We’re All Boiling Frogs Now

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I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters.”

Long before he was elected President, on January 23, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump put his finger on the most defining aspect of his power: He can do anything he wants, and the voters and elected officials who support him will never waiver in their support.

As if to test the theory, almost every week President Trump devises a new outrage. Just this last week he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he would welcome a foreign power help with reelection. In other words, Trump would be happy to collude with the Russians if they offered. And then he brushed off calls from within his own administration for his senior aide Kellyanne Conway to resign because of her repeated violations of the Hatch Act, an actual law that requires federal employees (of which she is one) to refrain from making overtly political attacks.

But President Trump’s lawlessness pales in comparison to his cruelty against migrant children as this past week his administration ordered the refurbishment of a former WWII Japanese-American internment camp outside Oklahoma City to detain a flood of migrant children trying to escape gang wars in Central America. Meanwhile the Trump Administration is also pushing plans to evict 55,000 migrant children from federally-subsidized housing as part of an effort to block illegal immigrants from receiving federal assistance.

All of this is on top of President Trump’s efforts to eliminate health care for millions who benefit from the Affordable Care Act, his plan to ban transgendered troops, a backdoor move to stop African-American hero (and all-around badass) Harriet Tubman from gracing the $20 bill, a massive tax cut that only benefited the rich, and…and…it just goes on.

At what point is it all too much?

We Americans have become the proverbial frog in a slowly boiling pot. The temperature keeps getting hotter but we may not notice until it’s too late.

Almost every day Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office he either commits more impeachable actions, or slightly less bad, Trump does things that demonstrate him to be just plain dumb..

How is it that our President is so shameless, that a week later, he hasn’t deleted this undeniably stupid tweet?

By almost every standard, President Trump proves himself unprepared, unable and unfit for office. Hundreds of former federal prosecutors say the House of Representatives should begin impeachment proceedings. Late President Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean drew parallels between Trump and Watergate-stained Nixon. In his maddeningly understated way, former Special Counsel Robert Muller has broadly hinted that President Trump’s actions justify impeachment.

Unfortunately the obvious must be stated: The basic moral compass of any good American demands for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings. We must officially state for the world that President Trump’s behavior is un-American and give the Senate an opportunity to remove him from office.

And so there’s the rub: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s team has telegraphed that the Republican-controlled Senate will shoot down any impeachment proceedings against President Trump, no matter what.

Putting Majority Leader McConnell’s embargo on decency aside, the moral demand for action on President Trump’s impeachment is critical for our nation’s sense of self, and the example we set for the world. America’s commitment to truth and the rule of law is a beacon for the world. It is not an overstatement to say that the light of American liberty and justice shines in places where the darkness of tyranny crushes men’s souls.

But America is not guided by moral example, as President Trump and his Republican followers have proven. We live in a world of realpolitik, where politics is directed by ambition and fabulist pronouncements made by Republican leaders holding fast to consequentialist victories. Tax cuts and more conservative judges justifies the daily buckets of lies told to ensure fatter wallets and right-wing jurisprudence.

Speaker Pelosi, knowing this, hews to the line of “investigate, but do not impeach”, because a House impeachment would inevitably lead to a Senate trial run by the morally bankrupt GOP. A junior Congresswoman in the Clinton years, Pelosi remembers well how the Republican Contract With America was derailed by the GOP’s fixation on Clinton’s impeachment. Voters decided that Republicans were the real partisans, handed them a giant loss and effectively ended the Republican policy agenda.

While it is a certainty the Democratic-controlled House would impeach President Trump if put to a vote, the Republican-controlled Senate would just as likely fail to convict him, allowing Trump to declare victory and giving him a boost among his base just in time for the 2020 elections.

We must wait, Pelosi tells Democrats and a restive America. The 2020 election will give voters an opportunity to remove Trump, and the ballot box is the only sure way to remove him. There might even be a massive surge in voter participation, and when voters turn out, Democrats win, Trump opponents say.

But how many more crimes can President Trump commit in the middle of Fifth Avenue? How could we have been maneuvered into mutely accepting criminality in the highest office in the land?

It seems like Team Trump is openly preparing an array of dirty tricks. Last week President Trump invited foreigners to assist his reelection. Majority Leader McConnell has resisted deploying federal resources to stop foreign intervention. Do we think the Russians, the Saudis, the Chinese and whoever else will keep their hands off the 2020 election?

And thus the vile filth of realpolitik – nobody comes out unscathed. Let’s hope we make it through with enough moral strength to heal our wounded nation properly.

Observations on Philadelphia: Better Than You’ve Heard

Philadelphia City Hall. I apologize for the lens flare. It was hard snapping a picture while dodging traffic. You can see a bit of the William Penn statue on the spire’s top.

I traveled to Philadelphia last weekend to visit my friend André Natta, check out the city and to attend The Roots Picnic, an annual music festival put on by the Philly-based band, The Roots, whom you might know as the backing band from The Tonight Show on NBC. I hadn’t been to Philadelphia since 2001, and I’d heard things had improved a great deal since then, so I was anxious to check it out. Since André is a former city planner, I got a much better tour than I would have gotten all by myself. What follows are a few observations from my trip, in no particular order.

1. Center City Philadelphia – which is much larger than just the downtown area – is large, walkable and full of all kinds of culture and varying neighborhoods. The power of this reality cannot be understated. It makes the city livable in so many ways.

2. Philadelphia is truly a city of neighborhoods. Go four blocks and while the building vernacular may not change, the feel and culture of the area can change drastically.

3. Being a Chicagoan, the idea that you can live in a homey, quiet neighborhood and be able to walk 20 minutes to your downtown office tower seems crazy to me. But that’s something you can actually do in Philly.

4. There was a long-time unwritten rule against buildings taller than the Billy Penn statue – which is about 12 stories – on top of City Hall. That rule is gone, and there are plenty of tall office towers downtown, but very, very few apartment buildings in the city. And of what I noticed, most are no more than 12 or 13 stories and clustered around Rittenhouse and Washington Square. Why is that?

5. The Italian Market is terrific, with real people shopping there for real groceries. In most big U.S. cities, the area would have gentrified long ago. There is a little of that in Philly, but not the kind of overheated development you might see in Chicago, New York or Boston. I don’t have any answers for why it hasn’t gentrified much yet – but I would bet it’ll come in time.

A real, working market, which is always a draw to me, the Italian Market area in Philly seems to have dodged the kind of gentrification you might see in bigger cities. But it’s charm guarantees gentrifiers will come in time.

6. Although I didn’t get a chance to ride SEPTA this time in town, the city’s bus and train system is ubiquitous. My buddy who rides it regularly says their new app that shows bus arrival times has been a game changer.

7. The city’s Mann Center, kind of like Foxwoods for Boston, or Ravenna in Chicago, is a great place to see a concert and has an unbeatable view of the city from the western hills.

8. I was surprised to see so much undeveloped space downtown kept as surface parking lots. Philly’s downtown has missed the big development booms that hit New York, Boston, D.C. and Houston for the last ten years. My local friend, André, tells me it’s because when new big businesses locate to the area, they go to the suburbs and the downtown area just hasn’t experienced the same office space demand that surged through other big cities.

9. Center City has an unbelievably busy sidewalk cafe culture. Since it was a sunny weekend in the low 80’s, I stumbled across dozens of bustling cafes everywhere I went.

10. Like many big city newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer sold their headquarters building, to shed assets for cash. Incredibly, the city police department bought it, and will use it as their new HQ. This seems Orwellian to me.

30th Street Station is a fantastic Art Deco station that hums with life. In the light blue shirt: My friend and indefatigable tour guide, André Natta.

11. 30th Street Station is still one of the coolest train stations in the United States. Even without its flippy sign, it is everything a big train station should be.

12. Philadelphia’s proximity to everything is vastly underrated. When I lived in D.C. in the early aughts, I took a two-hour Amtrak train up to Philly once a week to take a test prep class. I got off at 30th Street Station and took a tenminute SEPTA train ride to my test class downtown. Downtown Philly to Manhattan is 90 minutes by Amtrak! I don’t understand why there aren’t half a million more people living in Philadelphia taking advantage of this proximity to high-paying jobs, and living in a relatively inexpensive city. (And the shore is 90 minutes away!)

My obligatory tourist pic. I did not eat here, since I was repeatedly warned that “real Philadelphians” go to Ishkabibble on South Street.

13. Much like a New York slice, a Chicago hot dog or a Los Angeles fish taco, Philly’s cheesesteaks are best consumed as genuine street food. Natives have strong feelings about which one they prefer (Gino’s, Pat’s, Ishkabibble, Campo’s, etc.) and that fact gives the city a very real working class culture. I suppose D.C. has half-smokes, but what other cities have a cheap, good and unique street food? Philly has some very important details figured out.

14. It’s hard to describe, but Philadelphia has a clear sense of self. It is not a city trying to be like anyone else, nor does it seem to want to be. That quality makes it feel reassuring to be in, and has a certain kind of magnetism I can’t describe other than to say, Philly is Philly and nowhere else.

And of course, a word of thanks for André for his great tour guide work. If you want to get sharp, occasional thoughts on the news industry (André is a former JSK Fellow and now works at The Lenfest Institute), subscribe to his Tiny Letter.