Something Like the Truth

Millenials mild about Clinton should be terrified of Trump

By Robert Mann

I know you and your fellow millennials were wild about Sen. Bernie Sanders and many are now excited by Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. As for Hillary Clinton, you think she’s shady and represents the past as much as Donald Trump represents bigotry and greed. You’re not looking to settle but be inspired. You want a candidate whose argument is better than, “I’m not Donald Trump.”

During the primaries, Sanders spoke directly to you and your friends with passion and sincerity we’ve rarely seen from Clinton. Johnson also has a down-to-earth sincerity, although I am immune to his charms and worried about his stunning ignorance about Aleppo, the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Whatever the case, here’s some bad news: You thought your time to save the world would wait until you turned 30. You thought you had more years to sew your political wild oats. You thought you could afford to vote for Johnson or even stay home.

Well, sorry, but your reckless political youth was short-lived. You see, your elders are about to drive this country into the abyss by voting for Donald Trump. Like it or not, your generation, along with black and Latino voters, is all that stands in the way of a Trump presidency.

I confess my generation has made a mess. We’ve jeopardized your economic future by ignoring Social Security reform. We let the big banks nearly crash our economy. We’ve done nothing about climate change.

Most of my white contemporaries want Trump to pick the next two or three Supreme Court justices. And they want the court to stop same-sex marriages and end the expansion of voting and reproductive rights.

Many in my generation hope Trump will move quickly to repeal Obamacare and pass massive new tax cuts for the rich. Whites over 50 will cheer as he yanks the United States from international climate change agreements. They won’t protest as the big banks grow bigger, the special interests grab more power and we wait another decade to make college more affordable.

I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t send me on a guilt trip for your generation’s appalling tolerance of a racist and misogynist.” OK, good point.

I understand your disgust with millions of older white people who are eager to hum “Hail to the Chief” to the orange bigot. But here’s the deal: I know how much you want to make the world a better place. You have a hopeful, expansive and optimistic vision for this country that many of my contemporaries lack.

I know you want to tackle poverty, disease and ignorance. I know well your enthusiasm for racial and ethnic diversity and environmental justice. I know you wish to see your country expand civil and human rights for women, minorities, gay people, lesbians and transgender people.

Well, Nov. 8 is the day you can stop the man who would halt or reverse the march of economic and social progress that you and I want.

Continue reading this column on at this link

North Korea may be plotting nuclear blackmail but don’t expect the press to ask Clinton or Trump about it

By Robert Mann

A distressing event unfolded last weekend as the national political press was busy freaking out over Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia and her labeling half of Donald Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.”

In the cascade of this and other political news, you might have missed the troubling report that North Korea detonated a large nuclear bomb, its fifth since 2006 and its second explosion this year. Worse, a top advisor to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un reportedly told a Japanese lawmaker that the communist regime’s burgeoning nuclear program is aimed at the United States.

Please don’t feel bad if you overlooked this important development. Our TV journalists have been terribly busy interviewing medical professionals about respiratory diseases and moderating cooking segments. Surely you don’t expect the host of a morning news show to explain the threat of nuclear war when he must address the more urgent task of reviewing Rick Perry’s latest moves on “Dancing With the Stars”?

There are vapid horserace questions to ponder and Machiavellian political stratagems to dissect. The TV executives know there’s no joy in exploring nuclear proliferation when their hosts can instead discuss Trump’s latest insulting tweet and the intricacies of a new poll from Iowa and why it might be devastating news for Hillary Clinton.

Political journalists have a well-known, severe allergy to policy reporting. This is one reason why they feed us a surfeit of lazy, superficial political analysis from vapid “strategists” who know the Electoral College map cold but couldn’t tell you the difference between Aleppo and Alpo. God forbid the networks and major newspapers give us more information and insights about what the candidates might do if elected. Boring!

Nothing brought home the danger of this lazy coverage more than the failure of reporters to demand from Clinton and Trump a strategy to prevent North Korea from building missiles, tipped with nuclear warheads, that it might use to blackmail South Korea, Japan or the United States.

While North Korea isn’t close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that would threaten the continental United States, The New York Times reports that “leaders of two government-run research institutes in Seoul have recently said that they believed North Korea was now able to mount a nuclear warhead on a short-range Scud or medium-range Rodong missile.”

If that doesn’t jar the talking heads out of their silly obsession with poll numbers and campaign spots, perhaps nothing ever will. We need to know, and soon, what the two candidates propose to do about a dangerous regime that could make Iran appear tame and reasonable by comparison. The next president could confront the most serious international nuclear confrontation since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Continue reading on at this link.

Good, slim or none? What are Democrats’ chances in this year’s Louisiana Senate race?

By Robert Mann

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ victory over U.S. Sen. David Vitter in last year’s governor’s race gives hope to Democrats across Louisiana. If a little-known Democratic state representative could knock off a well-financed two-term incumbent Republican, why shouldn’t Democrats also have a legitimate shot at Vitter’s Senate seat this November?

Vitter is not running for re-election and Democrats have proven, against the odds, that they can compete in one of the reddest of red states. Even better, this time Republicans are dividing their loyalties among five major candidates, while Democrats have known quantities in Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and attorney and business executive Caroline Fayard.

Campbell served 26 years in the state Senate. Fayard lost a 2010 runoff for lieutenant governor to Republican Jay Dardenne, who is now Edwards’ commissioner of administration. Campbell seems to have an edge, having earned Edwards’ strong endorsement earlier this year.

So, the stars are aligned for a competitive race that a Democrat could win? Well, not so fast.

I’m the first to admit I unwisely discounted Edwards’ chances against Vitter. Louisiana voters had not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2008 and there was little I saw to indicate they would suddenly change their behavior.

What I overlooked was that after eight years of Bobby Jindal’s misrule, voters ached for change. No ally of Jindal, Vitter should have been that change – except that Edwards and his allies transformed the race into a referendum on the morally challenged Republican. He went down in a landslide, sunk by voters who were turned off by his 2007 prostitution scandal.

This time, however, the contours of the race are vastly different, meaning that capturing the Senate seat should be far more daunting for a Democrat than was the work of beating Vitter.

While not impossible, it will be difficult to make this race a referendum on personalities. Unlike the 2015 governor’s race, the Louisiana Senate election occurs in conjunction with the presidential election, during which ideology and party identification are almost always at the forefront of voters’ minds. (It is worth noting that Vitter won reelection in 2010, a mere three years after his prostitution scandal, precisely because ideology, not personality, defined his reelection campaign.)

Continue reading on at this link.

Donald Trump has a racist fan club

By Robert Mann

Pollsters have always struggled to accurately gauge voters’ racial attitudes, so we may never know precisely how much racism fuels Donald Trump’s candidacy. What we know with certainty, however, is that the most prominent racists and white supremacists adore Trump.

“I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years,” former KKK leader and Louisiana U.S Senate candidate David Duke said when announcing his candidacy this summer. Duke added, “With the country coming apart at the seams and no one willing to really speak the truth about what is happening, the majority population in this country needs someone who will actually give voice to their interests.” By “majority population,” of course, Duke means white people.

“I’ve said everything that Donald Trump is saying and more,” Duke told The Daily Beast in July, revealing a keen ear for Trump’s racial dog whistles. “I think Trump is riding a wave of anti-establishment feeling that I’ve been nurturing for 25 years.”

At least twice Trump has disavowed Duke’s support. Duke apparently didn’t take it personally. To the contrary, the former klansman recently began making robocalls to Louisiana households pitching his candidacy and urging voters to support Trump.

It’s not only contemptible bottom dwellers like Duke who love Trump. Most of the so-called “Alt-Right” movement is proudly behind the GOP nominee. As PBS’ John Yang succinctly explained, “[Alt-right is] a movement that lives largely online, rejects mainstream conservative politics, and is linked to nationalist and white supremacist sentiments.”

The house organ of this quasi-white supremacist crusade is the conservative website Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman, Steve Bannon, now runs Trump’s campaign. You won’t find a printed or online outlet that has been more effusive in its cheerleading for Trump. Some conservatives even call the website “Trumpbart.”

Among the many loathsome creatures writing for Breitbart is tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, permanently suspended from Twitter in July after he sparked aracist Twitter assault on Leslie Jones, a star of the recent “Ghostbusters” movie. (Jones is black.) Many of the offensive tweets featured images of monkeys and gorillas.

Yiannopoulos, you might have guessed, is among Trump’s biggest fans. “It seems to me that Donald Trump … is best placed to end the cancer of political correctness in this country,” Yiannopoulos said. “Isn’t it remarkable that in just 20 years … the spirit of dissidence in the country has gone from being a far left activist to wearing a MAGA [Make America Great Again] hat.”

Nothing validates the notion of Trump ideological romance with the predominantly male, racist alt-right movement more than turning over Trump’s campaign to Bannon. The alt-right is no refuge for racists, Bannon says, arguing it is merely a coincidental alignment of supporters, only some of whom are white supremacists.

Continue reading on at this link.

‘We never lost that sense of humanity’: Col. Ed Bush’s photos of Katrina’s Superdome

By Robert Mann

In the days after Hurricane Katrina in August-September 2005, then-Major Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard and a colleague, Sgt. Carlos Sanchez, took dozens of photographs of life inside the Louisiana Superdome, where they and hundreds of National Guard troops from Louisiana and other states lived as they provided security and care for approximately 40,000 New Orleans-area evacuees.

Bush, whose memories of that hellish week are featured in my most recent column for | Times-Picayune, shared with me these photographs, many which have never been published.

Below are several of the photos taken in and around the Dome that week with Bush’s descriptions of them:

National Guard troops unload water and MREs at the Louisiana Superdome

Col. Ed Bush:

Some guy would walk up, “Look, my Auntie, she’s sick, she can’t walk, my dad broke his leg and the way here, he can’t walk so can I get – I’m just getting them for my whole family, I need 10 MREs.” And, then, they send somebody else up, and now they’ve got 20. And I get it, because they’re like, “We better take care of our own.” They’re just taking care of their families. We were absolutely controlling because we knew if we didn’t we’d run out, so we controlled water and we controlled food. But never did anyone miss a meal.

I mean we changed it a lot along the way. When we were in the Dome, we took golf carts and we delivered to the upper levels, to the general populations that could definitely move. We set up several points at gates and they just came and they got their food and we gave them one. Very quickly, you knew wherever the pockets and that some people were probably never going to make or a little scared to leave their spot, so we would try to kind of hit the far reaches. We would send soldiers with a cart-full and just say, “Go feed people.” If somebody came to me and said, “I didn’t get one,” I was going to give them one. I’m not going to call them on it. It’s not worth it.


In most cases, evacuaees were not allowed to bring their pets into the Superdome. National Guard troops did care for many pets at the Dome during the week after Katrina.

Col. Ed Bush:

People were bringing their animals to the dome and we put them in a designated area. They had to leash them, they had to tie them. They could go visit them, but we kept the animals out of general population, for lack of a better term, and then we had a few guardsmen to volunteer just to go walk them, make sure they were doing okay.

We track it now, as a result of this. I give out a daily number that says how many people we’ve saved and how many animals we’ve saved as a lesson learned from Katrina. Our pilots have special training, our crews have special training, on how to deal with animals because then, as that helicopter picked you up, it was literally a matter of, Am I putting this kid on a helicopter or is this dog going on a helicopter? And our pilots absolutely said, “You can’t bring that animal on here.” Because there just wasn’t room and that’s sad, but I can remember saying in a press conference, “I understand that it rubs people the wrong way and I understand that I sounds cold but I’m telling you, people come first and in that situation where literally pilots are flying as fast as they can because he’s got a full load.”

Continue reading “‘We never lost that sense of humanity’: Col. Ed Bush’s photos of Katrina’s Superdome”

Remembering mercy, kindness in Katrina’s Superdome

By Robert Mann

It was unmercifully hot outside the Louisiana Superdome around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. It was five days into the inhuman ordeal afflicting 40,000 New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina. Huddled in and around the building – surviving on rationed water and MREs and enduring horrendous hygienic conditions – the Dome’s occupants were boiling mad.

Standing before them on a truck bed, trying vainly to calm the sullen crowd, was Major Ed Bush, the deputy public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard. Along with hundreds of guardsmen, Bush had lived in the Dome since the night before Katrina’s landfall on Aug. 29. “It was just hot,” recalled Bush, now a colonel and the Guard’s public affairs officer. “The people had enough. It was kind of a breaking point kind.”

“Can I talk to them?” an African-American woman asked Bush. “Come on,” Bush replied, as he helped her onto the truck. “She takes the mic,” Bush recalled, “and she’s literally like, ‘Shame on you!’ Just scolding them –10,000 people.” When she was done, the woman led the crowd in a hymn.

An unidentified woman scolds the crowd at the Louisiana Superdome on Sept. 1, 2005, as then Major Ed Bush, left, of the Louisiana National Guard climbs down from a Guard vehicle.

At that moment, Bush recalled, “a little bit of light mist” fell from the sky “and everybody just kind of went, ‘ahh.'””

The crowd’s anger dissipated, he said. Bush told the woman, “If you’ve got any more of that left, you might want to save some because we might need a little bit more.” The woman hugged him and climbed down. “I don’t even believe in miracles and that was a miracle,” Bush said.

During more than an hour of interviewing Bush about the hellacious week in the Superdome, he recounted similar stories. Sure, there was some awful behavior (although reports of widespread deaths and violence in the Dome were false). The remarkable moments, however, were many acts of kindness and the crowd’s refusal, in the face of enormous suffering, to surrender to mayhem or widespread violence.

“It’s very hard to comprehend,” Bush told me in Baton Rouge on Aug. 17 during a break from his duties dealing with the floods that had inundated south Louisiana days before. “I don’t know that any group of people could really hang on, and they did. Everyone in that Dome, they’ve could’ve flipped that place upside.”

Continue reading on at this link.

Note: You can view some of the photos Ed Bush took inside and around the Dome in September 2005 on my blog at this link.

Will the great flood sink Baton Rouge or inspire its rebirth?

By Robert Mann

The news from Baton Rouge last month was a city immersed in crisis and death, divided and virtually at war with itself over the death of Alton Sterling, the 37-year-old black man killed by Baton Rouge police officers in early July. Twelve days later, another tragedy engulfed the city — the  shooting of six police officers, three of whom died.

What a difference a few weeks and 30-plus inches of rain have made. The news is still crisis and death. This time, however, it’s because the city and region were engulfed in deadly floodwaters.

The parish’s streets, once crowded with protestors, became watery thoroughfares for boaters searching for stranded residents. Local churches that last month convened urgent meetings to discuss race relations are collecting relief supplies and launching rebuilding efforts.

Law enforcement officers, lately the targets of some citizens’ anger and resentment, are hailed as heroes and saviors. A month ago, these officers donned riot gear as they waded into the parish’s chaotic streets. Last week, they deployed in waders and airboats.

At every turn this past week, East Baton Rouge Parish set aside animosity, grievance and resentment. There will be ample time to revisit what happened to Sterling. The community still needs answers his death and those of the three brave officers. Whatever the outcome of those investigations, the Baton Rouge Police Department’s conduct in the city’s majority-black neighborhoods also must be thoroughly examined and debated.

With a region on its knees, however, this was not the week for that discussion. Even Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, seemed to agree. She rode on a boat with firefighters, searching for neighbors who needed rescue. “This is my giving back,”she said, grateful for a community that had helped in her time of grief and need.

I pray the great flood will become something more than a devastating, tragic event that simply postpones the community’s long-overdue conversation about race relations and alleged police misconduct.

Might it be more useful to view this disaster as an opportunity for a reset – a time to turn from anger to understanding, from division to unity, from grievance to mercy? Might our collective anguish prompt us to acknowledge that Baton Rouge – every square mile of it – is populated by good people of sacred worth who deserve our care and respect?

When we resume the fraught debate over race and police-community relations, might we remember that some of those we recently vilified are the same people who were saving us from rooftops and front porches?

Continue reading on at this link.

‘Louisiana is strong. Our hearts are huge, our need is great’

By Robert Mann

Everywhere I’ve been in Baton Rouge the past two days, I’ve witnessed remarkable compassion, grace and optimism. Much of this city and region remained under water on Monday. Tens of thousands are homeless. At least 11 are dead. Life here won’t be normal for months, maybe a year.

Yet, all I see are people who are thankful, hopeful and determined to rebuild. I see an ocean of generosity and compassion. I see people who know they might have lost so much more and who are profoundly grateful for what remains — their lives and loved ones.

On a day when destruction and devastation envelop them, many people I know are not cursing, but giving thanks.

At our house, my wife’s brother is upbeat as he plans to rebuild his flooded home. He lives near Sherwood Forrest Drive and Old Hammond Highway, a hard-hit area. As of Sunday night, his house and his two cars were under at least four feet of water. I haven’t heard him utter a word of pessimism or woe. Like so many, he is hopeful.

On Sunday night, I searched Facebook for updates from local friends. So many lost everything. Those who didn’t were searching for ways to help:

Drake and Jean made me proud they helped rescue over 200 or more people from Belengrath area yesterday.

Baton Rouge peeps, where/how is the best way to help right now? I want to do my part and I want to get the word out to my network.

Baton Rouge: We are dry and have power and wifi. If anyone needs shelter, or just a place to catch your breath, please message me. Our doors are open.

Everyone is looking to be useful. I have friends who spent most of Sunday volunteering at area shelters or who dropped off bedding, food or clothing at those shelters. Every other Facebook post I read, it seems, is a story of someone helping, praying for and reaching out to friends and, often, complete strangers.Screenshot 2016-08-15 11.20.07

My wife and I watched TV for several hours Sunday morning as two local stations, WBRZ and WAFB, showed a virtual parade of heroes launch their boats from I-12 in search of people stranded in their homes. Most notably, there was the dramatic and unforgettable video of three young men on a boat rescuing a woman and her dog as her car quickly sank. That video literally took my breath. God bless those young men and so many like them who performed countless heroic acts the past few days. Continue reading “‘Louisiana is strong. Our hearts are huge, our need is great’”

This is how a suicidal political party behaves

By Robert Mann

If devious Democratic operatives had conspired last year to sabotage the Republican Party by poisoning its already troubled relationship with young voters and Latinos and other minorities, they could not have devised anything nearly so effective as what the GOP came up with on its own.

Trick Republicans into nominating Donald Trump for president? Preposterous!donald-trump-1269282_960_720

Who could have foreseen that Republicans would embrace someone whose demeanor and positions are perfectly designed to destroy the party’s already uneasy relationship with a generation of young voters, most of whom are comfortable with their country’s growing diversity and social liberalism? Who might have predicted the GOP nominee would be a clownish, serially bankrupt real estate developer who branded Mexican immigrants “rapists” and demands a ban on Muslim immigration?

In a flurry of recent polls, the looming disaster is evident. A Fox News poll showed Trump with only 38 percent among those under 30. A McClatchy/Marist survey of the same group showed Trump with 17 percent.

Among younger voters ages 18 to 24, Trump earns 15 percent, according to a pollby Investors Business Daily/TPP. Worse for Trump, when the poll included the nominees of the Libertarian and Green parties, the GOP nominee finished in fourth place among young voters, with 12 percent (the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, beat even Hillary Clinton within this group).

The numbers are more troubling for Trump among blacks and Latinos. In the Fox News poll, the GOP nominee wins the support of 4 percent of black voters. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Trump with 18 percent of non-white voters, virtually the same as in the Investors Business Daily survey. The McClatchy/Marist poll showed that 26 percent of Latinos back Trump.

A party whose policies provoke the enduring estrangement of these groups – and we haven’t mentioned the GOP’s serious troubles with female voters – will not soon win a presidential election. A party that relies disproportionality on older white men is in a demographic death grip.

To survive, it must reinvent itself. I do not mean Republicans should refine their messages or nominate candidates with sunnier dispositions than Trump. The GOP must, instead, evolve and work hard to reestablish its relevance with people whose votes are already decisive in our elections. If not, this ailing party will expire.

To say the GOP is ailing doesn’t do justice to its wretched condition. It’s not that the GOP is suffering from a deadly disease that is easily cured with a Trumpectomy. Rather, for years the party has seemed increasingly determined to commit political suicide.

Continue reading on at this link.

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