Wartime President?

It is unlikely that Trump can run on the economy in November. He has failed to convince anyone but his base that he is doing a good job on this coronavirus crisis.  But perhaps he can run in November as “wartime president.”

Here is a taste of Gabby Orr’s and Lara Seligman’s piece at Politico: “Trump team’s new mission: Defend the ‘wartime president‘”:

When America is at war, voters prefer not to swap presidents in the middle of battle. James Madison sailed to reelection after launching the War of 1812. Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address a month before the Civil War effectively ended at Appomattox, Va. In the shadow of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt notched a third term. And the year after deploying troops to Iraq, George W. Bush defeated a war veteran, Democrat John Kerry.

What if the enemy is invisible? Not a foreign country or the perpetrators of a brazen terrorist attack but a lethal disease that forces Americans to shelter in place indefinitely as their health, jobs and wages hang in the balance?

After fumbling his administration’s initial response to the devastating spread of COVID-19, and dismissing the threat of the novel coronavirus for months as it spread from China, Trump has turned to the one concept that seems to work politically to overcome monumental challenges. Days after he declared a national emergency to help combat the pandemic, the New York businessman — who famously avoided the Vietnam draft multiple times — informed Americans on Wednesday that he is now “a wartime president” and said the country should prepare to fight.

“Every generation of Americans has been called to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation,” Trump said at a White House briefing featuring Defense Secretary Mark Esper, U.S. Veterans Affairs chief Robert Wilkie and members of the administration’s coronavirus task force.

“Now it’s our time,” Trump continued, recalling the bravery America showed during World War II. “We must sacrifice together,because we are all in this together, and we will come through together.”

Read the rest here.

Hey Eric Metaxas, Please Stop Using Ethnic Slurs About Italians So Cavalierly

Watch this Salem Radio love-fest between Eric Metaxas and Sebastian Gorka:

Most readers of the blog know Metaxas.  He is a court evangelical, author, and host of the Eric Metaxas Show on Salem.  Gorka’s brief and controversial stint as a Trump adviser landed him a radio show on the Christian network.

In this exchange, Metaxas and Gorka are discussing CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s recent profanity-laced outburst toward a man who was harassing him on a family vacation.  The CNN celebrity took offense to this man calling him “Fredo,” a reference to the weak Corleone brother in The Godfather.

Cuomo claimed that “Fredo” is an ethnic slur against Italians.  I am half-Italian and grew-up around a lot of Italian family members, but I have never heard the name of the late John Cazanale‘s character in The Godfather used as a slur–ethnic or otherwise. So on this point, Metaxas and Gorka are probably correct.

But Metaxas does not stop there.  He says, “you would think that someone had called him [Cuomo] a ‘no-good guinea, wop;’ and even that’s funny in this day and age.”

I am sure Metaxas will think I am a snowflake for saying this, but calling an Italian-American a “guinea” or a “wop” is NOT funny–not even in “this day and age.”  For many Italian-Americans, especially those of a certain generation, these terms still open-up old wounds.  Perhaps Metaxas should study some Italian-American history. 

Let me be clear.  We Italian-Americans now enjoy white privilege. Today, the words “guinea” or “wop” do not have the sting that they once had.  Things have changed over time for Italian-Americans.  I would thus never equate the discrimination Italian-Americans have faced with the the plight of African-Americans in our history.  (Although I know many Italian-American political conservatives who would make this kind of moral equivalence argument).

But many of us have also sat at the feet of elders who told us stories about the prejudicial treatment they once faced.  Some of these stories are not pretty.  A few of these elders are still alive.  Some of their wounds have not completely healed.

Italians No

It is also worth noting that Metaxas appears to defend Tucker Carlson’s recent “white supremacy is a hoax” line.

At one point in the conversation Metaxas says, “In America, we have the freedom to say stupid things.” Yup.

Donald Trump is a Mafia Thug

I repeat:  It appears that Trump is running the government like Michael Corleone in Godfather 2.  Trump threatened Cohen’s father on Fox News and elsewhere.  Now Cohen is not going to testify before Congress.  Hmm…

Here is what the meeting between Trump and the rest of his advisers might have looked like as they plotted to “get to” Pantengeli Cohen:

Trump prefers apples to oranges:

Donald J. Trump, Taking Over The Big Apple

If Pantengeli Cohen eventually does testify, you might see this:

Who Got to Michael Cohen?

The former Trump attorney and fixer is now limiting what he is willing to talk about when he testifies before Congress.  Here is CNN:

Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony next month will exclude any topic that’s “under investigation,” Republicans say they were told by Cohen’s lawyer, which could mean Cohen won’t discuss lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project or the payments made to women during the 2016 campaign for their silence.

Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, senior Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, released a letter to Cohen’s attorney Guy Petrillo discussing their conversation with another Cohen attorney, Lanny Davis.

In the letter, Jordan and Meadows write that Davis told them Cohen’s testimony was likely to be “unsatisfying” and “frustrating” because of the topics that would be off limits.

Read the rest here.


“What Kind of a Man is This?

Today on Fox & Friends, Donald Trump once again trashed his Attorney General  Jess Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia inquiry.  (Sessions pushed back). At one point in the interview the President asked, referring to Sessions, “what kind of a man is this?”


Reminded me of this classic scene:

Trump, Cohen, and the Godfather

I’ve been playing around with some tweets the last couple of days in the wake of the Michael Cohen investigation.  When I saw the picture of Michael Cohen hanging around his posse yesterday I couldn’t help but think of Fredo in the The Godfather 2:

Or maybe Carlo Rizzi from The Godfather is more appropriate.  Here is holding court before he gets beat up by Sonny Corleone:

And then there was this photo of a guy whispering something in Cohen’s ear.  Who was this guy?  It reminded me of this classic scene near the end of Godfather 2:


Trump Just Appeared Outside Trump Tower

Trump just came out to greet his supporters.  He waved to the crowd and apparently pumped his fist.  The crowds went crazy and started chanting “USA, USA, USA.”  Interesting response.  Yesterday a tape surfaced in which the GOP nominee admitted to committing a felony.

As CNN commentator compared Trump’s appearance outside of his hotel to a fallen dictator who appears one more time to rally the faithful moments before he is overthrown.

This comment reminded me of the scene in The Godfather II when the Baptista regime is overthrown on New Years Eve.


Stanley Kauffman’s 1972 Review of *The Godfather*

Kauffman was not a fan of the greatest movie of all time.  Here is what he thought about Marlon Brando’s performance as Vito “Don” Corleone:

But from his opening line, with his back toward us, Brando betrays that he hasn’t even got the man’s voice under control. (Listen to the word “first.” Pure Brando, not Corleone.) Insecurity and assumption streak the job from then on. They have put padding in his cheeks and dirtied his teeth, he speaks hoarsely and moves stiffly, and these combined mechanics are hailed as great acting. I don’t see how any gifted actor could have done lessthan Brando does here. His resident power, his sheer innate force, has rarely seemed weaker. His gift of mental transformation, the conviction that the changes are interior and that the externals merely reflect them, is not nearly as strong here as in, say, The Young Lions or Viva Zapata or On the Waterfront or Teahouse of the August Moon. He is handicapped by poor makeup: his hair is not gray enough and his hairline ought to have been altered so that he doesn’t constantly suggest Brando. But the real fault is his own: his laxness, sloth. He has become so lazy in recent years that he is willing to take intent for deed. Corleone has no moments of outburst—the Brando trademark, the leap of flame out of menacing quiet—so his dominance has to come from imagination; muscled by concentration. What Brando manufactures is surface—studied but easy effects.  

Read the 1972 entire New Republic review here.   Kauffman doesn’t have anything good to say about Al Pacino either.

Marlon Brando Takes His Own Oral History

This is classic Marlon Brando.  The legendary actor known best for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather died in 2004.  So how was he able to narrate Listen to Me, Marlon, a 2015 documentary about his life and career?  

Well, it turns out that Brando made about 300 hours of audio recordings chronicling his life from the 1940s through the final years of his life.

Here is a taste of an article on Listen to Me, Marlon from vulture.com:

Marlon Brando when he was alive wasn’t known for being particularly open; indeed, for much of his life, he was considered fairly reclusive. And yet here he is, in the fascinating documentary Listen to Me Marlon, taking us on a journey into his life and his deepest, most intimate thoughts. The film, which premiered at Sundance this week, was produced and developed by Showtime and will premiere on the network later this year. It turns out that Brando — starting in the 1940s and right through to his later years — had been creating private audio recordings in which he discussed his life. “Probably about 300 hours of it,” says director Stevan Riley. “When we finally got it all transcribed, we had a pile of paper about four feet off the ground.” Using those recordings, and supplementing them with clips from interviews and other appearances, Riley was able to construct Listen to Me Marlon as a film narrated by Brando. The result is unusually eerie — a trip inside the head of one of the most elusive and unusual stars in Hollywood history.

There must be an oral history lesson in this somewhere.