Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Grab Bag: Dukakis talks to Cambridge Dems; Rahami, Trump and waterboarding

It's Friday, so here's the Grab Bag.

The Duke, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Mike Dukakis came to The Senior Center in Central Square last night and urged Cambridge Democrats to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton in November so that she can defeat the "nut," as he derisively calls GOP nominee Donald Trump. Recent news reminds him of McCarthyism, he said, "though it might be even worse now." The 82-year-old former governor and Brookline native is a wonderful raconteur, and he shared personal anecdotes including remembering his days as a student at Swarthmore College and his time in the U.S. Army in Korea in the 1950s. There was a fondness and a wisp of nostalgia for these events that are now 60 years in his rearview mirror. He had never been out of New England before he arrived in Pennsylvania for college, and that at the time he joked he "didn't know the difference between a Quaker and a Shaker."

Dukakis at last night's Cambridge Democratic City Committee meeting
Dukakis is outraged by the failure of Democrats to successfully explain the issues that he has spent a lifetime caring about, like healthcare. It was Bill Clinton who went after deadbeat dads, Dukakis noted, an important part of welfare reform and an argument that gave Clinton traction among white working class voters. These are the very voters that Hillary has had a hard time connecting with and who will likely vote Trump in November.

I remember Bill's embrace of the deadbeat dad issue and reflecting on it is a reminder of how far we've travelled since the Democrats began shifting right under Clinton's insistence, attempting to steal conservative thunder on issues like welfare. That was in the early 1990s with huge lingering impacts on today's dialogs. It also brings up another name too, a New Yorker who was deeply influential then but not often thought of now, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Moynihan's controversial 1965 paper "The Negro Family: The case for national action" spoke about the negative impact of fatherlessness on the family, and though the report was written to support Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, many of Moynihan's observations were embraced with approval by conservatives as well.

The debates that raged through the decades that followed seem quaint now, so engrossed are we neither in causes nor in effects, but only in spectacle and distraction. The Trump version of this argument amounts to nothing more than name-calling and lies.

Dukakis's presence in Cambridge last night was a refreshing reminder that politics does attract bright minds too, and he certainly is one of them. Kudos to the Cambridge Democratic City Committee leadership for pulling this event together.

Which leads me to my second item, my question for Donald Trump in Monday's debate. I've even gone so far as to email it to Lester Holt, via NBC Nightly News. Here is the question I sent ...

Ahmad Khan Rahami is currently in police custody, suspected of being behind the recent bombings in New York and New Jersey. Reports say he is being uncooperative with the police as they try to determine his motives and if he had any accomplices. Should Ahmad Rahami, a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil, be waterboarded, and if so, by whom?