A One Act Play: The 2024 Presidential Candidacy of George Santos

Scene: The cloak room of the Senate, often used by Republicans.

Republican Senator One: “Well, since there seems to be a good chance that Trump  might be behind bars when the next election happens in 2024, I think we should have a backup candidate, and my vote would go to George Santos. He’s the guy to carry the torch.

Republican Senator Two: I agree. I favor him as much as you do. He has all the qualities we want and need. He has a fabulous resume, a true Horatio Alger story, plus he stands for everything Trump does and will fight hard.

Republican Staffer: Are you sure? I have been responsible for investigating all the controversy surrounding this man and have done some fact checking. I have some questions.

Republican Senator One: Well, for starters he went to a great college. Baruch College . Hard to get into, terrific school.

 Republican Staffer: Except he didn’t. No record that he attended the school.

Republican Senator One: He had to. He was a volleyball star there plus he has an MBA from NYU. You can’t have an MBA if you don’t go to college.

Republican Staffer: No record of an MBA from NYU or attending the NYU graduate school. In fact, no record of a college degree anywhere. Also, no evidence that he ever played volleyball, not that it is all that important.

Republican Senator One: Well, you are right. That isn’t all that important. Just look at his successful career. He was a high level executive at Citi Group and at Goldman Sachs and worked at Blackstone.

Republican Staffer: Would be great except there is no record of his being employed at any of these firms. I talked with HR people at each firm and no one ever heard of the guy.

Republican Senator Two: Maybe they did not keep good records. And what about his real estate career? He was a big time landlord in New York City and complained about all the deadbeats who owed him rent money.

Republican Staffer: Unfortunately, there is no record of Santos owning any property in New York or anywhere else. But there are numerous court records of Santos being brought into court for failing to pay rent.

Republican Senator Two:  Well, that is a minor item, and I for one do not believe he wouldn’t pay rent.  He has a lot of money, right? Hey, he lent his campaign over $700,000, so he must have a lot of money.

 Republican Staffer: His tax returns showed an income of only $55,000 in 2020. Plus, he applied for and received unemployment benefits from the Covid relief funds of $24,000 in 2020 and 2021.  He may have made around $100,000 during that period when he worked for an investment firm in Florida, but it coincided with the time he claimed unemployment insurance during the covid pandemic. 

 Republican Senator Two: Well, the money had to come from somewhere.

Republican Staffer: That is one of the reasons he is being investigated by the FBI.

Republican Senator One: Partisan attack by scum bag Democrats, who have weaponized the FBI. Who are you going to believe, Santos or the FBI? Plus, he has an inspiring personal history. This makes him a compelling presidential candidate. His Jewish grandparents were Holocaust survivors, for goodness sake! They came to the U.S. penniless.

Republican Staffer: When his mother immigrated from Brazil, she listed her parents as being born in Brazil. And there is also nothing about being Jewish or ever living in Europe.

Republican Senator Two: Well, being a Jew is not all that helpful anyway in a national election as it is in New York City. So, what if he is not Jewish? Think of all that he has been through. Take the Nine-Eleven attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. His mother was working there as a high level business executive in the South Tower and died from the toxic dust. Tragedy, real tragedy. Tear jerker. The American public will relate to that.

Republican Staffer: Except his mother was living in Brazil at the time and listed her occupation as “housekeeper and home aide” on her immigration papers, when she immigrated to the U.S. in 2003.

Republican Senator One: Not all that important. And another inspiring part of his life was his championing animal rights. That should be compelling. He started his own charity, a nonprofit, tax exempt organization called “Friends of Pets United.” He personally rescued 2,400 dogs and 280 cats. This will really go over well with the animal lovers.

Republican Staffer: The part about the nonprofit company appears correct except it was never registered with the IRS as is required, and there are multiple accusations that he stole money from the nonprofit for his personal use. This is another item under investigation by the FBI.

Republican Senator One: Well, another positive factor is that in his first run for office in 2020, his election was stolen just like what happened to Trump that year. Republicans will rally behind a candidate who experienced election fraud and who supports Trump’s proven accusations of election fraud. Look, we all know the Democrats cheat all the time and that Trump won in 2020….Son, you might have tried to find the facts, but all you have told us amounts to a “he said, she said” deal. Believe who you want to, but we know that all this is a  plot by Democrats to keep this likely candidate at bay. What we need now is a strong backup candidate should Trump end up in the slammer, and Santos, frankly, is the best we have. Kevin McCarthy loves him. Lindsley Graham loves him. Mitch loves him. He’s the best we got.

Republican Staffer: Did you know he has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making false statements to the House of Representatives?

Senator Number One: So what? Accusations happen in every election. No big deal. He hasn’t been convicted, has he? That is the only thing that counts. All made up charges, if you ask me. Besides, son, you better watch yourself. He may end up being the next President of the United States.

Staffer departs from the cloak room with no comment. Senators rush off to vote.



Don’t Cave, Democrats!

As I write on Saturday, May 20, there is no assurance that the debt ceiling will be raised. To the contrary, the negotiations ceased when the Republicans left the room on Friday evening in a huff hinting that there was no hope for a compromise. The required “compromise,” as they call it, would mean Democrats holding federal spending steady for discretionary items with no increases from the FY 22 budget– for eight years! It also would mean huge cuts in federal subsidies for health care and the social safety net along with gutting environmental initiatives and firing IRS staff. Cuts would average 18 percent on year one for all items not related to defense or national security. The federal bureaucracy would be gutted, support for veterans cut drastically, climate change initiatives blocked. Medicare and Social Security would also be on the chopping block. When the Democrats give into these “reasonable” demands, then and only then will the Republicans agree to allow the proposed programs in the 2024 budget to move forward by raising the debt limit.

These demands, of course, are outrageous and unacceptable to Democrats and to the Administration. The Republicans, however, believe they are coming from a position of strength. They believe they have the poison pill—the law that prevents any spending above the congressionally authorized debt ceiling, which is expected to happen on or around June 1. The average American expects both sides to make concessions and for a compromise to be reached. 

 The crazies have taken over the Republican Party.  I am not hopeful.

I say, Hold your course, Democrats. What is happening now is the equivalent to hostage taking. And make no mistake. This has nothing to do with balanced budgets. No Republican gave so much as a twit when Trump’s laws cut revenues and provided giveaways to the rich through tax cuts. The tax cuts pushed deficits to record highs. This is about an unconditional surrender by Democrats to give Republicans the chance to destroy virtually all that they and President Biden have been able to accomplish in the first two years of the Biden Administration and much more. Plus if they are successful in getting their way now, they will surely pull this trick again. And again.  Mr. President, you can’t let this happen. Dems, you can’t let this happen.

So what to do? So, yes, make compromises, small ones, but do not cave on what is important. If reasonable compromises can’t be reached, accept that  the non essential part of the federal government will be shut down, but do not default on Treasury Bills. We have been through government shut downs before. They are painful, unfair, and totally unnecessary,  but usually are worked out eventually. Not honoring our financial obligations is a bird of a different feather. Economists and historians tell us the results would be catastrophic. Mr. President, continue to pay interest and return principal. The Fourteenth Amendment has a provision that states the following:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Argue the law about the debt ceiling is unconstitutional and honor the debt. This would, of course, end up in the Supreme Court. Would the current justices put a stop to  this action by Republicans to set off a catastrophic event? I know, long shot. That is why we all should be concerned.

A “discharge petition” (which I confess I do not understand)  has also been recommended, which would get around the debt ceiling deadline but would need at least five Republicans to sign on, also unlikely.

The situation is in effect a duel at close range where both sides shoot each other dead. It is the financial equivalent of a nuclear war. Yes, the budget deficits need to be addressed by cost cutting combined with raising more revenues. This needs to be a priority going forward but not now, not under the threat of killing all the hostages. Only eleven days are left before the triggering event.  For now, however, the Dems must not cave. Should the Republicans win on this one,  Doomsday comes to mind.

The Mystery of Clarence Thomas Unveiled

PBS’s Frontline featured a two-hour special on Clarence and Ginni Thomas a couple of weeks ago. I am a big fan of Frontline and recommend viewing the program on Clarence and Ginni Thomas if you have not already seen it. You can probably find it in the Frontline archives. It is extraordinary. The program consisted mainly of interviews with people who have known them over the years. As you may guess, I have never been a Clarence Thomas fan, but now have a better understanding of the man. Here are my takeaways:

I now know a lot more about the guy than I did before (from the program and from Wikepedia). Clarence was born in 1948, the height of Jim Crow laws and overt racism in the South. He grew up in modest circumstances in Pin Point, Georgia, a tiny village, almost entirely African American, near Savanah where the primary language of most residents was Gullah, a language from  the days of slavery. Gullah was the first language Clarence spoke. “Modest circumstances”, however, does not begin to capture the situation. He grew up in abject poverty. His father abandoned the family when Clarence was two, and his mother, a maid, struggled to make ends meet and provide food for the family. The house they lived in had no indoor plumbing. Unable to cope, his mother gave up her three children to her own father and mother, who lived in Savanah. Clarence’s maternal grandparents, Myers and Christine Anderson, raised their three grandchildren. Myers Anderson owned a modest fuel oil and coal business, which provided a living income but was a hard driving and demanding substitute father. An ardent Catholic, he sent Clarence off to a Catholic boys’ schools and later to high school at a seminary where Clarence studied to become a Catholic priest. He was one of only a handful of Black students and subjected to brutal harassment and racist bullying. He left the seminary early, to the displeasure of his grandfather,  to attend Holy Cross College on a full scholarship and then on to Yale Law School.

Now think about this for a moment. An African American man who was born into poverty during the time of the most rampant racism in the South ends up becoming a Supreme Court Justice in what is now referred to as “the Thomas Court.” Good heavens! Talk about a Cinderella story. Has anyone on the Court ever come from circumstances as humble or challenging as this? Thomas was dealt a tough hand.  How did he do it? And how and why did he become one of the most conservative Justices in the history of the Supreme Court? This is the question  Frontline tries to answer.

The main takeaway for me was that what made this possible was Thomas’s driving ambition to be respected and to overcome personal insecurity. Being an African American in the Jim Crow South affected him greatly as did his early years living in poverty and the continuing racism he experienced. Hurtful racist experiences continued throughout his life– at the mostly white Holy Cross College and the mostly white Yale Law School where he often felt dissed by white students and professors.

What I did not know –and I suspect that what most do not know– was that as a young man Thomas was a civil rights activist. At Holy Cross Clarence was part of the Black Power Movement, a fan and devotee of Malcom X, and a student radical. My goodness, how do you go from a Black radical to Black conservative in only a few years?

Thomas began to change when he was at Yale. He was influenced by several conservative professors and some conservative friends. His goal was to land a job at a prestigious law firm. When Clarence did not get the plum law firm offers that most of his classmates were getting, he was crushed. He had made good grades, worked very hard and yet felt dissed again. Oddly in my view, he attributed the situation to affirmative action: He believed the fancy law firms did not hire him because they had concluded that the only reason he had gotten into an elite law school was because he was Black, not because he was smart or had earned it.

This was a pivotal moment for Thomas. He switched from Plan A to Plan B, which was to become a government attorney and work his way up the bureaucratic ladder to the top. He also observed there were a whole lot more Black people in the Democratic line to get the good government jobs than in the Republican line. According to friends interviewed on the show, his choice was not so much ideological as practical. He concluded it would be a lot easier to succeed as a Black Republican than as a Black Democrat.

He also was aware that the Republican Party was becoming much more conservative. To succeed not only did he have to be a member of the party, to tow the ideological line, he had to stand out from the crowd. The more conservative the better. This would seem to be another practical decision and explains the shift from the campus radical he was at Holy Cross to his bona fides that made him a rising star among Republicans. Promotions came quickly and with some lucky breaks —serving under Reagan as head of the EEOC at one point and making the right connections with elected officials and the Republican elite– he got his chance. The rest is history. In 1991 he was nominated by President George H. W. Bush and sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice at age 43.

But his success had come with a price. Clarence went through two failed marriages, and at one point had a serious drinking problem. In many of the film clips on the show, he seemed to be anything but a happy camper. The Anita Hill testimony during the nomination hearings about his sexual harassment history was said by his friends to have devastated him. His denial of the charges was vehement, but no one interviewed on the Frontline program said they doubted that Anita Hill was telling the truth.  

The unanswered question for me is why he continued to move farther to the right after his appointment to the Supreme Court. Did he really believe all Republican talking points when voting against things like equal opportunity and affirmative action? Was he aware that many of his votes would hurt low income people of color? Why didn’t he move toward the middle? With a guaranteed job for life and the prestige that went with it, what did he have to lose by being true to values of fairness and opportunity that he had benefited from himself? What were his values when he was involved in civil rights protests in the 1970s? The Frontline show never really answers this question though his marriage to Ginni Lamp in 1987 might have played a part.

Ginni Lamp was an ambitious Republican operative from Nebraska, nine years younger than Clarence, and whose wealthy parents at the time were in the John Birch Society. They were extreme rightwing conservatives. That she is white and from a very wealthy family adds complexity and irony to the Clarence Thomas story. Since their marriage they have been what I would call “partners in crime.”

The program also touched on the current scandal of having a long term, unreported relationship with Harlan Crow, the billionaire son of the real estate developer Trammel Crow. Over a long period, they have wined and dined in expensive restaurants with Harlan Crow, accompanied Crow on his mega yacht for cruises to exotic places, and with Crow, visited luxury resorts, all bills paid. Crow is a mega donor to the Republican Party and rightwing causes. Are we to believe that politics and legal issues were never discussed, and that Crow never introduced the Thomases to his rightwing friends?

The conundrum is whether Thomas is a sellout without principles or strong values other than personal success, who changed colors in order to succeed in his career, or whether he is a converted, true believer in “conservative” values and principles. Does he have a moral compass? Did he ever have one?

One of his friends interviewed said that “Clarence became a Republican so he could get a job. Now he is one of them.”

Ok, I get this. I can understand why the need for respect is important and why personal insecurity is a motivator, for better or for worse. While I do not “like” him, and will likely never agree with him, I think I now can begin to understand him. The humanity of the man came through in the Frontline program. He seemed to me to be something of a lost soul. But I also have to confess that there is something to admire about the journey of the flawed man from Pin Point, given his start in life. But on the other hand there is no question that our country would have been far better off if Clarence Thomas had gotten his dream job working for a prestigious New York law firm.












My No Good, Horrible, Terrible Day

Tuesday, May 11, got started well enough with not much happening in the morning. Reading about how many lies George Santos had been telling, around one in the afternoon, I decided to write a blog post about the scoundrel and typed in “Lies by George Santos” on Google where I was directed to a website with that name, which I clicked. A red warning sign popped up that this was a risky website. Before I was able to read more than five or six of his lies, a sound like a siren went off, and the following message with the Apple logo appeared: “Apple Has Determined Your Computer Has Been Hacked. We have locked It to protect your device. Contact Apple now and do not shut off or unplug your computer since it may result in severe damage. Call Apple Help now. Call this number.” The message took up the whole screen and flashed on and off. The siren continued.

It seemed a bit odd. I tried to cancel the message and unlock the computer to no avail. Embry came in my office, and we both suspected it might be a scam. Despite the dire warning not to turn off the computer, I turned off the computer and unplugged it anyway. When I turned it back on again, the flashing continued. The computer remained locked, and the siren was even louder. What to do?

I was wary of calling the telephone number on the screen, so using my iPhone decided to call the Apple Help number listed on the internet so I would be sure to get an Apple technician. I noticed there were several Apple Help numbers and without giving it much thought called the first one. Someone from Apple immediately answered. “Yes,” he said,” We understand your problem and can help. There is a lot of computer theft like this going around.” The technician had what seemed to me a slight Indian accent.

The usual procedure is to let Apple see your screen enabling them to use an arrow to point to things you need to do to fix what is wrong. I agreed to screen sharing. The Apple tech guy immediately reported that he thought this was part of a hacking scheme going on and stated that he could fix it but would need the use of my iPhone and asked for permission to screen share that also. I agreed to that as well.

The procedure of using the iPhone took quite a bit of time and I had no idea of what he was doing. After about 15 minutes, he said, “Mr. Howell, l can confirm that your computer has been hacked. I have determined that the hackers are in Houston, Texas, and that they have targeted your bank, PNC, and are on the verge of taking all your money. They have been able to hack into your computer and get all the information they need to rob you. I can stop this from happening, but I will need to get into your system to stop them.

What to do?

He continued, “We at Apple are familiar with this scheme and can keep the hackers from steeling your money but we must act now. And you must do everything I say and do it immediately.”

“Are you really an Apple technician?” I asked timidly.

“Please, Mr. Howell, of course, I am. You insult me. We know this scam. We deal with scams like this every day. If you don’t act fast now, you will lose everything in your account, which I believe is $23,526.33.”

“Good heavens,” I thought. “This guy knows exactly how much money is in my PNC bank account. How did he figure this out? How did he get this information?”

With some reservations I agreed to let the Apple technician move forward in fixing the problem, which involved beating the hackers to the punch by transferring all the money out of PNC to a safe haven bank account in San Francisco, which only I would be able to access. I complained that I did not fully understand how this would work. He assured me it was standard protocol and the only way of averting catastrophe. The clock was ticking, and Apple is a trusted company.

It turned out the process of transferring my money from PNC to a California bank took over an hour. He was constantly telling me what to do and scolding me for taking too much time. He kept reminding me that the hackers would steel my money it if I didn’t move faster in following his instructions. Toward the end of the hour, he said that everything was in place and all that was needed was the password I used for the PNC account. No one would see the password except for PNC so I need not worry.

I took a deep breath and typed in my password.

It was at this point that I realized that I had just given my PNC password to someone I did not know and who probably was not actually an Apple employee. I broke into a cold sweat.

“Hurry, Mr. Howell, do as I say, do it now or all will be lost. All you have to do is click on “transfer.” Do it now. Now!

I clicked on “transfer.”

“Good job, Mr. Howell. You have saved the day. We have beaten the hackers. Your money is safe. Now look at your phone and tell me what you see. I am unlocking your computer.”

I looked at my phone and reported back, “Transfer denied.”

“Shit,” he said, “I am bringing in my boss.

The boss got on the phone. His accent was much stronger than that of the technician I had been dealing with. I could barely understand what he was saying, and he was surely not a happy camper. He then directed me to go to the nearest Target store to purchase what I thought he said was an Apple card, which he said would be needed to complete the transfer. He would remain on the line, and I should hurry.

What? This made no sense.

There are idiots in the world and there are outrageous, hopeless idiots. Clearly, I fall into the former category, but even for a naïve, trusting idiot like me, this was too much.

“You know where you can stick the Apple Card–or whatever it is I am supposed to buy. I am reporting you to the police.”

I hung up.

But I had to act fast. The hackers had my bank account information and password and probably would eventually figure out how to make the transfer. I immediately called PNC and after giving the automated system my name, social security number, and date of birth, finally got a person and told her my predicament. She transferred me to the fraud and abuse line. An automated voice came on the line announcing that the wait would be approximately 45 minutes, and all calls would be taken in order.

Forty-five minutes? All could be lost in 45 minutes. I felt a panic attack coming on. On pins and needles, I waited for the call to be answered while trying to keep my composure.

Finally, a woman’s voice answered. I told her what had happened and that she needed to protect my account. She then asked me the usual security questions—full name, date of birth, address, social security number, last for digits of my PNC account, the name of my first pet and my mother’s maiden name.

“All good,” she said, “Just one more question: What is your oral password?”

“My what?”

“Your oral password. If you are who you say you are, you have an oral password. Without an oral password there is no way PNC can help you.”

I was not aware of ever having had an “oral password.” I told her I had been a PNC customer for over 25 years, and no one had ever given me or asked for an oral password. And furthermore, I stood to lose $23,000, which would be transferred to a bank in California. I begged her to help me now. There was no time to spare. How could she think it was not me when I knew the name of my first pet, for God’s sake?

“Don’t raise your voice with me.” She replied, I don’t care what the name of your first pet was. No oral password, no business!” The phone line suddenly went dead.

I was stunned. Over an hour had passed. The hackers had all the information they needed. Somehow the transfer had not gone through the first time, but it could happen at any minute. The end of this movie was starting to look like a tragedy.

I reported back to Embry regarding the desperate situation and told her I was headed to the nearest PNC branch and arrived there in about ten minutes. It was now after four p.m. I had been consumed by the hacker scam for over three hours. I stumbled into the branch, shaking. The manager greeted me and invited me into her office. Someone brought me a bottle of water.

Then came the security clearance–driver’s license, debit card, and check book. Then she asked me for the oral password.


“I am not supposed to do this but I will give you a hint. All are numbers and there are six of them.”

Immediately I responded with a guess: a special date, which I will not divulge. She smiled. I had gotten it right!

I described what had happened and how the account needed to be frozen. She made a quick call to someone and reported back that the account already was frozen. PNCs security system had immediately identified the transaction as fraudulent, and shut it down.


Disaster averted. She opened new accounts with new passwords and transferred all the money to the new accounts. I was finally able to relax. The next day I called the real Apple line and got my computer cleaned up wiping out all the cookies and changing all passwords.

The question that I suspect many will be asking is how I could have fallen for the scheme in the first place. The short answer is that yes, I am an idiot and way too trusting. This is certainly true, but at the same time I have got to say that the scam was well executed. The fake Apple guy was knowledgeable and very convincing that this was all legitimate. He answered most of my questions assuring me that this was the proper protocol. Since I got the telephone number off the internet under the name Apple Help—not from the number that was on the warning on my computer screen–I  can’t figure out how were they were able to pull this off. But in the end, PNC’s software and algorithms saved me. They have picked up fraudulent activity in my account within minutes of the activity on several occasions. They surely came through on this one. In the end, all I can say is that I was lucky. The horrible, no good, terrible day had a happy ending.


The Times We Are In

So, the question of the day is how concerned we should be about what is happening in our country and our world right now. Certainly, every age has its challenges, its existential moments, and its times of despair. Think of what our parents and grandparents must have experienced during the Great Depression. What if we had not been able to claw our way back? What if communism had become a viable alternative to capitalism? And what about World War II? It was not a foregone conclusion that the Allies would defeat the Nazis. What would the world have looked like if Hitler and the Axis countries had defeated us? What if Germany had developed the atomic bomb before we did? We tend to look at history as if it were a part of a script already written. The way that things turned out was the way they were supposed to. But at the time, for the people who experienced the events when they were happening, the end of the story remained a big question mark.

You can make the case that the two World Wars, the Great Depression, the rise of communism in Russia and China, and the Cold War were part of an era that ultimately yielded positive outcomes for the world, but which were far from certain at the time. Had the chips fallen differently, we could be living in a very different—and probably very dismal– world.

I also think that you can argue that the 60 plus years following World War II ushered in a period of relative peace and prosperity, which when compared to the preceding 50 years was easy sledding. The U.S. became the world’s only true superpower. The European Union stabilized Western Europe. The Korean War came to a stalemate. In the 1990s the Cold War was over, and we won. Communism was officially over in Russia and unofficially over in China. For a period of about 20 years, it looked like both countries would be our friends. Yes, the United States made mistakes in Vietnam and in the second Iraq War, but we also made great strides in civil rights, gender equality, and in helping poorer countries. For a good 50 years it has been our game to lose. Leadership was mixed during this period. We had some great presidents along with some not-so-great but gratefully were spared the crazies. There was a national consensus that the middle road was the path to peace and prosperity.  My generation has had it easy when compared to our parent’s generation.

Fast forward to today. Since the early 2000s, we have witnessed these events:

  • Russia and China are no longer our friends. This change has come gradually. When Embry and I visited both countries in our around-the-world-without-flying adventure in 2015, we were welcomed as friends in both countries. This would not be the case today. Both countries are ruled by ruthless dictators. Russia is engaged in a senseless and devasting war in Ukraine with no end in sight, which could spill into a world war, if mistakes or miscalculations happen. China has its eye on Taiwan and is focused on overtaking the U.S. as the world’s greatest economic power.
  • The World Population Review lists 52 countries as dictatorships in 2020—about a fourth of all countries, and the number is rising–in Hungary, Egypt, Turkey, and some formerly Communist Eastern European countries, with others at risk like India, Israel, and, I would argue, the United States, if Trump were to win in 2024.
  • Climate change looms large. For decades scientists have warned us to reduce our carbon output or risk catastrophe. Progress has been made but nowhere near enough to avert serious consequences. The extreme weather the world is experiencing now is Exhibit A. Some countries, especially those in Africa are being devasted by chronic drought. A food crisis may result in starvation of several hundred thousand people in North Africa this year. California is deluged by flooding.
  • The Covid pandemic has had a huge impact on many millions of people all over the world; and though the crisis has eased, much damage has been done. There have been over a million deaths in the United States and at least eight million worldwide—probably a lot more. Isolation, depression, and loneliness have affected many, and there is no guarantee that it is over. Covid is still around and could morph into a more lethal variant. We continue to be uneasy.
  • The United States has experienced the trauma of the Trump election denial, the January 6 Insurrection, the overturning of abortion rights by the Supreme Court and Red State draconian restrictions, the almost daily mass killings that never seem to stop, the resistance to reasonable gun laws, and the move toward authoritarianism by Trump and his MAGA followers. Except for the Civil War, many scholars say we have never been so divided.
  • AI has just arrived, and nobody knows how that it going to impact our planet.

This brings us to the next Presidential election.  From 2016-2020, we endured four years of the most dangerous President in the history of the United States. Yet Trump is still in the picture for the 2024 Presidential election, like a vicious wild beast lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on its prey. And even though a majority of Americans dislike Trump, he has the Republican Party wrapped around his little finger. Unless something unanticipated happens, he will be the Republican candidate. So, we will have two old codgers duking it out for President when what we need is a Democrat with more youthful energy, vision, and charisma. Now don’t get me wrong. In my view Biden has been a good president. That he has accomplished so much on the legislative front in his first two years is remarkable, given the Republican opposition. The issue for me is his age. It turns out he is only seven months younger than me. I and everybody I know after reaching 80 has slowed down. Ask any octogenarian if they think Biden is too old to go another four years after he finishes his first term. “Are you kidding me?” will likely be the response. Good heavens!   Yet here we are at a time when strong, compassionate, energetic, visionary leadership is desperately needed. That we do not and will not have it unless something changes is concerning. Never have the stakes been higher.

The latest poll came out today, May 7, showing Biden’s approval rating of 36% compared to 56% disapproval due mainly to concerns about his age, health and acuity. He would not stand a chance against a young moderate Republican, who fortunately for us Democrats is an extinct species. But still. Is this really the candidate who can win?  Wake up Democrats!

And there  is another nightmare scenario. Trump will not beat Biden in a head-to-head race if no other serious, third party candidates are on the ballot. A solid majority of Americans dislike Trump. However, a head to head choice might not happen. We learned this week that Joe Manchin is seriously considering running as a moderate, third party, independent candidate. If that happens—or if another credible moderate runs on an alternative ticket—such as someone supported by the “No Labels” initiative–Trump could and probably would win. Biden cannot afford to lose votes from moderate, independent voters. Enthusiasm about Biden is weak.  Trump’s base is rock solid. A viable moderate, third party candidate  could result in a doomsday scenario of four more years of Trump, which  scares the bejesus out of me.

Of course, we do not know the outcome of the various legal investigations underway, the rape lawsuits, or whether Trump will be convicted. Who knows, maybe he will end up taking the oath of office from a jail or penitentiary.  His MAGA base will stick with him regardless.

So think of all the issues that our country is facing—climate change, continuing divisions by race and class, the vast income and wealth disparity between the Big Hitters and just about everybody else, women’s right to choose, the militia movement to overthrow the government, and the need to responsibly reduce the deficit, for starters. The list is long. Leadership has never been more important. If only we had a youngish, popular, progressive leader waiting in the wings.

And finally, we have the self-inflicted debt default crisis looming. The Republicans have sworn there will be no compromising. Cut social safety net spending and climate change initiatives or shut down the government and tumble the world financial order into chaos.  They are essentially engaged in hostage taking, thinking Biden will blink and that they will be victorious allowing them to claim victory by drastically cutting programs designed to help the working poor, killing the climate change initiatives, and hurting Biden.  But they will not win. Their game of chicken will not work. Biden can’t and won’t cave. So what will happen? The optimists believe that a compromise will happen. I hope they are right– if the compromises are reasonable– though I am not hopeful.

So welcome to the 2020s. The five or six decades of relative calm and stability are over. These are the times we now live in. Tighten your seat belts. It is going to be a bumpy ride.