Monthly Archives September 2020

Joe Biden’s Statement on Declining Future Debates

(How Joe Biden might consider following up today in the aftermath of last night’s historic—for all the wrong reasons— presidential debate…)

My fellow Americans,

If you watched my “debate” last night with Donald Trump, you were perhaps as horrified at what you beheld as I was. I will not belabor all the ways in which the president of the United States degraded his office, himself, and most importantly, you, the people of our beloved democracy. It was a performance so over the top as to leave observers not only stunned, but grasping for commentary that would befit the unprecedented spectacle they had just witnessed.

As difficult as I know it was for you to watch, and as excusable as it was if you simply gave up early in the proceedings and curled up with a good book or your children or the family dog, I will tell you it was a very challenging circumstance for others in that hall last night as well—inc...

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Revisiting the Kennedy-Nixon Debates of 1960

As a means of preparing for the first presidential debate of 2020 this Tuesday night, I entered a You Tube time machine this past week and traveled back to late September, 1960, almost exactly 60 years ago. That’s when Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon of California squared off against Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts in the first of a series of four debates that stretched into mid-October, each of them lasting just under an hour.

Yes, I took one for the Traversing team by watching all four over a few days, feeling mostly, I am glad to report, riveted. Just underneath that feeling, though, I noted a mixture of lamentation over how much has changed—mostly not for the better—in presidential debates over the subsequent decades.

Let’s get to the one glaring improvement right out of the blocks here. In the four 1960 debates, there were four panelists and one moderator for each debate...

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Not Your Typical Reunion: Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods”

A few minutes into Spike Lee’s newest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” there is a lovely scene of old pals, African American Vietnam veterans, reuniting in the lobby of a Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) hotel after an unspecified long hiatus from each other’s company. The mood is jocular, joshing, loving, full of huge smiles and secret code handshakes, all of which engendered a gushy inner glow in this viewer, reminding me as it did of warm-hearted reunions of my own.

Then I got a grip on myself and interrupted my reverie with, “Oh crap, this is a Spike Lee movie!”

Which is when my thoughts shifted instead to donning some kind of emotional flak jacket and tension reduction helmet, the better to withstand the next two and a half hours of what I knew would be Lee’s visionary provocations, challenges, goads and questionings of the American experience, particularly with respect to race relations and the centuries-long ...

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R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg…Now What?

It had already felt like this country was fraying like a worn and long unwashed jacket. And now this.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead.

The very words rocked me back on my heels last night as I climbed the few stairs to the utility room after depositing some recyclables in the blue bin and my phone lit up and those words presented themselves from a “Washington Post” alert and my mind groped for a few seconds to make sure I was reading and comprehending correctly and to my horror I realized that I was and I knew, with sudden and absolute certitude, that I would always remember this moment, just as I do the President Kennedy and Bobby and MLK and my parents’ and my brother’s moments of passing.

I also knew, with equal certitude and immediacy, that as bad as things appear to be now, they are about to get very, very much worse.

That’s because I had zero doubt that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would wa...

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1968 Redux? The Moral and Political Case for Non-Violence

In my fever dreams about November 3, 2020, I see the summer of 1968 having unfolded all over again. Donald Trump, like Richard Nixon then, will have been elected to the presidency (Nixon on his second try, Trump re-elected) by parlaying a summer of urban riots, racial discord and the fear they engendered among threatened white voters to eke out an election victory despite attracting less than a majority of voters, and in Trump’s case, by once again losing the popular vote to his Democratic rival.

This is every Democrat’s and disaffected moderate Republican’s worst nightmare, and it could unfold exactly that way unless Democrats get very strategic, very measured, and very sober—very fast.

Central to that effort will be making their peace with the few hundred thousand swing voters in a few purple states who decided the 2016 election and will very likely do so once again.

And what will making that peace ent...

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