The Greatest President Ever?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that not only is President Trump an extraordinary president who gets things done (except a health care bill, the Mexican wall, and…okay, let’s not nitpick) he may well be the greatest president in history. Don’t believe me? Let’s go right to the horse’s um, mouth.

“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office,” said Trump. “That I can tell you.”

And that he does, over and over. But why so modest, Mr. President? Did Lincoln ever build a “great, beautiful wall” between us and Mexico? Did he make Mexico pay for it? No, and no. At least Trump promised it. Will it ever happen? No way, Jose. But what an astounding idea!

Trump gave us an early peek at his magnificence when he proclaimed his inauguration crowd the biggest in history, even though comparative aerial photos clearly showed that wasn’t true. But great men don’t care about such mundane things as facts, conjuring their own “alternative facts”, as nimble Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway explained.

Speaking of which, to those who questioned Trump’s response to the recent, devastating hurricanes, particularly in Puerto Rico, where the mayor of San Juan pleaded for help as the president golfed and tweeted about football, Trump simply replied “We are doing a great job.” So there.

Last week experts warned Congress that North Korea might have the capacity to launch an electromagnetic pulse attack that can shut down the U.S. power grid and kill 90% of Americans within a year. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the U.S. was setting up lines of communication with North Korean president Kim Jong Un to prevent such a doomsday scenario.

The next day, Trump said Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” Then we learned Tillerson called the president a “moron”. Trump responded “if he said that, I guess we’ll just have to compare IQ tests, and I can tell you who’s going to win.”

We are constantly amazed that such an intellect now occupies the Oval Office. Sadly, as Trump has discovered, only those who share his level of intelligence can appreciate his greatness.

 

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Ignorance is Killing American Ideals

Students’ screams drown out an invited campus guest. The president curses a peacefully protesting football player and demands he be fired. And the words “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” now seem almost quaint.

A week ago, President Donald Trump asked in a tweet why the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn’t investigate media companies that report “fake news,” which in Trump-speak means real news he doesn’t want you to hear.

A week before, the College of William & Mary’s Black Lives Matter chapter prevented a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia from speaking by rushing the stage and screaming, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

The ACLU would be the first to defend the free speech rights of Black Lives Matter if the same were tried on a member.

Social media has created a world where a growing number hear only ideas they agree with, and being confronted with a different point of view makes them furious, burst into tears or both. What they don’t realize is that shutting down the speech of others is a slippery slope, eventually leading to them being muzzled as well by the powers that be.

The First Amendment guarantees free speech, allowing even hateful white supremacists the right to protest peacefully in Charlottesville, Virginia. They crossed that line when they attacked counter-protesters, and one white supremacist is accused of deliberately driving his car into a crowd of them, killing Heather Heyer.

When those in power decide what speech is allowed, they’ll always ban speech that offends their values or is critical of themselves. Which brings us back to the man in the White House. He wants to expand libel laws, which would limit and punish free speech.

Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis believed the best way to counter bad speech is with good speech — not enforced silence. And while left wing groups shouting down speakers on campus and Trump demanding that peaceful protesters be punished might seem at opposite ends of the political spectrum, they are, unfortunately, both working to undermine our democracy.

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The Final Days of an American Hero

We all know what makes a hero. Bravery. Conscience. Honor.

John McCain is a genuine American hero. He was shot down during the Vietnam War and tortured by the Viet Cong. When they discovered he was the son of an admiral, his captors offered to release him. McCain refused unless his fellow prisoners of war were also released.

Five and a half years later, he came home, wounded but unbowed, entered politics, and has honorably served for three decades in Congress, four years in the House, and 30 in the Senate.

McCain is now in his final battle. My mother had brain cancer, so I know how it goes. Judging from his recent interview on “60 Minutes,” so does McCain, and the 81-year-old accepts his fate with dignity and pride in a life well lived.

Just 11 days after brain surgery, McCain flew from Arizona to Washington to cast the deciding no vote on a slapdash health care bill he believed was rushed through.

The president desperately wanted this bill passed to chalk up a win, and he belittled the senator. Indeed, McCain seems to hit a special nerve with him. Perhaps knowing he can never attain the bipartisan respect McCain garners, our draft-dodging commander in chief regularly attacks McCain, besmirching everything from his military service (“He’s not a war hero . . . I like people who weren’t captured”), to his vote on health care (“Disgraceful!”).

After the president recently mocked McCain at rallies in Alabama and elsewhere, many, including former Republican congressman and current cable host Joe Scarborough, reacted with disgust. “You have a man who is dying, and you’re using him for political punch lines?” Scarborough asked incredulously. “You have no humanity.”

I didn’t vote for McCain for president, but I would take him in a heartbeat over the national embarrassment now occupying the Oval Office. Our president can brag about his supposed billions, and stick his name on glitzy skyscrapers while stiffing the suppliers that helped build them, but he knows there’s one thing he can never buy: class.

McCain is the personification of class. And honor. And America. Thank you for your service, sir.

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Are You Smarter Than a Monkey?

In 2011, a monkey found a misplaced camera and took a selfie. The monkey could not have known that this innocent act would turn into a major, six-year lawsuit about ownership of the photo.

Naruto the monkey recently settled for 50,000 bananas plus 25 percent of profits from future sales of the image.

OK, only the second part is true. Representing Naruto, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals settled with camera owner David Slater. The money will be used to protect Naruto’s Indonesian habitat.

“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals,” said a joint statement.

Do animals have the same legal rights as humans? How did Naruto manage to take such a clear, well-framed photo? And are animals learning from humans how to be self-indulgent? (Monkey see, monkey do?)

Meanwhile, humans continue to embarrass their fellow primates, taking grinning selfies in such inappropriate situations and places as funerals, car crashes, the World Trade Center memorial and life-threatening, raging storms.

Just this month, a Florida man took a photo on the Key West coast as waves crashed nearby at the height of Hurricane Irma. As he preened for the picture, a wave engulfed him and dragged him toward the raging ocean. Dazed and punchy, he wobbled to his feet. The results of the near-fatal encounter taught the man not only to respect the awesome power of nature, but also to reflect on his own excessive narcissism.

Kidding! He actually grabbed his cellphone and took another photo.

Nearly two weeks earlier, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. In such a massive storm, animals, like humans, seek higher ground. In Houston, snakes slithered around homes, while footage from the suburb of Missouri City showed alligators swimming laps in a woman’s backyard.

A representative of Gator Squad, a Texas alligator-relocation company, felt the need to offer two directives: Don’t panic, and resist the urge to take selfies with alligators. I believe even Naruto would instinctively know better than that.

Monkeys and humans: Remind me again, which species is more evolved?

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It’s Not the End Of The World–Or Is It?

Hope you are enjoying your day. FYI, the world will end on Saturday.

According to biblical prophecy, Sept. 23 marks the date “worthy” Christians will be spirited to heaven, while the rest of us heathens are doomed. Religious extremists and conspiracy theorists alike point to an unusual astronomical alignment on Saturday that spells big trouble.

How will this play out? The theory cites a passage in the Book of Revelation about the appearance of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”

Who is this woman? Who has recently appeared to predict doom and gloom?

Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. Hey, why not? She’s blamed for everything by both the left and right, so let’s pile on! If anyone has become a symbol of unexpected total disaster, it’s Hillary.

I believe people are misinterpreting the title of Clinton’s new book, “What Happened.” Perhaps it’s not about politics at all, but meant to be read by some future life-form, about how electing Donald Trump president instead of her was the final sacrilege, that God has finally had it with us. Her book names those she holds responsible for this apocalypse, from Vladimir Putin to James Comey to low-information voters to Bernie Sanders.

Or maybe the blond culprit (the “woman clothed with the sun”) is Ann Coulter. In her book “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!,” Coulter says anything Trump does would be fine with her — except change his policy on immigration, which would mean the end of the world.


So what does Trump do? Exactly that! And Coulter flips out, angrily tweeting, “At this point, who doesn’t want Trump impeached?” This betrayal of Trump’s most ardent booster can only mean one thing: The end is nigh.

What if it’s neither of them, but a man who has brought forth this imminent disaster? If Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un keep goading each other, end times do seem at hand.

And if it’s none of the above, whose fault is it? God keeps sending us warnings, and we shrug. If we keep ignoring killer storms, droughts and other signs of impending doom, cartoonist Walt Kelly’s famous quotation will ring truer than ever: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

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Houston, Miami, NYC–We Have a Problem

Heat a pot of water on the stove. Watch as the warmer it gets, the more steam rises from it. Now you’re a scientist. Multiply that pot of water by trillions, and you understand why America’s coastal cities are in grave danger.

Yet the willfully ignorant still deny climate change.

Two weeks ago, it was Harvey. This week, it’s Irma. I’m not talking about your annoying relatives, but two once-in-a-century storms that have visited U.S. shores twice in less than a month.

It’s not a matter of more hurricanes, it’s a matter of severity, and scientists have established that this crisis is man-made, caused by trapped greenhouse gases heating up the planet.

The Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico are warmer than ever. The resulting increase in atmospheric moisture has brought living hell across the South. Houston is still bailing out from its nightmare, while Florida is just starting.

In 2015, Florida Gov. Rick Scott responded to the growing crisis by warning members of his state’s Department of Environmental Protection not to use the words “climate change, “global warming” or “sea level rise,” according to Christopher Byrd, then an attorney with the state DEP. Does Gov. Clueless believe if you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist?

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy flooded NYC subway tracks and destroyed our shoreline communities. Will it happen again? Unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time. Meanwhile, members of Congress hold up snowballs in winter and chuckle, “Here’s your global warming.” They’re either too stupid, or bought off, to grasp the basics. Rush Limbaugh snarled that Hurricane Irma warnings were merely a conspiracy by climate change advocates — then evacuated Florida himself.

As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, no one doubted scientists when they predicted the solar eclipse. That’s because no one had money riding on it. The fossil fuel companies will fight to protect profits, brainwashing dupes with disinformation.

When asked about the recent eclipse, no member of Congress muttered, “I’m not a scientist.” Instead, they whipped out protective glasses — except, of course, our “climate change is a Chinese hoax”-spewing president, who stared into the sun.

Talk about blinded by ignorance.

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Where Trump and de Blasio Agree

September is Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. No, I didn’t make this up. Somehow, both President Donald Trump and Mayor Bill de Blasio seem to have missed the memo.

“Despite the blaring headlines competing for your outrage, you may actually be proud of what you see,” de Blasio wrote in a Medium.com opinion piece, disputing stories about certain real estate developers and donors to his campaign getting special favors.

“A bitterness between those in power and those who hold us accountable has set in,” he grumbled.

Hey, I’m not bitter. But here’s an idea, Mr. Mayor: Stop attacking the messenger and actually answer the questions about City Hall’s relationship with developers.

Democratic mayoral primary challenger Sal Albanese told the New York Daily News that de Blasio “spent most of the op-ed piece criticizing the media, taking no accountability for his own actions.”

Speaking of real estate developers, Trump takes a back seat to no one when it comes to demonizing the media. Trump recently told a Phoenix crowd that, “It’s time to expose the crooked-media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in formenting [sic] divisions. For the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people.”

It’s amazing how a left-wing mayor and a right-wing president who believes “some very fine people” march with white supremacists find common ground attacking the media. Hmm, wonder why? Could it be because both are thin-skinned and can’t take any criticism or scrutiny?

Trump and de Blasio speak vaguely about freedom, but call the media “bitter” or “fake” when they publish a truth they don’t like, such as de Blasio’s cozy relationship with developers or Trump’s creepy relationship with Russia. To them, a free press is celebrated only when it kisses up to them; but when it holds them to account, watch out.

So be kind to editors and writers this month in your own way. Take us to dinner. Send us a nice note. Or even better, a nice donation. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Kidding! My message to Trump and de Blasio is simple: The truth shall set you free. Probably from the White House and City Hall.

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Where Everybody (Unfortunately) Knows Your Name

What’s in a name? ESPN recently prevented broadcaster Robert Lee from calling a University of Virginia football game in Charlottesville, creating a media frenzy. Did the network think people would confuse the Asian-American broadcaster with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who died in 1870? ESPN released a statement that Lee’s assignment might “create a distraction.” It sure prevented that!

But Lee isn’t the only one blocked from a job because of his name. I’ve uncovered correspondence sent to several job applicants:

Dear Lee Oswald:

Thanks for applying with McDonald’s. Although you are 20, we fear people might confuse you with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, which would reflect badly on our family-friendly image. Perhaps if you change your name to Oswald Lee, we would reconsider. Oops, forget that — we stopped hiring anyone with the last name Lee, too.

Dear Elizabeth Borden:

Thanks for applying with the Golden Years Senior Living. Although your credentials are impeccable, we are sure you are familiar with the ditty “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks.” We don’t want to traumatize patients or their families, so we’re going to take a pass. Have you considered women’s wrestling?

Dear James Lebron:

Thanks for applying for a job with Vandelay Industries. Since we list employees in our corporate directory last name first, we fear people will think we hired LeBron James. We are not equipped to handle a flood of requests for autograph sessions and personal appearances. Best of luck!

Dear Shirley Katz:

Thanks for your Chelsea Pet Shop job application. Unfortunately, your last name might lead to accusations that we are showing favoritism to certain species, and we don’t want to rub the dogs’ noses in it. Thanks for understanding!

Dear Ronald Burgundy:

Thank you for applying for a position with ESPN. Although your resume is impressive, we fear viewers might confuse you with the idiotic Ron Burgundy character played by Will Ferrell. We wouldn’t want people to see us as ridiculous!

BTW, ESPN has just switched Lee to another broadcast. He will call a game under his new, network-assigned name: Abraham Lincoln

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Boom Jobs in the Trump Era

President Donald Trump likes to boast about the jump in employment since he took office. In fact, job growth is virtually identical to President Barack Obama’s numbers in the first half of 2016 — about 88,000 jobs added each month. But there’s no doubt certain professions are thriving under Trump. Here are a few:

Psychologist: While stress had trended downward in the last 10 years, levels suddenly shot up in January, according to the American Psychology Association. Hmm, wonder what happened then? Busy therapists are reporting a new type of PTSD (President Trump Stress Disorder).

Tiki torch salesperson: As neo-Nazis, KKKers and other anti-American vermin slithered around Charlottesville, they held their Tiki torches high, looking like lost dimwits in search of a backyard barbecue. To its credit, Lamplight Farms Inc. quickly distanced itself from the white supremacists, stating its “Tiki Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville . . . We do not support their message, or the use of our products in this way.”

Progressive cable TV host: For the first time ever, MSNBC has pulled even with Fox News in prime time viewership. Rachel Maddow has been averaging 2.9 million viewers per night, compared with 2.4 million for Fox’s Tucker Carlson, according to Forbes.com. As Trump goes more and more over the top, so do Maddow’s ratings.

Anti-anxiety drug makers: Sales are skyrocketing for medications that treat anxiety and panic. For some reason, immigrants and transgender people are particularly feeling a heightened sense of anxiety. But it’s not just about Trump. We’ve become so incredibly polarized in America that, when one side loses a major election, the other loses its collective minds. But it’s a win-win for the makers of Xanax and Klonopin!

Fidget spinner marketers: Originally a toy for children, fidgety adults are glomming on to the trend as a way to calm their jangled nerves. Even 11-year-old Barron Trump was seen carrying a red fidget spinner as he moved into the White House in June, according to Newsweek. Perhaps he can distract his dad with one?

Unfortunately, there’s one job segment that has become remarkably unstable.

White House employee.

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Are Subway Rescue Plans Off Track?

I recently saw a little girl seated on the subway, without prompting, offer her seat to a frail older gentleman, who gratefully accepted. Sweet, right? Well, prepare to see fewer such tender moments if the MTA gets its way.

Part of the MTA’s roughly $800 million subway emergency rescue plan includes removing seats on certain lines. Yes, it would create space for more riders per car — for them to collapse in a puddle when the train is delayed on a sweltering summer day and the air conditioning goes down.

Aside from offering that dubious solution, returning MTA chairman Joe Lhota seems sincere in trying to fix the living nightmare that our subways have become.

Lhota, who quickly got the subways back up and running after the tracks were flooded during superstorm Sandy in 2012, all but admitted he had to be dragged back kicking and screaming by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the thankless position. “I had to do some soul searching,” he said.

In August 2013, Lhota made headlines after a pair of lost kittens frolicking on the subway tracks brought trains to a screeching halt for hours, delaying thousands of riders. Lhota said he wouldn’t have stopped service, leading to a New York Daily News headline screaming, “Die Kitties Die!” beside a glaring photo of Lhota.

So it’s understandable if he was a tad reluctant to return to the line of fire. Now that he has, Lhota’s immediately caught in a tug-of-war between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over MTA funding.

The mayor’s latest idea to rescue the subway is to have wealthy New Yorkers pay for the effort, despite knowing that the Republican-controlled State Senate would almost certainly reject such a “millionaire’s tax.”

Lhota is having none of it. “Emergency train repairs can’t wait on what the State Legislature may or may not do next year,” Lhota told The New York Times.

So what is the real solution? Tolls on East River bridges would be a good start. Prioritize fixing antiquated signals that cause endless delays over a few gleaming new stations perfect for political photo-ops. Lhota seems to get this, so maybe there’s hope.

Unless that light at the end of the tunnel is just another stalled train.

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