Christmas Eve Alone with Friends & Foes

(Photo Credit Mario Tama | Getty Images)

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, the French army was barracked in Providence, Rhode Island. On Christmas Eve 1780, the people of Providence celebrated with the Catholic French-speaking soldiers bunking at University Hall at Brown University, singing carols and lighting candles.

One hundred and four years ago, enemy soldiers stared across the cold battlefield of northern France and, out of respect for each other, a Christmas truce sporadically broke out along the Western Front… French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another…

In World War II, specifically, on December 24, 1941, at precisely 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, as dusk gathered and the temperature dropped, the red-coated Marine Band on the White House lawn struck up “Joy to the World,” accompanying choirs from area churches. Thousands had gathered in the fading light. After some further carols, the band began “Hail to the Chief.” As the sunset gun at nearby Fort Myer boomed, the president and Mrs. Roosevelt appeared on the South Portico with a group of guests, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

These days, instead of honoring allies like playing “Joy to the World” to the Prime Minister of Britain, or singing carols to French soldiers away from home to help America, no, instead of celebrating friends or even seeking a temporary white-flag with enemies like the 1914 Christmas Truce, as I’m recording this right now at approximately 6pm Eastern, the President of the United States has spent Christmas Eve 2018 sending out more than 10 tweets already today attacking Democrats, Republican Senator Bob Corker, Trump’s own former anti-terrorism envoy Brett McGurk… and complaining about US allies overseas… that’s right, rather than support foreign allies or seek a detente to the domestic tensions at home, President Trump shows he’s more Grinch than Gingrich, forcing a government shutdown for the holidays after the House and Senate had already passed a bi-partisan bill to avoid this, the third shutdown of the year. Oh, you know, the shutdown that, on December 11, 2018, Trump proudly declared I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle… I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Weird how now Trump and his few allies left, like Mark Meadows are trying to blame the Democrats in the Senate for blocking the appropriations bill. Apparently, the approximately 3 million Federal civil servants aren’t as important to the Republicans as Neil Gorsuch was, otherwise the filibuster rule would be removed entirely, right?

So here we are. The second year of the Trump Administration. The filibuster rule that was in place for 100 years has been removed by Republican Senators to seat a conservative justice. The US has broken its treaty responsibility under the Paris Agreement. The US has threatened its own allies in NATO. The US was withdrawn from the Iran Framework. The US has announced its withdrawal from NAFTA and renegotiated the agreement. The US has withdrawn from a nuclear weapons deal with Russia negotiated by Ronald Reagan. And, this fall, the US has done nothing as a Saudi resident-alien living in the United States is murdered on diplomatic grounds by the goons of Mohammed bin Salaman. Most recently, Trump talks with Turkish dictator Erdogan and then announces the withdrawal of US forces from Syria. Cui bono? Who benefits? Dictator Erdogan, Dictator Al-Assad, Dictator Putin, and -ironically- even the Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah… and who suffers? The stateless Kurds. The same Kurds that were betrayed by the US in ‘91, the same Kurds not given enough support in IS’ Northern Iraq offensive in 6/2014 & now Trump’s betrayal in 12/2018…

Why does Trump coordinate more with Dictator Orban, Dictator Duarte, Dictator Putin, Dictator MBS, and Dictator Erdogan than Angela Merkel, Theresa May,  Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, or Shinzō Abe?

Why does Trump exude admiration for Dictator Xi when he removes term limits, builts re-education camps for the Uighers? Is it because Xi has recognized more than 125 trademarks for Trump and his families businesses in just these last two years?

So this Christmas Eve? December 24, 2018, when President Trump just tweeted out “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House”?

I truly believe this is a man who has built his own prison. Attacking the Bush Family, attacking John McCain, attacking the Federal Judiciary, attacking Jeff Sessions, the DOJ and the FBI, pretending George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort are nobodies, attacking Michael Cohen, building an administration with the likes of Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Tom Price, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa Newman, Gary Cohn, Ronny Jackson, Ryan Zilke,

Forcing out HR MacMaster, Rex Tillerson, David Shulkin, and firing Jim Mathis for announcing his retirement….

And let’s not forget that Trump now has had three chiefs of staff in less than 2 years…

And this is the guy who complains, on Christmas Eve, that he’s all alone….




To filibuster or not to filibuster

To have a filibuster or not have a filibuster, that is the question. I can understand why Republicans and many Americans think we should do away with the filibuster rule. After all, the majority of U.S. Senators are Republicans, right? They should be able to vote on these judicial nominees. On the other hand, I do not believe most people know exactly what is at stake. This issue is a lot bigger than judicial appointments and it’s bigger than partisanship; it is essentially about our two hundred year old republic.

The Founding Fathers intentionally built in a bicameral legislature. The House, with its two year terms, is supposed to be the more impulsive and more quickly responsive to popular trends of opinion. The Senate, with its six year terms that are staggered into three cycles of expiration, was intended to be slower, more methodical, and to have a long term view. Changing the filibuster rule would alter one of the major purposes of a bicameral legislature.

The filibuster rule is over a hundred and thirty years old…and we’re discarding it like yesterday’s garbage. In 1872, Vice President Schuyler Colfax (R) created the filibuster with his ruling that “under the practice of the Senate the presiding officer could not restrain a Senator in remarks which the Senator considers pertinent to the pending issue.” Since that time, the filibuster has been an important part of the Senate’s role…the power to protect political minorities while maintaining the rights of the majority. As a result, the filibuster was used by Southerners of both parties to slow passage of the civil rights legislation; by Republicans to defeat President Johnson’s nomination of Abe Fortas to the U.S. Supreme Court; and in President Clinton’s first term, the filibuster was used to slow the passage of the gun-control legislation.

Sometimes politicians are wrong and the filibuster is stopped. Sometimes there is a political issue that is so important that the country needs to take a longer look. The filibustering of civil rights legislation strengthened the revolve of most Americans and our country is better off now that segregation has been defeated. The filibuster, and the threat of filibuster, focuses national attention on an issue and that attention educates the electorate. Gun-control advocates, gun-rights advocates, environmentalists and domestic-oil advocates have all been mobilized by filibusters.

Let’s take oil-drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge: It was stopped year after year, but over time, support for the project has grown with the shift of power in the Senate. Whether you like the decision of not, you can’t complain it’s a knee-jerk reaction to gasoline prices. There has been an ebb and flow to the Republican presence in the nation. In the Senate, this is is reflected in the distribution of seats. The Senate grew slowly more conservative in the 90s: 1992 (43 seats), 1994 (52 seats), 1996 (55 seats), 1998 (55 seats). Then, the country took a step back and didn’t seem to know what direction is wanted to go: President Bush was elected, but the Republican seats in the Senate fell to 50. Since that time, the Senate has trended conservative again: 2002 (51 seats) and 2004 (55) seats. But what’s next? What does the 2006 election hold for us? Are a couple of judges worth the destruction of a one hundred and thirty-three old rule as well as two hundred and sixteen years of the Senate’s longterm perspective?

Let me offer a parallel situation in American history. In 1936, FDR broke a one hundred and forty year old tradition by running for a third term. Rather than filibustering the Senate until Roosevelt withdrew his nomination, or filibustering the certification of election results, The Senate waited. After FDR was out of the equation, Congress proposed Amendment XXII to the U.S. Constitution on March 21, 1947 and it was subsequentially ratified on February 27, 1951.

My point is this: Why can’t we wait? Make the filibuster rule a major campaign issue in the 2006 election and see what happens to the balance of power. If the Republicans gain only five more seats they can end a filibuster and our government has not been endangered. If the rule is changed to a simple majority, then it’s a slippery slope to the demise of the Senate. Majority Leader Frist has said that the rule change would apply only to judicial nominees, but how can he guarantee that after the door has been opened? Sen. Frist, The U.S. Senate and the American people need to remember that, once this is done, it can not be undone. It’s not called the “nuclear option” for nothing. What’s more, are the Senate Republicans prepared to suffer this same treatment at the hands of a Democratic majority at some time in the future? Protect minority political opinions. Protect the Senate. Protect our democracy. Protect the Filibuster Rule.