Good morning, all! I hope your week is going well and forgive me for this lengthy piece.
Just two days after writing I would try to stick to sports in my sports newsletter, the real world has intersected with sports in many ways. The latest coming Monday night, when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick announced he would not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald J. Trump. Did you think he would do otherwise? Even before Belichick had the chance to decide whether he would accept this highest of civilian honors, he was being ostracized on social media and on websites.
Our country is at a tipping point, and I am worried; worried to express an opinion, worried about writing something that might be “interpreted” as politically incorrect, worried about an opinion being misrepresented on social media. Heck, even this paragraph may be considered out of bounds.
Minutes after I had composed my Monday sports letter, the PGA of America announced it was withdrawing its 2022 PGA Championship from Trump International. That is their right. It was also the right of the Trump organization to call such action a “breach of contract.” Good luck winning such a challenge in court.
It goes without saying the storming of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday was not who we are as a country. It was reprehensible. It also goes without saying that burning police precincts, attacking federal courthouses, looting stores and placing human shields on Interstate highways to disrupt rush-hour traffic, is also not who we are as a country. Yet one action is labeled an “insurrection,” the other is condoned as a peaceful protest.
We see the pictures of a mob attacking the Capitol. Just as disconcerting is the mob rule we are now living under. Unless the 74,216,721 who voted for President Trump recant, they are to be scorned, mocked and silenced in the public square. Those who voted for the incumbent are being aligned with 20th Century dictators, being labeled extremists.
Here is why I am worried. In a country where it is common practice to even conduct post mortems on the church bizarre - “What can we do better next year?” - if millions ask for a post mortem on an election for the most powerful office in the world, they are told to “go into a corner and shut up.” By the way, warned to “shut up” by those who never accepted the outcome of the previous election. They are warned to “don’t ask questions,” even though for the first time in history the election included tens of millions of mail-in ballots far exceeding absentee ballots from previous elections.
No one is to question, how did the new system work? What can we do better next time? Were there mistakes? Was there any foreign intervention, as was alleged four years ago? No one is to question why some states kept moving the finish line for qualifying ballots.
Did the president fan the flames with his continued rants about a “stolen” election? Absolutely. But Congress has been derelict in its duties too, ignoring the doubt by millions of voters about election integrity, so much is its hatred of the sitting president and his party.
One week after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson formed the Warren Commission to investigate the shooting. LBJ wanted the immediate formation of a commission, to calm a nation’s frayed nerves. Congress should have created a commission last November, investigating how the election was run. Claiming it was a states-rights issue doesn’t cut it. Its failure to be proactive, its insistence on taking cheap shots at millions in the electorate rather than engaging in reasoned debate, is one reason a new poll shows 25 percent of the people want to see the country split in two.
Doubting the outcome’s integrity, a sizeable portion of the electorate wants an investigation, rather than being relegated to a dustbin of kooks or being labeled insurrectionists.
And what of the mainstream media? One of the tenets of journalism is curiosity. Where is the curiosity here? A media that loves to crunch numbers has failed to ask, how is it a major party candidate, who campaigned mainly from his basement, attracted small crowds on infrequent campaign stops and had no coattails in November, somehow garners more votes than any candidate in history?
No one is to question why massive vote swings always seem to occur in the middle of the night. Why our election outcomes are now boiling down to a few states. (A worry of President John F. Kennedy. Source: Phone call to Governor-elect John Connelly, Nov. 1962)
We witness schemes to circumvent the Constitution and neuter the Electoral College. Much easier to follow this path (gimmick), say supporters, than amend the Constitution. The late President Harry S Truman, a member of the party seeking to marginalize the opposition, once feared abolishing the Electoral College because it “would increase big city rule of the nation.” (Source: NY Times, page 53, Jan. 6, 1961)
Following the 1960 election, when Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon by 112,827 votes, the esteemed CBS Reports ran a two-part special on JFK’s razor-thin victory, less than two weeks before his inauguration. Questions were asked. Now questions are scorned.
Wonder aloud how someone could lose an election, who finished first in a major poll as the most “admired man,” while the winner of the election, who collected the most votes in history finished a distant third, and be prepared to be labeled a traitor. No matter that the same poll lists a former first lady, favored by the winning party, as the most “admired woman.”
Corporations, social media giants, big tech and sports leagues (all of which were big money donors to the victorious side) are among those taking dead aim at anyone asking legitimate questions, even if those same questions were asked by the other side four years ago. Those with a differing opinion are being targeted, silenced and censured. Talk radio take note.
Where is this going? Will the PGA of America boot out Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus because they golfed with Trump last year? Will they be given one more chance, if they promise never to golf with Trump again? Will MLB force the sale of the New York Yankees by the Steinbrenner family, because Trump used to be a frequent guest of George Steinbrenner at Yankees games? Will the WNBA demand that Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who owns the league’s Atlanta franchise, be ordered to sell because she received Trump’s support in her failed election bid? Players on the Atlanta team want her to sell.
Don’t dismiss these speculative scenarios as hyperbole. Those in Congress, who legally challenged the electoral vote count last Wednesday, are now in the crosshairs of other elected officials, who are demanding their removal from office, demanding they be censured and demanding they be placed on “do not fly” lists. (Will 75 million people also be placed on “do not fly” lists?) Those making these demands fail - perhaps on purpose - to see the hypocrisy in their own challenge to the election results four, eight 16 and 20 years ago.
So vitriolic has Washington become, the losing party is now at war with itself, about to fracture into so many pieces, it may be years, if ever, before it wins another major election. Many are now jumping a sinking ship, fearful of being thrown out of the club, unless they throw the captain overboard, now, rather than permitting him to walk the plank in seven days.
The reasons are obvious: they are fearful the captain will open the log book, fearful the captain will steer the ship into the “swamp.” And there is a swamp. No less an authority than the late, esteemed David Halberstam, author of the seminal book The Best and the Brightest, (forward in the book’s last edition by the late Sen. John McCain) wrote about President Kennedy, as he struggled with increasing the country’s Vietnam commitment:
“John Kennedy was fast learning that his personal and political interests were not necessarily the same as those of the thousands of men who worked in the government.”
Cannot the same be said of the current president?
We no longer have statesmen and stateswomen intelligent enough to lower the temperature, when tensions are at the boiling point. Now our elected officials - fueled I am convinced by ideology and mega-money donors - turn the dial higher, even if it means scalding 50 percent of the population. Hysteria has replaced reason.
There is no more arena of ideas. No more legitimate debate. No more civil discourse on policy. Our officials on both sides of the aisle now embrace an in-your-face attitude, encouraged by a media that promotes discord to drive ratings, streaming subscriptions and website clicks. Our legislative branch now tosses around constitutional amendments and the sobering act of impeachment like candy, even though the object of their scorn will leave office in seven days.
Impeachment! Without due process, no less, followed by a lecture on democracy. Our elected officials employ rhetoric that suits a narrative, that divides rather than unites. Facts are disregarded. Accomplishments ridiculed.
Impeachment! A nation reeling from a deadly virus, its people in need of another economic stimulus, and the focus is going to be spending taxpayers’ dollars on another impeachment of a president who will no longer be in office, when a Senate trial begins? Disagree with this action and be prepared for a barrage of cheap shots rather than measured dialogue.
Pledging unity, the winner of the election has yet to appoint a person of the opposition party to his cabinet; content to stoke the impeachment flames; quick to compare those who question the election outcome on a par with the propaganda minister of Nazi Germany. (Cognizant of his narrow victory, JFK appointed so many members of the opposition party to cabinet and government positions, his own party told him to stop it.) Words matter, we are told. So do actions.
In reality, there is no unity. Early during the president’s first term, while I was still hosting that current events program on radio, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, was droning on endlessly about his grievances against the president. I asked him, if he had picked up the phone and expressed his concerns with the chief executive. He answered “no.” I then asked, shouldn’t he? After all, it wasn’t unusual for a senator from the opposite party to call the White House and ask to speak to the president. The senior senator attempted to change the subject. But I persisted, asking shouldn’t he try to contact the president? Indeed, the senator represented all of the state’s citizens, should he not phone on behalf of the 673,215 constituents who voted for the president? I am still waiting for an answer.
The fact is the party which now has the power, shared in sowing the seeds of descent by attempting to delegitimize the last election, while now holding in contempt, those who innocently question the validation of this latest one.
We now live in a country where the tech giants have the power to silence a popular, social app because it does not agree with their standards, even though these same companies will not offer an example of which standards were violated.
We now live in a country where a tech giant can boot that same social app off its servers, while simultaneously permitting the sale of Mein Kampf in its world-leading online store.
We now live in a country where a social media tech giant can mute the leader of the free world, while permitting the leader of a country known for exporting terrorism to post incendiary comments.
We now live in a country where a sports league can silence one of its executives, when he posted on social media his support for freedom fighters under a repressive regime, because the said sport reaped millions from that country. That same sport then lectures us on freedom at home.
We now live in a country where another tech oligarch, which has exercised its monopolistic powers over the last week, sees no problem in allowing its goods to be manufactured in a country that cracks down on anyone who dares dissent with government policy.
All most Americans really want to do is get on with their lives, provide for their families, attend a ball game or school play, go out to eat, go to the theater or concert. Instead, a nation’s fabric is being torn apart by officials caught up in a maelstrom of political egos, consumed in hate, putting their narcissism at the forefront, while pretending to represent the common good.
“I may not agree with your opinion, but I will fight to the end for your right to express it,” is a famous line and one to which I subscribe. Sadly, fueled by social media platforms and a mainstream media driven by opinion disguised as news, driven by a need to promote an agenda rather than report, the First Amendment is now under assault. I am worried. Real worried.