An Open Letter to President-Elect Joe Biden

Here’s an earlier piece I wrote way back in June 2019 in the good ‘ole days before Covid-19. Back then the outlook for a change of administrations was an uncertainty. Now, it is a reality.

Yet, more so than ever, we need to hold President-elect Biden to these higher standards and we expect, no, we demand, a return of the America we lost during these last four years. And we expect that while he cannot change the past, he will insure a better future by not ignoring science and rationalism overself-aggrandizing political posturing and lies.

It would seem to me he has kept some of these promises already in the manner in which he ran his campaign, in the historic and long overdue selection of a woman of color to be Vice-President, and in his focus on surrounding himself with the best and the brightest to combat the pandemic.

But we expect more of the same.


Seal of the President of the United States - Wikipedia

Promise Me, Joe

Before America puts its fate in your hands, we need some assurances. You, more so than most candidates, including the incumbent, appreciate the enormous burdens and responsibilities facing the President of the United States. While you can tell us what you want to accomplish, anyone with any common sense understands how the realities of the world can change the best of intentions. With that in mind I’d like you to promise me some things.

Promise me, Joe.

Promise me, Joe, you will run a campaign focusing on the issues facing America not wallow in the infantile churlish behavior of name calling twitter wars.

Promise me, Joe, you will act in accordance with what is in the best interest of the American people not what tracks with any political agenda or platform yet always bearing in mind we are part of the world at large.

Promise me, Joe, you will remember we have a government comprising
three equal powers and you will treat them with the same dignity and respect you expect for the office you seek.

Promise me, Joe, you will work to embrace bi-partisan cooperation with Congress. Do not seek Congressional acquiescence seek their input into developing policies and laws which lead America out of the morass of the past few years.  

Promise me, Joe, you will restore the dignity and respect for the Office of the President so callously and foolishly twittered away over the past few years.

Promise me, Joe, you will form policies that protect America
without losing our willingness to embrace those in need.

Promise me, Joe, you will never put children in cages no matter what resources it may take to accomplish this. Of all the disasters of policy, this is the most troubling.

Promise me, Joe, you will not waste time attacking the media or your critics but focus on addressing legitimate problems the freedom of the press uncovers and valid criticisms raised.

Promise me, Joe, you will not waste time talking about making America great again but foster the things that have always made us

Promise me, Joe, you will restore America’s standing in the eyes of the world not threaten and challenge to promote jingoistic and nationalist propaganda.

Promise me, Joe, you will foster a global approach to policy recognizing the inherent right of all people, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin, to live in a peaceful world with a fair opportunity to thrive.

Promise me, Joe, you will renew the promise of the enlightenment where intelligent discourse arrives at solutions based on rational, in-depth analysis.

Promise me, Joe, you will select Supreme Court candidates not for their willingness to promote your policies but for their fealty to the Constitution of the United States.

Promise me, Joe, you will work diligently to ensure the rights of women to control their own bodies is not usurped by selfish religious fervor disguised as concern for others.

Promise me, Joe, you will wield the enormous military power of this country to defend us, our allies, and those who cannot defend themselves. Never to intimidate, cajole, or terrorize others.

Promise me, Joe, you will recapture the spirit of those great men who have gone before you into the Office of the President and,

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

President John F. Kennedy

Promise me, Joe, we will no longer be the nation once described by a former ally who said,

“It is hard to be America’s enemy, but it is harder to be her friend.”

President Thieu, Republic of South

Promise me, Joe, it will never once again be difficult to be America’s friend and you will lead the nation with a firm but fair hand, with a bent toward compassion, and with willingness to ensure the continuity of the greatness of America.

Promise me, Joe, you will remember the greatness of America comes not from our power as a nation but from the American people themselves.

Promise me, Joe. There has never been a greater time in history when the world needs to know America is that bright, shining city on the hill.

Promise me, Joe.

“They’re the Young Generation (and they’ve got something to say)

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…” President John F. Kennedy 

The winds of change—unstoppable and inevitable—course through these United States.  Often such change begins with destruction of what was, scattering the pieces of the past askew. But like a forest fire destroying lives to prolong life, the devastation brings opportunity.

In 2016 anger drove many Americans to abandon principals—to ignite the flames of destruction—in exchange for a firestorm named Trump. They believed the mere act of burning down the past would set it right. 

But even a devastating fire leaves some things unharmed. It does not destroy all the trees.

This election will not be decided by people like myself who will vote for anyone but Donald Trump.

This election will not be decided by those who would grant Trump the Presidency without the benefit of an election.

This election will not be decided by those who have already made up their minds.

This election will be decided by a new generation. And they have the clarity of the past to measure the need for real, rational change.

History may not repeat, but it rhymes (a quote attributed to Mark Twain but who knows?) Here, the rhyme is the rise of a new generation to seize the mantle of leadership.

Men like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders represent those of the Kennedy age who have served their country as they saw fit to do it. While I may not agree with everything they represent, they have been men of integrity. Not perfect, not flawless, but committed to fundamental honesty.

It is time they recognize the moment to pass the torch has arrived.

Pete Buttigieg ( well-educated, articulate, Navy veteran) and Amy Klobuchar (an accomplished lawyer and Senator) represent the rise of a new generation. Their resumes read like the American dream, striving for excellence.

While John Kennedy’s generation rose to preeminence tempered by World War II and the Cold War, this new generation is tempered by asymmetric warfare, instant communication, climate change, a more vibrant global economy, and complex–in some cases nuclear armed–geopolitics.

There has never been a time more critical for a cerebral President, attuned to embracing complexities, than now.

In 1959, during the race between Kennedy and Nixon, Kennedy’s Catholicism posed a major issue for voters. His youth posed another. These were divisive issues upon which many voters based their decisions. Yet that generation rose to the challenge.

In 1960, the idea that someday there would be a Black President was the stuff of disbelief for some and disaster for others.

Times changed and it came to pass.

Now, there is the real chance of a woman or a gay person occupying the White House. That this possibility exists is a good thing, that some will consider these salient issues upon which to base their votes shows we still have a ways to go.

And the only way we will get there is to learn from the past, but look forward to the future.

I, for one, am excited by the prospect of a new generation of American Leadership.

Presidential and Not-so-Presidential Quotes

Every President has a signature line or a memorable quote. A moment in time that everyone who heard it will remember.

Kennedy had, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Johnson had, “I will not seek, and I shall not accept, the nomination of my party to run for President.”

Nixon began a sad trend in memorable moments, “I am not a crook.”

Gerald Ford briefly recovered our pride with his line after Nixon’s resignation. “Our long national nightmare is over.”

Carter was such a disappointment as President, and so admirable as an ex-President, I can recall nothing he said.

Reagan had, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” (Tear down a wall? Almost heresy today.)

Bush 41 said in his inaugural address, “We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right.”

Clinton, reinvigorating the downward spiral said, “I did not have sex with that woman.”

Bush 43 had this prescient statement. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”

Obama brought a sense of dignity back for eight years with these lines, “We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.”

And now we have President Trump, who did come up with a good line, “One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government.”

But we are stuck with his pedantic predilection for tweets and must bear with the corybantic flummery of a popinjay. (I love the richness of the English language)

Let’s hope we have hit rock bottom.

Apologies to the Future of America


This is America from the early 21st century. If you read this, if there are any of you left to read this, you’ll no doubt be confused by the legacy we left for you.

You may have questions as to just WTF happened to cause a normally sober and rational people to elect “the Donald” to the presidency.

An excellent and unanswerable question.

We can hope the 45th President wasn’t the last.

Arising from the fears of an ignorant elective confused by what is required to serve in the position, he was elected by anger fueled with barroom logic screaming “throw the bums out.”

Fear trumped rationality. Anger replaced discourse and dialog. Nationalism couched as patriotism blinded the reality of a changing world. We wanted to return to the cocoon of an insular America.

We tried to turn back time to an era that was neither better nor great.

Some will argue this missive is premature. We are a mere three weeks into this debacle. But one can use logical deduction to see the future. If he can mangle things this much in 21 days, what will a full year look like?

Supporters see his “take no prisoners, school-yard bully” approach as refreshing. Yet it flies in the face of 300 years of maturing American style of diplomacy and managing domestic affairs.

We elected a maniacal, Machiavellian, misanthrope with delusions of rationality to serve as the leader of the free world.

All I can do is ask your forgiveness and hope you manage to survive to read this.

Washington left us a legacy in words. Lincoln left us the poetry of his Gettysburg Address. John Kennedy’s words inspired us to go to the moon and join the Peace Corps.

Trump tweets trash. 144 characters not worth the effort to push the delete key.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned, we can only hope Trump doesn’t tweet while America does the same.

In the words of the Don Henley song,

We are

Beating plowshares into swords for this tired old man to be elected king

I have nothing to offer up in our best defense but an apology for our wanton disregard of your once bright future. We have no excuse for overseeing the end of the innocence.

So please accept our apologies. If you found a way to right things, we applaud you. If there is no America left to read this, we accept our responsibility for your demise.


Your apologetic past


Donald Trump: Divine Right of Ascendency

In the third and final debate, Trump handed America the single greatest reason not to vote for him. By refusing to say he would accept the results of the election, he goes against 240 years of American tradition.

The one aspect of America that differentiates us from some countries, the thing which many countries have come to emulate, is our peaceful transition of power.

Elections are always contentious. Candidates are expected to go after their opponent’s ideas, concepts, plans, and experience. It is how we measure and evaluate their suitability for office.

Yet we expect, no demand, that every candidate accepts the results once the votes are counted. There is no room for “keeping the country in suspense.” Trump’s statements on this point border on incitement to anarchy.

Is there voter fraud in elections? Of course. Yet the overwhelming majority of voters cast their votes honestly and within the law.

Every campaign has zealots. There are those on both sides of this election who see their candidate as the only choice and are willing to do anything they can to ensure victory.

The problem with the Trump campaign is it is headed by a zealot with delusions of grandeur. He, alone, will decide the validity of the election process.

Is the existence of voter fraud justification to nullify the results because one candidate is dissatisfied with the election? Of course not.

If Trump has evidence of “widespread” voter fraud involving millions of votes, the time to produce this information is now. Before the election. Not wait and see. Instead, Trump says he’s “seen” evidence of voter fraud and warns the election is rigged.

That is a beautiful thing, Mr. Trump. We should just take your word for it.

What Trump is saying is clear.  If Clinton wins, it’s because of fraud. If he wins, it’s because America has spoken.

Americans will speak on November 8th. And I, like most patriotic and rational Americans, will accept the results.

If Clinton wins, it will not be as a result of voter fraud. If Trump wins, it may well be the results of voter insanity. Choosing a candidate who tells you that he will only accept one result is as un-American as one can be.

That’s not making America great again, that’s turning America into a 10th century Dark Ages kingdom led by someone who sees themselves as having the divine right of ascendency.

The Whole World is Watching (Again)

(For added special effect, here’s a link to Chicago’s “The Whole World is Watching.” Just skip the ad if it pops up, let the music start, then read away)

During the first presidential campaign debate, Donald Trump answered the question about the future direction of America by favoring stronger law and order. His answer implied that the law enforcement community is either unwilling or unable to provide what he considers acceptable law and order.

His obvious scorn for preparation for the debate was on stark display with that pronouncement.

In 1984 President Reagan signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. This was a wide-ranging consolidation of penalties for criminal violations, started a more widespread use of forfeiture of properties and assets of organized crime, and reinstituted the federal death penalty.

In 1994 President William Jefferson Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  The bill was a reaction to the increase in violent crime and rising homicide rate in the US. This created a set of minimum mandatory sentences, increased use of electronic surveillance, and increased federal aid to state and local law enforcement.

Proponents argued, despite recognizing there would be a significant impact on minority communities, that each of these bills had the support of minority legislators and community leaders.

This is only partially true.

While many minority members of Congress voted for the legislation, they argued for added provisions including increasing aid to education, job training, and programs aimed at reducing poverty.

These provisions were never incorporated.

Which leads me to the point of how Trump panders to lowest common denominator with each position he takes. In this case, the strong law enforcement crowd. They see themselves as the solution to the crime problem. In fact, they, like the previously mentioned laws, are reactions to the problem.

They are not the solution; they are one element of the solution to a complex problem.

You can flood the neighborhoods of the south side of Chicago, or anywhere else, with an army of cops and lessen the number of incidents of violence. Yet the problem will remain.

Law and Order is not a solution; it is a TV show. And like a TV show, it is not reality. It replaces the truth with fantasy.  A fantasy embraced by those seeking a quick solution to an embedded and difficult problem.

There’s a line in the movie, Fort Apache: The Bronx, about the former 41st precinct in New York. One officer, experienced and jaundiced by the reality of the time, explained to another officer, “We’re not a police department. We are an army of occupation.”

Like other armies of occupation, the Police Department soon realized that occupation is a short-term strategy. Eventually, they had to address the root cause. Police departments are ill-equipped to deal with these endemic problems.

Yet Trump would suggest stronger law and order is the answer.

We need to recognize that armed response to violence is not a solution, it is a placebo. We need to reduce the culture of violence and prevent those conditions which foster it from arising again.

We need to learn from the successes and mistakes of the past to create a more responsive and effective law enforcement model.

By all measures, the 1984 and 1994 crime measures both offered fixes to short-term problems and exacerbated the deeper, underlying causes. While some credit the passage of these laws with the reduction of violent crime, an equal number point out that the decrease in violent crime was already underway.

Through what amounted to a trick of accounting, we removed thousands of people from the welfare system by putting them in prison. And put them back in prison when, on release, they were unable to find jobs and re-offended.

Then, we turned the prison system into a for-profit enterprise. I have no doubt we could find a cost-saving method of implementing the death penalty through the private sector as well. Capitalism at its finest.

Despite the braggadocio of Trump, you cannot solve poverty with prisons, embrace enforcement of laws without also embracing education, or create “armies of occupation” as solutions to the racism and hopelessness of a segment of American society.

“Law and order” solution to crime is like injecting morphine into a broken arm.  The pain is gone. The underlying problem still there, waiting to reemerge when the medication wears off. The problem, like the pain, will be worse.

Recent events would suggest the medication has worn off.

Trump touts the endorsement of organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police as validation of his position. I think it more a sign that the Fraternal Order of Police has lost sight of its true purpose in pursuit of empty promises of more cops.

If Trump had his way, there’d be thousands of more cops on the street. But if I were them I’d be worried how, or if, he would find a way to pay for them. Look at his business “success.” He contracts for something, then refuses to pay for it.

Listen to his own words about paying taxes. He doesn’t pay them because he’s smart. Those same taxes that go to support law enforcement. Trump doesn’t put any value on them. He merely panders to an unsophisticated, narrow-minded, short-sighted mentality.

No one had a stronger law and order approach to crime than the Gestapo or the KGB. Crime was rare in Moscow. Paris was almost crime-free during the occupation. Crime is pretty low in Pyongyang as well.

That’s strong law and order.

The law and order pronouncements of Donald Trump invoke the chilling echoes of a Final Solution.

Is that the kind of America we want?



Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?

My wife and I spent an afternoon at the JFK Library in Boston. Since our trip to Texas and our visit to the LBJ Library, we’ve decided to make visiting Presidential Libraries a sort of hobby.

At the LBJ library, the media exhibits hit home since they reflected our childhood and coming of age. Those formative years when breaking news meant something. Those years when one read a newspaper to get the story.

The era of Vietnam, race riots, Johnson’s Great Society, the realities of an increasingly complex and fragmented world and the joys of A Charlie Brown Christmas and the wonder of men landing on the moon.

The Kennedy Library offered much of the same, albeit more limited as was his Presidency.

We were both struck by the differences in the tone and timbre of the politics of the day. The video of the famous Kennedy-Nixon debate was shocking in the lack of anger and incivility.

Two men of differing ideologies and political persuasions argued for their positions, they did not engage in vitriol and character assassination of their opponent. They argued with logic, intelligence, compassion, and civility. The contrast to the world of today could not be more startling or disheartening.

Kennedy was a magnificent orator. We would do well to listen to some of that wisdom as we consider the choices for President.

Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

 Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.

 For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.

It would serve all Americans well to visit a place like this library. I fear for many Americans it might be their first time IN a library, but we can hope.

Kennedy recognized a lack of education as one of the greatest risks to this country and the world. His words presaged the depths to which we’ve embraced ignorance and intolerance as substitutes for hard work and compassion.

Has anybody here, seen my old friend John? Can you tell me where he’s gone…?

Some of you will remember, do the country a favor and educate those that never had the opportunity to experience the hope of that era.

Show them there is wisdom to be found, but it takes more than 144 characters and spelling counts.

P.S. For a memory sure to bring a smile, click here

American Divine Right: Fallacy of a Presumptive Nominee

The latest headline of the trend-driven media proclaims Clinton as the presumptive nominee. Her delegate totals, if one includes super delegates, puts her over the threshold for the nomination.

But if there is one truth in politics, it is that when someone says they are committed to a certain course of action it means for the moment.  Between now and the Democratic convention on July 25th (coincidentally my birthday and only good things can happen on that date) there are many moments for new commitments to arise.

One cannot ignore the rising tide of popular votes sustaining Bernie Sanders. One cannot ignore the increasingly dangerous prospect of the anti-Clinton movement propelling Trump into the Presidency (and, I fear, America into an abyss.) One cannot ignore the clamoring for a stop to this American version of Divine Right determined by party insiders and political supplicants.

Those of us outside the inner sanctum of party politics want our voices heard. Those on the inside, while pantomiming statements that say they support this new paradigm, are more interested in protecting what they see as their moment.

As I said in the beginning, moments change. Clinton does not have the number of delegates to secure the election. She has 300 more delegates than Sanders. Super delegates do not count until their vote is cast.

Much can happen between now and then. We can hope that enough super delegates will listen to the voices of millions of Americans, weigh the chances of their two candidates against Trump, and vote their conscience not their self-interests.

Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic Expectations

Here are some of our expectations for those who would hold Political office up to, actually in particular, President.


Infallibility (even the Pope has a hard time with this one)


Perfection in character

Embracing “Middle” Class sensibilities with no, or little, actual experience

But the most troubling is the following requirements we demand of our political leaders (in particular the President)

You must espouse an unwavering belief in an invisible, unprovable, and omniscient being that takes a direct and purposeful interest in our success.

You must acknowledge that this Being is clearly of the Judeo-Christian tradition AND has interceded on our behalf during the many crises we’ve endured. You must ignore the Islamic portion of this mono-theistic tradition

This Being did not inspire martyrdom on 911, that was the wrong god or a miscommunication. (This is where leaving out the Islamic part of monotheism really comes in handy)

You must “openly” embrace all faiths, even the non-Christian ones (wink, wink, nod, nod)

You must acknowledge direct communication and guidance from this being. This is a requirement even in light of the fact that we lock up and classify as delusional others (meaning non-politically motivated) that claim divine guidance for their actions.

You must finish every significant address to other political beings with “God Bless the USA” (leaving unsaid, but inferred, “and send the rest to Hell”)

So, in spite of the fact that our psych wards are full of people “talking” to God, we make this a benchmark of suitability for an elected leader.

If there ever comes a time when a country or group, particularly those trapped in the mindset of the 15th century with all its rules of behavior, divine commandments, and holy guidelines, acquires the ability to launch a nuclear weapon at the US do you want a President who will drop to his (or her, well perhaps) knees and pray to God to save us?

Or do you want a President that will invoke the power of our own making and eliminate that threat?

Any weapon launched in God’s name underscores the fallacy of relying on another divine being to intercede. My God can violate all the rules of the universe better than your God.