Woodstock’s opening act – and me

Started watching the movie Woodstock. Didn’t get past Richie Havens kicking off the show. Brought back memories. 

Not that I was there. But I’d hung out with Havens a long time ago in New York and Paris and Toronto. 

Fifty years ago today, when the three-day Woodstock festival began, I was living in Europe, with my first wife, Anita, and baby Kate, having moved to Switzerland to start a news-service job that didn’t exist.

It was a couple of months after I quit a magazine called Changes, which had promised to be the East Coast answer to Rolling Stone – and wasn’t. 

That’s where I met Havens, as I recall in this excerpt from my memoir:

My first close encounter with celebrity was when I was in New York working with Richie Havens on his story – if you can call it that – for Changes back in 1969.

My one assignment for the first issue was to meet with Havens and edit a short essay he wrote for us. I was jazzed about meeting the soulful singer. 

His first album, Mixed Bag, was a favorite. During my time on the West Coast, I wore out the tracks of San Francisco Bay Blues and his version of Just Like a Woman.

I met Havens in the magazine’s dingy back office. He asked me for guidance. I didn’t have any. But he was gracious and I was puffed up by meeting a celebrity who seemed to enjoy my company. I’d see him again – twice – in Paris and Toronto.

He handed me his story, which he titled Everything is Music. It began: How many times have you lay awake at night and listened to the city? A conglomeration of sounds that almost sub-passes your listening, when you are of course moving within it.

I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about. But I read on, all the way to: So like the sound of one hand clapping, so like the sounds of the entire universe (heard from the moon).

“Far out, man,” I said, about all the editorial judgment I could muster.

We sat and talked for a while, shared a joint, and talked some more. Other people came in, more drugs came out.

The next year, during my first visit to Paris with Anita, we noticed that Havens was playing at the Odeon theater and went there to get tickets. Instead, we ran into Havens, who was arriving to rehearse.

“Remember me?” I asked him. “New York. Changes magazine. Last year?”

“Yeah, man,” he said. “Why don’t you come on in with us.”

Anita and I watched Havens and his two band members rehearse, and then sat around and shot the breeze for a while, talking about home, and the differences between living in the United States and Europe.

Havens told an American in Paris story about his bass player, who was sitting with us.

“So this cat is down in the lobby of the hotel and he sees this pair of shoes in a glass case. He wants a pair of those shoes, so he writes down the name of the store and goes out into the street and jumps in a taxi and hands the driver a piece of paper with the name of the store on it. The driver makes a U-turn, stops across the street, says ‘ten francs,’ and that’s it. The store was right across the street.”

It was a good story and a warm moment with three Americans at a time when I was an innocent abroad. Havens got us a pair of tickets for the concert that day – in one of those ornate boxes looking down at the stage – and we said goodbye. 

Years later, in Toronto, this time with Linda, we went to see Havens at a small club downtown. I took Linda backstage between sets, showing off for my new girlfriend. Havens pretended to remember me, was very polite. But we really had nothing to say to each other.

Richie Havens died in 2013 at the age of 72.

My book, The Expat FilesMy Life in Journalism, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Crime spree revisited

Last week, I wrote about my brother-in-law, Jim Munro, who died August 3rd, and mentioned a piece I wrote about driving from the church to the cemetery after the his father’s funeral in Toronto 20 years ago. 

Back then, my in-laws told me they got a laugh out of the story published in the Driver’s Edge section of the Financial Post on September 17, 1999.

For anyone interested in a reprise, I offer it here:

After talking to the Toronto police, I figured I’d committed eight moving violations in 20 minutes: running four red lights, three stop signs, and speeding at about 120 k-hr in a 50 km-hr zone.

If a cop had pulled me over and asked: Whatsamatta, buddy, you in a hurry to get to the cemetery? I could have casually and truthfully answered in the affirmative.
My crime spree started just after noon, after a funeral service at Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church in Scarborough. I was in no hurry to line up for the motorcade, content to bring up the rear, behind a dozen vehicles, including the hearse.

A young man in a black suit slipped a plastic marker into the hood crevice on the driver’s side, identifying my Chevy minivan as an official member of the funeral cortege.
Inching en masse out of the church parking lot, traffic halted reverently for the casket-carrying Cadillac and its trailing train of sedans, vans and SUVs. 

We marched west on Sheppard Avenue, blinking our way from right lane to left without a break in the vehicular conga line. The first left turn was accomplished without serious incident, though my sister-in-law, in her Jeep Cherokee, and I suffered temporary blindness when the traffic light switched 
from amber to red.
It was at this point that I turned to my wife and asked why there was no police escort.

Since we’ve been married for 21 years, she recognizes one of 
my rhetorical gripes when she hears one. She turned up the radio.
The cavalcade managed to stick together on this southward jog for the next few minutes, allowing time to reflect on funerals past; those giddy years before every vehicle had running lights, when such a solemn convoy was instantly recognizable and possessed a certain status. 

“That’s when a funeral looked like a funeral,” I said. My wife inserted the earplugs from her Walkman.
Over the next couple of kilometres, our caravan managed to break up and reassemble several times. Ignorant fellow travellers cut in and joined the  pilgrimage for short stretches. 

A left turn at a busy intersection brought a braying of horns when half our parade marched through a red light. I pointed 
to the plastic I.D. tag and shouted into the din: “We’re a funeral, for cripes sake! Show some respect.”

 The driver of a rusty compact, with its own removable sign identifying its  pizza-delivery mission, offered both his 
middle fingers in response. My wife leaned back, closed her eyes, and pretended to sleep.
The next sprint, along an east-west artery, proved the most hazardous. A woman in a grey Volvo, two toddlers strapped in the back, cut me off, slammed on her brakes, and stopped for a red light, effectively blocking my opportunity to run it.

I smacked my horn in frustration, received my second 
single-digit salute in 60 seconds, and watched  helplessly as the rest of my party crested a hill and disappeared from sight.
“Do you have any idea where we’re going? What cemetery?” I asked my wife.
“None,” she said, before calling dial-a-prayer on her cell phone.
When the light hinted green, I swerved around the Volvo, floored the accelerator, hit the hill going 100, flew over it like Steve McQueen in Bullit— fuzzy flashback to my ’67 Mustang and San Francisco in the summer of ’68 — and managed to shake off the reverie without rear-ending my 
sister-in-law’s Jeep.

After that, I maintained a tranquil pace, tail-gating the procession as it slipped through less congested stoplights and stop signs.
After the service at Mount Hope Cemetery, I was disappointed to notice the funeral-home guy had collected his marker, which I had planned to retain and display as a ticket to ride through red annoyances.
“Not so,” said a Toronto police spokesman when I later called to inquire about the rules governing a funeral cortege. “You have to obey the same laws as everybody else.”
Unless you hire a police escort: $834 for three officers on motorcycles, for parties of up to 30 vehicles; another $834 for each additional 30.

My book, The Expat FilesMy Life in Journalism, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Manhattan Suicide Mystery

I doubt we’ll ever know what killed Jeffrey Epstein. Or believe whatever we’re told by official sources. Because official sources ain’t what they used to be. And, as illustrated by the president of the United States, it’s easier to subscribe to online bullshit.

Bill Barr’s Justice Department – four scary words justifiably worthy of skepticism – is investigating what happened to the serial child molester in a federal detention center in Manhattan, reported yesterday as death by hanging. 

How does a prisoner presumably alone in a cell in a supposedly super-secure facility hang himself? With what? Is anybody buying it? 

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The Shadow knows.

Unfortunately, the Shadow was not immediately available for comment. So, I probed further – and found a torrent of nasty shit circling the online bowl.

The body of Trump’s old wingman was barely cold when he retweeted an accusation the Clintons killed Epstein. 

This, apparently, was to counter all the insinuations the Gangster in Chief – once accused, with Epstein, of raping a 13-year-old girl – ordered the hit.

The social media suspect list did not spare anyone associated over the years with the high-flying financier/sex trafficker – from Prince Andrew to sleazebag lawyer/professor Alan Dershowitz.

Since we can’t trust Barr, might as well play Clue: 

  • Was it Bubba in the hall with a rope?
  • The Don in the living room with a gold pipe?
  • The prince in the billiard room with a dagger?
  • The professor in the library with a derringer?
  • The Slovenian Miss Scarlett in the ballroom with a garter belt?

Or maybe it was the Russians? Or G. Gordon Liddy? Or Jason Bourne? 

Maybe Epstein’s not dead. Have we seen the body? Is there video? And, even if there is, it could be fake.

Caveat emptor, you gullible bastards.

I read the news of Epstein’s death in the Washington Post, which got my head spinning into its editorial headlined: Misinformation about the 2020 election has already been spread – by RepublicansIt included this:

Political candidates, by and large, have a right to lie, and they have a right to buy up a bunch of bots to pollute platforms with propaganda without voters knowing the difference …They just have to choose not to.

Not surprisingly, the president has been a leader in this realm — in the wrong direction. Routine retweeting of fraudulent accounts, along with promotion of distorted video, conspiracy theories and other manufactured narratives, is the least of it. Last month, the Associated Press reported on a series of social media ads for President Trump’s re-election featuring personalities such as “AJ from Texas,” a Hispanic man on a city street. But it turns out AJ is not from Texas, and his name is not AJ. All the president’s supposed supporters were models in stock footage produced overseas. 

Weeks earlier, the New York Times discovered that a consultant for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign was publishing smear websites disguised as official pages for Democratic candidates. The most prominent displays GIFs of former vice president Joe Biden touching women and girls alongside blurbs about his opposition to court-ordered busing.

Mr. Trump may be a lost cause …

Nuff said. 

The theme of online lunacy picked up speed with a story about a guy from Toledo – the Ohio city also known as Dayton – who thought it was cool to post this on Facebook about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: 

She should be shot. Can’t fire me, my employer would load the gun for me. 

Timothy James Ireland Jr., 41, told police he was “very proud” of his written work and also bragged about his firearms, which, he said, he “always carries concealed.”

He was arrested for making the threat, as well as for being a felon and fugitive – wanted in two states – in possession of a firearm.

My daughter Jodie interrupted my perusal of the Post with a text, sharing a more refreshing example of online literature:

You Trumpsters better pray that liberals never gain control of the WH again because we are going to pay you back so fucking hard for all of this shit. Planned Parenthoods on every damn corner. We’re going to repaint Air Force One, pussy hat pink and fly it over your beloved Bible Belt 6 days a week, tossing birth control pills, condoms, and atheist literature from the cockpit. We’re going to tax your mega churches so bad Joel Olsteen will need to get a job at Chik Fil A to pay his light bill. Speaking of Chik Fil A, we’re buying all those and giving them to any LGBTQ you sick cult leaders tortured with conversion therapy. Have fun with your new menu you bigoted fucks. Try the McPence. It’s a boiled, unseasoned chicken breast that you have to eat in the closet with your mother. ALL parks will be renamed Rosa Parks asap. We’re replacing Confederate statues with BLM leaders and Mexican immigrants. Every single public school will be renamed after a child that was kidnapped by this regime. And after we fumigate the WH, we’re repainting the whole thing rainbow. Fox News will be taken over and turned into a family refugee shelter. We’re turning Hannity’s office into a giant unisex bathroom with changing tables and free tampons. And every single time a Trumpster complains about any of the changes, we’re adding an openly gay character to a Disney movie.

What’s this? I asked.

Tommy Lee wrote it and posted on his Facebook. I could not stop laughing.

Who’s Tommy Lee?

An American musician.

The writing was vastly superior to the Toledo man’s two-sentence death threat. But I still didn’t know who Tommy Lee was.

And bells  failed to ring when I found out he was the drummer for Motley Crew.

I was less impressed with Mr. Lee when I discovered, thanks to an online sleuth – Colonel Mustard in the cellar with a laptop? – that the drummer plagiarized the entirety of his little pastiche from an anonymous Reddit post in 2018.

My book, The Expat FilesMy Life in Journalism, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – and Switzerland

Fifty years ago, I didn’t see all the front-page headlines or the TV news coverage of the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends at the Beverly Hills house where she lived with her husband, director Roman Polanski.

He was in Europe making a movie in August 1969. I was in Europe too – in Bern, Switzerland, 22 years old, unemployed with a wife and a baby, bunking in my in-laws’ house on a bank of the River Aare.

Most days, I’d  walk across a small bridge to the medieval Old Town, and pick up the International Herald Tribune at a newspaper kiosk near the city’s famous clock tower.

I’d read the Trib at one of the many cafés at the Barenplatz, which, in the summer, was a magnet for young Americans and others bumming around Europe. 

This is where I met a couple of stoners from L.A. who said they had the straight dope on the slaughter at the Tate house in Benedict Canyon.

“Jimmy Coburn did it,” one told me.

“James Coburn?” I asked. “The actor?”

“Yeah,” the other said, “crazy fucker, that Jimmy. Still got the knife from The Magnificent Seven.”

“Are you saying that James Coburn, the actor, used a movie prop to carve up those people?” I eyeballed both of them.

They responded with shit-eating grins, rose from the table and tripped off into the city.

Ugly Americans, I thought. Too much money, too much free time to get high and goof on people.

This was the summer of Easy Rider and Woodstock, men on the moon, and the Zodiac killer in San Francisco; of Creedence Clearwater’s Bad Moon Rising  and David Bowie’s Space Oddity: Ground Control to Major Tom.

If Polanski could suspect Bruce Lee killed Tate and the others – as recalled in Quentin Tarantino’s new movie about the murderous episode and the era, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – why not James Coburn?

To L.A. police and prosecutors at the time, the gruesome and macabre crime scene at the Tate house pointed to bad-tripping crazies. And did not exclude the rich and famous with a taste for drugs. Many in the movie business feared being inadvertently swept up in the hysteria.

“No one was sure who the police would question or when. An unidentified film figure told a Life reporter: ‘Toilets are being flushed all over Beverly Hills; the entire Los Angeles sewer system is stoned,’” prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote in his book on the case, Helter Skelter.

Of course, it turned out the motive – if you can call it that – could not be pinned on drugs, just the evil fantasies of a white supremacist cult leader.

Charles Manson preached a doomsday scenario that would leave only him and his followers alive. 

He called it Helter Skelter, saying he gleaned secret messages from Beatles’ lyrics and the Book of Revelation.

“Now is the time for Helter Skelter,” he told the four disciples he sent to 10050 Cielo Drive.

When the maid arrived on Saturday morning, August 9, 1969 – fifty years ago today – she found the bodies of  Tate, 26, eight months pregnant; her close friend Jay Sebring, 35, a celebrity hairstylist;Wojciech Frykowski, 32, a Polish friend of Polanski and aspiring screenwriter, and his girlfriend, Abigail Folger, 25, heir to the Folger coffee fortune. A fifth victim, found dead in the driveway, was Steven Parent, a teenager visiting the caretaker on the property.

It would be months before Manson and those who carried out the killings were identified as suspects, arrested, and charged with the murders.

Manson was convicted of first-degree murder in 1971 and spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in 2017 at the age of 83.

There’s much more fear and loathing – sorry, HST – in Europe and elsewhere, plus murders I covered and many interviews with celebrities in my book, The Expat FilesMy Life in Journalism, available from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

White trash

Fifty years ago, four young followers of a megalomaniac white supremacist, who fantasized about starting an apocalyptic race war, invaded a home in Beverly Hills and slaughtered everyone inside.

Their leader, Charles Manson, was a thief and a pimp who spent most of his early years in prison, where he refused to associate with black inmates. “Charlie believed the black man’s sole purpose on earth was to serve the white man,” prosecutors were told.

Freed in 1967, Manson emerged as a charismatic conman playing a sex-drugs-and-rock-’n’-roll tune to shepherd a band of misfits to a remote, ramshackle western-movie location about thirty miles outside Los Angeles.

At Spahn Ranch, he would sit atop a boulder, his disciples gathered below, and preach the gospel of Charlie, which included a doomsday scenario of blacks rising up against whites, the races killing each other off, leaving only the Manson family.

He called it Helter Skelter, taking his cues, he said, from Beatles’ lyrics and the Book of Revelation.

On August 8, 1969, Manson declared: “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”

He sent four of his followers into the night, to a house they had scouted. “Totally destroy everyone… as gruesome as you can,” he instructed. 

They drove to 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. In the driveway, they killed a teenager who was visiting the caretaker on the property.

The homicidal zealots then broke into the house and butchered actress Sharon Tate, 26, eight months pregnant; her close friend Jay Sebring, 35, a celebrity hairstylist; Wojciech Frykowski, 32, an aspiring screenwriter, and his girlfriend, Abigail Folger, 25, an heir to the Folger coffee fortune.

Tate was stabbed 16 times, Folger 28 times. Sebring was shot once and stabbed seven times; Frykowski beaten, shot twice and stabbed 51 times. 

A large American flag was draped over the back of the couch where Sharon Tate died. 

The word PIG was written in her blood on the front door.

The scene was meant to provoke fear and rage, especially if, as Manson intended, the carnage was blamed on blacks. 

“The victims who Charles Manson ordered murdered really didn’t make too much difference to him, as long as they were white and members of the establishment,” prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi said in his closing argument at the murder trial in Los Angeles in 1971.

Last Saturday, a young man with an assault rifle, who reportedly subscribes to the white-supremacist wet dream of an apocalyptic race war and the white nationalist rhetoric of the president of the United States, went on a killing spree at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas. 

The shooter drove 650 miles from his home near Dallas to within shouting distance of the Mexican border and targeted a store packed with Hispanics. Before he opened fire with an AK-47-type weapon of war, he branded himself with an online post stained with some of the same racist, anti-immigrant trash that spews from the president.

Apparently, he intended to spark a race war—or, rather, to accelerate a race war that he already believed to be in progress. ‘Do your part and spread this, brothers!’ he wrote … “Keep up the good fight,”  Andrew Marantz reported Monday in The New Yorker.

I found this passage after a Google search for: Trump ‘race war.’

There were 205 million hits. The first page – that’s as far as I ventured – also included links to:

  • A July 18 Daily Beast piece by Rick Wilson, author of Everything Trump Touches Dies, under the headline: Trump Readies His Mob for the Race War.
  • A July 30 Washington Post column by Kathleen Parker that began: The idea of a race war has long animated white supremacists, who seem to think such a conflict would result in a white victory, whatever that would mean … Trump, for his part, she continued, has essentially declared a “race war,” for lack of a better term, on minority leaders and their constituents.
  • A story in The Guardian after the El Paso rampage that included this quote from Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a professor at American University and senior fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right: “At the extreme end of white supremacy you have this group of people who believe that the only way to create change is to create a violent societal collapse, that will lead to apocalyptic end times, and a race war, and then eventually to restoration and rebirth.”

Let’s get something straight: The war part of the creed is not what these crusaders have in mind. Genocide is more like it. They’re the ones who have been stockpiling weapons and don’t count on anyone shooting back.

 Remember what Trump said earlier this year: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump.”

And remember what Michael Cohen said about his old boss in testimony to Congress: “He doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in a code.”

From New Zealand to Quebec and across the United States to deep in the heart of Texas, murderous bigots have cracked the code. 

My book, The Expat FilesMy Life in Journalism, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

My friend Jim

Last Friday, I answered the home phone and Linda’s sister, Carolyn, was on the line. 

Just after I said hello, Linda picked up. I said a few words to Carolyn, wished her and her family well, and hung up so the sisters could talk.

A while later, Linda sent a text from the second floor to me on the first: Jim Munro died.

Oh, fuck, I replied.

He wasn’t well, Linda added.

Yeah, you’ve told me. But still, for some reason, it’s always a shock.

I know, she said.

I remember when telegrams meant bad news. Then, it was a middle of the night phone call. Now, it’s the 9:33 p.m. text from upstairs.

Jim was married to Linda’s sister Lois. I liked Jim a lot. 

Over the forty-plus years I’d known Jim, I’d mostly see him at family gatherings – weddings, funerals, Christmas. 

The last time, I believe, was at a family reunion years ago where Linda and her siblings – there were six of them – posed for photos. The spouses, the “outlaws,” were excluded.

Didn’t bother me. Or Jim.

Like me, he wasn’t a social butterfly, interested in small talk, hit-and-run chitchat. Sometimes at such get-togethers, we’d huddle on the sidelines and catch up.

We always lived hundreds of miles apart, Linda and me in the Toronto area and Lois and Jim in Michigan, and more recently in Florida.

 But they were always welcoming hosts. And Linda and I sometimes accepted what we considered a genuine open invitation.  

The first time was in the late summer of 1980. Linda and I – and our dog, Yaz – stayed at their house, in a pleasant woodsy suburb of Port Huron, when we were in the home stretch of a six-month road trip in a little motorhome we called Fenway.

A couple of years later, I bunked at the Munros for nearly a week before I found a buyer for Fenway. (I had to sell the motorhome in the United States because I’d bought it south of the border and it still had New York plates.) 

I have another recollection of crashing at their house but the details of that visit are not the point – it’s that I again spent time hanging out with Jim.

Professionally, we had nothing in common – he was an engineer, a math and science guy. I’m a word guy.

But we had a lot to talk about. We’d both lived for a time in Europe – he in Belgium, me in Switzerland – and traveled to many of the same places. 

Similarly, we often compared our perspectives on his experience as a Canadian in the United States versus mine as an American in Canada.  Which led us to discussions of history and current events. 

Our politics did not mesh on many issues. We set those aside.

Late at night, we’d sit in his den and watch TV or movies.

He introduced me to a show called In Living Color, which made him laugh. He had a great laugh.

He also loved Top Gun on his giant screen, with the fighter jets screaming on the surround-sound audio system.

One night, watching Maverick and the rest of the fighter jocks, Jim and I plowed through a large bag of taco chips and a jar of super-hot salsa, and laughed at the Canadian concept of spicy food. 

In 1999, when Jim’s father died, I was asked to be a pallbearer. I considered it an honor.

I had never attended a Catholic funeral mass before and didn’t know they ran longer than a Yankees-Red Sox game. 

When the pallbearers finally took their positions behind the hearse, I made sure to be last in line so I could leave the heavy lifting to others.

With the casket secure, I joined Linda in our Chevy minivan. Once again last in line, I kept losing the hearse and the rest of the procession on the ten-mile drive from Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church to Mount Hope Cemetery – before deciding traffic laws were merely suggestions. 

I wrote a piece for what was called the Driver’s Edge section of the Financial Post. It was headlined Funeral Etiquette, and began:

After talking to the Toronto police, I figured I’d committed eight moving violations in 20 minutes: running four red lights, three stop signs, and speeding at about 120 kilometers an hour in a 50 km/hr zone.  If a cop had pulled me over and asked, “Whatsamatta, buddy, you in a hurry to get to the cemetery?” I could have casually and truthfully answered in the affirmative.

Jim and his family told me they got a big laugh out of the story.

Jim had a great laugh.

CNN debates: Different strokes …

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

– Luke 23:34

Yeah, I know, I don’t quote the bible often, but if CNN and the rest of the stupefied media fuck up this presidential election, as they did the last one, they’ll  pray the wrath of god is the only thing they have to worry about. 

After the Democrats’ intramural scrimmage in Motown this week, I took a look at the Republican presidential debate at the same juncture of the 2016 campaign.

It was also the second debate. Also on CNN. Also with  Jake Tapper as moderator and Dana Bash as his wingwoman. 

It was September 16, 2015, three months to the day after Donnie Douchebag descended the escalator at Trump Tower and declared himself the most unabashedly racist candidate for president since George Wallace.

As the GOP gargoyles gathered at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, Trump was already leading in the polls and therefore center stage, flanked by ten wannabes.  

The opening question, from Tapper, to Carly Fiorina – remember her? – was: “You … have raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s temperament. You’ve dismissed him as an entertainer. Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?”

And they were off and running  with nearly non-stop Q&A about Trump … Trump … and more Trump

Most of the other candidates criticized him. Which prompted the camera to constantly hone in on him – mostly smirking and making other goofy faces. 

He constantly interrupted. Made wisecracks. Nobody stopped him.

Here’s what happened when Jeb Bush scoffed at Trump’s claim he was the most incorruptible among them, would not be in the pocket of  lobbyists and other bagmen knocking on the White House door:   

Bush:The one guy that had some special interests that I know of, that tried to get me to change my views on something – that was generous and gave me money – was Donald Trump. He wanted casino gambling in Florida—
 Trump: I didn’t —
Bush: Yes, you did.
Trump: Totally false.
Bush: You wanted it and you didn’t get it because I was opposed to —
Trump: I would have gotten it.
Bush:— casino gambling before —
Trump: I promise I would have gotten it.
Bush:… I’m not going to be bought by anybody.
Trump:I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.
Bush: No way, believe me.
Trump: I know my people.
Bush: Not even possible.
Trump: I know my people.
That seemed to be that – until Tapper got it started again, asking Trump: “Is there anything else you want to say about this?
Trump lied for a while, turned to Jeb, gave him permission to respond – “go ahead” – and they went at it again: 

Bush:… When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no.
Trump: Wrong.
Bush: We said no. And that’s the simple fact. The simple fact is —
Trump: Don’t make things up. Jeb, don’t make things up. Come on.
Bush: Don’t cut me off.
Trump: Don’t make things up.

Throughout the show, the CNN moderators rarely interrupted. 

Also, they never asked about the candidates’ policy plans because they didn’t have any. The only “plan” mentioned was Planned Parenthood, which they all wanted to burn to the ground. 

Trump was the trigger and CNN kept pulling it.

Flash forward to the Democratic debates Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit, where CNN knew the same way Trump can’t help lying, the Dems can’t help telling us about their brilliant, well-documented plans for their make-believe presidencies; and where the moderators constantly cut off the candidates – “Time’s up!” – because they knew Dems are polite and respectful, not raving fanatics.  

Each night, with ten participants on stage, the questioners started with health care. They might as well have hired that famous fake-wrestling announcer: “Let’s get ready to rumble.”

Similarly, every question over the two nights was designed to provoke a spat – on some picayune policy preference or a potentially personal dispute in their political past.   

The Dems didn’t disappoint. Nitpicking each other for hours.

“The person that’s enjoying this debate most right now is Donald Trump, as we pit Democrats against each other,” New Jersey Senator Corey Booker said early Wednesday night. But he and his fellow candidates were predictably irrepressible. 

And CNN kept posing stupid questions about fairy-tale administrations. “So,” Tapper asked, “how would a President Yang respond (to Iran) right now?” 

There were no questions about the erosion of American democracy through gerrymandering, voter ID laws and the like. Nothing about dealing with the wreckage if a Democrat is elected next year: 

  • What are you going to do to clean up the corruption rampant since 2017?
  • How will you fix all the financial, environmental and other government regulations that have been wiped away?
  • Or deal with all the reactionary/partisan judges now on the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary?
  • Or restore the Atlantic alliance and leadership of the so-called Free World?
  • Or stop the spread of incendiary bullshit from the Russians, Fox News and others?
  • Or prepare for armed white nationalists and other cultists prone to violence if their leader loses?

What are you going to do if you win and he refuses to leave the White House?

There are also hard questions for CNN, the New York Times and others that continue to aid Trump by trying so hard to prove they’re not biased.

What are you going to do if he wins and starts dismantling the free press, going after your companies, or locking up journalists?

My book, The Expat FilesMy Life in Journalism, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.