Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Humor and Weird Wilson-isms Page 1 of 26

In the spirit of her full-length book “Laughing through Life” that featured humorous stories of child-rearing and general life, Connie has written humor columns for a variety of newspapers, which Erma Bombeck’s widower described as being very much like her columns when presented with a book at an Ohio writing festival.

“Tired of Winning” by Jonathan Karl Tells It Like It Is

Excerpts from “Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party,” by Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

Jonathan Karl's Biography - ABC News

Jonathan Karl of ABC News

 

“He lacks any  shred of human decency, humility, or caring,” a former White House official wrote of Trump, the man he had served for more than a year. “He is morally bankrupt, breathtakingly dishonest, lethally incompetent, and stunningly ignorant of virtually anything related to governing, history, geography, human events or world affairs.  He is a traitor and a malignancy in our nation and represents a clear and present danger to our democracy and the rule of law.” (p. 263, Jonathan Karl, CBS Political Affairs Reporter)

Jonathan Karl's book "Tired of Winning"

“Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party” by Jonathan Karl of ABC News.

“Two and a half years after January 6th, the man whom many of the rioters said was ultimately responsible for the carnage seemed on the way to finally being held accountable…He faces a maximum of 55 years in prison—the maximum in the documents case is higher—but because Trump stands accused of betraying the very oath of office he hopes to take once again. The charges include defrauding the United States and depriving Americans of their right to have their votes count—a right central to the meaning of democracy.” (p. 269)

“President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.  No question about it.” (Mitch McConnell on Feb. 13, 2021.)

“Remnants of the Trump era will be a strange reminder of how Trump operated—his disregard for history and for the law—in this case, the Presidential Records Act of 1978—says that official presidential records are the property of the American people, not of any individual, not even a president. Trump destroyed some of them, others he took home to Mar-a-Lago as if they were personal souvenirs of his time as commander in chief.  Fortunately for future historians—and current criminal investigators—many of the documents he attempted to pilfer were returned, and many of those he tried to destroy were gathered, taped back together, and preserved  by government employees attempting to comply with a law their boss had no intention of following.” (p. 272).

The MITT ROMNEY IS A TOTAL LOSER napkin:  “One of the more unusual documents now under seal at the National Archives is a paper napkin from Air Force One.  The napkin—the existence of which has never been made public—is hardly a state secret, but it reveals much more than the words written on it by Donald Trump with a Black sharpie: MITT ROMNEY IS A TOTAL LOSER.” We don’t know the exact content of this presidential musing—or even the date it was retrieved—or  why Trump chose to scrawl those words on a napkin. Did he write it after Romney became the only Republican to vote to convict him in his first impeachment trial? Or when Romney became one of seven Republicans to vote to impeach him in his second impeachment trial? Or maybe it was after Romney and his wife, Ann, congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on winning the 2020 election.  “We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character,” Senator Romney said in a statement issued minutes after Biden and Harris were projected as winners of the election. “We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.”

Trump had called Romney a loser many times, but the context of the words scrawled on the napkin—TOTAL LOSER—were different than those he blurted out on Twitter or during speeches. The napkin was a private note, probably one he had written to himself, and an indication Trump had Romney on his mind, and perhaps a reflection of the obsession with the man who won the Republican nomination four years before Trump did. Of course, the note wasn’t completely wrong—Romney, like Trump, was a loser.  Both men had lost a presidential election. But, unlike Trump, Romney took his loss with grace and dignity.  He did what Trump would never do.  He congratulated his opponent—Barack Obama—and put the country above himself, offering words of support to the man who had defeated him.

Sam Houston, 1859–1861 - Friends of the Governor's Mansion
Sam Houston, 1859–1861

SAM HOUSTON STORY:  Sam Houston, the former Governor of Tennessee, battlefield hero, and founding father of Texas independence.  Houston was the first president of the Independent Republic of Texas, the first senator from the state of Texas and  one of the most independent, unique, popular, forceful and dramatic individuals ever to enter the Senate chamber.  Houston put all of that on the line beginning with a vote he took in the Senate in 1854 against what would become the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  To Houston’s fellow Democrats, it was a must-pass bill, a test of Southern unity and survival.  Houston saw the bill for what it was—a way to reopen the the issue of expanding slavery that would set America on a path to civil war. Not a single Senate Democrat joined him in voting against it...His stand against Southern secession was so forceful, Houston received a few votes to be Abraham Lincoln’s vice president. He traveled around his state to make what had become a very unpopular case for Texas to remain in the Union. While he was campaigning in the city of Waco, a bomb exploded behind the hotel he was staying in—an unsuccessful attempt to either kill or intimidate him. He survived the bombing, but he lost the battle.  And when Texas officially seceded  from the Union and joined the Confederacy, Houston was once again defeated, removed from office after he refused to take the oath of the new Confederate state of Texas. Sam Houston was far from perfect, but at the end of his life, he stood up to the madness of his own party—and the madness of his own constituents.  Despite the steep personal price he paid, his place in history was secure—and it started with a vote, an act of political courage—made inside the Senate Chamber.” (p. 279).

“Trump’s betrayal shows just how vulnerable our democracy is and how much it depends on people who are in positions of responsibility to act responsibly.” (p. 281).

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.  Everything that followed (January 6th) was his doing.  None of this would have happened without the President.  There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” (Liz Cheney, R, Wyoming, while heading the January 6th Commission.) (p. 285).

Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time, the vote of Representative Tom Rice of South Carolina to impeach was among the most surprising. Rice’s reason for voting to impeach, articulated in Jonathan Karl’s book:  “When Trump watched the Capitol, the People’s House, being sacked, when he watched the Capitol Police officers being beaten for those three or four hours and he lifted not one finger or did one thing to stop it—I was livid then and I’m livid today about it.” (p. 285)

How DJT Was Groomed By Russia; The Tragic End of Alexei Navalny

Jesse Eisenberg’s “A Real Pain” Wins Screenwriting Award at 2024 Sundance

All of the introductory pictures on the Sundance page featured this Jesse Eisenberg film, which he wrote, directed and starred in. The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance (some choice lines from the script to follow.)

Jesse Eisenberg plays David Kaplan and Kieran Culkin is his cousin, Benjy. Following the death of their Grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, the two travel to Poland with money she left them for the trip, and ultimately end up joining a tour of concentration camps. Jennifer Grey portrays Marcia, a divorced woman who is on the tour with the cousins.

Benjy is in crisis. We learn this as the trip progresses. As cousin David (Jesse Eisenberg) says of Benjy, “You’re like an all-encompassing individual.” He also says of Benjy, “I love him and I hate him and I want to kill him and I want to BE him.” Benjy is well-played by Kieran Culkin who steals most of the scenes. The reasons for his depression are not totally explained to us. His fascination with airports, while interesting, is another oddity.

Here are some of the good lines from the honored script:

“There but for the grace of no God go I.”

“You have the most effed-up sense of proprieties.”

“You light up a room and then you shit on everything inside of it.”

Jesse Eisenberg’s first directorial effort was 2022’s “When You Finish Saving the World.” Both films were produced by Emma Stone’s production company, Fruit Tree.

This outing was much more professional. The ending left something to be desired, but it was a very enjoyable film.

 

Need A Smile? Check Out This Ad.

Iowa Caucuses (Jan. 15, 2024) Will Set Low Temperature Records

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley

CNN Republican Presidential Debate (final one)

I am thinking back to the Iowa Caucus nights in 2004, 2008 and 2012that my college roommate and I went out to caucus at a local Des Moines high school when the temperature was 17 degrees (2004). It was, until now, the coldest caucus night in history. My hope was that Howard Dean was going to prevail, as he had been leading during the “sleepless summer,” as the press called it.

I dropped her off at the doorway and then had to drive blocks away to park my car. During that time, those in charge attempted to close the doors to late-comers, but she stood by the door to allow me to gain access. (They said they were running out of GOP ballots, for one thing.) Then we were thrown into the chaos of the classroom, with Democratic groups milling about trying to achieve the 15% viability that would allow them to continue. (The Republicans use paper ballots, but the Democrats, at that time, simply stand around in small clumps of people and it is sheer lunacy.)

The 2020 SNAFU in Iowa, when the results weren’t know for days, led to the resignation of the guy in charge, even though there still is debate as to whether an app called Shadow, Inc., developed by someone named Tara McGowan, was at fault. There were charges that both the Buttigieg campaign and the Hillary Clinton campaign had had dealings with the company that developed the app. The entire night was catastrophic for the Iowa caucuses and, this year, the Dems did not come. When you read that 8 precinct results went missing in 2012 and were never counted, you begin to get the idea that this entire throwback town hall meeting thing will soon cease. After all, the success rate of predicting who the standard bearer for each candidate will be is not great. The success rate for predicting the Democratic winner nationally is only 55% and for the GOP it is only 43%.

Is it any wonder that voices are being raised saying the caucuses in Iowa don’t “work” and should go the way of the Dodo bird? Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said, “I think the Democratic caucus in Iowa is a quirky, quaint tradition which should come to an end. As we try to make voting easier for people across America, the Iowa caucus is the most painful situation we currently face for voting.” Former presidential candidate Julian Castro said, “It’s a mess. What we saw out there and heard about are, consistently, errors in the way that this process was done, whether in the initial phase or the realignment.  Inconsistencies in how it was done across precinct sites. It is a total mess.” And let’s not forget that campaigning in Iowa is probably not real pleasant when the weather in the Midwest doesn’t cooperate. DeSantis and Trump are from Florida. Haley is from South Carolina. Talk about culture shock!

So, how did this “total mess” come to be at all?

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley on the GOP debate stage

One book written on the topic (“The Iowa Caucuses and the Presidential Nominating Process” by Peverill Squire of the University of Missouri) says, “Iowa became first in the nation pretty much as an accident of the calendar.” One explanation even blames the entire thing on the slow duplicating machine that Iowa used at the time, which required Iowa to set their voting date up earlier and earlier to make sure that materials could be turned out in time. Supposedly, the party wasn’t really angling to be “first in the nation” but that’s what happened.

As for the GOP, they used to use an August “straw poll” thing, which turned out to be totally unreliable and was discontinued. It became a question of who could buy the straw poll. You could argue that that is also true of the caucuses as they now exist, with huge amounts of money being spent by the candidates running in the state. It is easy to see why a state like Iowa would want to continue being the center of attention and raking in advertising (and other) dollars. But will that happen, given the deep freeze that Iowa is going to be on the night of the caucuses this year? Thirty and Forty below zero is life-threatening. Iowans are hardy souls and take politics seriously, but the turnout is definitely going to be affected.

In 1976 then-candidate Jimmy Carter used the Iowa caucuses to give himself the national recognition that he did not have prior to winning there. In 1972 George McGovern won the caucuses, but they had not yet turned into any kind of national launching pad. After Iowa, Carter received attention and invitations to speak and be interviewed that gave him the momentum he needed to go on to win the nomination and be elected as the party standard-bearer and win the presidency. Since then, candidates have been attempting to duplicate that feat, with Barack Obama actually achieving it in 2008, the year I followed the caucuses for 24 months and wrote 2 books on the experience. The Iowa caucuses actually predicted the eventual national nominee  and winner twice: Obama in 2008 and Bush in 2000. In 2004 the caucus winner in Des Moines (John Kerry) did go on to become the national nominee, but he did not win office. It is particularly interesting when you learn that Jimmy Carter only campaigned for 17 days in the state in 1976.

Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis.

I did not become involved in following the caucuses in person until 2004, which was the year that John Kerry won the Iowa caucuses, John Edwards came in second, and Howard Dean came in third. The Kerry forces double-miked Howard Dean’s impassioned plea to his followers at the post party (I was there) and made him look totally foolish by replaying it what seemed like millions of times on television.

2008:  January 3rd at 7 p.m. Temperature that year was 30 degrees above zero, warmer than in 2004 when it was only 16 degrees. In 2012, my last year of following, the temperature was 40, but it was a very quiet night for Democrats, who had an incumbent president in the White House. This year’s thirty below zero prediction is going to be the coldest on record, and one wonders how many will show up to caucus for their candidate.

2012:  January 3rd. Supposedly, Romney won by 8 points, but then a recount showed that Rick Santorum might have won by 34 votes and Ron Paul came in third. This was the year that 8 missing precinct reports caused problems and the “win” was also taken from Santorum and awarded to Paul at one point. Not reliable, in other words.

2016:  In the Democratic race, Hillary got 45% of the vote and Bernie Saunders came in second. Ted Cruz won the GOP contest, with votes going to Trump, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, as well.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy on the GOP debate stage.

2020:  Monday, February 3rd. This was the year of the Shadow, Inc. app that was, apparently, never reliably field-tested. Then, the phone number that was supposed to be used as a fall-back method for voting was totally jammed up with calls. Days went by where national talking heads could not report who had won, and the person in charge resigned.

Results over time:

1972 – McGovern

1976 – Jimmy Carter

1980 – Jimmy Carter (Ted Kennedy got votes)

1984 – Walter Mondale

1988 – Dick Gephardt (who withdrew from the race shortly thereafter)

1992 – Tom Harkin (a native son)

1996 – Bill Clinton

2000 – Al Gore

2004 – John Kerry (38%) John Edwards (32%). Howard Dean (18%). Dick Gephardt (11%). Dennis Kucinich (1%). GOP – George W. Bush

2008 – Barack Obama – 38%, John Edwards  – (30%), Hillary Clinton (29%)  Elliot Richardson got 2% and Joe Biden got 1%.

2012 – Obama – 98% (a very quiet night in Des Moines) Mike Huckabee on the Republican side, prompting my headline: “Huckaboom or Huckabust?”

2016 – Hillary (50%). Bernie Saunders (49%) Ted Cruz on the GOP side.

2020 – Trump

Random Thoughts on the Iowa Caucuses of January 15, 2024

With Monday’s Iowa caucuses scheduled to go forward despite wind chills that could be as low as -30 below zero, the last polls I saw put Trump ahead but DeSantis and Nikki Haley separated by only one percentage point.

The real test on Monday, January 15th, is going to be “Whose ground organization is strongest and can guarantee that the caucus-goers will actually trot out to caucus for their candidate?” Is Trump’s ground organization better (or at least equal to) DeSantis’? What about Haley’s?

I have actually attended the Iowa caucuses. It was winter and it was cold, but this time is going to be the coldest on record. The night I attended the caucuses in Des Moines in 2008 I was not an Iowa resident and, therefore, not there to actually line up behind a particular candidate. In fact, when they learned that I had been a teacher, they put me in charge of a random pack of children whose parents were actually voting. [That was fun for no one.]

When the Republicans caucus, they vote on paper ballots. The Democrats, however—who are not involved in this year’s caucus season in Iowa—did not use ballots. Instead, it was sheer un-orchestrated chaos with all kinds of voting and lobbying for viability and many other things that seem(ed) to belong in an elementary school election. Its refreshingly primitive. The cameramen from Sweden could not believe how basic the process was. Because the process is that basic, I would not be surprised if Iowa loses out on holding these things completely.  There have always been complaints that Iowa is too white-bread and not diverse enough. Then there was the complete SNAFU season. Then there is this year’s weather. I’m thinking that the caucuses in Iowa of either party may well go the way of the dodo bird in 2028.

I watched the Town Hall meetings that focused on DeSantis and Haley and the things covered there were much like the final debate that involved just those two candidates. Until the offhand remark from Haley about New Hampshire voters “correcting” Iowa’s missteps, she was surging. She seems sane and has a far less authoritarian demeanor than the two men with whom she is competing.

DeSantis

There is little I like about Ron DeSantis. The “Sixty Minutes” special that detailed how he screwed over immigrants in ferrying them to Martha’s Vineyard showed a despicable lack of human compassion and empathy. It’s one thing to give the northern states a little taste of what the border states like Texas are dealing with; it’s totally another to have glossy brochures made up that promise desperate immigrants jobs when they land in Martha’s Vineyard. Maybe this would be the point to say WWJD (What would Jesus do?) Certainly not that. The fight with Disney over their position on homosexuality. The “don’t wear masks” attitude during Covid that DeSantis displayed (with masked high school students in the background). The preening over how he “took on” the teachers’ unions (and George Soros), as though that were something to be proud of. The inability to smile like a normal human being, which has been commented on by every late-night host. Why do I dislike him? Let me count the ways. Or not. He’s easy to dislike on sight. (That’s a large part of his problem.)

Haley

Nikki Haley.

Nikki Haley comes off as more reasonable on the issue of abortion. She is a female, after all, and a mother.

Her position on supporting Ukraine is a good one. As the former Ambassador to the United Nations she understands and articulates well the basic fact that, right now, Ukraine is doing the fighting and dying in opposing Putin, who might well set his sights on other European nations. DeSantis (and other GOP leaders) want to tie support for Ukraine to better border control. That phrase about being against it before I was for it (or something close) applies more to DeSantis’ positions than those of Haley.

I was bothered by the fact that neither candidate would answer the question posed by Jake Tapper about whether Donald J. Trump has the moral character to be President. It was just about as bad as the Ivy League Presidents testifying before Congress who couldn’t answer easy questions about anti-Semitic behavior on their college campuses. (Both lost their jobs).We lost Chris Christie in the mix, and he seems to be the only one who had the guts to call out his former friend of 22 years. It  seems as though Christie—who helped prep Trump for the debates in 2020—is trying to make amends for his past misdeeds. I will miss Christie onstage calling out the obnoxious Vivek Ramaswamy as the most obnoxious blowhard in America. You don’t get truthful answers like that during political debates very often.

Border Control

Ron DeSantis.

The Big Issue that the Republicans will be trotting out in the months to come will be the border. The Democrats will be making just as much noise over the roll-back of Roe v. Wade. Nikki Haley offered a much more realistic and even-tempered attitude for the GOP to promulgate in a national election. Everyone agrees that the border is now (and has been for decades) a big problem that needs to be solved. But Congress needs to be involved in completely overhauling our immigration system. It looks, right now, as though the current  Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas is being set up to take the fall for what most Americans view as a failure at the border. Biden’s attempt to portray America as that shining beacon on the hill that both Reagan and Romney alluded to may (or may not) be the reason for the influx of illegal immigrants, but you can be sure that the GOP will portray him as practically the sole cause of our recent border crisis. It is true that the border situation needs to be solved. It may be true that Biden’s words made the influx worse.  (Trump’s separation of small children and infants from their parents and then losing them was not Great Policy, but that goes unremarked in Iowa.) However, totally blaming Biden for this unprecedented horde of immigrants ignores the many economic and political reasons that drive residents of Central and Latin America to risk death to come to this country. We need to be welcoming, but practical. Restructuring our immigrations policies and laws is necessary, just like we need to address gun control (which also hasn’t occurred) and we needed to overhaul health care (which hasn’t totally happened, but least the Affordable Care Act has survived, despite repeated GOP attempts to dismantle it) A physical wall, DJT’s solution, was never going to work without additional reforms of a more substantial sort. In regard to Mayorkas, it is fairly interesting that he has been notably absent from the Sunday morning talk shows and the Republicans now want to impeach him. Mayorkas seems to have missed out on the media training. He isn’t able to demonstrate progress on the border and he has the diplomatic skills of a basset hound. He neither looks nor acts the part he has been assigned to play.

Monday Predictions?

Until Nikki Haley’s misstep (verbally) in New Hampshire and the last debate, where she kept referring listeners to DeSantislies.com website (14 times by one talking head’s count), I thought she was going to top DeSantis on January 15th. She is currently focusing her efforts on suburban areas in the state of Iowa, while DeSantis did “the full Grassley,” visiting all 99 Iowa counties, and is counting on rural support. DeSantis also out-spent Ms. Haley and, until the final debate, was doing much less well during televised Q&A opportunities.

However, DeSantis has picked up his game on the occasion of the final debate (as well as the Town Hall that preceded it). I agree with David Axelrod who has said that the True Test of who Triumphs at the caucuses will be which team can actually mobilize its committed delegates to turn out in frigid sub-zero weather. Pollsters say it will be Trump’s MAGA hordes coming in first.

The second place finish in the last poll I saw was 11% for Haley and 12% for DeSantis. It could go either way. I’d like to see a woman President, so I’m pulling for Nikki Haley. There are things about her policies (she is very pro gun) that I disagree with, but she seems more reasonable about hot-button issues, and certainly has stood up well under pressure. Plus, she has a nice smile, which puts her head and shoulders above DeSantis. Haley has far more international experience. It seems unlikely that the GOP would nominate a woman for the top of the ticket; I am not happy that she has dodged the question of whether she would run with Trump. She and DeSantis have not exactly been straightforward in their responses to questions that are touchy. True of all politicians, it seems. Makes me think of the poem I wrote at the tender age of 16, which I shall print below these ramblings.

I would like to know if Vivek Ramaswamy is the “secret” VP pick that Trump has alluded to; he seems like a very “out there.” He has gone off on various conspiracy theories ad nauseum. Maybe Trump has promised the second spot on the GOP ticket to a female Governor who will probably be about as good a pick as Sarah Palin was (which means a very bad one).

My Poem “Words” (written in 1960, the year I campaigned for JFK):

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said.

If deeds, alone, were the mark of a man,

Not the “catch” of an eloquent pledge.

 

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said

If, for all the fake forensics,

There were simple words, instead.

 

And a man stated just what he started to state,

Without false fuss or further ado,

If you weren’t a politician

I’d probably listen to you

“Iowa Nice” Comes Through in CNN Town Hall Meetings with DeSantis & Ramaswamy

Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Wade Vandervort / AFP) (Photo by WADE VANDERVORT/AFP via Getty Images)

There’s Iowa Nice, and then there’s Iowa Smart. Both were on display on Tuesday and Wednesday nights (12/12 and 12/13) on CNN at 8 p.m. (CDT).

After watching the GOP Town Hall Meetings on CNN with Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy I have to say that the people of my home state did Iowa proud. Their questions were so much better than any of those asked by the professional media people moderating the “real” debates recently that there really was no comparison.

Instead of  dwelling on the issue of trans-gender sex change operations for youth—a topic that  affected fewer than 1,200 people in 2019, the peak year for such surgeries—-these rank-and-file Iowans asked questions that matter to all of us,  on the following topics:

  • U.S. Economic prosperity
  • Israel vs. Ukraine support from the U.S.
  • The border issue
  • Fentanyl
  • Social Security
  • Abortion (a notable exception during the GOP debate hosted by Megan Kelly)
  • Trade relations with China
  • Why DeSantis would be different/better than Trump as President
  • Nikki Haley’s support from big business
  • DeSantis’ position on fracking

Yes, there was a question on a purely Iowa issue, the Satanic Temple display at the State Capitol in Des Moines. And the Pork-on-a-stick at the Iowa State Fair was, perhaps, not a Biggie, but kudos, Iowans!

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy on Dec. 13 during the CNN Town Hall in Des Moines, Iowa, at Grandview College.

When Vivek Ramaswamy graced the Grandview College stage on Wednesday night, December 12, 2023, the people of Iowa came through again, asking Vivek Ramaswamy how he would be different from Trump; the border; Vivek’s Hindu religion in a largely Christian state and nation; Putin’s response to Ramaswamy’s proposed Ukraine solution; inequity in wealth between the top 1% wealthiest Americans and the middle class; a president’s demeanor while serving as the nation’s leader; challenges he had experienced as a candidate because of his age and his position on diversity programs.

The questioning did go off the rails a bit when Ramaswamy (his own worst enemy) went on and on and on about various debunked conspiracy theories and what he had learned about Iowans, in general. (They don’t call it “Iowa Nice” for no reason.)

I’ll write more about their responses in the next few days, but…Damn! You did us proud, questioners. Give those Talking Heads some tips for future debates.

Will the Real Ron DeSantis Please Stand Up

Red State/Blue State Debate: Whose Idea Was This?

Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Wade Vandervort / AFP) (Photo by WADE VANDERVORT/AFP via Getty Images)

We watched the debate between Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, and Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, and, the entire time, what was going through my mind was, “Why?”

The debate was staged by Fox News and Sean Hannity was the moderator, but the obvious take-away, up front, is that this thing is not going to be “fair and equal” because it is being run (some would say “rigged”) by Fox News.

After the debate was over there were charges that DeSantis had been fed the questions ahead of time, that he was talking with his “team” during the debate (accusations made of both), that a screen was slanted towards DeSantis and not towards Newsom. After the debate had lurched to a close, the moderator said the mismatched duo were going to stay on and continue.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

But that didn’t happen. There were reports that Newsom’s wife, Jennfer Seibel Newsom, marched onstage and barked “We’re done.” Some reports said that she was particularly ticked off that her father (Newsom’s father-in-law) was cited by DeSantis as having introduced himself to the Florida governor and endorsed Florida’s superiority to California as a state in which one wished to live, having just relocated from California to Florida himself.

I keep asking myself why Newsom would agree to participate in what was most certainly going to be a rigged presentation, with Fox News attempting to bolster DeSantis’ race for the White House and Newsom not even being a candidate this election cycle. Or is he?

DeSantis kept referencing Newsom’s “shadow campaign” for the White House, while each liberally insulted the other. Meanwhile Hannity threw up a variety of charts and graphs that favored Florida, as you just knew it would.

For this reason my spouse (who says he is Independent but is from good Republican stock) declared DeSantis to have been “the winner.” I felt that the statistics would favor Florida, everyone’s favorite retirement destination. However, I felt that the presentation and command of the stage and facts win went to Newsom.

I admit to being quite concerned about Newsom’s judgment when I think about the fact that he was once married to Kimberly Guilfoyle, now Donald Trump, Jr.’s main squeeze, but his new blonde wife looked like a massive step up. Wife #2 recognized that this debate would feel so good once it ended and helped facilitate that, which was probably smart.

One of the contentious things that came out of the debate was DeSantis holding up a picture of a graph he claimed represented the most heavily feced areas of San Francisco. Later, Newsom said this was a violation of the rules agreed upon beforehand.  The placards and other such debate aids that Hannity put up onscreen were also being argued about, after the debate had concluded. Supposedly, they were not to be allowed, although Hannity disputed this contention. (Don’t they all?)

Gavin Newsom.

California Governor Gavin Newsom.

I just kept wondering, “What’s in this for Gavin Newsom? Who thought up this entire idea?”

One idea that did make sense was this one: If Biden were to pull out of the presidential race at the last minute for any reason, who would the Democrats belatedly run? Naturally, one thinks immediately of Vice President Kamala Harris, who is, if polls are right, is even less popular right now than Biden himself.

She is from California. So is Gavin Newsom. According to the 12th amendment to the Constitution, electors may not vote for presidential and vice-presidential candidates who both reside in the elector’s state—at least one of them must be an inhabitant of another state.

Is all of this part of some behind-the-scenes plan to hedge all bets and find a way to exclude the unpopular Harris? Who thought up the entire ordeal that Newsom just endured ?

We are a house divided and, while I agree that the placards carried the day for Florida over California, DeSantis’ sickly smile and poor debate skills couldn’t hold a candle to the much smoother Newsom. DeSantis kept trying to “diss” Newsom as “slick.” If you think back, that perjorative term was applied to Bill Clinton and, later, to Barack Obama. I’m perfectly fine with “slick” if it means competent, poised and articulate. The fact that Newsom is so poised is surprising considering his life-long history of dyslexia, which continues to the present.

Setting aside my reservations about Newsom’s poor judgment in selecting a Screaming Mimi as his first wife in 2001 and being married to her until 2005, there is also this.  He had an ill-advised affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his good friend and Chief of Staff, Alex Tourk, a woman who worked for him. Newsom met and married film-maker Jennifer Siebel in 2007 and the couple has four children.

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Governor and potential presidential hopeful (2024) Chris Christie.

The bench for successor to Biden is not currently very deep.  The GOP party is a shadow of its former self and Nikki Haley is looking like a more viable candidate than DeSantis, while preliminary reports are that Chris Christie may not even make the ballot in one state. (Who knows if he’ll make another debate stage?)

Whatever Democratic strategist gave the go-ahead for Newsom to take a thrashing, factually, but prevail in the personality department should be brought forth to explain to the rest of us what is really going on here.

Looking for the Perfect Canine for Christmas? These Dogs May—or May Not—Be Your Choice

Thanksgiving, 2023, is officially in the books.

We spent it at the movies (“Napoleon”) but before I write that review for the film that opened wide on November 22nd, a little levity looking forward to the most commercial holiday of the season might be appropriate. And these dogs might be your choice for a forever friend. (Or not).

German Shepherd

German Shepherd dog

In scanning the November 21st issue of the “Austin American Statesman” for potential topics, I was first attracted to this headline:  “Husband Asks Spouse to Annoy His Parents to Motivate Them to Leave.”

That sounded promising, but, in my usual manner, I continued scanning the various articles and read this one, which had a much-less-amusing title:  “Shelter Places Dogs Cut From TSA Training.”

It sounded like an informative straight-ahead news story, and I like dogs as well as the next man—err, woman—so I read on.

Apparently, there is a special animal shelter  at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland that is used to house dogs rejected for government service, like the canines used to sniff out drugs by the TSA.

The purpose of the article seemed to be to find “forever homes” for these furry rejects for government service. The article even contained an e-mail address that applicants could use:  [email protected]. The article went on to say that multiple visits to San Antonio might be required to meet the animal and make sure the prospective new owners would be a good fit for the animal(s).  It was further advised that the prospective owners should arrive at the training center on adoption day with a leash, a collar, and appropriately-sized shipping crate. (Nothing like being prepared and explicit, I always say.)

So, what sorts of animals might we be competing to own?

Let’s just run through a few of the rejected animals awaiting our applications in San Antonio.

Black Labrador Retriever

Toby

First, there is Toby. Toby is a 10-year-old Labrador Retriever (the very dog I owned as a child). Toby was rejected for service because of situational anxiety causing him to suck in more air than necessary which made him become bloated. Like all the other animals on the list, Toby was described as highly active, untrained, and not housebroken, but, (said the article) “with proper training and care they can be a great addition to families.”

Second on the list was Lydka, a 3-year-old German Shepherd who actually made it into service as a bomb-sniffing dog. Unfortunately, Lydka was easily distracted by noise and people and didn’t do well under pressure. She was fired for her performance on the job  and requires a more stress-free environment.

Third on the list was Tommy, a 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel, who was dismissed because he developed an upper airway obstruction.

Jack, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, never even made it into training because of suspected kidney disease.

English Springer Spaniel

Tommy

Most of the dogs have not been exposed to any animals other than other dogs and are not comfortable around small children. To be considered for selection as the adoptive owner, the prospective owner must have a fenced-in yard and no plans to move within 6 months of the adoption. Any other pets already in the home must be up to date on vaccination and preventative care. Of course, the prospective owner must also promise to provide appropriate medical care, exercise, training and companionship.

So, if you are available to adopt a non-housebroken, highly active, possibly sick canine that flunked out of TSA (or other) school, feel free to contact the San Antonio-Lackland Joint Base. Sounds like the perfect Christmas pet, doesn’t it?

Nikki Haley

GOP Debate of November 8th Is More Controlled Than Chaotic

 

Vivek Ramaswamy & Nikki Haley

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – AUGUST 23: Republican presidential candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight presidential hopefuls squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley was incensed by Vivek Ramaswamy for mentioning that Haley’s daughter is on Tik Tok. The remark summoned echoes of “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth” spoken by Will Smith at the Oscars (followed by a physical slap). There is no love lost between Haley and Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy also attacked the moderators, which was uncalled-for. It was especially lame when the moderators were Lester Holt, Kristin Welker of “Meet the Press,” and Hugh Hewitt. Viviswamy suggested that Tucker Carlson would have been better, which is ludicrous.

To me, the candidate who seemed spectacularly weak in his responses was Tim Scott. He seems to have forgotten that this country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. He constantly promoted the anti-abortion movement, made questionable remarks about the Social Security age to retire, and basically kept talking about faith and a return to faith as the panacea for all things he disliked in the United States.

Chris Christie is usually one of the two best debaters on the stage (Haley being the other). My husband and I felt we could live with a President Christie. That is a very unlikely possibility, since Christie’s attacks on DJT have made him anathema to the GOP base, which seems increasingly unhinged these days.

Hogan Gidley, former deputy press secretary to Trump, made the valid point, post debate, that DJT needed to be here to debate, since he is the front-runner.

Ron DeSantis comes across as someone who doesn’t like to smile much and is smug as hell. He was better after the debate was over, when he seemed less like such a dim bulb and answered questions posed by the talking heads of NBC. His many dictator-style actions in Florida make him one of those politicians that you just know you are going to have to suffer through whatever he is saying when he is onstage. Remember when he chided teen-agers wearing masks during the pandemic? (Explains why Florida had one of the worst Covid death rates in the nation and was losing 240 people a day.) DeSantis has all the earmarks of a tin-pot dictator, and one gets the feeling that he is going to get worse before he gets better.

The moderators tonight did a better job than in the previous GOP debate. DeSantis did better than he has done in the past and Nikki Haley continued to do well, but she is female. It is difficult to imagine the GOP of today putting a woman at the top of the ticket. (The Democrats tried, and look how well that turned out.)

Mary Katharine Ham, a conservative columnist interviewed in the Spin Room, said that Nikki Haley’s 25-year-old daughter was grown and her parents were no longer in charge of her social media presence, so her Tik Tok usage should not have been mentioned by Vivek Ramaswamy. Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley seem to not like each other AT ALL. DeSantis and Haley are “separating themselves” from the rest of the pack, according to the spin room experts.

There is now a shot on my television screen of DeSantis trying to smile. He really does not look comfortable smiling. Ever.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Wade Vandervort / AFP) (Photo by WADE VANDERVORT/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlos Curbelo, a Republican former Florida Congressman, pretty much discounted Christie and Scott as potential nominees. He acknowledged that tonight’s debate was much more substantive. Curbelo and another spin-meister had no real answer for “Why did Viviswamy feel it was a good election technique to attack the moderators?” To me, Viviswamy, like DJT, just likes to stir things up. Chaos is their brand.

Ryan Noble in New Hampshire watched the debate with the first-in-the-nation voters and reported back to us on who had won, based on their reactions.

For me, Haley was the most appealing and got some truly good retorts (I liked her comment about her 5-inch heels), but Christie, to me, seems as though he has the necessary experience to do the job. While Haley might also be up to the challenge, I can’t imagine the GOP putting a woman at the top of their ticket. It was a daring enough move when the Democrats selected Hillary Clinton in 2016 and look how well that turned out.

Ron DeSantis has shown himself to be a stubborn Know-It-All that even former Congressional colleagues did not like, when they served alongside him. He continues the tilt towards authoritarian leaders that Trump brought to its peak. He likes the idea of book banning, attacks on LGBQT, and restricting women’s reproductive rights. The man seems like he would not work and play well with others. (So much for working across the aisle). Maybe we should chip in and send him a shirt that says, “Does not work or play well with others. Runs with scissors. Hates Disney.” Still, I can definitely see the GOP voters I know switching from the complete sleaze that DJT is to DeSantis, especially when he says bold things about “shooting illegal immigrants stone cold dead” or some such blustery retort.

This country needs a leader who understands the meaning of the word diplomacy and is likeable. Which of the two GOP front-runners do you think best exemplifies that, DeSantis or Haley? We know, for sure, that Trump is a bully and will spend the rest of his life playing the victim and trying to get revenge for his real or imagined slights. If the Iowa and New Hampshire voters are as informed and aware as they are often said to be, they surely can’t miss the very real fact that Trump is going to be tied up in court for a very long time. That, alone, if not the 14th amendment drafted after the Civil War that prevents anyone who took part in an insurrection from running for office, should keep DJT off the ballot. Who wants to hear him whine about how mean the courts have been to him for the next four years? (Not I, said the Little Red Hen.)

DeSantis is now being interviewed in the spin room:  “I think NBC did a good job. The questions were substantive and there wasn’t a lot of screaming.” He is now saying that DJT is being kept off the stage by his handlers as a tactical political move. He remarked that DJT is a very different candidate than he was in 2020. “Voters are now going to pay attention. It is going to hurt him that he is not on that stage.”

The interviewer asks about DJT’s lead, up by 27 points to 42 points, which DeSantis says is because he is the most famous politician in the world. “We’re in this situation now with the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that the vast numbers of voters in those states do not want to nominate Donald Trump.” (I hope he is right.)

Gee. GOP voters don’t want to nominate a guy who has been indicted 91 times and basically convicted of rape in a civil case? They don’t want to nominate a guy appearing in court every day where his fraud as a businessman has been established and the only question is how big a penalty he will pay for lying “bigly” on financial documents? Gee. I wonder why not? Or, more to the point, I wonder, “Who ARE these GOP voters who DO want to nominate a sleaze like Trump?” Have you ever seen them interviewed at their gatherings? It’s frightening. The fact that the man is still the front-runner says a lot about the power of television, but it says something else about the failure to educate potential voters, either in school or through reliable reporting elsewhere. (Fox News strikes again.)

Does DeSantis need to be tougher on DJT ?

“I think I’m the only guy who can really play in that space of replacing DJT.” He mentions Mexico paying for the border wall. DeSantis is talking about taxing the remittances of moneys sent back to Mexico to raise the money for a wall. (One of the Sunday morning talk shows had a good conversation where those talking agreed that the wall that needs to be built is between Central America and Mexico.)

As GOP voters began to know more about DeSantis, he dropped 14 points. “What changed was the Alvin Bragg indictment.”DeSantis says DJT gets more media attention, but, in Iowa, he feels he can even the media difference out personally by personal campaigning in the state. “I think that Kim Reynolds endorsing me is a big moment for me.” (*As a side note, Kim Reynolds, in a recent poll, was said to be one of the least popular governors in the U.S. So much for how great Iowa thinks she is.)

Will the Real Ron DeSantis Please Stand Up

Policy question to DeSantis:  Abortion access powering Dems to victories? Does he believe in a national ban? “If you look at the practical reality of a divided country, pro lifers in particular have a big problem on this referendum. I think the Pro life movement has got to focus on these referendums and be more strategic. They have been getting their clock cleaned on the referendums. Good Republican candidates did well in the aftermath of Dobbs, but the Trump factor is voters who don’t like DJT breaking for the Democrats. When push comes to shove, we (GOP) should be cleaning house.”

Keane, NH:  Reaction to the abortion issue from an elderly woman:  “I am disappointed that so many women in this country vote with their emotions… I can’t believe so many women vote on the issue of abortion.” This struck me as a very uninformed remark. Women certainly have a right to be “emotional” on the subject of whether or not they will be forced to bear a child (and care for it for the rest of their lives) based on laws passed by old white men who are evangelical Christians (or worse).

Second voter, male: “The most well-managed debate. Riveting. I nearly fell asleep in the first debate.”

Third voter, female:  Most important issue? “I thought the idea that the world is on fire was pretty important and the question of whether we help these countries or not. I think that Nikki did a good job on the abortion policy. I would like to see abortion be a private issue for the women in the country and not be such a public issue.” This from a mature New Hampshire female voter who seemed head-and-shoulders above the first female commenter, mentioned above.

NIKKI HALEY IN THE SPIN ROOM

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 15: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley arrives on stage at her first campaign event on February 15, 2023 in Charleston, South Carolina. Former South Carolina Governor and United Nations ambassador Haley, officially announced her candidacy yesterday, making her the first Republican opponent to challenge former U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Tom Yamos and Holly Jackson:  (Nikki Haley) Tik Tok remark during the debate: “I’m a Mom. The minute you say something about my 25-year-old daughter you get my back up.” She added, “I think Ramaswamy has a dangerous foreign policy that would make America less safe. I don’t even give him the time of day. He has just proven that he has no business being President of the United States.”

On Abortion access:  “I look at it from the perspective that this is personal for every man and every woman in America.” “If you’re gonna’ talk about a federal bill, at least be honest with them. You’ve got Republicans trying to push something that isn’t realistic.”

Israel and Hammas:  Can you destroy Hammas without destroying Gaza? “We’ve always focused on civilians first. But the reality is that if 1400 Americans had been brutally murdered that way, would Americans be okay with that? We had 33 Americans who were murdered. This is not just personal for Israel, it is personal for the United States. Hammas uses women and children as human shields.  If you do a pause, people die, because we’ve done this before. They refuel so they can attack again. They need to let loose of every civilian hostage they have before we negotiate.”

FROM IOWA:

Kyle, a young male voter in Altoona, says he is going to caucus for either DeSantis or Nikki Haley.

Checklist from Altoona male voter:  “Vivek doesn’t pay enough attention to the world order. I feel that we need really competent world leadership.”

Female in bar in Altoona who entered as a MAGA supporter:  “I’m probably still leaning towards DJT. There’s a lot that still could happen, My allegiance is still with DJT, but I really liked the way DeSantis came out in this debate. I still swing back to DJT who kept peace for 4 years, but I think that Ron DeSantis could do the same thing for us if he were elected.” (My heart hurts for someone who knows so little about what DJT did for four years and has done for over 7 decades and does not seem to know enough about the actions of DeSantis in Florida, either.)

All voters in Altoona raised their hands, saying that they felt Trump should have been onstage for the debate.

TIM SCOTT

Tim Scott

Tim Scott

Talking about raising the retirement age:  “Raising the retirement age for a blue collar worker by a year or two is devastating.” (?) All of our spending is bad, he says, despite many worthwhile improvements that the Biden administration has devoted funds towards, and he talks about going back to pre-Covid levels of spending. “We have to increase the economic activity in the private sector.” Scott spoke of a balanced budget amendment. Lots of talking about faith. It appears that his wife is an attractive white blonde woman, based on the family members seen flocking to see their favorite candidate after the debate ended.

On Iran: Further escalation? “What we’ve seen is 40 attacks on military personnel since October 7th. We need to cut off the head of the snake (in Iran). Hammas gets 90% of its funds from Iran. What we need to do is not just to strike warehouses in Syria but to strike the funders of terrorism in the region.” 1600 or 1700 Israelis were lost and 35 American lives. “You cannot negotiate with evil, you have to destroy it.” (Seems like quite a war monger; wonder if he got behind DJT’s idea to bomb drug dealers within Mexico?)

Asked about whether he will make it onto the next debate stage:  ‘I’m 100 % certain that 100 days from now in Alabama I’ll be on the debate stage.” (Really? Maybe ask them to donate to the deficit, instead? Seems like pouring money down a rat hole.) “Voters are just turning their attention to this election. I’m very optimistic about this election.” (Well, that makes one person, but he’s not an Iowa voter.)

RAMASWAMY’S ATTACK ON THE RNC

“Kind of weird” says the GOP former deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley about Ramaswamy’s attack on Rona McDaniel. He says that there is criticism amongst other GOP voters of the RNC. They don’t feel that the RNC is doing enough at the local level.

CHANGE FROM DEBATE ?

Chris Christie

Former governor of New Jersey and presidential candidate Chris Christie.

“In this moment, no, no change.” Christie, for one, the GOP moderator found to be lackluster. “You’re here to throw bombs. Why aren’t you throwing them?”

“Donald Trump has the luxury of not coming because he is so high in the polls, but as the field shrinks, there may be an opportunity for him to come in and shake things up. (From Hogan Gidley).

WHO DO REPUBLICANS WANT TO SEE RUN ?

Jen Psaki said that the voters were not really planning for any of these candidates. “I think that what they are focused on is the general election.” She highlighted abortion and the Republican party being the party of extremism as things the Democrats will emphasize during the 2024 election. (Good things to emphasize, since they are true.)

Any chance of Biden pulling out as a candidate?

Jen Psaki says no. “I was part of Obama’s team when people were saying, ‘There’s no way this guy can win.’ And then he won.”

 

I second that last bit of wisdom, from Jen Psaki, former Press Secretary for President Biden. I was named the Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics in 2008 and vilified for reporting  that Obama was winning in Iowa. That article on Associated Content was hit 3 million times. As a result, I was invited to come to Denver and cover the 2008 DNC and the 2008 RNC in St. Paul, from which came two books, “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols, I & II. Check them out.

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