Bolton’s Best Seller — In What Room Will It Happen?

Who’s #1 may be up for debate, but what’s number 1 is clear. Former U.S. National Security Advisor John R Bolton’s new book, released Tuesday, was a best-seller even before it came out. The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, has also been a top news story and the basis for federal court proceedings. Is there room for his political tell-all on your bookshelf? 

People sometimes buy a book because they like the author. Seventy-one year old Mr. Bolton is hardly Mr Popularity. In fact, before all the drama surrounding his controversial writing arose, I’m not sure a significant portion of the population could have even told you who he was. Singer Michael Bolton, perhaps; political figure John Bolton, nah. 

So just who is this author and what should we know about him? John Bolton is a conservative Republican who began his federal service during the Reagan administration.  He received his undergraduate degree and his law degree from Yale University. (OK, so he’s no dummy, but that doesn’t mean he can write a good book.) From 2005 to 2006 he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He was appointed as President Trump’s National Security Advisor in April 2018, a position he held until his ouster in September 2019, some 17 months later. Considering he was the third person to hold this position, Bolton should have known going in that job security was a pipe dream.

Bolton has a head of white hair  and a distinctive bushy white mustache. But, for Donald Trump, Bolton’s facial hair was reportedly a problem. The president’s disdain for mustaches was a hurdle Bolton had to clear before his initial appointment. (Note to Donald Trump: You should’ve gone with your first instinct and not trusted a man with a mustache.) 

Issues with facial hair aside, President Trump had evidence up front he and Bolton may not see eye to eye on issues. While serving as a senior national security advisor under President George Bush, Bolton was a main proponent of the claim Iran had weapons of mass destruction requiring a ground invasion by U.S. troops. On the other hand, Trump denounced the Iraq war. Bolton is a hawk with aggressive positions on dealing with Afghanistan and North Korea. He wanted military action, but Trump isn’t eager to get into such confrontations. Given this background, it seems apparent, at least to me, that Trump and Bolton were headed for their own confrontations.

Disagreement between Bolton and Trump over various policy issues and tensions between the two were well-known during Bolton’s tenure. With the revolving door of Trump administration officials leaving on their own or being shown the door, the handwriting was on the wall for Bolton. On September 10, 2019, President Trump announced on Twitter that he’d asked for Bolton’s resignation. Bye-bye, Bolton.

What’s a fired National Security Advisor to do? Write a tell all book about his turbulent time at the White House, of course. Bolton wanted to have the last word. With his  576 word best seller, he’s gotten way more than just one word as a parting shot. He’s also been able to avoid having to make an unemployment claim since he received a $2 million advance from publisher Simon & Schuster. 

But the turbulent times were hardly over when Bolton was removed as National Security Advisor. The Trump administration moved in federal court to block the release of Bolton’s book on the basis that classified information could be exposed. Hmm. Shouldn’t a National Security Advisor (current or former) know better than to reveal sensitive information? It was a classic battle between First Amendment rights (claimed by Bolton) and national security concerns (raised by the Trump administration).The book’s original release date of March 17th as well as the rescheduled release date of May 12th came and went without a release as the wrangling over the consequences of the release continued. 

Finally, on June 20th, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that release of the book could go forward. Nevertheless, the judge expressed concern that Bolton was proceeding to publish his memoir without formal White House clearance. The judge wrote that Bolton had “exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.” If classified information is indeed published, Bolton could find himself on the receiving end of a criminal prosecution. In reaching his conclusion, the federal judge noted that with over 200,000 copies of the book already distributed nationwide, the cat was basically already out of the proverbial bag. 

What has Bolton included in his memoir that’s so titillating we must read it? To absolutely no one’s surprise, the author portrays President Trump in an unflattering manner. Well, of course, that’s the man who gave Bolton the axe. True or not, is it big news to hear someone claim Trump is driven by self-interest, obsessed with his re-election, and uninformed? I’m going to plunk down big bucks for a hard-cover book to read that? 

Two big claims made in Bolton’s book indicate Trump’s foreign policy was tied to political gain. First, an August 2019 conversation with the president is recounted in which Trump reportedly told Bolton he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from the Ukraine until the country helped investigate Trump political rival Joe Biden. Bolton also says Trump “pleaded” in a 2019 summit meeting with Xi Jinping of China to help Trump’s reelection prospects. What page turners–not!

Bolton’s book has accomplished one thing no one believed could occur. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump are both condemning it. What? Gasp! Trump’s thumbs down is for obvious reasons. What could a top Democrat have against it? Well, Bolton refused to testify during House impeachment hearings. Pelosi feels Bolton put publishing profits in his pocket over national interest; she believes he should have made his allegations sooner rather than waiting for a book publication.

To be honest, I’m not sure how this book is so intriguing it’s a best-seller. We’ve heard these claims before, it’s written by someone who Trump fired and can thus be considered sour grapes, and people are simply tired of the political divisiveness and drama. It’s bad enough when Democrats and Republicans can’t be civil; now we have to deal with two Republicans facing off (Trump and Bolton). Don’t we want to read a best seller that takes us away from all this stomach-churning reality mess.

Bolton could’ve penned an enjoyable read. He should have stopped with “The Room Where It Happened.” That title catches my interest and intrigues me. What happened? Was there a murder? Was there espionage? At best, Bolton’s full title, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” makes me yawn. The only mystery and intrigue is about which of the 135 rooms of the White House he’s referring. I’m guessing it’s the Oval Office. A ghostly encounter in the Lincoln Bedroom would be much more interesting than a political meeting in the Oval Office.

When it comes to goings on in Washington, D.C., I prefer to stick to entertaining fiction. Bolton’s book won’t be read in any room in my house. I’ll read Murder in the White House by Margaret Truman, Pres. Harry S. Truman’s daughter, again instead..

Just WONDER-ing:

Are you tempted to read a book just because it’s a #1 best seller? Do you enjoy reading political tell-alls? Why or why not? If you were going to read a political tell-all, what individual would would be the book’s author?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s The Epicenter of Atlanta Violence–What’s The Beef?

Customers at the Wendy’s on University Avenue in southwest Atlanta last Friday night got an unexpected side with their burgers; they witnessed an arrest gone awry that led to police shooting 27 year old Rayshard Brooks. But that incident was just the beginning of a terrible weekend. People protesting the event gathered the next evening on the interstate adjacent to the Wendy’s temporarily shutting down the I-75 in both directions. Then the Wendy’s was torched and burned to the ground adding new meaning to the idea of a flame-grilled burger. Forget asking where’s the beef. We need to know what’s the beef for these current events.

This sad chain of events began around 10:30 p.m. Friday night. Atlanta police received a call from a Wendy’s employee reporting a customer had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through lane. The vehicle was blocking traffic and causing customers to have to drive around him to get to the pickup window. Actually, I’m surprised that police had to be called. Weren’t those people in the drive through line behind Brooks hangry? Certainly one of them had to think about getting out of their vehicle and knocking on the window to rouse the weary fast food patron. 

Responding to the call from Wendy’s, Officer Devin Bronsan showed up at the scene. After interacting with Brooks, he called for backup. Officer Garret Rolfe, a six year police veteran, subsequently joined Bronsan. Video released by the police show the officers talking with Brooks for 27 minutes before trying to arrest him after he failed a field sobriety test. While Brooks cooperated with the sobriety test, he balked at being handcuffed and tried to bolt. A struggle ensued in which Brooks punched Officer Rolfe; in a shocking development (pun intended), he also wrestled a Taser from one of the officers.

Breaking free, Brooks took off running. As he hoofed it, he turned and pointed the Taser at the pursuing police officer. In reaction, Officer Rolfe pulled his gun and fired at Brooks right there in the Wendy’s parking lot. Brooks suffered two gunshot wounds to his back because of course he was running away from the officer attempting to arrest him. The injured Brooks was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead after undergoing surgery.

Medically, Brooks’ death resulted from blood loss and organ injuries from two gunshot wounds. In the big picture, though, his death resulted from some poor decisions made by all involved. Mr. Brooks should never have been behind the wheel of a car while inebriated. To compound the problem, he resisted arrest and punched a police officer; hitting someone is not nice whether or not they are a LEO. Finally Brooks grabbed one of the officer’s Tasers and aimed it at Officer Rolfe. After having punched and wrestled a Taser from an officer, the police could reasonably have assumed Brooks meant them harm. Um, more harm that is.

Now comes the poor decision making on the part of the police. A Taser, while it can deliver a painful blast, isn’t considered a lethal weapon. So why respond with pulling a lethal weapon and taking shots at the Taser holder? The officer was in a parking lot. He could have dashed behind a car or taken evasive action to avoid a Taser hit. But, he only had a split second to make a decision. And the decision he made resulted in Brooks’ death, a result many claim was from an unjustified use of deadly force.

According to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, this death was a homicide from gunshot wounds to the back. Officer Rolfe was fired within 24 hours of the shooting and is facing felony murder charges. His fellow responding officer has been placed on administrative leave and is facing aggravated assault and other charges. Doesn’t look like a good outcome for anyone, does it? But wait! There’s more! 

Brooks’ death was met with outrage and protests. So, not only was Wendy’s the place to be Friday night (or not), it was the place to be the following night as well. Only folks weren’t there for a burger or to snooze in the drive-through lane. They wanted to express their concern about police brutality. Unfortunately, that expression was not limited to shouting, waving placards, and crying. Protesters wanted to do more, so they swarmed onto the adjacent interstate via the University Avenue exit and shut down I-75 in both directions for a few hours. I grew up in Atlanta, so I know how horrible traffic can be there any time of day or night. And that’s before protesters appear to impede traffic.

The demonstrators locked arms on the interstate and faced off with the police. A CNN crew covering the scene was attacked by protesters. Not only was the news crew on the scene, they were in it. Police used tear gas to break up the demonstration. Some protesters were arrested on the scene prior to one lane on the interstate re-opening; by midnight, 36 protesters had been arrested.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er Wendy’s, disgruntled protesters turned violent late Saturday night. They broke the windows of the fast food restaurant and threw fireworks inside setting it ablaze. Yeah! That’ll teach Wendy’s to have a drive-through open in the evening that someone might fall asleep sitting in. 

Although firefighters were summoned, it took them over an hour to get to the scene because of the swarm of protesters, an estimated 1,000 or so. In the meantime, the blaze grew. Police had to clear a path for the firefighters using tear gas. The fire burned until Sunday morning reducing Wendy’s to rubble and any meat stored therein to charred hockey pucks.

The Wendy’s fire will go down in history as another sad time for Georgia’s state capital, fondly known as Hotlanta. The fast food blaze may not be as famous as General Sherman’s burning of the city, but it does have an air of mystery. Videos from the scene show an unidentified masked light-skinned woman in a black baseball cap (team not identified–Go Braves??) somehow connected to the flames. A $10,000 reward has been offered by the Atlanta P.D. for information about the fire. That amount will allow the recipient to buy a lot of burgers if he is brave enough to venture to a Wendy’s that is still standing.

The events which unfolded at and around Wendy’s over the weekend can be described as hot and cold. They are a hot and juicy story for the media. But their consequences are a frosty (the adjective not the Wendy’s treat) relationship between the police and black citizens. Legitimate beefs have been raised by protesters, but taking out the fast food establishment which was merely the scene of the crime doesn’t solve the problem. Maybe everyone should take a breath and calmly discuss how to move forward over a delicious Wendy’s burger with a side of tolerance.

Just WONDER-ing:

Does being engaged in a protest give a protester carte blanche to destroy property and interfere with the activities of others? How can the use of excessive force by the police be curtailed or at least diminished? Is timing everything, i.e., would the response to Brooks’ shooting have been so intense if it had not come on the heels of the death of George Floyd?  

 

 

 

 

 

Confederate Reminders To Be Gone With The Wind

The death of George Floyd at the hands, er knee, of the Minneapolis Police Department will forever change the landscape of our country. A literal change involves removal of reminders of the Confederacy. Protests against anti-black racism and police brutality have rekindled efforts to take down Confederate monuments and symbols across the U.S. These reminders of slavery in our country’s history will soon be gone with the wind.

The debate rages as to whether allowing these reminders of the Confederacy to remain promotes racism or simply reminds us of our heritage. According to James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Society, “The symbols sustain racist policy….” Many view Confederate flags and monuments as symbols of racism and oppression. But perhaps racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Southerners might view Confederate items are part of their heritage while Northerners would not. Their perspectives are likely to be as different as those of author John Gray’s Mars (men) and Venus (women).

So how many monuments and symbols are we talking about? Reportedly there are approximately 1,700 Confederate monuments and symbols scattered about the nation. The Smithsonian indicates that 800 of the 1,700 are monuments. What a monumental amount!

Virginia is the state with the most Confederate monuments.  2019 data from the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates the Commonwealth is the site of 110 Confederate monuments. Thirteen of these monuments are located in Richmond, which served as the capital of the Confederate States. In fact, Richmond even has a Monument Avenue with five Confederate monuments there.

The epicenter (oooh! so glad to use this word NOT in connection with the pandemic) of the controversy about Confederate monuments is the six story high monument of Robert E. Lee in Richmond owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Six STORIES? Talk about a statue being larger than life….Robert E. Lee, of course, was the Confederacy’s top general. Protesters  have recently defaced this statue.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has announced a a decision to remove General Lee’s statue. But–not so fast, Gov.! A Richmond City Circuit Judge on Monday issued a ten day injunction against removal of Lee’s likeness. Great–more drama. Well, at least this drama is in the courtroom and not out on the streets.

Who needs legal sanction to bring down Confederate monuments? Not protesters apparently. On June 6th, protesters in Richmond pulled down a statue of General Williams Carter Wickham which stood in Monroe Park approximately one mile from where Lee’s monument stands (well, at least until the injunction is lifted.) A Confederate monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park had to be removed on June 1st after it was damaged during weekend protests.

Almost all Confederate monuments were built in the late 1800’s or the early 1900’s. The Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, for example, was unveiled way back in 1890. The other four Confederate monuments on Monument Avenue were erected in the early 1900’s. They are historical for the fact of having stood for so long if nothing else.

But the historical context in which the monuments were raised provides fodder for labeling them as symbols of racism. The Southern Poverty Law Center found there was a surge in Confederate monuments being put up in the early 1900’s when Jim Crow laws were being enacted. Another surge occurred in the 1950’s and 1960’s during the Civil Rights Movement. Coincidence? The SPLC thinks not.

And it’s not just monuments that are in protesters’ crosshairs. The Richmond NAACP is proposing a name change for a the Jefferson Davis Highway. Davis, for those of you who’ve forgotten your Civil War history, was the president of the Confederate States.

Then there are plaques. On Monday night the University of Alabama announced it will remove three plaques dedicated to Confederate soldiers who attended ‘Bama. The plaques are to be moved to a “more appropriate historical” location. Good thing those soldiers are deceased because I doubt they’d send any financial support to their alma mater after their plaques’ transfer.

Even the Pentagon is getting in on the “Let’s erase any trace of the Confederacy” movement. Under consideration is a name change for ten bases named after Confederate leaders. These sites include Fort Bragg, North Carolina, named after General Braxton Bragg a North Carolina native who commanded the Army of Mississippi, and Fort Benning, Georgia, named after Brig. Gen. Henry Benning, a Georgia politician and supporter of slavery. Benning was also a lawyer, but thankfully that profession isn’t what he’s being called on the carpet for (says this fellow lawyer).

The first boots on the Tear Them Down ground are the U.S. Marines. The few, the proud, and the brave may raise an American flag, but they are banned from displaying a Confederate battle flag. Army officials are also contemplating such a ban for their troops. Not to be left behind, the Navy announced Tuesday its staff is working on an order prohibiting Confederate battle flags in work areas, aircraft, and vessels “to preserve good order.”  Protest disorder has led to this move.

The oldest Confederate monument in Florida is located in my local area–at least for now. A Civil War memorial in DeFuniak Springs can be found on the grounds of the Walton County Courthouse. It recognizes local Confederate troops who died in the Civil War. First erected in 1871 at a local church, the monument was later moved for more prominent display at the courthouse in the county seat. Guess I was oblivious to the monument the many times I’ve been at the courthouse on business. 

Another Florida Confederate monument is already gone with the wind. Early Tuesday morning (yes, 4:00 a.m. is pretty early), workers removed a monument from Hemming Park in Jacksonville. The statue of the Jacksonville Light Infantry which had been in the park since 1898 came down just hours before a planned protest, to be led by Jags running back Leonard Fournette, outside city hall next to the park. What timing!

Removal of Confederate monuments and symbols will continue to be advocated for and opposed in the coming days. But like it or not and whether good, bad, or indifferent, the Confederacy is a historical fact. Taking down reminders of it won’t change history. Perhaps we shouldn’t try to erase history. Let’s try to learn from it and not repeat our past mistakes.

Just WONDER-ing:

Are there any Confederate monuments or symbols present in your local area? Should they come down? Why or why not? Will removing a statue change people’s thinking? If not, what will?

 

Protest Pandemonium — No One Can Breathe

In recent weeks, it’s been difficult for Americans to breathe. That’s hard to do when their noses are covered by face masks they’ve been forced to wear because of a pandemic. You’d think the coronavirus being toppled as the number one news story would allow everyone to breathe a sigh of relief, but no. We are now holding our breaths in light of protest pandemonium.

Because of police brutality, George Floyd literally couldn’t breathe and died on May 25th. Violent protests have since erupted as a result. Business owners are holding their breaths fearing that their property will be vandalized, looted, or burned to the ground. Tear gas launched to disperse protesters has them gasping for breath. Can’t we get a breather from bad news?

As painful as the story is, let’s clear the air about what has happened and what is continuing to happen. On the evening of May 25th, George Floyd, a 46 year old black male, went to Cup Foods, a convenience store in Minneapolis to buy some cigarettes. To pay for his smokes, Floyd presented a counterfeit $20 bill; as required by law, the store owner called police about the fake money. Four officers eventually appeared on the scene and, around 8 p.m., they confronted Mr. Floyd who was ultimately handcuffed. The rest, as they say, is history–shameful history.

No one has to imagine what happened. Anyone and everyone can see the incident for themselves. A woman named Darnella Frazier was walking to the store when she saw police officers restraining Floyd. Because Floyd was complaining he couldn’t breathe, she pulled out her cell phone and began recording the scene–one which lasted for over SEVEN minutes. (NOTE: I could’ve fixed three minute eggs twice during that time and started on the third round.) 

As the chilling footage reveals, Floyd was handcuffed and lying prone on the street next to a police car. A police officer, now identified as Derek Chauvin, had Floyd’s neck pinned to the ground with his knee, continuing to do so even after Floyd stopped moving. Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe, but his complaints were ignored. Ultimately his limp body was lifted onto a stretcher and he was declared dead. It was the end of Floyd’s earthly life, but the beginning of protest pandemonium.

The medical examiner’s report found fentanyl intoxication in Mr. Floyd as well as evidence of recent meth use. Not satfsfied with the official autopsy, Floyd’s family commissioned their own. That autopsy concluded Floyd died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, i.e., being pinned to the ground by the police. Floyd truly could not breathe.

So Mr. Floyd had three strikes against him. In an area with a lengthy history of racial discrimination, he was a black male. He was accused of committing a crime in passing fake currency. He had drugs in his system which physical condition may or may not have been apparent to the responding officers. But let’s take a deep breath and consider these circumstances. Do they justify police brutality and the loss of Mr. Floyd’s life? Absolutely not!

Because of the incident, the four responding officers were all fired. Officer Chauvin, who had used his knee to hold Floyd down for several minutes, was initially charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Unsatisfied with that action, demands were made for charges to be lodged against the other three officers and for Officer Chauvin to be charged with first degree murder. Yesterday charges of aiding and abetting murder were lodged against the previously uncharged officers while Chauvin’s charges were upgraded to include second degree murder. In addition to criminal charges, Officer Chauvin’s wife is divorcing him. Looks like he’s being pinned to the figurative ground with legal charges!

The fallout is even wider than simply punitive actions against the responding police officers.  The State of Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department which has been the object of decades of allegations of brutality and discrimination. Sharp intakes of breath, no doubt, are being taken by police officials. 

The public has also taken action in the wake of Floyd’s senseless killing. Protests have been ongoing ever since his death. But what exactly is a protest? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a protest is an occasion where people publicly show they disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, and carrying signs on the streets. Not sure why the name PROtest was chosen since a protest indicates people are against something–in this case, police brutality and discrimination against blacks–rather than FOR something.

But what has occurred and is continuing to occur goes far beyond a protest. Yes, there are concerned and responsible citizens who merely want to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights and express how black lives matter. These people are a breath of fresh air because they care and speak up about wrong behavior. But many others have used the protest forum as a platform to spring into illegal and destructive behavior. Violent protests in the U.S. have been accompanied by widespread looting and arson. Being hot about injustice is one thing, but turning stores, restaurants, and police stations into infernos is simply hotheaded and wrong.

Looting, vandalism, and arson have nothing to do with expressing an opinion and everything to do with acting irresponsibly and against the law. Protesters have a right to be angry and to express an opinion; they do not have a right to riot or to steal or destroy the property of others. Even George Floyd’s brother recognized and publicly voiced that such behavior would not bring his brother back. He urged that violent behavior cease. 

According to the CBS evening news, over 13,500 people have been arrested during the protests since Floyd’s death. Thousands of National Guard troops are now deployed in about half the states of the U.S. The Pentagon even ordered military police from an active duty battalion at Fort Bragg to deploy to the Washington, D.C. due to expected violent demonstrations; similar units from other Army posts were put on alert for possible deployment on short notice to provide backup.

An unacceptable situation (a death due to police brutality and discrimination) has from gone from bad to worse. Police brutality and discrimination haven’t been eliminated, and chaos now reigns on city streets where innocent business owners’ livelihoods have literally gone up in smoke. I know exactly what my mother would say about this situation. It would be, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” The first wrong was how George Floyd was treated by police. But that doesn’t give protesters the right to loot, set fires, and vandalize. That’s the second wrong. Let’s all take a breath and come up with a specific plan to end racial discrimination and police brutality which doesn’t involve rioting, wanton destruction of property, and mayhem.

Just WONDER-ing:

Have you ever participated in a protest? If so, about what issue? What, if anything, have the violent demonstrations following Floyd’s death accomplished? If racial discrimination is systemic, how quickly can it reasonably be eliminated? What is the most effective method for overcoming such discrimination by police?