Pam Bondi: Where Quid Meets Pro Quo

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (pictured above with the president) will join the team tasked with the defense of the president in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial, according to the Wall Street Journal today, January 17. The team will be led by current White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Bondi’s role in the impeachment trial has not been delineated in public. She joins a team of specialists that includes former Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr; occasional constitutional-law professor Alan Dershowitz; Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer to the president; and Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr in the Whitewater inquiry.

Before she joined the White House staff in its impeachment preparations in November 2019, Bondi was a registered foreign agent for the government of Qatar and a lobbyist for a Kuwaiti firm. The more famous members of the Trump legal team have long histories as public figures, but Bondi’s history is more entwined with the current president’s public life than theirs are so far.
Read More

Allies Aren’t Silent; Why Was I?

A political friend wrote on Facebook on New Year’s Eve, “If I’ve been too tough on a political opponent in the last ten years, I apologize to them now. If I haven’t been tough enough on them, I apologize to everyone else.”

I have not been tough enough in my own little world, and the decade just past taught me that tolerance of others’ intolerance does not create a larger space for tolerance, and silence in the face of ugliness does not illuminate a brighter path toward kindness for the ill-mannered who choose to walk the road of insults and abuse. I do not speak out enough, and this is an important failure on my part.

My latest example came just this week. I do not know what I would like to have done instead or how I would prefer to feel about the incident right now other than how I feel, which is that I am a mouse and not a human being with a spine and a voice. (Nothing against mice, of course.)
Read More

A Christmas Tree

How (not) to cut down your own Christmas tree.

* * * *
Tree trimming was my least favorite type of trimming when I was young. I still lack the eye-hand coordination required to decorate a tree correctly; in fact, I believe that almost every tree I have attempted to decorate was quietly fixed upon my departure.

A beloved girlfriend one Christmas credited me with the expansion of her notions of tree decoration—she said, “You’re the first person I’ve known who does not put all the decorations on the ends of the branches,” which is true, I sometimes place them on the middle or sometimes closer to the trunk; and 2. We found that I had overloaded one section of the Christmas tree with the same color ornament (albeit on different sections of the branches!) and this needed to be quietly fixed.

Christmas can be a challenge for someone so rarely festive, like me.

One winter’s day long ago, a dear friend enlisted me in a project to cut down a real live Christmas tree from a local Christmas tree farm so that her son could experience a Christmas just like the one she and I had never, ever had.
Read More

Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Laugh at Fascism

A personal reflection in tribute to Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”

* * * *
A friend and I were chatting about our different Thanksgiving Day plans one recent Thanksgiving and he asked me if I had ever been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. (I almost marched in it one year, by accident of all things, but that is an anecdote for a different post.)

“Well, I just hope,” he said, “that no one tries any terrorism down there today, but if they do,” and here he looked like someone who perhaps hoped that “someone” would indeed “try terrorism down there” because he added, “If they do, I hope we go ahead and use our nuclear weapons the way they were meant to be used. Just go over there and flatten that whole place.”

Quietly infuriated, I found for myself something else to do somewhere else at our gathering. I hate that I do not ask the question, “Why would you think that?” of some of my acquaintances more often or at all, but I know that such a question is seen as confrontational more than a provocative expression of a hope that our nation uses nuclear weapons if and when it is attacked is seen as confrontational.

I did not ask where this place that he seemed to want to “flatten” is. I did not think I needed to inquire. Some of my neighbors walk around with the fear-hope that a horrible act of terrorism is a given in our country’s near future and that it will be, obviously, the act of someone from a part of the world whose foreign-ness (to them) is the only thing they care to know about. They, my neighbors, want to be angered so much that they already can smell the blood that they want the youth of our nation to spill.

They want to be angry perhaps more than they are angry.
Read More

Of Presidents and Emperors

Former constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz posited on Fox News on November 25 that the “president’s not the king; the president’s far more powerful than the king. The president has the power that kings have never had.”

This is not an argument the former scholar offered for any previous occupant of the White House in Alan Dershowitz’s long life, so one wonders what renders this an argument worth pursuing on Fox News or anywhere that is not a mere public park with wooden crates available to stand on and bellow from. But he did so anyway.

The United States of America has three coequal branches of government to run its operations; our constitutional arguments usually concern which branch ought to run which operation. Our executive branch is one of those three, and we have not been ruled by a king or an emperor for a very long time. America’s last emperor died in 1880, after all, and we have not had a monarch since (or since 1776). (1880? Needle scratches on record as the music stops.)

When Emperor Norton I died in San Francisco in 1880 he left no offspring and no claimants to his (our) throne. We have been a republic ever since, although Alan Dershowitz seems to think that the current executive in the White House has the most legitimate claim to the American throne since Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, last occupied it.

Come to think of it, Mr. Dershowitz may be onto something when he asks us to compare the current occupant of the White House and Emperor Norton I.
Read More

The Antimony Year

The clicks on life’s odometer resound with more of an echo on certain days—one’s birthday, usually.

In Paul Auster’s diary of his sixty-fourth year, Winter Journal, Auster recounts a moment in which the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant tells him solemnly, “Paul, at fifty-seven I felt old. Now, at seventy-four, I feel much younger than I did then.” Auster writes that he was confused by the remark but that because it seemed important to Trintignant to tell him this, he did not ask the actor to clarify. Auster writes that as he has entered his sixties, the comment has come to appear true in its own way, for him.

Today, November 18, I am fifty-one. In Trintignant’s schema, at least six more years of aging until I feel old lies ahead for me, to be followed by the youth of old age. (The great actor himself is still with us, eighty-eight years young, with a birthday in December.) It is probably true that I feel younger at fifty-one than I felt in my thirties, and this is not from a sense of renewed vigor or newly discovered stamina. It is more that life as I have experienced it has shifted my priorities away from the obsessions of my twenties and thirties: dollar bills and public esteem.
Read More

My Mother’s Day

My mother taught me to read when I was so young that I do not have a active memory of it. My memory device (I think it is referred to in medical texts as a “brain”) started to record life when I was two-and-a-half, and in my recollections of moments spent with my mom and books, I am an active participant in the task at hand: our endless laughter at the very idea of eating green eggs and ham (the “and ham” was my favorite part), our (re-)discovery of the Cat in the Hat’s many hijinks.

Mother’s Day, the annual holiday, is one whose date I annually forget. It is perhaps because it is celebrated on different dates in different nations and I have online friends in some of those different nations that “Happy Mother’s Day” Facebook posts make a weekly appearance in the spring. I think that I have sent my own (American) mom a Happy Mother’s Day note twice in one year thanks to this phenomenon.

Today is not Mother’s Day; it is my mom’s birthday, my own Mother’s Day.
Read More

The Defining Dignity Initiative, an Essay by Matt DeHart

Published exclusively in The Gad About Town.

This is the fourth article in a series of prison essays by Matt DeHart. The first: “You don’t act like an American,” the second: “Hospitality in Mexico,” and Matt’s third: “Shattered.” It is a personal honor for me to publish his words from prison.

Matt DeHart’s voice is one worth listening to. In “Defining Dignity,” he challenges us all to put meaning—and action—behind that commandment that is so often expressed and so little heeded: “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” which of course is found in the Book of Matthew.

The essay published below is one of the few public statements he has made. It was sent to me by his mother, Leann DeHart, with the request that it is published as written.
Read More