A Party Beyond Trump?

Note from John: For those who emailed me (and anyone else who might have been curious), I took a couple weeks off from writing about politics to finish up the final draft of my next book (which I can report is now in the hands of my publisher). I’ll have information on it in the coming months. Now, onto today’s column…


Bob Dole once famously remarked that “the most dangerous place in Washington to be is between Chuck Schumer and a microphone.” It was a well-earned rib, showcasing the New York senator’s propensity to cut in front of colleagues at press-conference podiums — his way of inserting himself and his image at the top of various political stories.

Humor aside, there had been a place in Washington that really was the “most dangerous” to be standing in for the last four years… at least if you were a Republican. That place was between Donald Trump and whatever it was he wanted on any given day.

The most literal example came just last month when a mob of angry Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. After breaking through steel barriers, doors and windows, and assaulting police officers (murdering one and hospitalizing dozens), they roamed the halls of Congress threatening to hang then Vice President Mike Pence for failing to unilaterally overturn the results of the 2020 U.S. election.

Of course, Pence had no such power, but the reality of the situation didn’t matter. Trump had convinced his most dedicated supporters that the fate of the “rigged” election rested on his V.P.’s shoulders, and that by choosing not to “save” American democracy, Pence — a man who’d been unquestionably loyal to Trump for four years — had committed a cowardly act of betrayal.

The devastating result of that fiction was some of those supporters believing it was their patriotic duty to wage a domestic terrorist attack on one of our government’s most important institutions.

But as strange as it may seem to do so, especially with Trump’s impeachment trial currently underway, let’s set aside the acts of violence for a moment. Let’s also set aside the numerous death threats directed at Republican lawmakers, government officials, and even conservative media figures who’ve had the gall to get on Trump’s bad side (often just for telling the truth). Let’s instead look at the political dangers associated with displeasing Trump.

It’s no secret that a number of elected Republican leaders, many of whom were once believed to be the future of the party, had their political careers cut short because of real or perceived conflicts with our 45th president. The religious devotion from Trump’s base ultimately sent people like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Paul Ryan, Justin Amash, Mark Sanford, and Mia Love packing. It also transformed once outspoken Trump skeptics into embarrassing Trump sycophants, ready and willing to abandon just about any past principle or policy position in exchange for a pat on the head from their party’s leader (and thus a nod from his base). I’m talking about people like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and those in the House who voted to stop the certification of the 2020 election.

What was a bit of an unknown, however, was whether the end of the Trump presidency would mark a new era in the GOP — an era in which the party’s leaders didn’t necessarily have to be beholden to the worst instincts of a morally and ethically bankrupt individual, in order to have a future in the party.

On paper, it certainly seemed feasible.

After all, the Republicans lost the House, Senate, and presidency under Trump (the first time that had happened since Herbert Hoover’s administration). They lost key voting blocks, along with the states of Georgia and Arizona. They watched the leader of their party refuse to concede defeat (another historical first), and then spend two months trying to overthrow the results of the election through a steady diet of lies, conspiracy theories, and threats that ultimately led to a deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

Since the attack, the party has seen at least 140,000 voters leave their ranks. They’ve also seen their favorability drop by 6 points among the electorate, while favorability toward the Democrats has risen.

Such events and revelations should have made standing up to Donald Trump an easier thing to do, post-presidency. And to their credit, some Republicans have risen to the occasion.

Among them is Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who said of President Trump on Fox News Sunday, “Somebody who has provoked an attack on the United States Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral votes, which resulted in five people dying, who refused to stand up immediately when he was asked and stop the violence, that — that is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward.”

Cheney also stated, “The oath that I took to the Constitution compelled me to vote for impeachment and it doesn’t bend to partisanship, it doesn’t bend to political pressure. It’s the most important oath that we take.”

These statements, as strong as they are, aren’t much different than the ones Cheney made immediately following the January 6th attack. But they’re important at a time when many others in her party, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have already backed off of their initial condemnations of Trump… perhaps after witnessing the political backlash Cheney has received for her principled stance.

That backlash has included the Wyoming Republican Party, after only 11 minutes of deliberation, officially censuring Cheney for her impeachment vote. It has included her approval rating among Republican Wyomingites dropping to just 10%. It’s also included two Trump-loyal primary challengers already vying for her district in 2022.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska has also come out strongly against Trump’s efforts to steal the election, as well as his role in the U.S. Capitol attack. For that, he too is facing censure from his state’s GOP.

Like Cheney, Sasse isn’t backing down. He released a video from his office last week, telling the Nebraska GOP’s State Central Committee: “You are welcome to censure me again, but let’s be clear about why: It’s because I still believe (as you used to) that politics is not about the weird worship of one dude.”

About the future of the party, Sasse added, “We’re gonna have to choose between conservatism and madness, between just railing about who we’re mad at, versus actually trying to persuade rising generations of Americans again. That’s where I’m focused. And I sincerely hope that many of you will join in celebrating these big, worthy causes for freedom.”

It’s an important point he made, because while many in today’s Republican party listen to people like Cheney, Sasse, and Mitt Romney, and only hear “Never Trump” sentiment, what these leaders are really talking about are principles that should — and would in rational times — transcend Trump (or any individual).

Yet, much of the GOP is still focused on a Trump purity test.

Additional examples include the Arizona State GOP, who recently targeted Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain (John McCain’s widow) for censure, for the sin of supporting Joe Biden in the November election. Ironically, McCain and Flake were the last Republican Senate candidates who actually managed to win in the state. Once they were off the ballots, Democrats picked up both seats with wins over Trump-convert, Martha McSally.

Even the Oregon Republican Party (yes, there is one) passed a resolution of condemnation against the ten House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment. (You’d think they’d have other things to worry about).

Of course, none of the aforementioned state parties released any form of condemnation of Trump’s actions since the election, including on what transpired on January 6th. Perhaps they’re afraid to. After all, according to national polls, over 80% of Republican voters still view Trump favorably.

A separate, rather glaring takeaway from all of this is that while the “rigged election” hoax may turn out to be the most consequential lie of the Trump presidency, there’s another whopper — shared among a huge number of Trump supporters over the past four years — that has been thoroughly debunked. I’m talking about the rationalization that Republican support for Trump has primarily been about policies, and not personality or raw tribalism. I’d heard this ad nauseam since 2017, and it never really panned out.

It’s 2021, and Trump’s gone from office. He isn’t signing legislation into law. He isn’t nominating judges. He isn’t issuing executive orders. He is completely detached from public policy, and will be for years to come (if not forever).

Yet, a current Republican lawmaker like Liz Cheney, whose policy voting record aligned with Trump over 90% of the time, is now a villain within her party. She’s been punished politically and called on to step down… not because of any policy, but because she sought constitutional accountability for the objectively abhorrent behavior of a public official who no longer has anything to offer beyond personality and raw tribalism.

And what’s Donald Trump doing now that he lost both the White House and the Senate for the Republicans, and with it much of their ability to pursue good policies and oppose bad ones? According to numerous reports, he’s plotting revenge against the sitting Republicans who supported his impeachment, by trying to get them primaried out of office.

What policy end is achieved by that, other than increasing the likelihood of Republican seats being lost to Democratic opponents in the general election, thus putting liberals in a better position to enact their policies?

No, what we’re seeing isn’t about policies. It’s about a personality cult. And if the GOP is to evolve beyond that, or even wants to, some things will need to change. That change would have to start with leadership, strong principles, a vision beyond grievance, and a respect for those who carry such mantles.

“The weird worship of one dude,” as Sasse put it, isn’t going to do the trick.


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Connecting the Dots from Portland and Seattle to the U.S. Capitol

In the 1980s, when I was a correspondent working for Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News in New York, I noticed something that I thought was worthy of a story: Drivers in Manhattan were going through red lights with abandon. Nothing seemed to be happening to them; they weren’t stopped, they weren’t given traffic tickets. It was going on in plain sight, yet it was barely noticed by the authorities or by my fellow journalists.

I had just been transferred to New York from laid-back California, and I found this odd. I didn’t think running red lights was something minor. I thought it was something dangerous.

The story I reported was about where it all might lead, about how if drivers could get away with supposedly “minor” things like running red lights, what were the implications for the greater society?

This comes to mind in light of what happened on Jan. 6 when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

I get the impression that more than of few of these Americans, who see themselves not as criminals but as patriots, thought that they could get away with it because, during the summer of 2020 in places like Portland and Seattle, others who also saw themselves as fighting for a just cause, were rioting and torching buildings and were pretty much getting away with it.

Before we go too far, let me be clear: This categorically is not an argument in favor of “whataboutism.” It’s not an argument that endorses the idea that “If left-wingers could riot without consequence last summer, why can’t right-wingers storm the Capitol and also get away with it just a few months later?”

Rather, this is to say that nothing happens in a vacuum. People notice what happened before today. They notice how the media played down the riots last summer and described those as “mostly peaceful protests,” even when an angry mob was burning down police stations or looting small businesses.

They noticed that, at the Democratic National Convention, not one speaker spoke out against that violence. Not one speaker condemned it. And they noticed that it took then-candidate Joe Biden a long time before he realized that he’d better condemn the violence or voters would condemn him for his silence.

So, connect the dots from Portland and Seattle and guess where they lead – could it be to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6? Those delusional “patriots” in Washington may have thought, “If they could get away with the chaos they caused, why can’t we get away with our chaos?” It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they did. There’s something that goes deep into our human nature that leads even reasonable people – let alone those inclined to criminal behavior – to figure (excuse the cliché) what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

The rioters in Portland and Seattle justified their behavior on the grounds that they were fighting for what’s right. The other side in Washington, D.C., thought the same thing.

Prosecutors last summer made a big mistake by going easy on most urban rioters. They showed by their actions that contempt for the law was acceptable if the cause was “just.” It was a lesson learned by political opposites who thought their cause also was “just.”

Let’s go back to Manhattan in the 1980s. It was a long time ago, and I don’t have access to my finished on-air story, but I do remember interviewing a cop on the street. He was a philosophical type who told me that allowing for seemingly minor traffic offenses could eventually lead to the breakdown of society in general. A few scholars thought the same thing and called it the “broken window” theory: If you don’t repair a broken window after somebody throws a rock through it, that sends a message … and more bad behavior will follow.

Andy Ngo, an independent journalist who covered the chaos in Portland, wrote an op-ed in the New York Post in which he said: “The deadly storming of the Capitol building is the logical outcome of norms set by the left in 2020. By winking at and apologizing for Antifa, liberal elites telegraphed that political grievances ought to be resolved through violence.

“Those showing righteous indignation now only months or weeks ago argued that the riots were ‘mostly peaceful’ and that vandalism and looting don’t count as violence.

“That’s the problem with political irresponsibility: Once the law grants quasi-authorization to hitherto-proscribed conduct, there’s no telling how events might spiral.”

The mayhem hasn’t yet stopped in Portland and a few other places. What the authorities do about it will be a clue as to what we can expect looking ahead in the United States.

People connect dots; they take notice. The authorities had better take notice, too, and stop looking the other way – or “there’s no telling how events might spiral.”

Off the Cuff: Looking for Enemies to Cancel

If the woke crowd looks hard enough, they’ll always find enemies to cancel.

That’s the topic of my Off the Cuff audio commentary this week. You can listen to it by clicking on the play (arrow) button below.


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Bernie’s Q&A: Trump, Cheney, King, Portman, and more! (1/29) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):

Bernie, the wife and I finished watching the Tiger Woods documentary on HBO. Tiger’s life certainly had its ups and downs! Overall the doc was good but also incredibly depressing. The truly disappointing part about it was the implied or direct claim made by some of the sports journalists featured it regarding why white people embraced Tiger Woods. Their obnoxious, historically inaccurate, and disgusting claim was that white people only liked Tiger because he made them feel less guilty about their own racist ways and behavior. This claim is total b***s***!!! Is this nonsense legitimately how these journalists feel or do you think they are simply pandering to liberals who now live by the “every white person is a bigot” Bible? — Joe M.

Journalists, as we know, are overwhelmingly liberal. That goes for sports journalists too. And, as we also know, there’s no limit to white liberal guilt. Joe, trust me when I say … I’m sick of it.

I am exhausted by the continuous blather from the election and not ready to embrace anyone political at this point in time. For those 400 plus million of us who had hoped for a different outcome, I think it is time for some basic reflection on the state of our nation. the prime question we need to consider is this: Can we have a representative government without a representative bureaucracy, a representative press and a representative social media? It is certainly clear that none of these elements exists today. Until the balance is restored, who we vote for won’t make much of a difference. My suggestion to try restore some governmental balance, move the nations capital from the east coast to the center of the country, Kansas. Specifically Fort Riley, Kansas. Your thoughts kind sir. — Douglas C.

I’m confused, Douglas. Not sure who the 400 million plus are that “hoped for a different outcome.” So that throws me right at the jump. A majority of voters wanted Biden in and mostly wanted Trump out … so the outcome represents them, right? Let me get to your final point because that’s the only one I think I get: Moving the capital to Middle America ain’t a bad idea. In one of my books, I suggested that headquarters for Big Media should leave New York and move to someplace like Tupelo, Mississippi or Indianapolis, Indiana. That way, I said, they’d be more in touch with the kind of Americans they knew virtually nothing about. As a practical matter, Douglas — and I’m sure you know this — no one’s moving the nation’s capital out of DC … ever!

Maybe this merits a column rather responding to this: Your thoughts on Pres. Biden’s first few days. It seems positive that he is taking action quickly, but time will tell if those actions are effective or not. A couple of observations for your comment: 1. Pres. Biden has been much quicker at pissing off the Canadians and the Brits than Trump did with the withdrawal of permits on the pipeline and the removal of the bust of Churchill from the WH (+ the back-handed threat to Israel); 2. 17 Exec Orders on the first day, unilateral actions that appear to conflict with the pledge of  “unifying” the nation (Dems control Congress and Congressional action appears more “unifying”), one of those mandates he immediately violated (masking up); he seems to be focused on Immigration and Climate Change. Just curious what your take is. — DonEstif

My take, Don, is that President Biden has made “unity” a central theme of his presidency. And then he signed a bunch of executive orders that will do nothing to unify the country. Check out my next column which goes up Monday … it’s on this subject.

I think you were too kind to the President. I personally thought a mixed message. It contained three words that signal more division once again. “Systemic Racism and Natavism”. Stoking anger and giving permission to hate Ie: The Race Card has worked well for them. They may keep it alive for maybe another 100 years. The President shows he does not have the courage to “unite” us. I fear more of the same. Any comments? — Joseph V.

How was I too kind to the President? As for uniting the county … I’m all for it. But I don’t think Joe Biden really is — not if it means taking issue with the progressives in his party.

UNITY? People with easy access to mainstream media making statements like “we need to cleanse America of Trump supporters” (Kline/ABC) Re-education (Couric) Ministry of Truth (AOC) Haress & don’t employ (M. Waters) and the cancel culture. No news person has challenged these kind of statements to be defined by the people advocating them. To me, they echo Nazi Germany or pick any Communist country. This is how it starts. Do you think talk of this ilk will abate? — Beverly

I think the cancel culture — talk AND actions — will abate only if there’s a backlash against it. And it would have to come from the left. Conservative complaints are dismissed — because they come from conservatives. If news people don’t stand up to this … it will be one more stain on their already severely stained reputations. And sooner or later, the cancel culture will go after them — for not being woke enough. I can’t wait!

Some things in recent weeks: The Wyoming State GOP has censured Liz Cheney for voting to impeach Trump. The Arizona State GOP has censured former Senator Jeff Flake and even John McCain’s wife Cindy for supporting Joe Biden in November. The Oregon GOP has officially condemned the ten Republicans in congress who voted to impeach Trump. None of these GOP state parties has so much as criticized Donald Trump for trying to overturn the results of a national election or for inciting a riot (that killed people) at the U.S. Capitol. Do you find this as twisted as I do? — Ben G.

If possible, Ben, I find it even more twisted than you do. It’s beyond words. But if I had to pick two, they would be … pathetic … and lunacy. I’m with you on this one, BG.

Unsurprisingly, the media is starting off very soft with Joe Biden and his administration. Though they didn’t do the same for Trump in January of 2017, I’m curious if you think it’s somewhat appropriate or at least fair for journalists to cut brand new administrations (whichever party they’re from) a bit of a break, at least for that first week or two while they’ll still getting organized? — Alex D.

I think journalists should act like journalists … meaning they should hold the President of the United States accountable … starting on Day One. That they’ve gone easy on him is no surprise. If they continue to go easy on him, their credibility — already in the garbage — will drop even more. They’re their own worst enemies … and are too arrogant to know it.

I’m interested to get your thoughts on the life and passing of Larry King, especially as those thoughts might dovetail into your recently articulated opinions about hyper -partisan commentary on cable news. I first started listening to King in the late ’70’s when he had his national radio show on the Mutual Network. He then morphed into that long-running interview show on CNN. King, an openly liberal Democrat, befriended many politicians on the right, including Marlin Fitzwater, White House Press Secretary under Reagan and Bush, Sr. He was fair to everyone who came on his show and did not put his left-leaning manners on display to make it all about him. As such, you learned a lot from all sides who came on King’s show. It’s laughable to think now that King would have such a show on CNN, let alone the woke staffers allow him in the building. — Steve R.

I agree with you Steve … but …

When I wrote Bias, and it went to #1 on the NY Times bestseller list, Larry had on several people who he asked to comment on the book. But he never had me on. Maybe that was his producer’s doing, but Larry apparently didn’t balk. He didn’t say, “How can I ask Andy Rooney [and others] about Bernie’s book and not ask Bernie?” Despite that, he was a fair to his guests … and deserves credit for that.

Bernie, have you had an opportunity to watch a nightly news program called Newsnation? It airs on WGN America, a station that will soon rebrand itself as another cable news channel. They claim to be “bias-free.” The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group, and because of this, the claim of being “bias-free” makes me somewhat skeptical because of two Nexstar-owned stations here in California in which their news coverage appears to be left-leaning. If you’ve watched Newsnation, I’m curious as to what your thoughts are relating to them. — Jeff R.

I watched the show twice, Jeff. And I did find it fair. No snide commentary. But people tune into cable news FOR opinions … so while it hit me as a solid newscast, not sure how it would fare against the shallow, dumb, opinion shows that dominate cable news primetime.

I miss the old days of CNN’s Headline News where you knew you could turn on anytime at the top or bottom of the hour and get your dose of the day’s headlines. I think CNN should bring that back (or some other company) and just leave the commentary and long-form content on CNN itself. I guess though that doesn’t make CNN any money? — Tony P.

Opinion, Tony, is what makes CNN and the other cable outfits money — not hard news. In the previous question, Jeff mentions a nightly newscast called Newsnation. It’s on cable and it’s all news. No opinion. Check it out.

I have looked into media bias charts to try and find less biased sources, which ones do you recommend? I tend to try and seek out The Hill, BBC, and AP. Are those safe, or maybe “safer” sources to trust? — David H.

When I worked at the AP in my first job out of college, it was totally bias free. The AP now is not the same news organization. I don’t watch enough BBC to comment. And the Hill, where I write a column, covers all points of view. My favorite TV newscast is on Fox … Special Report with Bret Baier. Airs at 6pm ET.

A couple of interesting statements made in relation to the Article of Impeachment presented to the Senate Monday night in which I’d like your thoughts: 1) Jamie Raskin, one of the Dem’s prosecutors quoted from §3 of the 14th Amendment saying “prohibits any person who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States from holding any office under the United States.” That seems to set the stage for: a) the Dem’s blocking Trump from running again for office; b) this action sets the definition of “insurrection or rebellion” at a level that several others could also be impeached, Maxine Waters for one. 2) Biden later said that he didn’t think the 2/3 requirement could be attained and also said “The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn’t changed that much.” That seems to confirm a belief of many, or most, Americans that things in DC never seem to improve (ex: Joe was there 12 years ago and so was Robert Byrd, the last former KKK member in the Congress) I know that I’m being picky, but I would think and hope that the media ask that kind of question. I thought Trump was the best at setting himself up. — D.E.

Reasonable people may disagree, but I think anyone who’s a U.S. citizen and at least 35 years old should be able to run for president — even someone with a toxic personality like you know who. If the voters want someone like that, they should be able to elect someone like that. If you expect the media to hold Maxine Waters accountable, good luck. They spectacularly incurious about certain things — things that make their fellow liberals look bad.

Senator Rob Portman (R) of Ohio just announced his plans to retire, despite being favored to win re-election. As Josh Kraushaar reported, it’s due to his frustrations with Trumpism’s conversion of the GOP to a performative, grievance party, instead of a party serious about governance and policies. One of Portman’s longtime advisers said this about the GOP leadership:

“If you want to spend all your time going on Fox and being an asshole, there’s never been a better time to serve. But if you want to spend all your time being thoughtful and getting shit done, there’s never been a worse time to serve.” 

I think he has a point. It all seems be about culture fights now. Do you agree? — Philip R.

I think he has a point too, Philip. And so does Portman. And so do you when you say, “It all seems to be about culture fights now.” By the way, that’s the mission statement of cable news. Culture fights are good for business — and bad for America.

CBS News executives Peter Dunn & David Friend have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations of racism and sexism at CBS…mmm hmmm. CBS of course emphasized its commitments to diversity and inclusion and a work environment that is respectful to all opinions (HA!), while the execs deny any inappropriate motives on any comments or decisions that they may have made.

Do you know these men, and what are your thoughts on these allegations? — “CBS is Dunn and may get rid of a Friend” Regards From The Emperor

They’re not with CBS News, you Holiness … they corporate guys … though one of them is in charge of news at CBS local stations. Regarding the hilarious line about how CBS is respectful of all opinions … somebody call 911 … I’m laughing so hard I can’t breathe. As for the allegations, I have absolutely NO idea.

We agree on MANY things but I think you are wrong on impeachment. Here’s why (sorry this is long):

First, let’s set aside the ‘timing’ issue for a moment (for the sake of discussion). I would hope we can at least agree that a president inciting an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol is an impeachable offense, correct? You said yourself that if this had all happened a few months earlier, the case for an impeachment trial would be much stronger. Also, I would hope we could agree that the incitement came from much more than just what Trump said on 1/6, correct? This was built up over two months of conspiracy-driven election lies.

As for the timing, the very nature of the incitement relied on Trump being almost gone from office. It couldn’t have even happened in the first place if Trump hadn’t lost the election, and then used those remaining weeks to convince his hardcore followers that their democracy had been robbed from them, and that 1/6 at the U.S. Capitol was the final opportunity to save it.

If Trump is let off the hook (other than in the history books), isn’t our country saying that it’s perfectly fine for a lame-duck president to do ANY terrible thing he wants (even causing a deadly terrorist attack), just because he’s on his way out the door? In my view, if we do virtually nothing to hold him accountable (it’s not about “revenge” to me) for inciting a deadly insurrection, that’s a far more divisive act than having a trial.

Lastly, Dershowitz’s view is a minority view (as is his view that impeachment requires an actual crime be committed, which almost none of his colleagues share). And this isn’t about impeaching a private citizen. Trump was impeached while he was still president. This is just the trial. The Senate will be trying an impeached president. — Jen R.

Let me start by stating the obvious, Jen: You make a strong case — as you always do. But I think I did too. Reasonable people may disagree. I’m not minimizing your arguments even though they don’t, in my view, trump (excuse that word) my opinion. I know yours, you know mine.  I can respond to each of your points but you, as I, have come to our independent conclusions.  I’m just glad he’s gone.  I don’t need one more nail in the coffin to send a message to others.  But once again, reasonable people may disagree.

How do you feel about the latest White House policy czar, Susan Rice? Now, talk about good fortune; rising from the ignominy of the Benghazi Affair to be Biden’s coordinator of domestic policy for ‘racial equity’. Now, given her long tenure in foreign policy, what are we to expect as time goes on? Will she attempt to put her nose in beyond her current ‘domestic’ portfolio? PS…..I always felt that Ms. Rice got a raw deal given that it was obvious –to me, anyway– that back in the Fall of ’12 Obama came to her with the ‘request’ of a favor to go public (ironically all 5 prominent Sunday shows) and carry the flag in the aftermath of the Benghazi tragedy. Fate, in politics, can be fickle, n’est ce pas? — Andrew M.

Let’s say what happens “as time goes on.” I’m willing to keep an open mind. On your last point, about carrying the flag for her boss the president, sounds like a real possibility to me, Andrew.

Good remarks [in this week’s Off the Cuff] and I agree it would be better to let Trump go, although I do think his behavior did incite a riot (though not an insurrection). This reminds me of the Nixon pardon dilemma by President Ford. At the time giving Nixon a pass was very controversial, but it looked much better to me as time went on. I always imagined what our bicentennial year of 1976 would have looked like with a former President on trial and how much better it was without that. Since you’ve got grey hair too and this topic reminds me of it, I wonder what you think of the Nixon pardon? — John R.

I think Gerald Ford was right and that he acted with courage for the sake of the nation. His decision may have cost him the election … and that makes it even more courageous. Sometimes, it’s best to move on.

Has any of the Biden executive actions taken you by surprise? I could expand on this but trying to keep it short. — Tim H.

I can’t think of anything that really surprised me, Tim … because I figured he’d move to the left and that’s exactly what’s happening. His talk of unity was pure political BS. And thanks for keeping it short, TH.

Bernie, did you ever consider approaching Donald Trump for a presidential pardon of your 1985 arrest for smuggling Cuban cigars into Miami? — John D.

Just so nobody thinks I was actually arrested for smuggling Cuban cigars (or anything else), let me state for the record that John D was once an inmate at a state mental institution. Let’s just say he never fully recovered. But if I had smuggled cigars in the U.S., I would have asked my lawyers — who work for the prestigious firm Dooey, Cheatem and Howe — to ask for that pardon.  Wouldn’t you?

What’s always puzzled me, John D, is why YOU didn’t ask for a pardon after you were convicted of that horrible crime that’s so repulsive I can’t even describe it in this space. I assume you’re writing this from your prison cell at the Supermax facility in Colorado. Call me when you get out — in 2045.


Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.



Bernie’s Q&A: Biden, Stirewalt, Pompeo, Woods, and more! (1/22) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):

Over the years various, universities have blocked free speech of non-liberals and that expanded to include the firing/forced retirement of professors for stating such seditious remarks as “all lives matter.” This trend of the redefining basic rights is expanding further as evidenced by various Congressional members’ (e.g., AOC) call for blacklists of Trump supporters with unspecified penalties to be imposed, and even Harvard is now considering withdrawing diplomas of selected Trump officials and supporters for sedition (or whatever). It seems that ‘woke’ (definition is fluid) is the new “Enlightenment,” with Trump and his supporters the new Louis XVI and the Ancien Régime. I’m afraid Pres.-Elect Biden has hands full if he really intends to unify this country, but he seems to be focusing a lot on Climate Change. I believe that we are nearing an American version of the Reign of Terror led by the new ‘enlightened’ elites and where valuable resources will be squandered on a possible threat that is 100 years away versus one that has greater immediate consequences, existential or not. Maybe this is an overly pessimistic view and Biden will be effective. What are your thoughts on this trend/state of affairs, if you believe it is dire at all? — DonEstif

Your observations are quite thoughtful. And I’m not saying that because I’ve written about the same things and come to the same conclusions. There are nut jobs on the right, but the cancel culture is overwhelmingly a left wing bludgeon — with one great big exception. Fox News cancels conservatives who say negative things about Donald Trump. They cancelled George Will, Colonel Ralph Peters, Erik Ericson, me … and now their own political editor Chris Stirewalt. This is way beyond ironic, even if the doofuses who make decisions at Fox don’t get it. FNC spends all day rightly lamenting the cancel culture — and they’re one of the biggest practitioners of the cancel culture..  You can’t make this stuff up.

Now, onto Joe Biden. Despite his gracious and optimistic inaugural address, he will have a very tough time bringing the country together — because we’re way too divided and I can’t thing of anything — literally, anything — that will bring us together anytime soon.  So, Don, I don’t think your view is overly pessimistic … and yes, I do believe the situation is dire. And my apologies if I’m depressing you with these observations.

Two things I’d love to do, is to vote for you president of the United States, and second, sit down and talk sports with you for an afternoon. — Barney G.

Barney, you’re way too kind. If you voted for me for president, they’d have to lock both of us up in an asylum — and for the same reason: You’d be nuts to vote for me and I’d be nuts to run. On the sports matter, trust me, I’m not being immodest: I don’t know that much. I peaked when I was 10 and living near the Yankee Stadium. But be assured I appreciate the very kind words.

What do you think of Pompeo as a presidential candidate for 2024? Also, have you ever listen to Geraldo’s radio program which is also a podcast? You should be on his show sometime. You both have reasonable ideas and thoughts. — Tony P.

I liked Pompeo more before he became a Trump sycophant. He’s very smart. I could like him again. As for Geraldo: He’s not a fan of mine. I once said something personal he didn’t like and he threatened to punch me in the face. He said that on TV no less. So, if he calls, I’ll think about the offer. But he won’t call.

Bernie, do you think one of the worst things Republicans can do as we move towards the midterms is determine its slate of candidates based on the candidates’ loyalty (or disloyalty) to Trump? At the end of the day, the best strategy for taking back the House is fielding the best candidates, not worrying about who did or did not kiss Trump’s ring. If the Republicans engage in internal fighting during the next two years over who was and was not loyal to Trump, the Democrats will be very happy come January of 2023. — Joe M.

Joe, you are absolutely correct. The problem, I think, is that Trump’s most loyal fans may demand that any GOP candidate be someone who kissed his ring. If the candidate didn’t, he or she likely won’t get the support of those loyal fans, who I fear will sit home on Election Day and hand victory to the Democrats.

Mr. G., I just got around to watching the Dec20’ Real Sports last night. God Bless you sir! Aside from my eyes being abused by Bryant G’s hideous sport jacket shout out to Wimbledon, my ears were abused by all your “woke” colleagues who dismissed anything the Right is concerned about including dead police officers because it’s the Left’s turn at the sympathy megaphone. How one sided can a group be? Would any of your enlightened colleagues not call the police if they had just been invaded, robbed and beaten because it was the criminal’s turn to express themselves? That was a tough watch. –ScottyG

How one sided can a group be, you ask? I AM diversity on that show. And let me share a secret with you: I’m getting tired of it.

Regarding Monday’s column about courageous liberals who need to stand up and speak out against the illiberal left: I see people asking who they are and where they can be found. As several people (myself among them) have been pointing out, the liberals’ heads will also be on the chopping block at some point in the future, but for some reason, they just don’t believe that it’s going to happen to them.  Maybe this is a better question:

HOW do we, the right, CONVINCE the liberals, (some of whom may be our enemies) that THEY are the ones who need to step up to the plate and put a stop to this? If they really want to be the champions of the underdog, conservatives currently fit into that category. Your thoughts are welcome. — “Love Your Enemies” Regards, From The Emperor

I have no desire, Your Royal-ness, to try to convince liberals to stand up and do the right thing. They need to come to that decision all by themselves. If they don’t … and if the cancel culture gets worse, as I suspect it will … there will be a backlash against the left in some form or another. As for liberals and progressives standing up for conservative underdogs … Your Majesty has quite a sense of humor, unusual among those who wear the crown.

I’m curious to get your comment on a statement made by your colleague Bryant Gumbel during the recent HBO Tiger Woods documentary. Woods was shown on the Oprah show describing for the first time his racial identity as “Cablinasian”. For the unaware, it stands for Caucasian/Black/Indian/Asian and is Woods’ acknowledgement of his multiracial background. Gumbel took issue with this, saying it disappointed many black people who wanted Woods to represent them in popular culture. Gumbel also said that Woods should identify as black because that’s what the population at large saw him as. I take issue with Gumbel’s assessment, especially in light of the left’s granting individuals their ability to self-identify by race, sexual orientation, and even gender. Plus, Woods is being truthful. He’s not just black, he’s multiracial, something shared by many Americans of his generation. My kids are significant parts Mexican, Italian (mother’s side), Scots-Irish and Russian Jew (my side). Shouldn’t they and Tiger Woods be allowed agency to be who they say they are? Surprised a liberal like Gumbel would have such a narrow mind on this issue, especially in today’s climate.  — Steve R.

We’re told over and over that minorities have the right to identify anyway they want. You can be overwhelmingly white, but if you had a black great grandmother, and you want to call yourself black, that’s your right. That said, I understand Bryant’s position. But you can’t have it both ways. Either we have the right to self-identify … or we don’t.

Bernie, a little potpourri for you this week. Mustn’t the NY Times no longer refer to itself as “The Gray Lady?” Am I the only one who thinks that Dr. Fauci gives a whole new meaning to the term Political Science? Has the label of white supremacy transcended race given the fact that Larry Elder and Candace Owens have been called white supremacists simply for arguing that no race should be deemed superior to any other race? And finally, how many people under the age of 30 were taught that fascism arose in Italy not Germany and that one of the key elements of fascism was the close relationship between the Italian government and the leading Italian corporations (known as corporatism)? I am hoping that four rhetorical questions count as one question on the Bernie-meter. — Michael F.

Re the Gray Lady question:  Huh? Where did that come from, Michael? Who cares what they call it? The Dr. Fauci question leaves me even more puzzled than the one about the NY Times. Next. That two black people have been called “white supremacists” is proof positive that the people who called them that … are idiots.  And finally, your question about the origin of the word “fascism” — let me go back to my response to your question about the Gray Lady: Huh?  And if the questions really are rhetorical as you say … why am I answering them?

[Regarding this week’s “Off the Cuff”]: Listening to biased commentary is not in itself foolish or a complete waste of time. It’s how one listens. Please note Francis Bacon….”Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”. Is not what you –and I, in sympathy– are really lamenting is the loss of a reasonableness, an open mindedness, a balanced, contemplative disposition in our fellow citizens? A willingness to be challenged/engaged/upset by other points of view is a serious aspect of the truly civil individual. Is that not the great loss in the modern American body politic? Take care — Andrew M.

Here we have one more piece of evidence proving that the people who post questions here generally are smarter than everybody else on the internet. I guess I am lamenting the loss of reasonableness and open mindedness … because what we have now is not only the opposite … but a tribal partisanship that results in the loss of principles.  I hear way too many commentators telling us how bad such and such is … when just a week ago they were praising their guy for doing the same thing.  My goal is to drop out.  To stop being a witness to this garbage.

Thank you for the smart question.


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