Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
I am writing to once again mention the ONE DAY sale (e-book) for $1.99 for “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. I, that is happening on January 5, Saturday, tomorrow.
I seldom use this space to advertise my own books (although it is said that Ishould), but I’m feeling distinctly nostalgic for “the good old days,” before Russian troll farms, when religion, politics and how much money one made (or didn’t make) was off the table for public discussion.
The e-book version of Volume I is (normally) priced at $4.99 and, if you would like it in paperback, the price was $14.95 on Amazon. There are numerous pictures that appear nowhere else (mine) and the blog entries from the run-up to the selection of the candidates to run in the 2008 election (i.e., Obama and McCain).
Volume II goes on to actually chronicle the presidential race, itself, which I covered, inside at the DNC, the RNC and elsewhere, for Yahoo. (Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics that year).
There are A LOT of humorous entries and, if necessary, I’ll figure out a small segment from Book I to put up here tomorrow, along with a “buy” link.
Hope you all go take a look at the book, at least, on the peek inside feature.
Barack Obama in Davenport, Iowa (River Center) during the 2008 caucus season.
I don’t know about you, my readers, but I’m missing B.O. (Barack Obama).
And by B.O. I mean Barack Obama. And Michelle, of course. And the days when we had an intelligent, literate, kind, considerate, compassionate adult couple in the White House.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArzB7P9CEy8It is January. It is cold outside. Children in elementary school are dying at the U.S. border while Emma Lazarus weeps. (“Give me your tired, your poor. Your wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. The huddled masses of your teeming shore. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”).
So, I decided to put my 2008 book “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the WhiteHouse” on sale for just $1.99 in e-book format, for ONE DAY ONLY because, well, because I’m missing Barack Hussein Obama and his wife and family and the decency and integrity that his 8 years in Washington, D.C., represented.
In the day(s) when indictments are flying faster than snowflakes and the days stretch ahead of us, gloomy and dark, and we are fast heading towards the cliff of a Constitutional crisis, we ALL need more pictures of the 2008 election. This book fits the bill. It is jam-packed with previously unseen pictures, taken by Yours Truly as she followed the campaign across Iowa and, eventually, across the nation—to Denver’s DNC and St. Paul’s RNC and the Belmont Town Hall Meeting and the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic and the goings-on in Grant Park and at Invesco Field.
It’s only going to be on sale on January 5th, so hurry up and take advantage of this offer. I could be persuaded to put Volume II on sale in the future if this goes well. So crank up your e-book readers and order yourselves a slice of history for under two bucks.
“Bloodshot & Bruised: Crime Stories from the South & West” by Travis Richardson Entertains
(* A 180 page collection of short stories, many of them award-winning)
Travis Richardson grew up in Oklahoma, but currently lives in Los Angeles—which, (judging from some of the lines in his short stories within this slim (180 pp.) volume),he doesn’t really like all that much. But it’s where the action is, in writing and in film.
Travis has directed a handful of short films and written many award-winning short stories, such as “Incident on the 405,” which was a nominee for both the Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Short Story, or”Quack & Dwight,” which was a Finalist in theScreenCraft Short Story Contest, as well as a Finalist for the DerringerAward and a nominee for the Macavity and the Anthony Awards for Best Short Story.
This collection of crime stories consists of 16 short stories and some (“TheDay We Shot Jesus on Main Street,” or “Real-Time Retribution”) are REALLY short.
As a fellow short story writer, I can empathize with the need for some sort of organizational principle.
What should it be?
In my own case(“Hellfire & Damnation,” Vols. 1, 2 and 3) it ended up being the crimes or sins punished at each of the 9 Circles of Hell in Dante’s”Inferno.” In Travis’ case, it ended up being the geographical area of the country where the stories are set.
It’s tough to come up with a logical organizing principle for a series of short stories,especially if, as in Richardson’s case, you are dealing with Oklahoma and L.A.
In my own case, I had to be inspired to write stories that dealt with limbo,lust, gluttony, avarice & prodigality, wrath & sullenness, heresy, theviolent, the fraudulent and treachery. But Travis had to come at it from a different angle. I think it works here, and I salute him for his efforts. (Mine pre-date the many works by the likes of Dan Brown that focus on Dante’s “Inferno” but nevermind about that...)
What were the”best” stories in this collection?
While all are enjoyable, it is tough to call a story of only 101 words a complete “short story.” Flash fiction, yes. A short story only if in that category. That super short one is the final story in the book, and it is not my favorite.
So, what IS my favorite?
Within”Bloodshot: Tales from the South,” I liked these in no particular order: “The Proxy,” “Cop in a Well,” “A Bro Code Violation,” and “Maybelle’s Last Stand.”
Within”Bruised: Stories from the West” I liked “Incident on the405” and “Not Sure Which Way I’m Headin’.”
The entire collection goes down easily and well; I finished it one 4-hour sitting. I enjoyed the plots that were the most fully developed, which is probably why I’m aiming my praise at those longer stories.
One thing I’ve noticed as a short story writer of about nine volumes is that the “surprise” or satisfactorily “concluded” ending is hard to pull off—[and gets harder with every story written.] There are only so many ways to”surprise” a seasoned reader, and don’t we writers know it!
In this volume we have these stories: “The Day We Shot Jesus on MainStreet” -“An inspired train of thought about how mega-churches are the opposite of Jesus’ examples and how nothing, not even a blasphemous stunt, would get members to see this.” (Synopses from the author).
“The Proxy:” “Thinking about the country’s drug epidemic, the moral issues involved, and how much somebody would sacrifice for a family member.” I could see this as a film with Clint Eastwood as”the proxy” and Clint’s new movie (“The Mule”) sums up how I would expect him to appear as the lead.
“Cop in a Well” – “Written with the idea of having a character escape an impossible situation.” One of the first and one of the best.
“A Bro Code Violation” – “I hunted deer a few times in Oklahoma. What I remember most is standing still and freezing.” Also good and lengthy.
“Here’s to Bad Decisions: Red’s Longneck Hooch” – “I could hear an announcer dictating the downfall of a character while selling his product. I had to write it.”
“Getting the Yes” – “Written not long after I was engaged, it has nothing to do with my wife and more about anxiety of the ring being good enough.”
“Damn Good Dad” – “A sad take on meth addiction and skewed priorities. I had heard stories about families suffering burns while trying to provide extra income.”
“Tim’s Mother Lied” – “I sent the story to Shotgun Honey as a noir children’s sale. They sent notes that it didn’t work, so I rewrote the story straight from the child’s point of view. It turned out better.”
“Maybelle’s Last Stand” – “Not sure of the origin, but I remember a vision of a blurry, menacing man sauntering up to a porch, not unlike OnceUpon a Time in the West.“
“Because” – “The working title was ‘The Boy Who Didn’t Read.’ I saw the story from the middle first with the robbery and then broke down the reasons why it happened.”
“Incident on the 405:” “I pictured two women from two different worlds colliding on Los Angeles’ biggest parking lot.”
“Quack & Dwight:” “I worked on multiple drafts to get this story right and enlisted the aid of an L.A. County Prosecutor and an expert in child services. Also, the editor, Kenneth Wishnia, called me out on putting too much starch in the Jewish meal.”
“Final Testimony:” “Started out as a longer piece that got compressed into this story. I saw a desperate cop who sacrificed everything for a case, and it could be for nothing.”
“Not Sure Which Way I’m Headin'”: “I’d wanted to write about the 1992 Los Angeles riots for quite a while. When I moved to L.A. in the late ’90s, people talked about O.J. and the riots all the time.”
“The Movement:” “I wanted to set the story with the Bohemian Club, but research proved to be difficult since it is a secretive society. So I opted for the nearby Russian River in an area where I used to work.”
“Real-Time Retribution” : “I thought of a man in an impossible situation and how he might get out of it with some pride. A fun exercise in compression.”
The very first story (and nearly all in the first half of the book) uses a lot of slang and idioms. Example: “This is a right-to-carry state, and if you don’t carry—-well, that says a lot about your character.” There was also an expression that football coach Hayden Fry of the University of Iowa, a transplant from Texas, used to use: “That bird won’t fly.” (Only, in Hayden’s case, it was “That dog won’t hunt.”) I still remember how Fry’s references to a “high-porch picnic” was incomprehensible to Iowans, but natural to a native Texan—or Oklahoma— native.
When I was writing “Hellfire & Damnation,” Vol.I, I wrote a story entitled “Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken.” I showed it to David Morrell, who quickly took the wind out of my proud sails by saying that he “didn’t like the use of idioms” or some such.
Nevermind: I liked it then, and I like it now, in Richardson’s stories. (There’s quite a bit of it in the first 10 stories, so my advice would be: “Don’t show these stories to David Morrell!”)It just goes to show how different writers have different standards and there is no ONE “right” way to write.
Richardson’s work is heavy on action and right on the money for description: not too much (hundreds of words describing a bicycle leaning against an ivied wall in one Joyce Carol Oates short story!) and not too little. His stories and characters are interesting and plots are his forte.
All-in-all, a very nice collection of short stories. Try them. You’ll like them!
In Chapter Five Trump wants to know, “Where the hell is the money?”
He harasses fund-raiser Chris Christie regarding his efforts to raise funds for the campaign. Bannon tells Jared Kushner that Donald Trump needs to pony up $50 million for the campaign, because a candidate is not constrained by limits as other donors are. Kushner tells Bannon that DJT is not going to contribute that much and, in fact, after several back-and-forth negotiations, Trump puts in $10 million, instead.
Kathleen Willey (from TV appearance)
Juanita Broadderick and Donald J. Trump
The debate is held, and Bannon plans for all of Bill Clinton’s female accusers to be right down front so that, whenever Trump’s Access Hollywood tape is brought up, DJT can say, “My offense was just words. Bill Clinton’s offenses were deeds.” The women make quite a rogue’s gallery of former accusers, including Juanita Broaddrick, whom Bill Clinton paid $850,000; Kathleen Willey who alleged that Clinton had sexually assaulted her in the White House; and Kathy Shelton, who accused Hillary herself of smearing her when she was defending client Shelton. While the debate organizers would not allow the 4 women to sit at the table with Trump or in the VIP box, in a scorched earth kill shot move, the women came in late and sat in the front row.
Woodward is in KEY2ACT in Fort Worth, Texas, and is quite surprised to see 200 hands go up when he asks who, in the audience, is going to vote for Trump. He was speaking on “The Age of the American Presidency: What Will 2016 Bring?”
Trump made a last ditch trip to North Carolina where Congressman Mark Meadows who represented the 11th District reassured him that North Carolina would go for Trump. (“The evangelicals are out. They’re ringing doorbells. I’m telling you, you do not need to come back to North Carolina. We’ve got this.”)
Pence made 23 appearances in Pennsylvania; 25 in Ohio; 22 in North Carolina; 15 in Iowa; 13 in Florida; 8 in Michigan; and 7 in Wisconsin. Bannon was surprised that HRC was not utilizing Obama, who had won Iowa in 2008 by 6 to 10 points, and that she never visited Wisconsin in the general election. Two days before the election when Woodward appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace Woodward commented that those polled might be lying to the pollsters. Trump made a 5-state swing including North Carolina right before the election, but he also said, “If we don’t win, I will consider this the single greatest waste of time, energy and money.”
Meanwhile, Clinton had a big rally at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall where tens of thousands gathered and Obama whispered to her, “You’ve got this. I’m so proud.” (Well, maybe not.) The polls still showed HRC ahead, with a tie in Ohio and Iowa and Trump down 9 in Pennsylvania and down 7 in North Carolina.
The election was held and, on election night, North Carolina was called for Trump at 11:11 p.m. Ohio was called for Trump at 10:36 p.m. Florida was called for Trump at 10:50 p.m. Iowa was called for Trump at 12:02 a.m. Wisconsin was called for Trump at 2:29 a.m. Hillary Clinton called Trump and conceded. Trump made a traditional political speech about binding up the wounds of division, thanking his team members and singling out Reince Priebus. Putin called from Russia to congratulate Trump. Xi Jinping called from China.
Trump had no transition tem and was totally unprepared to take over the White House in 10 weeks at noon and staff it with 4,000 people. Bannon called the group “the island of misfit toys.” Priebus and Bannon agreed to call Bannon “chief strategist” and Priebus White House chief of staff.
James Clapper (Image courtesy of www.deadline.com)
The summer of 2015 saw the first sign of digital intrusions into our voting apparatus, first appearing in Illinois and later spreading to 21 states. Russian hacking and tampering put then-President Obama in a bad position. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was concerned that Russia might be using the data to change votes. “Russia?” he wondered.
The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) security briefing [something Trump supposedlyrarely pays much attention to]contained this information. But what should Obama do? In July of 2016 WikiLeaks and DC Leaks began publishing e-mails from the DNC, obtained by Russian hackers calling themselves “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear.” The National Security Council was deeply concerned as the intelligence regarding Russian hacking grew more and more convincing.
Obama was torn. If he went on prime-time national television and announced the findings it might look like he was attacking Trump, linking the Republican nominee with Russia. (*This would have been a very good idea, since his wife is Russian, his heroes are Russian and, in all likelihood, his secret helpers were Russian in the election of 2016). Obama did not want to appear as though he were meddling in the U.S. election by trying to tip the scales, but NOT telling the public could create a backlash in the (very unlikely) case that Trump did win.
John Brennan (Image courtesy of cnn.com)
John Brennan of the FBI argued against telling the public. He was protective of the department’s sources. Brennan, however, did tell Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bortnikov that we were aware of the hacking. (Bortnikov, like Trump, simply denied it.
Mike Morrell (Image courtesy of CNN.com)
Mike Morrell, acting director of the CIA twice, published an op-ed in the New York Times on August 5th that read: “I Ranthe CIA: Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.” Morrell flat-out accused Trump of “being an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” Clapper was selected to brief the Gang of Eight consisting of 4 Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, plus the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Clapper was shocked by the partisan nature of the gathering, as the Republicans disliked everything. The Democrats loved every bit of the information. He left the briefing feeling that the intelligence apparatus in the country was becoming a political football.
Even though everyone still felt that Clinton was likely to win, Vladimir Putin’s influence campaign to undermine HRC’s campaign and coming presidency went into high gear.
Meanwhile, Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson wanted to alert the public to Russian hacking. Friday, October 7th, they released a joint statement accusing Russia of trying to interfere in the United States election. “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromise of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” The announcement went on to say that the authorization to do this must have come from the top in Russia. They sat back and waited for this to be a Big News Story.
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE
One hour later, at 4:05 p.m., David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post released a headlined story: “Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005.” This would later become known as the Access Hollywood tape. It literally blew away all other important news of the hour and day, such as the Russian hacking story. The “Grab them by the pussy” tape became “a political earthquake” and the announcement about Russia’s hacking in our election was lost in the shuffle.
Less than half an hour later, at 4:30 p.m., WikiLeaks dumped thousands of e-mails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal account. It included information about HRC’s speeches to Wall Street financiers. E-mails between Podesta and Donna Brazile (Chair of the DNC) were also released.
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE AFTERMATH
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person…these words don’treflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.” (Donald J. Trump) Trump went on to pivot to Bill Clinton and saying he had done far worse and concluded, “See you at the debate on Sunday.”
A summit of the top advisers to Donald J. Trump convened and Priebus said, “It’s over.” Bannon did not agree (“What do you mean, it’s over?”) Mike Pence was dubious. “Are you fucking kidding me?” was Bannon’s response. “It’s a tape, dude.” Priebus insisted, “You don’t understand; it’s over.” Trump asked each of them to weigh in on the situation. Priebus felt he should drop out right now and avoid the worst loss in American history. Bannon insisted “Cut the bullshit; that’s bullshit.” Priebus floated the idea of Mike Pence stepping up and running with Condoleeza Rice, “W’s” former national security adviser and secretary of state. “That’s never going to happen,” Bannon said loudly. Chris Christie of New Jersey felt Trump should resign in order to protect his brand. Rudy Giuiliani felt that “Basically, you’ve got a 40% chance of winning.” Kellyanne Conway suggested contacting “60 Minutes” and doing a sort of public confessional with Ivanka on one side and Melania on the other, the women crying and Trump apologizing. Melania flatly refused.
Trump asked Bannon, “What do you think?
Bannon responded, “100%”
“100% metaphysical certitude you’re going to win.”
Trump responded, “Cut the shit. I’m tired of 100%. I need to know what you really think.”
Although Priebus obviously was not a 100%-er, and he didn’t think Trump was, either, Bannon kept maintaining that Trump would win. He told the room: “We’re going to compare your talk with Bill Clinton’s action.”
“How are we going to do that?” (Trump)
Bannon suggested a Hilton Hotel ballroom at 8 p.m. that night with a hammerhead rally—which was a Bannon term for the diehard Trump fans wearing the MAGA baseball caps. Trump was delighted, while the others were opposed and a huge fight resulted with a compromise position at the end of it: Conway would have David muir of ABC helicopter in and do a 10 minute interview.
Bannon felt this was political suicide. Priebus again felt that Trump was toast. (“You guys don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to go down.”) Various Republicans were coming out of the woodwork and telling Trump he should step aside for Mike Pence. Pence even released a statement: (“As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released Saturday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
There were rumors that Pence had given Bannon a sealed letter that urged him to drop off the ticket.
Two hours later Melania released a statement defending her husband and saying, “I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
At 3:40 p.m. Trump tweeted: I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA Preparations for the ABC interview were underway. Giuiliani and Christie gave Trump an apology statement to read. Trump was surly about reading the “all political” statement that screamed Giuliani and Christie. “I can’t do this. This is bullshit. This is weak. You guys are weak.”
Christie interjected, “Donald, you don’t understand” and Giuliani told Trump that he had to do this. Trump turned to Kellyanne Conway and asked her what were the steps to cancel out on the Muir interview. She waffled, saying all her credibility was on the line, but Bannon said, “It’s not going to happen. He ain’t going to do it. If he does do an introduction you can’t have him do a live interview. He’ll f****** get cut to pieces.” The apology was re-written, but it was still all Giuliani and Christie and polito-speak and Trump said, “I’m not doing this.” He delcared that he was going to go down to the roaring crowd gathered for the rally. The Secret Service insisted to Trump that he was NOT going to go outside. Trump headed out, saying “I’m going downstairs. This is great.” (*One cautious word for DJT: watch the movie about Huey Long.) Conway was telling Trump that he couldn’t cancel on ABC, but DJT said, “I don’t care. It was a dumb idea. I never wanted to do it.”
OUTSIDE THE ELEVATOR
Chris Christie (then Governor of New Jersey) and Steve Bannon had words outside the elevator. Christie said, to Bannon, “You’re the fucking problem. You’ve been the problem since the beginning.”
Bannon, dismayed, wanted to know what Bannon was talking about. Bannon, dismayed, said, “What are you talking about?” Christie responded, “You’re the enabler. You play to every one of his worst instincts…” The 2 men faced off and Bannon said, “Governor, the plane leaves tomorrow. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.”
Christie was not on the plane the next day. Trump, however, was, and, following on the heels of Rudy Giuliani doing all 5 networks, defending his client, he was the only one who completed a full Ginsburg (a term used for Monica Lewinsky’s attorney who appeared on all 5 network Sunday programs on Feb. 1, 1998.)
ON THE PLANE
After Giuliani had made the full Ginsburg–-a daunting task that must have been quit embarrassing and humiliating in many ways—the exhausted former Mayor of New York City who had pulled out every stop got to hear Trump say to him: “Rudy, you’re a baby! I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?” When Bannon defended Giuliani as the only one of the Trump forces who had gone to the wall for his boss, Trump responded, “I don’t want to hear it. It was a mistake. He shouldn’t have gone on. He’s weak. You’re weak, Rudy. You’ve lost it.”
Giuliani just took the abuse with a blank face as the plane took off.
In Chapter 3, newly-appointed campaign manager Steve Bannon travels to Trump Tower and—lo and behold—meets the ONE person in “the war room,” Andy Surabian. In his typical fashion, he asks, “Where the fuck is everybody?” and learns that this is a typical day in “the war room.” Bannon finds out that Ivanka and husband Jared are off gallivanting around on David Geffen’s $300 million yacht (one of the largest yachts in the world) off the coast of Croatia, on vacation with Wendy Deng (former wife of Rupert Murdoch).
BANNON MEETS MANAFORT IN TRUMP TOWER
Surprisingly, at this point, Manafort asks Bannon to come up to his residence in the Tower. Rather than being adversarial, Manafort says, “I really want to thank you for trying to step in.” He defends the drubbing he has just taken at Trump’s hands and tongue by saying, “That’s just Donald. This is the way he acts all the time.”
Paul Manafort and Michael Cohn (Image courtesy of TheGuardian.com)
Manafort then hands Bannon a copy of a draft story that the New York Times is going to run entitled “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief,” because, (says Woodward’s book), Manafort has heard that Bannon is “good with the media.” It shows $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from the Ukraine pro-Russian political party. Bannon is, to put it mildly, shocked and asks questions (“When is this coming out?” “Does Trump know anything about this?” “How long have you known about this?”)
It comes out that Manafort (who pleaded guilty today, September 14, and is now cooperating with the Mueller investigation, despite Trump’s having praised him for not folding as quickly as his lawyer, Michael Cohn) has known about the investigation for 2 months, although his wife apparently knows little to nothing about it, as she is startled to hear Bannon’s explosion upon reading about 10 paragraphs. (“It was a kill shot. It was over for Manafort.”)
Manafort shares that his lawyer told him not to cooperate, and Bannon remarks, “You should fire your lawyer,” which I found an amusing reaction. (Manafort responds that he’s “thinking about it.”)
Bannon’s reaction is listed as: “You’ve got to call Trump…go see him face-to-face. If this comes out in the paper, and he doesn’t know about it, it’s lights out for you. How do you even take $12.7 million in cash?” Bannon, in typical Trumpian fashion, says he “had expenses.” He blames it on “the guys.” Bannon calls Jared Kushner and tells him he has to get back to Trump Tower immediately. The New York Times article ran online that night and in the paper the next morning; The Donald was not amused.
Trump alerts Priebus that Bannon is in (and Manafort is out). Priebus stresses that they need 90% support from the GOP party apparatus, not the 70% polls areshowing. Bannon tells Priebus he wants to see Katie Walsh, who supposedly has data on every likely Republican voter in the country from the Republican database. The pressing issue was to make sure that the RNC was not going to abandon Trump, since he didn’t have much of an organization of his own. The unprintable version of what Bannon accomplished during this time was: “I reached out and sucked Reince Priebus’ dick on August 15 and told the establishment we can’t win without you.”
Steve Bannon & Reince Priebus (Image courtesy of charismanews.com)
Priebus, an attorney from Wisconsin, had just spent a few years overseeing a massive effort to rebuild the RNC into a data-driven operation. They borrowed from Obama’s winning campaign strategy and poured in more than $175 million into analystics and big data that tracked individual primary voters and divided neighborhoods into “turfs” staffed with a multitude of volunteers.
The RNC was effectively the Trump campaign staff, and Bannon knew they could not afford to lose them.
Step #1: get an absentee or early voting ballot to those deemed pro-Trump who had scored 90 above on a scale of 0 to 100 in the national database. (Example: In Ohio, out of perhaps 6 million voters, 1 million would score 90 or above). That 1 million would be targeted for early voting ballots, with follow-up.
Step #2: Field staff would move to persuade those who scored 60 to 70, to convince them to vote for Trump.
Bannon told Trump: “I have metaphysical certitude you will win here if you stick to this script and compare and contrast with HRC. Every underlying number is withus.” Bannon, who was announced as the new leader on August 17, realized that he was “the director and DJT is the actor.”
Donald Trump & Kellyanne Conway (Image courtesy of spin.com)
Kellyanne enters the fray and says: “Their message (the Dems) is Donald Trump is bad, and we’re not Donald Trump. The rest of the message was race, gender, LGBT.” She is conveying this from attending four days of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July. This will underscore what analysts have said was one of the Big Flaws in the Democratic campaign. It had no message. Bernie had a message, but Bernie was derailed.
Much of the media, says Woodward, did not buy the hidden Trump voter line, but the database that Katie Walsh and Reince Priebus had access to, would tell what beer they drank, the make and color of their car, the age and school of their children, their mortgage status, the brand of cigarettes they smoked. Were they NRA supporters? Conway, said, by contrast: “There’s not a single hidden Hillary voter in the entire country. They’re all out and about.” Kellyanne said, “HRC doesn’t seem to have a message….All I can see from her so far is not optimism.” Add to that the fact that Clinton had not cracked 50% in 8 key states that Obama won two times with over 50% and Conway and Bannon agreed that if they could make the race about Hillary, not Trump, they would win the hidden voters who hated her. (Certainly running Russian troll ads about how she was running a sex ring out of a pizza parlor in New York was one tactic that Trump had help with to smear Hillary’s years of experience in the field, versus his lack of any experience and his questionable personality traits under pressure.)
Bannon again felt that Trump was literally Archie Bunker, and he added a comparison to second century (B.C.) Roman populist Tiberius Gracchus, who advocated transfer of land from the wealthy patrician landowners to the poor. (Robin Hood style). Bannon took one look at the various “theme weeks” that had been scheduled (“Education Week; Women’s Empowerment Week; Small Business Week”) and said, “Throw this shit out.”
#1) The 6 weeks from Mid-August to September 26th (first debate): get within 5 to 7 points.
#2) Three weeks of debates. (“He’s so unprepared for the debates. She’ll kill him because she’s the best at debating and policy. We’re going to call nothing but audibles in these debates. That’s the only thing we’ve got, where he can walk around and connect.” His private opinion was that the Trump campaign was going to get crushed during the debates (and, quite frankly, that is exactly what it looked like to me. But I digress).
#3) Final 3 weeks to election day (from Final debate to Nov. 8th) Trump was going to have to pony up some money for his own run.
Bannon suggested that winnable states were: Ohio, Iowa, Florida and North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It is noted “It all seemed like a giant fantasy” and Bannon privately says, “This is Gotterdammerung.”
Manafort leaves on August 19 and “Time” runs a cover of Trump on August 22nd entitled “Meltdown.”
Chapter 2 describes how Steve Bannon came to be involved in the Trump campaign for the presidency on or about August 13, 2016. Bannon was reading an article entitled “The Failing Inside Mission to Tame Trump’s Tongue” in the New York Times (an article that would be just as timely today.)
Trump had no operation beyond the RNC at that point. His “campaign,” which he had announced in the infamous Trump Tower escalator speech, had been launched on July 21, 2016, and consisted of perhaps 7 people. The team was scheduling rallies in what I call Newt Gingrich territory, i.e., the cheesiest venues, “often old, washed-out sports or hockey arenas.” Bannon called Rebekah Mercer, one of the biggest and most controversial sources of campaign funding within the GOP. The family had an ownership stake in Breitbart.
Rebekah Mercer noted, “This guy Manafort’s a disaster. Nobody’s running the campaign now. Trump listens to you. He’s always looking for adult supervision.” In this fashion, Ms. Mercer urged Bannon to offer his services running the campaign, even though he admitted he had no firsthand knowledge of running such a large-scale operation. Ms. Mercer noted that Trump would accept him in this position because “This thing’s in panic mode.” She sized Trump, the outsider, up as “desperate.”
The Mercers (Rebekah on right).(Image courtesy of jackrite blog)
That discussion between Bannon and Rebekah Mercer led to a meeting at the home of the New York Jets owner, Woody Johnson, for a fundraiser. The Mercers wanted 10 minutes with DJT. “Mananfort has got to go,” she told Trump. She added, “Steve Bannon will come in” and Trump’s response was that Bannon would never do it, to which Rebekah reassured him that Bannon most definitely would enter the fray.
Trump, in his usual style, blamed Manafort for his poor television skills (“He’s a stiff. He can’t do TV effectively.”)
Candidate Trump and Reince Priebus (Image courtesy of Politico)
The next discussion revolved around 44-year-old Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin lawyer and chairman of the RNC for 5 years.Priebus viewed the month of August as a catastrophe (“A constant heat lamp that wouldn’t go away.”) Priebus had called Trump up after his negative remarks about Mexicans in his announcement of his candidacy, telling him: “You can’t talk like that. We’ve been working really hard to win over Hispanics.”
At this point, according to Woodward, Mitch McConnell had already told Priebus to shut the Trump funding spigot off and direct the RNC money towards Senate candidates. But Priebus decided to straddle middle ground: survival for the party and survival for him.“He had sucked up to Trump appropriately, but had also stressed his responsibilities to the RNC. He agreed to introduce Trump at rallies, referring to that as “extending a hand to a drowning man.” Priebus had said: “It wasn’t a campaign. It was a joke.” Priebus decided there was only one path forward, and that was to maximize aggression to conceal weakness.
Woodward then pivots to a meeting that took place at one of Trump’s golf courses at Bedminster (the Trump National Golf Club). Bannon was told to arrive at one o’clock and was given detailed instructions for finding the course (“Trump provided more detail than Bannon had ever heard him give on anything.”).
Roger Ailes (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
When Bannon arrived early, he met up with Roger Ailes, who was surprised to see him. Others supposed to be present were Chris Christie and Rudy Giuiliani. (Ailes’ reaction upon seeing Bannon was “WTF.”) Something was said (by Bannon) to Ailes to suggest that Trump was going to be “prepping” for the first debate with Hillary Clinton, which was upcoming on September 26th. Ailes was surprised that Trump was “prepping” and Bannon corrected him, noting that he, Giuiliani and Christie couldn’t get Trump to “prep” but they did show up and talk some of the potential relevant issues with him, as he played golf or after he played golf.
Paul Manafort (Image courtesy of CNBC.com)
Paul Manafort, then the ostensible Campaign Manager (now a convicted felon), walked in dressed in yachting attire and both men were disgusted. Trump arrived and wolfed down a diet of hot dogs and hamburgers “the fantasy diet of an 11-year-old kid.” Trump chided Manafort, saying: “You’re terrible on TV. You’ve got no energy. You don’t represent the campaign. I’ve told you nicely. You’re never going on TV again.”
Trump constantly derided “the failing New York Times” but secretly considered it to be Gospel, and he was upset with the coverage. Bannon tried to convince him the story was BS, but Trump “wasn’t buying it.” (“The assassination of Manafort continued for a while.”) Typical commentary on Manafort, by Trump, to Bannon: “This thing’s so terrible. It’s out of control.. This guy’s such a loser. He’s really not running the campaign. I only brought him in to get me through the convention.”
Bannon laid out a battleground scenario where 2/3 of the country thought the country was on the wrong track and 75% thought we were in decline as a nation. That would set the stage for a “change agent” and Hillary was the past. Bannon underscored and emphasized that the goal was to “compare and contrast Clinton.” Steve Bannon outlined a campaign where HRC would be made the tribune and representative of a corrupt and incompetent status quo of elites who were allowing the nation to go down the tubes. Trump would become the tribune of the forgotten man who wanted to make America great again.
“And we’re just going to do it in a couple of themes,” Bannon said.#1: Immigration #2: Bring back manufacturing jobs, #3: Get out of pointless wars. Saying that those were the 3 big themes that Clinton could not defend against, Bannon went on to say, “We’re just going to hammer. That’s it. Just stick to that.” He noted that “even when she’s telling the truth, she sounds like she’s lying to you.” Trump did not.
Kellyanne Conway (Image courtesy of NYMag.com)
They agreed that Kellyanne Conway (who had previously worked for Ted Cruz) would be the designated campaign manager, but, to avoid any mention of Manafort’s ouster in the papers, he would retain a purely honorary title as Campaign Chairman but have no real power. Of Kellyanne he said, “We’re going to put her on television every day as the female-friendly face.” (They certainly did THAT! You could not avoid Kellyanne Conway on shows like “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” during this period.)
Bannon added that HE would never be on TV. Kellyanne told Trump that he was “running against the most joyless candidate in presidential history.” (One could have said the same of Cruz, had he prevailed.) Kellyanne told Trump there was “a path back.” Kellyanne told him: “You have built a movement. And people feel like they’re a part of it.” She counseled that the Trump campaign should never do national polling, as it was misleading. It was all about the electoral college and the 270 votes, so they needed to target the right states. She also said that “People want specifics” and “You need to make good on your promises.”
Asked if she was willing to devote months of time to help him win, Kellyanne acquiesced and said: “Sir, I can do that for you. You can win this race. I do not consider myself your peer. I will never address you by your first name.”
And so was born the trio of first-time campaign managers with a flawed candidate who did have a national reputation. “You’re fired!”)
In Chapter One, Bob Woodward concentrates on Steve Bannon. He traces Bannon’s meeting with Trump back to August of 2010, when David Bossie, longtme House Republican investigator and conservative activist wanted to put Bannon, then 57, together with the Trumpster.
The chapter conveys Bannon’s linguistic style as very casual (“Dude” is one of the terms he uses repeatedly when speaking to Bossie). Bossie asks Bannon to come with him to New York to meet Donald Trump.:
“What about?” says Bannon.
“He’s thinking of running for president,” Bossie answers.
“Of what country?” Bannon responds.
It is casual insouciance like that exchange that gives us our first glimpse of the evil genie behind the throne, the Breitbach editor turned kingmaker. Bannon responds, “I don’t have time to jerk off, dude.” [Again, the casual insouciance].
David Bossie (“Politico” image).
Finally, the meeting does take place, and Bannon and Bossie inform Trump that his plan to potentially run against Obama in 2012 has some problems. For one thing, his record shows him to have bankrolled those who might be considered liberal, and to have underwritten causes for candidates who are pro abortion, while, they tell him, he must be “pro life.” They suggest that he become a “Populist” president, but Trump never seems to be able to repeat the word “Populist” correctly, repeatedly calling it “Popularist.”
At that point in time, Bannon found Trump to be “engaged and quick. He was in great physical shape. His presence was bigger than the man, and took over the room, a command presence. He had something.” Bannon felt that Trump was: “Archie Bunker, but a really focused Archie Bunker.” (Just what we all hoped for: Archie Bunker for President!) It is interesting to note how Omarosa talks about Trump’s physical and mental deterioration in her book “Unhinged”, based on having known and worked with the man for 15 years. It would be hard to imagine anyone today saying that Donald J. Trump was either “engaged” or “quick” and he is definitely not “in great physical shape.”
They reveal, to Trump’s amazement, that there are voting records that show he has only voted once in a primary in his entire life. (For Rudy Giuiliani, in 1989). Trump seems woefully ignorant of the most basic political facts and realities, but he keeps repeating that “that can be fixed.” The two old pols tell him to run in 3 states as though he were running for Governor. The three states are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first 3 caucus or primary states. They instruct him to start contributing $2,400 (the maximum allowed by law) to Republican candidates in a handful of battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. They suggest he produce a policy book. (“You ought to do a book about what you think about America and these policies.”).
Later, leaving the meeting, the two men discuss the potential candidate. Bossie asks: “What about the policy book?”
Bannon responds: “He’ll never do a policy book. Give me a f****** break. First off, nobody will buy it. It was a waste of time except for the fact that it was insanely entertaining.”
And that (plus perhaps the Correspondents’ dinner roasting of Trump by Seth Meyer and Obama?) gave birth to the perfect storm of 2016 and Donald J. Trump’s candidacy.
Bob Woodward’s new book “FEAR” came out today, and I am reading it.
Bob Woodward (Twitter image), co-author of “All the President’s Men” and “Fear”
As with Omarosa’s book about the goings-on inside the White House (“Unhinged”), I will attempt to share with those of you with less idle time on their hands some of its revelations.
Today’s installment will deal only with the first 1% (I ordered it in e-book format), the Prologue. First, let it be known that Woodward had A LOT of help from his research assistant Evelyn M. Duffy, who has worked with him on five previous books.
(General Mattis, Gary Kohn, and General Kelly from the ArmWood Opinion Blog)
Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs and one of the president’s top economic advisers comes off as one of those who is trying to keep Trump from screwing up by signing things he shouldn’t. Cohn, who spent 27 years at Goldman Sachs, is 6′ 3″ and full of self-confidence, notes Woodward. He is also from GOLDMAN SACHS, and, if you remember, Trump made a Big Deal of Hillary Clinton’s speech to Goldman Sachs, but now brings its president on as one of his most trusted advisers. (Go figure).
The Prologue deals with Trump’s unhinged (Omarosa’s book title) efforts to withdraw from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS. It isn’t so much that we get economic good from this agreement as that we get the ability to detect any attack that might be heading towards the U.S. mainland from North Korea because of the work of the military infrastructure present in South Korea, which has been there ever since I was a little girl (the early fifties). The U.S. stationed 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea and operates the most highly classified and sensitive Special Access Program (SAP) providing sophisticated Top Secret codeword intelligence and military capabilities.
(Image from 9news.com.au)
Woodward’s book (“FEAR”) notes that a missile from North Korea would take 38 minutes to reach Los Angeles. Thanks to this treaty and the intelligence apparatus in place there as a result of it, we would know that it was headed for us in 7 seconds. Compare that to the time it would take for Alaska to let us know if an attack from the Russians (15 minutes) and you realize that the ability to detect a lunch “in seven seconds” would give the United States military the time to shoot down a North Korean missile.”
Does Trump recognize that fact?
Apparently not. Woodward notes that it is “Perhaps the most important and most secret operation in the United States government. The American presence in South Korea represents the essence of national security.”
Why, then, did Trump want to withdraw from this important strategic alliance? Because he was angry that the U.S. had an $18 billion annual trade deficit with South Korea, plus our troops there cost us $3.5 billion a year to maintain.
Woodward notes, “Trump was always shifting, rarely fixed, erratic.” Prior to that, Woodward says, “Despite almost daily reports of chaos and discord in the White House, the public did not know how bad the internal situation actually was.” (Or should we say “is”?).
The letter, which Woodward displays on the page, was dated September 5, 2017. It was the trigger to a potential national and international security catastrophe. And Cohn, therefore, removed the letter draft from the Resolute Desk and placed it in a blue folder marked “KEEP.”
Woodward: “In the anarchy and disorder of the White House, and Trump’s mind, the president never noticed the missing letter.” Rob Porter is then noted as contributing to this attempt to stop Trump from doing something stupid. Porter attended Harvard and Harvard Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar, something no one has accused Trump of being. “Cohn and Porter worked together to derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders.” “Cohn at times would just yank it (an order), and the president would forget about it. But if it was on his desk, he’d sign it.”
(No copyright infringement is intended & there is no profit from the reprinting of this cartoon image.)
Cohn: “It’s not what we did for the country. It’s what we saved him (Trump) from doing.” Porter said, “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he (Trump) had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.” After citing the technique of “slow walking” a bill or order that Trump might unwisely sign, Porter said: “It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually…It was like you were always walking right there on the edge.”
When confronted with arguments as to why the treaty with South Korea needed to remain in place, Trump said, “I don’t care. I’m tired of these arguments! I don’t want to hear about it any more. We’re getting out of KORUS.” The cooler heads told son-in-law Jared Kushner that a good draft needed to be prepared and, from there, “Cohn and Porter did not prepare a next draft. So there was nothing to show the president. The issue, for the moment, disappeared in the haze of presidential decision making.”
Concludes Woodward, as the Prologue winds to a halt: “The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader…It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”
(People image of Donald J. Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman in happier days)
Omarosa’s new book “Unhinged” has been released and, as a service to readers, I have read it.
As a writer, I appreciate that Omarosa’s prose is readable and interesting. She shares her own life story, and I’ll have to admit that her image as “the villain of the piece” on “The Apprentice” was about all I knew about her. Who knew that she had worked in the Clinton White House, for instance?
Towards the end of “Unhinged,” Omarosa’s book begins to echo the forthcoming Woodward book, which I will also read when it is released to the general public on September 11th. (Nice timing there. One national disaster is chronicled on the date of another).
Here is a paragraph from near the end of Omarosa’s book that seems to echo Woodward’s forthcoming book: “Rest assured that there is an army of people who oppose him and his policies. They are working silently and tirelessly to make sure he does not cause harm to the republic. Many in this silent army are in his party, his administration, and even in his own family.” Sound familiar? It should, because that is one of the principal tenets of Bob Woodward’s book, according to preliminary publicity.
Omarosa also writes, near the end of her book, “Change is coming. To bring it about we must be participants and not spectators in the pursuit of equality and unity. Together, we can make this country honor the sacrifices of our ancestors.” She uses that tired cliche, “We are all in the same boat now,” and her apologies for putting us in that boat are not nearly intense enough. She had “a blind spot” where Trump was concerned. She didn’t believe the tape of DJT using “the N word” existed.
As a writer, that is one good thing that Omarosa has done in her book. She has structured it as sort of a treasure hunt or detective search for the Holy Grail of the MIA “N” word tape—outtakes from “The Apprentice” where Donald J. Trump used the “N” word and other perjorative terms. Why this matters so much to Omarosa is more easily understood when we consider that she is an African American woman, but, at the end of the book, the reader feels a bit cheated not to at least read a transcription of same. One of the magician duo Penn & Teller has come forward and said he heard it, but, aside from that, we have only whispered conversations on the phone between Omarosa and co-workers who assure her that he DID say it.
My response to that is, “Who doubts it?” If he would wander off-script during a ceremony to honor the last of the Navajo code workers who helped win WWII, and, instead, insult U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren by calling her “Pocahontas,” then who doubts that Trump will continue using derogatory name-calling, whether it is “Little Marco,” “Lying Ted,” or “Low Energy Jeb?” Also noteworthy is that the ceremony to honor the Navajo code breakers was held under a portrait of Andrew Jackson, who ordered the “Trail of Tears” movement of native Americans to reservations, an atrocity that saw many of them die in one of our nation’s most tragic avoidable acts of atrocity towards the people who originally inhabited this land. Using slurs, racial and otherwise, is baked in Donald Trump’s DNA. It’s usually a sign of a person with an inferiority complex, who is striving to make himself (or herself) feel more important. [It is telling that “W” used it extensively, also. One of his Cabinet members lost respect for George W. Bush when he assigned everyone a nickname. He famously called his Chief Strategist Karl Rove “Turd Blossom.”]
One of the book’s most interesting portions, for me, a 37-year veteran educator, dealt with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. DeVos has absolutely no experience in education and it can be said that she bought her spot in the Cabinet. She refused to give opening remarks to the HBCU all-stars that Omarosa was championing, and Omarosa had to approach head of Cabinet Affairs Bill McGinley to get him to intervene. DeVos had tried to shut down the event by sending a blast notice that it was off. She cost the U.S. government $75,000 in cancellation fees. (The event ultimately went forward). She writes, “By June I’d given up on Betsy DeVos…” She goes on to say that she had made it her priority to get congressional support for HBCUs and overall African American policy priorities and, therefore, invited the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to meet with Trump on at least 2 occasions. (It did not go well.) Here are Omarosa’s words about Betsy DeVos:
“She is still serving and destroying the education system in this country. The depth and breadth of her ignorance is a travesty for the children. In each Cabinet meeting, I was seated in the row near her. I can tell you, after a year of sitting in those meetings and observing her, that she’s woefully inadequate and not equipped for her job. She is just as horrible as you suspect she is. When she recently visited New York City, she went to several schools, but not a single one that was run by the city. New York has more than 1,000,000 public school students, but she did not tour one public school. Not one. She does not care about your children. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.”