RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Rosenblum writes: "This is an urgent plea to everyone I can reach. Please pass it on to every American you know before November. Non-voters make up our largest bloc. Others are undecided, and sentient Republicans are wavering. No election in history, anywhere, has been more crucial."

Anti-Trump protest in San Francisco. (photo: Andy Uhler/NPR)
Anti-Trump protest in San Francisco. (photo: Andy Uhler/NPR)

The Ghost of Common Sense

By Mort Rosenblum, Reader Supported News

10 October 18


“Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavoured to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.”

– Thomas Paine

his is an urgent plea to everyone I can reach. Please pass it on to every American you know before November. Non-voters make up our largest bloc. Others are undecided, and sentient Republicans are wavering. No election in history, anywhere, has been more crucial.

We saw last week how deeply hypocrisy and prostitution now permeate our government. Smart young people offer promise, but if we do not vote now, it will be too late for them. An apathetic, ill-informed electorate will have squandered democracy by default.

If the Mort Report is new to you, I’m a correspondent who has covered world news for 50 years on seven continents for editors who demand strict objectivity. Like all real reporters, I am obsessed with getting facts straight and basing analyses on observation, not opinion.

Until 2016, I’d have cut off a left toe before presuming to tell people how to vote. But I’ve watched Donald Trump for decades, and I know a heartless would-be despot when I see one. During his campaign, it was clear he would attempt a coup d’état. With a corrupted Republican Party and enough blind cultist followers to sway an election, he threatens not only our democracy but also the survival of our planet.

Please keep reading; this is not hyperbole.

Climatic chaos is real, already affecting food supply. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just reported temperature rise could reach the 1.5-degree Celsius tipping point within 12 years. To keep our planet habitable, carbon emissions must be cut by 100 percent before 2050. Trump denies it all, pushing coal and fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow.

Erratic foreign policy risks global conflict and unstoppable cyber-invasion. We can’t win a war of attrition with China. We are abandoning our historic defense of human rights and the free exchange of truthful information. We are silent when governments murder journalists.

A calculated spike in prosperity achieved under the Obama administration misleads too many. As Tom Friedman put it, if you burn your furniture to stay warm in winter, you have nowhere to sit in spring. Wile E. Coyote may have already looked down; Nasdaq plummeted on Thursday and Friday. In any case, wealth doesn’t matter on an unlivable planet.

The Kavanaugh process shed blinding light on a perverted America. Trump called Christine Blasey Ford “a very credible witness.” Later, he mocked her cruelly to delighted laughter from his cult. He is like those black balls with a window on top that deliver a different message every time they’re turned over. Far from stupidity, this is cunning calculation.

Trump lied in saying an IRS audit prevented him from revealing tax returns. Then he stonewalled. A New York Times investigation now tells us why. He began with a half-billion dollars of his father’s evaded taxes. He cheated, used mob tactics, borrowed from Russians who continue to influence him. When his “very stable genius” failed him, and his father did not bail him out, he declared serial bankruptcies at others’ expense.

We’ve had incompetent presidents before but never one so self-serving and palpably unfit. The Washington Post tallies an average of eight lies or inaccuracies a day since he took office. The 25th Amendment or impeachment require a Congress that puts the people’s interest above its own. Either would elevate a religious fundamentalist committed to rich donors.

For Republicans, Trump is manna from heaven, a snake-oil salesman who cons the masses. They have systematically crippled the IRS to help themselves and the tax cheats who fund them. Dodged taxes amount to what we spend on helping the poor.

Democrats are disorganized, with leaders who waffle. But at this turn in our history, this is not about parties. Only a crushing, humiliating landslide by one party can force change in the other.

Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics who warned about Trump from the start, interpreted the Times’ findings with spine-chilling clarity: “Our trend toward oligarchy – rule by the few – is also looking more and more like kakistocracy – rule by the worst, or at least the most unscrupulous. Corruption isn’t subtle; on the contrary, it’s cruder than almost anyone imagined. It also runs deep, and it has infected our politics, quite literally up to its highest levels.”

While we were transfixed by the Kavanaugh saga, Paul Ryan led a House vote to make tax cuts permanent, which would add $3.2 trillion to the deficit over a decade. It may fail in the Senate, but it is a clear sign to rich donors. The fix is in.

Republicans need a Supreme Court majority to protect the Citizens United decision, an Orwellian-named license for big money to subvert democracy. Trump needs Kavanaugh’s expansive view of presidential powers. The court can now overturn the dual-sovereignty doctrine that allows states to prosecute cases even after a federal pardon. As Robert Mueller probes deeper into Trump’s ties to Russian, that could be crucial.

As it turned out, Dr. Blasey Ford’s courageous testimony made the debate about her. Republicans said a good man was convicted without proof. Trump gave the FBI only enough leeway to give the appearance of investigation. Agents did not talk to three of Kavanaugh’s Yale buddies who in a Washington Post op-ed said he lied about drinking to oblivion. They skipped interviews with the accused and the accuser. And this was not a trial.

An appeal from 2,400 professors at nearly every law school in America had nothing to do with sex or beer. Nor did a condemnation by retired justice John Paul Stevens, a Republican who had backed Kavanaugh. It was about what we all saw for ourselves: a partisan, intemperate man, unable to control his emotions, who blatantly threatened political payback.

Roger Post, former Yale Law School dean, said Kavanaugh would step down if he cared about the Court’s integrity and independence. “Judicial temperament is not like a mask that can be taken off at will,” he wrote in an essay. “It is in the DNA as is well illustrated by Merrick Garland, who never once descended to partisan rancor despite the Senate’s refusal even to dignify his nomination with a hearing.” Kavanaugh’s “savage and bitter” screed, he concluded, incredibly marks the public mind and undermines America’s commitment to rule of law.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine defended her support by shifting blame and ignoring the central issue: “[The] process has become so dysfunctional, it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.” A man is innocent until proven guilty, she insisted. Her stand was different on Al Franken, whom she helped drive out of the Senate without an investigation.

Joe Manchin, the only Democrat to vote yes, told reporters he believed there was an assault, but nothing proved it was by Kavanaugh. He avoided the key issues of temperament and partiality. With only a narrow edge in West Virginia, he opted for staying in the Senate.

* * *

Trump’s priorities at home shame us. Hundreds of millions are being diverted from cancer research to fund private lockups for thousands of children taken from their parents at our borders. There is so much else. But I worry more about his impact abroad, largely unnoticed as American television focuses on his daily antics at home.

His agenda makes some sense on the surface. We should control borders. China has been gaming us for years. North Korea is a potential threat. Trade accords like NAFTA have problems to work out. But his courses of action almost invariably provoke worse blowback.

Russia matches our nuclear capability, but Putin is not after global murder-suicide. He undermines democracy in America and Europe with cyber-attacks and – here the term is apt – fake news. With Putin’s mysterious hold over Trump, we do little to stop him. We badly need NATO for strategic planning and intelligence, yet Trump treats partners like deadbeat vassals.

The Chinese, as everyone but Trump knows, don’t like losing face. Bridling at his threats, China has gone from an economic rival to military adversary ready for a High-Noon showdown. Trump calls developing nations shitholes and limits aid to the few states that back his policies. That allows China to recolonize Africa, securing raw materials, minerals, oil and U.N. votes with no regard for human rights or official plunder. It is building bases and deploying warships to mark new territory across the globe.

We are already fighting for access to the vital South China Sea, now dotted with Beijing’s flags on manmade islands. American bluster makes little impact when U.S. warships collide into one another, killing their own crewmen. The other day, U.S. and Chinese destroyers nearly collided. When tensions run high, accidents or miscalculations can be calamitous.

In the Middle East, Trump plays checkers on a backgammon board. His policy on Israel imperils its future as sympathies for Palestinians grow. He gives Saudi Arabia and the Emirates free rein against an infuriated Iran that pre-Trump diplomacy nearly brought out of its shell. Few Americans know the suffering we condone in Yemen, but our allies and enemies do.

Europe had united with open borders and common policies. Now it is dangerously destabilized, with Russia breathing hard from the east. Diehard Fascists in Germany, Italy, Hungary and beyond love Trump’s brand of faux-populism. They reject refugee tides from Africa and the Middle East, against whom America slams its doors. Imagine the potential outcomes if we continue to ignore the reasons why so many are forced to leave their homes.

Trump-think is based on a selective view of human beings. Non-Americans (aliens) are lumped in catch-all categories rather than seen as individuals in diverse collectives. This makes us our own worst enemy. “Muslims” aren’t terrorists. They’re a largely peaceable collective of 1.8 billion people. When zealots among them preach terror, we react indiscriminately. Innocent deaths create new terrorists in geometric proportions.

Announcing his candidacy, Trump singled out Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.” That still defines his border policy.

This mindset disgusts friends and emboldens foes. When a U.S. president tells sovereign states that it is his way or else, most prefer the or else. If strong-armed, as Canada was, they wait for payback. A nuclear-tipped superpower needs a leader who understands world realities. Celebrity status – whether it’s a Donald Trump or an Oprah Winfrey – is not enough. This is serious business.

* * *

In the end, the fault lies with Congress, which enables and abets Trump’s depredations. In the Kavanaugh vote, only Lisa Murkowski of Alaska put principle ahead of her place at the trough to defy Mitch McConnell, who ramrodded confirmation after blocking Obama’s compromise nominee for a year.

I first noticed McConnell in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan supported right-wing death squads in Central America as “freedom-fighters” against communism. CIA agents helped them smuggle drugs to Florida. John Kerry, then heading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tried to stop organized murder of students, clerics and others suspected of leftist sympathies. McConnell thwarted Congressional action. Since then, I’ve kept watch on him.

When McConnell was a kid, polio threatened to cripple him for life. His parents found pubic largesse to cure him. Now he moves heaven and earth to torpedo Affordable Health Care. He vowed to make Obama a one-term president. Failing at that, he opposed Obama at every turn, whatever the cost to America.

In a Madame Secretary episode, the Tea Leoni character sought Congressional approval to waive stringent rules to rush food to 250,000 starving Somalis. She spoke to a senator who so resembled McConnell that he could have worn a nametag. Well, he drawled, Congress has to protect farmers. (Rules say food aid must come from American stockpiles, shipped from a domestic port under a U.S. flag.) Then he offered an exception if his Senate pals could use a Pentagon plane for an inspection tour abroad – to Cabo San Lucas, where they had to examine an eroding coastline near a golf course.

If even TV writers show us blatant reality that reporters and news analysts detail every day, America ought to notice.

This self-serving bias explains Kavanaugh. When women confronted McConnell as he got off a plane, he stared straight ahead and marched on. “We will not be intimidated by these people,” he said later. “There is no chance in the world that they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty.” They? That’s us. McConnell declared his prejudice before witness testimony. With blinders imposed by the White House, the FBI did not corroborate ancient history only a victim would recall.

McConnell’s Senate speech dwelt on how a Democratic plot wrecked a noble man’s life. He skipped the nominee’s disqualifying partiality, which united America’s legal profession in opposition. It was a stunning performance, complete with outrage at those importuning women. How dare American citizens tell their elected representative what they think?

And yet people like McConnell are returned, term after term, because not enough voters take the trouble to use Trump’s signature words: You’re fired.

This administration grotesquely undercuts everything we are supposed to be, from Stephen Miller, the weird 33-year-old automaton who imposes inhuman suffering at our borders to cabinet secretaries who destroy parks, wilderness and natural resources – and so much else.

There is no accountability. Trump is a civil servant on a short-term contract. He owes us daily accounts of what he does in our name, particularly when he vacillates constantly and thumbs policy decrees in cryptic terms via mobile phone in the early dawn. Sarah Sanders went three weeks in September without a briefing. Trump had become more accessible to reporters, she said; she wasn’t needed. There was truth to that. Her gross distortions shed little light. We depend on anonymous leaks, suspect at best, and accept that as a new normal. It’s not.

Danger looms of a convention to redraft the Constitution. Only 34 states are needed to call one; 28 are now committed. Kakistocracy could take over, with neither checks nor balances. This is no skirmish, as Charles Blow wrote in the Times. It is war.

Expect anything, even what would have seemed like paranoia two years ago. A “Presidential alert” recently lit up cellphones across America, a test of a national system for the White House to warn Americans of a sudden emergency. Like a terror alert in November?

The Reichstag is burning. if we do not start dousing the flames in November, we can only blame ourselves for the smoldering ruins.

* * *

Here are links to the Times’ investigation, the Post’s fact checks and the IPCC update.

Email This Page

Mort Rosenblum has reported from seven continents as Associated Press special correspondent, edited the International Herald Tribune in Paris, and written 14 books on subjects ranging from global geopolitics to chocolate. He now runs

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+7 # nice2bgreat 2018-10-10 14:57
“Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavoured to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.”
– Thomas Paine

Common sense also warns about doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

I agree that impeding Donald Trump from inflicting his brand of political ethos, appointments, and extremist policies upon this planet is an imperative.

It is just unfortunate that to achieve this falls into the category of doing the same thing over and over.

This is the dichotomy of the principled, progressive left.

Mort Rosenblum's pleading would have been better timed before the Democratic Party Primaries -- in support of true progressives -- and directed against corporatist D Party incumbents. Then the populace would not be in such familiar territory -- grappling with whether to engage with the lesser of two evils doctrine.

In giving non-incumbents and opportunity, and bringing some semblance of accountability to failed corporatists, there is room for discussion.

But to support Joe Manchin in West Virginia is a bridge too far -- sending that message is as important as stopping Trump's agenda; if both can be done, all the better.

But to assume, that, just because Dems will gain a majority has worth or that they will champion anything of substance is wholly unfounded.

In fact, all that voting for these D frauds does is embolden the craven Party leaders to feel vindication for their strategies.
+14 # dbrize 2018-10-10 16:32
TDS on rocket fuel.

Really. Easily the best to date. Fear, hysteria, nightmarish hyperbole; end of times eschatology that would make a fundamentalist envious.

Ok. A well done rant can be cathartic.

Meanwhile, Trump and the GOP remain what they are. Crony capitalists in bed with global bankers, the MIC and the national security state. And unfortunately I suppose, capable of winning elections. Trump and friends prefer a run against hysteria, not policy proposals.

Ah, there’s the rub. Only a few, even on these um, “progressive” pages seem to understand that the problem is the Democrats persist in giving voters little to vote FOR. We might glean at this point some intention to this. “We don’ t need policy, we have TDS to run on”.
Nowhere in this heartfelt jeremiad do we find many reasons to vote for Democratic candidates other than we might get fewer tweets from the WH.

Will voting for them end wars against an adjective?
Budget busting defense budgets? Reform the banking industry? Reign in the CIA operational wing and their dark money, currently unaccountable to anyone in government authority?

Opposition party? There is no “opposition party” if we define opposition as being opposed to something. As construed by Democrats, opposed means “we agree, but a little more or less”.

Drone strikes? We’ll raise you a hundred. Patriot Act? Sounds good to us. Universal healthcare? Let’s run it by our insurance friends.

Wait. Who says we can’t agree?
0 # wrknight 2018-10-11 01:21
Sadly, you are right. The Democratic Party gives us nothing to vote FOR. Their sole objective is to defeat Republicans so they can sit on the throne.

What we really need is a revolution in the Democratic Party and a restoration of the progressive values of the FDR era.
+5 # Caliban 2018-10-11 12:27
If we need a revolution in the Democratic party, do we not also need to vote for Democrats to keep the party alive? Even if the ones on the ballot in 2018 are not totally to our liking?

This endless cynicism about the Democratic party on a supposedly progressive site gives wonderful support to DT and his pals.

Of course that may be exactly what these cynical Dem critics want.
+2 # dbrize 2018-10-11 16:50
What makes you think all progressives are Democrats?

Many are independents, Greens and even a few left-libertaria ns are roaming around out there. Because of the DNC actions toward them for a couple decades now, there are fewer progressives in the party than before. Any loyalty lost belongs on the DNC, no place else.

Progressives owe the Democratic Party nothing. If the DNC wants their votes it’s past time they went after them with more than LOTE bullshit.

The “endless cynicism” you reference is richly deserved. And actions since 2016 do little to change it.
+24 # ddd-rrr 2018-10-10 17:57
In clear, crisp, and truthful prose, Mort Rosenblum has summarized recent world
political history, and he has informed of us of what this means, and what we need
to do to avoid multiple and long-lasting disasters. PLEASE do vote, and do it
THOUGHTFULLY this Tuesday, November 6th. We MUST stop this
unnecessary and stupidly-caused decline that we are now
experiencing - for the survival of our country
and that of the world!
+5 # sriskin 2018-10-10 18:30
+1 # economagic 2018-10-10 20:09
For or against--what?
+25 # Harvard72 2018-10-10 18:37
This is an A+ article. Rosenblum here is preaching to the converted. If there were only a way to get these words, sentences and paragraphs into the minds of those who watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and cheer at Trump's rallies, we might have a chance. But I truly think those particular groups are too far gone (or actually, too stupid) and we are in big trouble, getting in bigger trouble.
+5 # logical1 2018-10-10 21:51
A lot of your Harvard buddies are following the Trump bandwwagon. Whether for religous or abortion reasons are ignoring all that is going on to our democracy and the planet, unknowing of the dark money taking over their party and "representative s"
+7 # Jaax88 2018-10-10 20:05
Yes, it is a non-shooting war for hearts and minds started by the GOP, backed and prodded by the wealthy, the greedy, the possessive and the useful stooges. IMO all this is about keeping political power, privileges and the wealth and involving religious issues. These undemocratic pressures need to be resisted and pushed back on by masses of the American population. Otherwise, the masses likely will effectively lose the right to one person, one vote, have to pay for wars that benefit the moneyed interests and dictated to placed under thought control as Trump is already trying to do.
+5 # Citizen Mike 2018-10-10 20:27
The most powerful force I human affairs is HATRED and there is now massive public hatred against Trump that will drive masses of people to the polls to vote against him and against his party. a SMALL collection of his devotees support him but a HUGE number of Americans are fed up with him, including women and rational Republicans. Watch and see!
+2 # Porfiry 2018-10-13 07:22
"I belong to no organized political party. I'm a Democrat." Will Rogers Truer now than ever

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.