I owe an apology to my friends who long have subscribed to the New York Times: I considered that to be rather elitist and argued for our hometown papers. But because of the demise of Mother Trib and especially because of the recent cast of characters at the Tampa Bay Times, I've signed up with the Yankee newspaper. It promises to deliver a print version every day, something that seems not to matter anymore to the folks at TBT.
It's been a while coming. I put up with the new management as it fired any number of knowledgeable writers. The loss of Ernest Hooper was an almost last-straw, but they hired Paul Guzzo, and I hung in. Yet you may recall that I complained about their abject failure to write about labor on Labor Day, and I've always thought that what they call the "Business" section should be termed the "Economy" or "Marketplace" or something more inclusive.
The bias against working-class people grew worse with an October 7 editorial titled "Too Much, Too Soon." I remember that phrase from the civil rights days of the 1960s, when many people with pretensions to civic leadership argued that ending discrimination against African Americans -- a century after the end of slavery -- was too much too soon. In this case, the editors assured us that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour – in 2026! – was too much too soon.
I wonder if they recall that Martin Luther King's last cause was the Poor People's March. I wonder what they think he would think about their opposition to what will remain an insufficient income? $15 an hour and a forty-hour week equals $300 a week, or $1,200 a month, or a whopping $14,400 annually. Even in a two-person family of wage earners, that is less than $30,000 a year.
Try getting a mortgage on that, or even renting an apartment. To oppose higher wages is particularly hypocritical when praising very poorly paid workers as "heroes" during the pandemic. I could rail on further about this, especially citing economists such as Paul Samuelson and John Kenneth Galbraith on the correlation between low wages and great depressions -- but I'll forego that in favor of another reason for my disgust.
WHAT MATTERS? THE GAMES THEY PLAY
I haven't kept an exact count, but I believe there's been only one edition in the last week that didn't feature a big photo of sports on the front page. Professional sports, profit-making sports, that is, not Little League or even high-school football. Many days, the amount of space devoted to ballgames and to news -- international, national, and local -- is about equal. If you subtract the ads that take up a lot of the news sections, professional sports may actually get more ink. The rich are subsidizing the already-rich, and expecting the taxpayers to chip in for circuses sans bread.
So that makes three or four or maybe five strikes, and the last offense was a sin of omission, not commission. One of the blogs that I regularly read is "This Week in Statehouse Action," which sounds boring, but its very witty writer, Carolyn Fiddler, makes it fun. It usually appears in my inbox on Fridays, but last week, she sent it on Thursday because of the headline story on the attempted kidnapping of Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI arrested a bunch of young pro-Trump thugs who intended to do her serious harm.
This is a chilling and truly important story, but I looked in vain the next day for detail in the TBT – and when they did finally publish it on Saturday, it was on page 21A. That was enough. I've paid my subscription through next April, so I'll continue to pursue the once-proud paper. I hope, however, the new management will look back to 2013, when it won its most recent prize for editorial writing, and return to a more thoughtful, enlightened past.
PRECEDENTS, PRINCIPLES, AND THE LACK THEREOF
Especially since the White House has become infested with COVID, pundits are having a field day with the "what ifs" of presidential succession. Some are saying that the third in charge, following Vice President Pence, is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, so I want to chime in on this. The secretary of state did indeed become president if both the president and vice president were incapacitated --until 1947, when President Harry Truman successfully lobbied Congress to make a change. Having inherited the presidency himself with the 1945 death of Franklin Roosevelt, Truman was mindful of these possibilities.
At his urging, Congress adopted a Presidential Succession Act that changed the third in line to be the Speaker of House. The convincing argument was that the Speaker was "elected by the elected," and not an appointed Cabinet member. Indeed, many pointed out at the time that the Constitution does not even mention a Cabinet, let alone envision a member becoming president. So in the (unlikely) event that both Trump and Pence are out of the picture, the law says it will be Nancy, not Mike.
Perhaps I should say "should be Nancy" instead of "will be," because the current crop of Republicans seems determined to ignore precedents – even their own precedents, in the case of holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee close to a presidential election. Democrats have been nicer, going back to the days when Richard Nixon pushed his vice president, Spiro Agnew, off a cliff in an attempt to save himself. Nixon's Republican colleagues, however, talked him into resigning – and the nation had its only unelected president, Republican Gerald Ford.
Democrats held the House majority at the time, and Ford was merely the minority leader. Yet in the interest of ending – as Ford himself said – "our long national nightmare," Democrats gave up an opportunity to use the Presidential Succession Act to put one of their own in the White House. Unfortunately, far too many people today consider such unifying, peace-seeking people to be losers and suckers.
AS THE WHITE HOUSE DOOR REVOLVES…
But not everyone agrees about losers and suckers, not even every Republican. The principled among them have joined the "Lincoln Project" to try to turn that party away from White House corruption and fascism. I started to make a list of people who once supported Trump enough that he gave them important positions, but who have quit or been fired. The list became too long and I'm not going to try to complete it, but I do want you to please think about this.
I'm asking: Can you name a single Obama official who has backtracked on his support? I can't. In contrast, there's Rex Tillerson, who served in the highest-ranking Cabinet position as Trump's first secretary of state. It lasted a just a year, until Tillerson quit, publicly saying that he had found Trump to be "a moron." Trump's juvenile response was to challenge his former appointee to an IQ test.
Then there's John Bolton, who lasted less than a year as Trump's National Security Advisor. Bolton's recent book is full of examples of the president's ignorant foreign policy, including his assertion that it "would be cool" to invade Venezuela, which "is really part of the US." Bolton, who is a very hard line anti-communist, also openly avers that Putin elected Trump. You can go online and find a video in which a CNN reporter asks if the president is lying, and Bolton unequivocally replies, "Yes."
Others who once supported Trump, but don't anymore, have faded from the scene. There's Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, as well as Michael Steele, once the head of the National Republican Party. Several former consultants, including Rick Wilson and George Conway (Kellyanne's husband), now are dedicated to defeating the man for whom they once campaigned. There's a string of retired Pentagon people, including generals and admirals, who endorse Common Defense and Vote Vets, websites devoted to ending the career of Cadet Bone Spurs.
And of course, there's his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, doing time in federal prison for crimes he committed on behalf of the president. Roger Stone would be doing the same if the Constitution didn't give the president the right to pardon. I doubt if the Founding Fathers intended that the pardon be used in advance of a trial, which is what Trump did. That no one seemed to notice this judicial outrage simply demonstrates the presidential predilection for changing the subject, and a media too harried (or too complicit) to focus on serious questions.
I'm not even mentioning Trump's tax evasion and the guys he no doubt will blame for that mockery of justice. But I shall mention the felons who cannot vote because the State of Florida can't keep its records straight on what fees they may owe. Where's their pardon? They served their sentences and got no pardons, either before or after their trials. And if the excuse of unpaid debt were valid, where is the disfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people who have failed to pay other court orders, especially child support?
Instead, I've not heard a word about deadbeat dads since Democrats ran Tallahassee – and I've never seen anyone make the analogy about the two types of debt to courts. This is something that the Children's Campaign and other advocacy groups could take up in the next legislative session. A man (and it's almost always a man) who does not accept the responsibility of fatherhood probably does not care about voting, either, but the possibility of being arrested for non-payment of a court order might deter some raucous rally guys.