Where Are American’s Great Leaders?

By: Lee Rosenthal

Most Americans believe the president of the United States should be a leader who they admire, a person of integrity, a man or woman who exemplifies the traditions and great history of this country.

We want to look up to, be inspired by and be proud of our most important leader. The president should be someone who is deeply concerned with the well being of every American, regardless of his or her political affiliations, race, gender or religious preference.

America’s president should be a highly intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and selfless person. Our leader should not be vindictive, insecure, shallow, petty or self- serving.

Perhaps America’s idea of what a president should and should not be is a pipe dream, a myth that we retain from our childhood.

There have been presidents in our lifetime that made us proud. We believed they were trying to do what was right for the country under adverse conditions including war and assaults on our homeland. These men were master politicians and statesmen. They were bold thinkers and strategists with a clear vision of a better America.

Where are the great leaders today, and why have we elected the lowest common denominator of what we expect from our government officials? Why has social media become the driving force in our search for great leaders? Are we incapable of thinking for ourselves, and not being part of a herd of consciousness? How did we get to the point where fellow Americans and political adversaries cannot discuss serious issues calmly and civilly?

I am a baby boomer, so I have witnessed enough history to know that America has fallen, as a society, a nation and a unified people. And yet, I still have faith, a deep belief in our country and its citizens that we can get back on course.

I hope and pray that things will improve from the current craziness during my lifetime, so I can rest assured that my children and their children can be happy, secure and productive.

Every president should work diligently to improve our country for future generations and to protect us from those who want to do us harm. Unfortunately the current slate of leaders in America is not giving me any confidence. I sincerely hope we can do better in the future.

Tax Reform Is Critical To The Well Being Of Our Economy And Our Government

Based upon all the chatter among talking heads and media gurus, enactment of tax legislation is absolutely critical to the country’s financial and political stability.

If Trump’s tax initiatives do not garner enough votes in Congress the Republican Party will likely implode, the stock market will drop precipitously, all possibility of greater economic growth will be dashed and Trump will be a lame duck for the next three years.

On Tuesday morning Senator Rand Paul indicated that a large tax decrease is very important to the US. Currently the 35% corporate tax rare is up to two times or more than any other nation in the world. This makes it more profitable and advantageous for corporations to operate overseas, increase transfer payments to subsidiaries in foreign countries and increase cash balances in banks outside the US to avoid paying taxes. The negative impact of this trend on workers and federal tax receipts is a real threat to our economy.

Skeptics continue to say that tax decreases proposed by Trump only benefit the wealthy and will increase the national deficit. Since a great share of taxes are paid by the affluent, it is not a surprise that cuts will be a boon to the wealthy. However tax cuts to businesses will result in more profits, much of which will accrue to lower and middle class working Americans.

As far as the national debt level is concerned, many economists accept the fact that greater economic benefits for corporations and average citizens will increase federal tax receipts, so fears of escalating deficits may be exagerrated.

The reduction of tax loopholes, if imposed, will also reduce the deficit. This aspect of tax reform is the most problematic because every tax deduction (depreciation along with deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, etc.) has a powerful lobby behind it. Renegotiation of these arrangements will be bloody.

The political ramifications of failed tax reform will be monumental. Ironically most of it is self-imposed by Republicans who control both houses and the presidency. Just like repeal of Obamacare, an inability to find votes has more to do with Republican infighting than effective opposition from do-nothing, uncreative Democrats.

Softball Politics Essay Contest

After publishing hundreds of posts on Softball Politics I wonder whether some of my readers would enjoy writing an essay for the blog. People often tell me they would like to be writers. This is a perfect opportunity to test your skills.

Many of you have disagreed with perspectives espoused on this site so it is an opportunity to express a different take on any subject. Liberal submissions are encouraged.

I will edit every submission and publish them if they are well written and interesting. After which I will select the three best essays and take the authors to lunch at an expensive restaurant in the city (The Grand Prize). I’ll even go downtown to celebrate this occasion. Softball Politics is a labor of love, so there will be no monetary awards.

It will be great fun, as many of you are acquainted with others on my distribution list. I will alert the readership that your essay will be on the site so friends and family members will be able to peruse your essay.

This is your chance to see your name in print. You too can be a part of the “fake news” crowd.

Tell me if you intend to compete for the grand prize and then send your submissions to sjbommarito@gmail.com. I will acknowledge receipt of your work and let you know how your essay fairs versus others. Good luck.

Sal Bommarito

Football Protests Are Protected- It’s Their Timing That’s Controversial

The football player protest has lingered far too long. In fact it is beginning to spread to other sports and venues. The only problem is that this brand of dissent, during the National Anthem played before sporting contests, clouds the objectives of the protesters. In this regard many Americans have mixed emotions about the purpose of the protestors actions. A more organized effort at another moment before an athletic contest would draw significantly more support for social justice.

It all started with a one-man protest by an African American quarterback on the San Francisco 49er team. Many fans were outraged that Colin Kaepernick “disrespected” their flag, their anthem and their country. Kaepernick has repeatedly indicated that this was not his intention. Rather he wanted to make a statement about police brutality directed at African Americans.

Americans appreciate that everyone has a right to protest against anything they want in our country. The Constitution guarantees it. But Kaepernick was employed by the 49ers, and the team’s management expected all the players and personnel to be respectful. The team did not say Kaepernick’s protest was wrong. Rather Kaepernick’s decision to protest at a specific moment dedicated to our country was what really ticked off team managements and anti protesters. By the way Kaepernick is now unemployed. It is debatable whether his protest or his performance on the field is the reason for his inability to find a new job.

Kaepernick has a right to protest, but the fans and observers have a right to challenge him. A large number of people would have been supportive of Kaepernick and all the other players if they protested at any time other than when the anthem was being played. In fact I am sure the NFL would have been happy to give the players a chance to make such a statement.

The ballplayers are highly paid employees of their respective teams. They are living a dream life. If their principles force them to wrap their protest around a sacred rite that is important to millions of Americans, they should expect blow back that may include their dismissal and boos.

Before the NFL game last Thursday night the league did not televise the pregame ceremony that includes the playing of the National Anthem. Why? If there was a protest the NFL did not want to evoke a negative response from the fans on live TV. Football fans are generally nationalistic.

This tiresome ordeal could be put to rest if the NFL, and other sporting teams, organized a pregame program at each event. Perhaps a moment of silence could take place for those who have suffered injustices and in recognition that the relationship between the races still needs more work. After, everybody would stand while the anthem is played.

Trump Is “Going Constitutional”

The latest effort to legitimize President Trump’s bold initiatives is aptly labeled “going constitutional.” It is deftly presented in a story in the New York Post authored by F.H. Buckley.

Buckley begins by referencing Barack Obama and why he was so “glum” after the election. It was not because of Hillary’s defeat or any “close” relationship. Rather, he knew that “all of his unconstitutional executive orders [were} going down the tube.”

Obamacare seemed “healthy” at first because Obama gifted $1 trillion to insurance companies. Essentially it was a subsidy to offset the losses they were about to incur as they reimbursed Americans who could not pay for their coverage. The gambit failed miserably. Bypassing lawmakers was held to be unconstitutional by a federal court. Last week Trump said he would no longer provide this support making further litigation moot. In summary, Obama’s actions were illegal, and Trump’s response honored the Constitution and ensured Obamacare would fail.

Buckley points out that Trump decided to send the Iran nuclear deal to Congress for reconsideration by refusing to certify compliance by Iran. The original deal is a treaty that should have been approved (if possible) by two-thirds of the Senate. Obama circumvented constitutional congressional consent of a treaty with the aforementioned certification ploy, which the president must do every 90 days. Once again Trump opted for the constitutional route not abusive executive power. By the way Congress may impose former sanctions, which would nullify the agreement. Or it can do nothing and the deal stays in place. The important thing is that Congress, not the president, is making the decision, as it should be.

The author goes on to point out the compliance of Senator Bob Corker, Republican head of the senate Foreign Relations Committee, for the nuclear pact. Corker abetted Obama’s unconstitutional actions. Trump called out Corker, who thankfully is retiring this year.

The cavalcade of mandates issued by Obama were actions meant to circumvent the powers of Congress. Obama refused to negotiate with the opposition beginning with Obamacare in 2008, and his ability to keep his campaign promises were dashed continually by the Republican controlled Congress. Obama was not the first president to encounter a hostile Congress. More negotiation, compromise and comity would have enabled the president to have more success during his tenure.

 

Women’s Equality Is Dependent Upon Exposing Sexual Predators

After reading about the cavalcade of female actresses and models who were sexually harassed and raped by Harvey Weinstein I find myself scratching my head wondering how this detestable man could have continued to terrorize women for such a long period of time. To achieve full equality with men, women must unite to end this type of discrimination.

The New York Post identified Gyyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanne Arquette, Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd in a devastating indictment of Weinstein. All of the women have spoken up, which will likely encourage others to do the same.

What I find to be most disturbing is the influence that some men have over young women in the entertainment business. If you want a job, you must be sexually compliant. The abuse of power is disturbing. Hollywood “moguls” have long used their positions to deflower females in exchange for career opportunities. We can be sure that when a final count of Weinstein’s conquests is tallied, the total will be staggering. After all he’s been behaving this way for three decades.

It makes one wonder whether success for woman in show business is dependent upon with whom they have sex. This deplorable situation is not limited to the entertainment industry. After all Bill Clinton seduced a 20 something year old intern while he was president. She was ridiculed and her life was destroyed while Bill went on to have a great career in spite of his dalliances.

They say power and money are seductive. It is true that some women are willing to do sexual favors to get ahead. This corrupt aspect of doing business can only end if men who use their positions to spice up their lives are exposed. Women must say no to sexual predators even if it impacts their careers.

Another important question is, why do managers of men who prey upon women turn a blind eye towards this felonious behavior? It is well known that employers of sexual predators (along with others who are dishonest) frequently give these individuals leeway. Usually this occurs when the predators are large producers or rainmakers. In other words they are too valuable to the company to terminate them for sexual misconduct. This of course is nonsense because it damages the reputation of the company.

Weinstein has had more than his share of success making movies and discovering talent. Many people have made plenty of money riding his coattails, which is probably the reason why so many have been reluctant to turn him in to the authorities. These people are culpable because they allowed Weinstein to be a menace and did nothing to protect females affiliated to his company. The excuse that all Hollywood moguls have huge libidos and need to be given latitude in their relationships with women is bs. Weinstein, his company, the board of directors and the executives are accountable for looking the other way.

And finally there are those in Hollywood and other liberals who refuse to speak up. Where is their outrage? The Democratic Party is supposed to be the group that protects the vulnerable in our society. Yet Obama, Hillary Clinton and scores of people in the left leaning entertainment business are too chicken-heated to oust a notorious predator from their midst.

Men have gotten away with bad behavior for too long. It’s time that boards of directors and managers make it clear that women will be treated with respect, earn exactly the same compensation as men who do the same work and the glass ceiling no longer exists.

Nuclear Weapons Threaten Mankind

Americans have experienced some scary moments beginning in the 1950s. Taking cover at school during mock nuclear attack by the Soviet Union is something none of us will ever forget. As young children we were told that the country was on the verge of nuclear war. The Cuban missile crisis drove President Kennedy to the brink of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets a few years later.

Then came the Vietnam War, during which 50,000 American soldiers were killed and many more were wounded physically and mentally. I attended college in the late 60s during the height of military operations in Southeast Asia. The first draft lottery took place at that time. It was the only lottery I ever won. While at school we were given body counts of dead Americans and Vietnamese soldiers every day on TV.

In the late 70s and early 80s our attention turned to serious economy stress. New York City nearly went bankrupt and interest rates soared to staggering levels. Working as a financial officer at a large company, I borrowed money at interest rates approaching 20%, as compared to current rates close to 1%.

In more recent history the 9/11 attacks dominated our lives and concerns. Many Yew Yorkers lost family and friends and many more had close calls with collapsing buildings.

Things have not improved since those days. It seems like America is never really at peace. We are always fighting a war someplace in the world or threatening to attack an enemy. Our foes keep us on edge vowing to take away our freedom. Given that the US is the most prosperous and safest country in the world, I wonder how other nations deal with such anxiety on a continuous basis.

As a baby boomer my concerns often turn to my children and grandchildren. What will their lives be like during the next half-century? What problems will they encounter? Will they be fighting with radical religious elements in the Middle East decades from now? Will nuclear threats continue to mount? The short answer to these questions would not elate anyone. I predict that our survivors will be dealing with tragedies and evil forces equal to or greater than ours during their lives.

In this regard it is noteworthy to point out that the threat of human extinction no longer is confined to actions by super powers. Surely the US, Russia and China can go to war and, for all intents and purposes can either wipe out mankind or severely impact it for a century or more by employing nuclear weapons.

But these countries understand that launching missiles with nuclear warheads will result in a counter strike and everybody loses in that scenario. Mutual assured destruction is a concept that greatly affects the actions of Trump, Putin and Xi Jinping. So it is reasonable to take solace in the fact that a nuclear war is not anything a responsible and civilized society would initiate.

But what about the other countries that have nuclear capabilities and terrorists that may some day be able buy nuclear weapons? An optimist might say that only insane people would use a nuclear bomb, and there is no chance that India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea or any other nation would launch nuclear weapons. And, for the most part, a strike would be regional and would not draw in any of the super powers, so it would not be such a big deal. These are myths.

Does anyone trust the radical leaders of the countries mentioned above? Should Americans be comforted that North Korea or Iran, in particular, would never use a nuke because they are reasonable and righteous people and understand that they would be obliterated if they did? I, for one, am losing sleep over these frightening realities.

Further the rhetoric of counties like North Korea and Iran does nothing but make the international community of nations more edgy. Exacerbating the whole mess is the fact that North Korea is already launching practice missiles over Japan.

If one of these missiles inadvertently lands on Tokyo, what will be the consequences? What will be the US response if a rogue nation drops a missile close to or on Guam or Hawaii or California? Trump has already given us a preview of this contingency. He said he would wipe out the little rocket man and his whole country.

The impending US decisions about Iran’s nuclear program only fuel an already perilous state of affairs. Iran does not have the intercontinental capabilities of North Korea. What does that mean? It means that in a fit of rage or desperation, Iran could launch nukes at enemies close by including Israel or a Sunni country (most likely Saudi Arabia).

What would be the repercussions of such an event? No doubt Israel would nuke Tehran. Saudi Arabia, assuming it did not have a retaliatory capability, would likely be unable to sate the worldwide need for oil. A world economic crisis would ensue.

There are no easy answers to the nuclear threats in our world. Even though these weapons are never supposed to be used, if they are, they could dramatically change mankind. Moreover the trillions of dollars being spent on defense (and offense) are a colossal waste of money that could be used for more productive humanitarian needs.

I hasten to point out that nothing has been said herein about the scourge of terrorism (international and domestic) and the increasing frequency of tragedies like Las Vegas. These are not existential, but they create a cloud that directly or indirectly affects all Americans and the quality of their lives.

Is Trump Responsible For Domestic And Global Chaos?

It feels like global issues have intensified and become much more threatening since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Is the tension we feel attributable to Trump’s aggressive and unconventional style? Or are there extenuating circumstances that contribute to the current state of affairs? A review of some of the major issues confronting the president may give us some insight.

Domestically one of the greatest challenges for the administration is a partisan and dysfunctional Congress. Although attitudes have deteriorated, not all the blame should fall upon Trump.

In response to Republican obstruction of Obama initiatives between 2008 and 2016, Democrats attacked the new president relentlessly even before he took office. Unlike other administrations Trump was subjected to very personal and at times shameless venom from the left (it is widely believed that Trump deserved much of this treatment). There have been few administrations that have had to deal with such overt bad blood. Trump reacted as expected. He retaliated and bipartisanship in now nonexistent in Washington.

The Trump administration has seemingly lost congressional Republican support of the president’s agenda. Starting with the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, Trump’s own party abandoned him resulting in a sensational congressional defeat. For eight years Republicans were saying Obamacare was a disaster and should be terminated before it bankrupted the country. When the moment came (actually it came twice), Republicans could not control their caucus. Surely Trump cannot be solely responsible for his traitorous colleges on Capitol Hill.

The news broke that Russia was interfering in our elections. Keep in mind Trump was not yet president. Somehow Democrats were able to twist the story into some sort of Clancy-esque conspiracy between Trump and Putin. This never ending non-scandal (the Trump conspiracy angle) has dogged the administration without end. So far the only issue uncovered has been that Trump minions met with Russian officials before the election.

Illegal immigration and dangerous visitation into the US was showcased by Trump during his campaign. It is not a new problem. Over 10 million illegal aliens have invaded our country during the past few decades. Whether you want to believe it or not, these people take jobs from Americans (although some jobs do not attract citizens). They put a great strain on the educational, health and financial resources of states around the country. They have high crime rates compared to other groups. They “demand” citizenship even thought they broke the law by entering the country improperly.

There is nothing the US can do about its past border missteps. It is wise for our leaders to craft a path to citizenship for this group. Mass deportation would be inhumane and cruel. However these interlopers do not have a divine right to be in our country. They must agree to respect our laws and be productive citizens. Trump exposed this horrendous issue. He did not create it.

Correspondingly Trump is concerned with the immigration and visitation of individuals from several countries located in the Middle East. The reasons for this are twofold. One, some of the immigrants could be terrorists or troublemakers. Two, it is impossible to vet people from the countries on the administration’s list. If the US cannot determine whether they are law abiding because their countries of origin have no records, why should we take any chances and allow them entry to America? Once again Trump did not invent this problem. He inherited it.

Globally one of the main issues is North Korea. For three generations former US administrations have placated North Korean leaders relating to its nuclear aspirations. Frankly they did the world a terrible disservice. The evidence is clear. North Korea, a backwards and uncivilized satellite of China, now has nuclear weapons and can shoot them at our allies and the US atop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

How could this situation have gotten to this point? Trump asked the question and is confronting the maniac that rules North Korea. The president is responding to the inane foreign policies of the past that enabled North Korea to become an existential threat.

In the same vein Trump is addressing the moronic nuclear arrangement with Iran. A lot has been said and written on this subject. Suffice it to say that Iran will be able to launch nuclear weapons at US allies within the next decade if the current deal survives. It will be North Korea all over again. Trump thinks this would be irresponsible, and he is threatening to terminate the arrangement without concurrence from our allies.

Russia under Putin’s leadership has become a huge problem. The leader wants to bring back the glory days of the Soviet Union. Trump inherited this situation from his predecessors who have kicked the can down the road. The only feasible solution to Russian aggression is to bankrupt the country once again, just as Ronald Reagan did in the 80s. Trump is actively facing off against Russia, something that the past few administrations neglected to do.

I am not a big Trump fan. Those of you who read my blog know this. But the man is president and should have the support of the people and Congress. Currently he does not. This results in a dangerous set of circumstances that our evil adversaries are trying to take advantage of.

Domestic Terrorism In Las Vegas

America has experienced yet another tragic attack in which 59  (and still counting) people were killed and over 500 more wounded outside a Las Vegas hotel. The murderer took his own life and apparently is not an agent of a foreign terrorist organization.

In the aftermath of the slaughter, innocent survivors were interviewed and spoke of the horror they felt as the shooter fired automatic weapons from a high floor at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. A large crowd was enjoying a concert when bullets down rained on them. The shooter apparently did not have a specific target in mind. He just wanted to kill people to sate some deep seated hatred. We probably will never know what his motivations were.

First responders headed towards the hotel when the shots began. Their courage, as victims were being hit by wave after wave of bullets, was inspiring. Many more lives would have been lost if concerned fellow attendees did not help others find cover.

Being in a firefight in a far off country is a frightening thought. But being subjected to a crazed and mentally unbalanced assassin on our homeland must have been terribly traumatic for the concert attendees. Our hearts go out to those hurt and their families.

One wonders what runs through the minds of people in such a dire predicament. What were the attendees thinking as the maniac shot at them with one of his ten or fifteen rifles? Surely they were worried about being killed or wounded. They must have also been thinking about their loved ones.

As a spectator of this despicable event from afar, I feel great helplessness. Mass murderers seem to be popping up more and more often around the world. We always ask whether the shooters are religious fanatics. Many of these animals are dedicated to killing Americans just because they pay homage to God in a different way than the people they prey upon.

Protecting ourselves from foreign born killers is a specialized type of problem. President Trump has proposed certain actions to prevent the immigration and visitation by potential enemies from the most unstable countries in the Middle East and Africa. His proposals are very unpopular to many liberals who think he is a xenophobe and a bigot. Many others think Trump’s suggestions could have a meaningful impact on imported violence.

The Las Vegas terrorist is home grown (this assessment could change as investigators try to determine why the man was motivated to kill innocent people). The question is, how can we protect our country from domestic terrorism? It is a complex and perplexing problem. Shooters are often unbalanced and unhappy individuals, but many blend into the general population and have no history of violence. Often times they are people who have experienced hard times, be they financial, familial, romantic or otherwise. Preventing a person from killing others after they lose a job or a spouse is much more difficult then stopping a violent man in Syria from coming to the US and killing our neighbors.

The conversations about gun control will be front and center. Our Constitution gives us the right to bear arms for sport, hunting and protection. Our forefathers would definitely agree that any individual who is deranged or a felon should not own a gun. Unfortunately the pro-gun lobby is concerned that any new laws which limit gun ownership would threaten the rights of legitimate gun owners. This is totally untrue and an unfortunate perspective.

The gun lobby has nothing to be concerned about. The right to own guns is embedded in our laws and in our Constitution. The lobby should be more amenable to gun restrictions including those that greatly restrict fully automatic weapons and large magazines that hold many bullets. But by continuing to resist any compromise the lobby will increase the risk of more gun control, especially on the heels of tragedies like Las Vegas and Connecticut.

Guns are not responsible for deaths, people are. Gangs, unbalanced people, felons and other troublemakers should be prohibited from owning weapons. Those for and against “gun control” need to come together to stop similar incidents in the future without impacting the right of Americans to bear arms.