malcontents barking up the wrong tree?

If you think about the things that our malcontents are upset about, it is not clear at all that a simple change of face at the White House can provide the desired relief. After all, Barack Obama was going to offer change that we could all believe in, but after two almost complete terms it is clear that not much of substance has changed. At least not in the plight of the average American citizen.

What is it that our malcontents are most upset about and fearful of? It may not be the same for everyone, but it will definitely include:
·         The lack of income security combined with an ever increasing burden to pay taxes, medical and educational expenses and to save money for retirement, for children’s tuition and weddings and for elder care for parents; the money pool is shrinking and cost is inexorably rising.
·         The anxiety about the increasing prevalence of addictions, obesity, depression and other mental disorders affecting their lives and the lives of their children.
·         The widening gap between their living conditions and the affluence of the wealthiest Americans.
·         Dissatisfaction with their elected representatives who promise the world but fail to deliver on their promises or hold political/ideological beliefs they don’t share.

The malcontents have yet to come to grips with the fact that the world has irreversibly changed as a result of technology driven global competition. They have good reason to feel let down by their government for not preparing them for the changed environment and for not offering them the cushioning effect of retraining and income support programs. So, they are suckers for anything and anyone offering them the nirvana of a better future. And for someone who promises to go after the perpetrators of their misfortune. Unfortunately they are almost certainly setting themselves up for another disappointment. The ancient Romans already had an expression for this phenomenon: “Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur ergo” which translates to “the world wants to be assuaged by deception, so let it be deceived”.

If the malcontents manage to challenge their furor into the election of a radically different, non-conventional, president of the United States—like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump would be— they are in for another huge let down. They fail to recognize that the problem is not with whoever happens to occupy the White House but with the intransigence of the American political system. Notwithstanding all the campaign promises, a new president can’t bring about a Wall Street revolution nor can he wave a magic wand that will make America great again by curing it of all the ills afflicting it today. Do we ever learn? With each transition from one presidency to the next, particularly when it shifts from one to the other party, comes the promise and the hope that things will fundamentally change, but all we ever get to experience is tinkering at the margin. What stands in the way of real change?
1.       The US Constitution which has carefully crafted a balance of power between the three branches of government.
2.       Two parties dividing congressional seats, as long as they have roughly equal support from the voting public.
3.       The election system, including the frequency of elections, the terms for office holders, the electoral college and some archaic rules of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
4.       The influence of money in politics.

Suppose for a moment that one of the ‘mavericks’ gets voted into the highest office of the land. How will he convince Congress (against the will of the special interests) to begin to roll back the income- and wealth inequality, to simplify the tax code and eliminate most if not all of the exemptions, to shore up the major entitlement programs, to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform plan, to provide relief for the exorbitant cost of healthcare and higher education and to deal with criminal justice reform? The other party, after missing out on control of the White House, will engage the help of the ‘money men’, and not allow the newcomer to steal the show.

There is nothing in the works to change the American political system as we know it. That has some merit, because it protects against an ideologically driven, authoritarian, push by a populist president. But it also stands in the way of badly needed policy adjustments that would put America back on the right track. All the demagoguery of the populist candidates in the election campaign to the contrary, the next president will not be able to do more, or better, than his predecessors unless the gridlock in Washington DC is broken by fundamental changes in the political system.

In the meantime it is alarming that the two populist candidates, as far apart ideologically as they and their parties appear to be, are fanning the flames of the anti-immigration and anti- free trade sentiment expressed by the malcontents who fail to see that import of talent and youth and free and fair global trade are crucial to growth and prosperity for future generations of Americans. In that respect too, the malcontents are barking up the wrong tree.

Friday, March 4, 2016


When the 2016 presidential election campaign featured its first GOP debate with 15 candidates and two sessions because no stage was big enough to hold them all, you had to wonder “do all these people fit under one tent?”

Our political spectrum has outgrown the comfort of two party control and it shows in both the republican and the democratic election campaign. Most clearly on the GOP side, where only a few months ago the party bosses went out of their way to make Donald Trump declare his unfailing loyalty to the party and now find themselves openly toying with the idea to find an establishment representative to run a third party candidate in case Trump wins the GOP nomination. But also on the democratic side where Bernie Sanders represents such a far left position that the center and the  traditional liberal positions have to be covered by one and the same person, Hillary Clinton. Now, admittedly, she is eminently suited to play that role because she has proven that she can change color faster than a chameleon and she will say or do just about anything to get elected. In that sense she is a superb politician.

As we all know, crises are too precious a thing to waste. If anything good is to come out of this year’s messy and distressing election campaign, it may be the splintering, the shattering, of the republican and the democratic parties. The end of the antiquated two party system that has outlived its suitability and no longer reflects the reality on the ground. Going into the 2016 elections the number of voters registered as Independent is larger than the number of registered Democrats or Republicans. In fact, Independents may represent as much as 42% of the voters in 2016. If that is the case, how much sense does it make to ask all these people to make a choice between one candidate anointed by the Republican Party and another candidate anointed by the Democratic Party? If more than 40% of the voters does not want to be identified with, or committed to, one of the two traditional parties and wants to be free to base their vote on the merit of the person or the issue in front of them rather than on party affiliation, what sense does it make to try to put them back in the straightjacket of the two party system? Let’s face the facts, the toothpaste is out of the tube and there is no way to push it back in. The modern world is too complex to be captured in a simple duality that was devised centuries ago.

The only feature of our current political system that is more detrimental to good public governance than the existing two party system is the stranglehold of money in politics.

It may, therefore, turn out to be a blessing that we see the big tents collapsing under their own weight. There is no roof large and strong enough to shelter all the big egos of republicans as disparate as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Paul Rand, Ben Carson and John Kasich (not to mention Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum or Chris Christie). The RNC has lost the capacity to build a platform that seriously addresses the needs of the nation and that all these so called republicans can subscribe to. It leaves the voters no choice but to let go of their party affiliation and go to the ballot box not to vote for the party and the program of their choice but for the candidate or person of their choice.
It is the incapacity of the RNC to articulate a conservative platform for the 21st century that creatively and effectively deals with free and fair trade, with measures to reduce inequality and mitigate the effects thereof, with a humane and smart immigration policy, with tax and entitlement reform, with criminal justice reform, with reduction in the cost of healthcare and higher education and with the gradual slicing of the national debt, that has enabled a rogue, opportunistic and populist puppet like Donald Trump to steal the show.

If the Republican Party can’t offer constructive solutions for the future let’s see a new party (or parties) emerge that will offer the voting public a clear ideological and practical platform to move forward on.

On the democratic side the situation is not much different be it somewhat obscured by Elizabeth Warren’s decision to stay out of the melee and by the lack of traction that centrist democrats like Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley were able to get in a year where the party had long committed to give Hillary Clinton the opportunity that she was denied by the meteoric ascendance of Barack Obama in 2008.

Why is the republican establishment scrambling to find a white horse that can pull them away from the abyss (of their own making), that has suddenly opened up in front of them by the phenomenon of Donald Trump? Because they begin to realize that they have allowed the party to be gored at the center, to be eviscerated of the stable core of its constituency that has traditionally provided its flag bearer in national elections and that has, more often than not, placed a republican in the White House. What happens to the party influence in Congress and the State Capitols when the party of Lincoln now becomes the party of Trump (the brand identity elevated to the man’s highest ambition)? Where will the loyalties go of the republicans who were elected governor, State representative or State senator? Interesting and important questions. Here is my take: I think that we will be facing a reconstitution of the political landscape in the USA where the time for big tents will have come and gone. It may be tough for party loyalists to accept, but it may be just what the doctor ordered if we finally want to break gridlock in Washington DC caused by a stalemate between two archaic, retrogressive and polarized parties of our forebears. 

Friday, February 26, 2016


It can’t really be happening, can it?

It is coming up on two years since I finished writing my book ‘NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, A First Generation Immigrant in Search of American Exceptionalism’ in which I voiced my concern about the direction the American political system had drifted in and now I can hardly believe what I’m seeing. This is a classic case of the need to be careful what you wish for. I argued for a fundamental change in the American political system and that appears to be on the horizon now, except not in the way I envisaged it.

I saw the danger for the USA primarily coming from the dysfunction in the Beltway and the resulting inaction on any of the major challenges the nation has to deal with, not from a completely unqualified contender at the top of the GOP leaderboard for the 2016 presidential elections. I have long maintained, and still do, that it matters less who occupies the White House than it matters who controls Congress, the governors’ mansions and the State legislatures. The President of the United States can only do so much on his/her own. That part our founding fathers definitely got right. They did not want another king or emperor in charge with imperial power and unbridled authority. But that does not take away that the leader of the free world can still exert a lot of influence on how the world turns, for better or for worse.

In the first place, POTUS is also commander in chief with fiduciary control of the military might of the USA, including its nuclear arsenal. We all want a judicious, steady hand on the nuclear button here at home as with our potential adversaries.

Second, as we are momentarily reminded, POTUS nominates the members of the third branch of government, the Supreme Court and the Federal Appeal Courts. And the judiciary exerts more and more influence on American life by filling the void as the Congress fails to tackle the most important issues facing the nation.

Third, POTUS represents the country in meetings and negotiations with foreign powers and global institutions.

Finally, POTUS has it within his/her power to dominate the public discourse by using the bully pulpit and the free media attention that comes with it. That is what a demagogue values most.

In this context, the primary imperative for any new ascendant to the presidency of the United States is ‘to do no harm’. If you review the record of the 44 presidents the republic has endured, then it is hard to argue that more than a handful of them have been transformational in a positive sense. But generally they have been able to avoid doing great harm to the country, in a way like Hitler has done to Germany, Stalin has done to the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong has done to China. Most US presidencies have been forgettable and done harm only in the sense of wasting time and squandering opportunities. 

But that may change if the American people don’t come to their senses and keep Donald Trump from becoming the nation’s 45th president. If Trump gets elected and follows through on some of his most outrageous campaign statements about the Middle East, North Korea, China, Russia and Mexico, America will be in a world of trouble the likes of which we have not ever seen before. Max Boot and Benn Steil elaborate on this in an excellent article in the upcoming issue of the Weekly Standard under the title ‘Selling America Short’.

Who can, in good conscience, vote for a candidate for the highest office in the USA (if not the world) who speaks in vulgar, insulting and demeaning slogans only, who promises action no US president is authorized by the constitution to undertake and who refuses to address with any specificity the question what he will do to deal with the most formidable challenges the nation faces?

It is time to suspend our disbelief. The betting world gives Donald Trump better than even odds to not only grab the Republican nomination but also then to proceed and beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. The only authority that can prevent that from happening is not the RNC, the DNC, the FBI, the IRS or the Supreme Court (unless, of course, the IRS audit surfaces tax evasion or other irregularities or the FBI finds evidence of malfeasance at the Trump University), but the American voting public. However, there is a real danger that a significant voting block will be so disenchanted with a Trump-Clinton contest that they don’t bother to go to the polls, which will definitely be in Trump’s favor because his supporters, smelling blood in the water, will not pass up this opportunity.

Do we really want to make the White House the home of a 24/7 reality show, the mother of all reality shows, and make America as disrespected as Italy was under Silvio Berlusconi? Do we really want a narcissistic, idiosyncratic, apprentice at the top of our federal government? If not, let all the voices of reason speak out before it is too late.