This. Has. Got. To. Stop.

This is the United States of America. This is where our forefathers brought forth on this continent an enlightened concept of self-governance. This is where every voice matters, and the votes of paupers and tycoons—there are no princes—get equal count at the ballot box. This is where we peacefully have the opportunity to overthrow our government every two years by pulling a lever, touching a screen, or punching a card. This is a place where a hanging chad may determine an election, but where hanging a political opponent never has. And this is the place where one candidate to the most respected office in the entire world just told his supporters they might consider assassinating his opponent were she to become president. You can twist yourself in rhetorical knots, try to diagram a Trump sentence (good luck), and believe whatever you desire, but there is simply no way to conclude he meant anything else. This is, after all, the man who urged violence more than once against protesters at rallies; or did “knock the hell out of him” mean something else? Just watch the crowd. They knew immediately what he said and what he meant.

There is no point in cataloging the Trumpisms that would long ago have rid our electoral process of so poisonous a candidate in any other year and for any other person. You know them all. This recent veer toward the lunatic fringe, however, must be addressed and must be condemned in the most potent way. This is a candidate who has intimated that the President of the United States is a traitor, that he is at least a sympathizer and at most directly supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL (the most appropriate and descriptive name for the group many on the right refuse to say while simultaneously wailing for the administration to “name the threat”). This week, Mr. Trump called President Obama the “founder” of ISIL—the actual founder, he clarified on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, not just the result of failed policy—and said Secretary Clinton was its co-founder. He doubled down saying he, Trump, had given the president ISIL’s “most valuable player award” then stated, “I don’t know if you heard that,” as if this is some ridiculous schoolyard game where he gets to make the rules, name the characters, and bask in his enablers’ accolades. It isn’t a game. None of it is. After weeks of the extrajudicial fantasy of the extreme right (and left, it must be said) to “lock her up,” the mood has taken a far darker turn toward extrajudicial punishment of different kind. Is anyone really surprised? Saddened certainly, but not surprised. This has got to stop. Right now.

Because it is against my nature to let ignorance stand even though it is becoming increasingly apparent facts do not matter to the man or his fans (there is no other appropriate term for them), ISIL grew out of insurgent remnants of the late Zarqawi’s network after the Bush administration correctly decided—yes, it was President Bush’s decision—to withdraw from Iraq instead of leaving our troops without the legal protection of a status of forces agreement. I know this is all far too complicated for the man who says he wants to be the commander in chief, but this is how the dirty business of extricating a nation from an ultimately unwinnable and ill-advised war works. Mr. Trump doesn’t read much and his self-touted common sense missed this blatant fact, yet unfortunately all of that is just a sidebar from his baseless accusation of treason against a sitting president and his calls for an armed uprising against the increasingly probable next. That, my friends, is simply an outrage.

This, perhaps you’ve heard, is the United States of America. Candidates and their surrogates are free to question whether the character of a political machine that turned the Lincoln Bedroom into a Motel 6 is intrinsic to its current incarnation (all evidence says that it is). They are free to question the bona fides of one who claims “America First” but has offshored his own businesses and U.S. jobs (all evidence says they are lacking). They are free to question each other’s fitness for the office and openly wonder why one would not release tax returns or Wall Street speech transcripts. But no one who truly respects the rule of law and the structure of the great American experiment would bring accusations of “high crimes and misdemeanors” without extraordinary proof and the intent to prosecute. And no one—no one—should ever even insinuate assassination. No one. Ever. Were we to tolerate anyone in our midst who does, it would reflect a despicable lack of moral courage and represent a point from which there is no likely return. This—have we forgotten!—is the United States of America.

Dueling Train Wrecks?

If you thought the Democratic National Convention was going to skate into the history books as a clear unifying counterpoint to the chaotic, divisive, B-movie script of the Republican convention, you, like so many pundits for so long this campaign season, were about to be disappointed. With yet another email scandal to haunt the Clinton campaign, this time indirectly, and perhaps a thousand protesters, liberals all, marching and shouting for their would-be party’s candidate to do jail time, it seemed political train wreck might follow political train wreck. Only the First Lady’s eloquent and powerful speech—one so good a former GOP campaign director on MSNBC remarked it might come back at the next Republican convention—seemed to hold together a powder keg that awaited Senator Sanders’ address. The train had gone completely off the tracks earlier in the day

Back several months ago when Senator Sanders called for DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign over perceived slights, it frankly seemed the natural order for a Quixotic and cantankerous old man who railed against a “rigged system” and somehow—to the extent of having his stylized likeness tattooed on the breasts of twenty-somethings—became the darling of a little-heard, often non-voting youth. It seemed he was taking his quest just a bit too far, and when the nomination was mathematically impossible, had decided to blow up the DNC from the inside. I thought it a grand bit of bullying. Well…it turns out bullying was involved. This time however, it was from the depths of the Democratic machine. There appears to be enough of this kind of behavior to go around regardless of party affiliation.

The released emails show a pattern of exactly what Senator Sanders had charged, a lack of impartiality at high levels on the committee. Most disturbing—apart from the allegations that the leak was orchestrated by Russian state actors—were the attacks on the senator’s religion, or lack thereof. For a party whose president’s own faith has been attacked in the most malicious form by operatives, right wing “news” organizations, and the GOP nominee to stoop to such tactics is an utter disgrace. I have often lamented a party that clings to portions of the Constitution while ignoring others. For both parties to blatantly disregard the clause in Article VI which states “…no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” is an affront to all actual Constitutionalists (as opposed to those who only play them in campaigns, or elected and appointed office). It runs counter to the freedom-of-conscience narrative played by both sides.

At a time when it seemed all the DNC had to do was showcase its deep bench of progressive talent, highlight a convention hall that looks like the real America versus the one longed for in Cleveland, rally behind an historic nominee, and generally show the poise that ought to be required to hold the highest office in the land, the DNC might have risked as sure a win as has ever been possible in a national election for one that now may be, as Churchill might have said, a near-run thing. The Democrats are in danger of a disappointment to rival the second G.H.W. Bush campaign. The 41st president, the first to win a war since Truman, had an approval rating of 89% following Desert Storm. It is the highest Gallup presidential rating of all time. He lost a second term just 19 months after the end of the operation that pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Yes, the facts on the ground are different today, but not by much. Then as now, “it’s the economy…” This is an election that, like Bush’s was, is Secretary Clinton’s to lose. The DNC, at the opening of the convention, was doing their worst to make it so.

Original Thought

I’m a writer. It took a long time to say that without a sense of pretentiousness. I have written since I was in the fourth grade. I didn’t think of myself as a writer until I had published my second academic work and wouldn’t call myself one until two professors—published authors—overseeing the project that became my first book encouraged and welcomed me into their world a short five years ago.

Writers live a guarded life of self-doubt, wondering if what we pour onto the page is worthy of being called “writing.” We are driven to write but are continually pummeled by evidence of our lack of talent in the form of rejection letters, editors’ mark ups, and the raised eyebrows of those we know. We toil mostly alone. We write, re-write, re-write again, then almost endlessly revise. We throw things out after working on them for months or years. We don’t show anyone anything that isn’t finished…and we are rarely ever finished. But then something we have written will shake someone to the core. If we are fortunate they will express it to us. If we are privileged, we will witness it as it occurs.

It is with a writer’s understanding of finding an original way to express the most common of thoughts that I am compelled to process part of the first night of the Republican Convention. Significant sections of Melania Trump’s speech were first given by Michelle Obama at the same campaign juncture eight years ago. Despite any spin to the contrary, that is called plagiarism. To be clear, it is highly likely this was not Mrs. Trump’s doing. It also must be said those were not solely the original words of Mrs. Obama. They were primarily the words of Sarah Hurwitz, now working as Secretary Clinton’s writer.

Plagiarism is a unique sort of crime. Its “prosecution” requires no motive or intent. The literary atrocity stands above rationale or intention. It is simply enough that the use of someone else’s words occurred. This is because of the value we place on intellectual property.  If you create something, you enjoy the benefits of that creation without having to fear anyone taking your ideas and profiting from them. The protection of intellectual property, bolstered by the requisite rule of law, is the cornerstone of our economy and the reason the U.S. is a leader in innovation and growth. So while it may not seem a big deal that the team of a woman who wants to live in the White House pulled passages she believes in as much as the current resident who originally delivered them, it is actually an attack on the foundation of everything that makes America what it is. In fact, it would be hard to overstate the gravity of such an offense or the ready dismissal of it by those intent on controlling the news cycle. It is hard to overstate the depth of this theft for the writer who originally penned the words.

The speech writer knows like no other the power of language and its ability to draw out emotion. A phrase can hold an audience in rapt silence or unleash waves of applause. While many share the collective evocation, only the writer knows the joy of bringing that experience to others. They are most often the privileged ones.

Please do not allow a skewed opinion of perceived press bias to allow rationalization of this egregious act. It will not derail a candidacy, though the mistake should seed uncertainty about an organization’s ability to manage a national campaign or the government. Do not listen to the spin of those whose primary interest is in keeping—or attaining—a job. Forget the near unfathomable irony. If America is to be great, a good place to start would be in setting the example of respect for the intellectual property of others; even that which, though cheered in its current incarnation, was originally delivered by someone those at a convention in Cleveland have been conditioned to viscerally loathe.