Globally, nationally, Santa Monically.

Donald Trump may not be smart, he may not possess social graces, he may not know the difference between a president and a king, he may not be a good dealmaker, he may not be able to restrain his baser instincts even in his own best interest, he may not know much about government, world politics, history, a science book (how does that Sam Cooke song go?). He may not even have been a billionaire (but surely is by now, seven months into furious family emoluments deal-making — what do you think the finder’s fee on the Saudi $100B arms deal might be?), but he sure knows shiny objects. (Look! Over there!) He knows how to tell a crowd what they want to hear (nevermind if he believes a word of it), and capitalize on it.

He knows people, and their weaknesses, and from all reports he can be very charming in person. And like P.T. Barnum he used all these “skills” to get what he wanted. Or what he thought he wanted. I don’t think the reality has matched his expectations (damn that pesky Constitution, separation of powers, and the press), and he may yet live to regret this ambition.

I’ve often used the Barnum comparison, from my superficial knowledge of the 19th century entrepreneur, but checking into his bio was enlightening. I would say Barnum was much more complex, creative, smart, moral, and of lasting positive influence than I believe our current tweeter-in-chief will be, less notorious and controversial, and I hereby offer my apologies to the famed Connecticut shyster for linking the two names.

As mayor of Bridgeport, Barnum helped found and finance their hospital, brought gas lighting to the streets and improved the water supply. He also served two terms in the Connecticut House, and was a passionate abolitionist for 15 years leading up to the Civil War. Let’s not forget the circus, nor his brilliantly staged landmark Jenny Lind tour. When he died in 1891 he was probably the best-known American in the world after Sam Clemens. His ferry company still sails Long Island sound.



He saw nothing wrong with making a profit from lying, deceiving and hoaxing people as long as they were entertained in the end. Does that make him any different from Trump? I think so. Barnum’s victims were voluntarily separated from their money and most had no complaints, which is different from not paying your bills, stiffing laborers and small vendors, duping students, being sued thousands of times for fraud and settling for cents on the dollar, and now endangering the very existence of our planet with your “policies.”

Here’s where looking for the big picture despite the shiny object distractions comes in. Trump knows so well that if you create spectacular controversies people will have a hard time coming back, over and over, to the ones that matter most. It’s transparent but it works. The press feeds it.

I find myself likewise getting caught up in these “smaller” controversies he creates (Obama tapped my phones, fire the FBI director, I have tapes), because they are really important issues, but at some point I stop and wonder, what’s behind this, what’s really driving it? What’s the big decision that was made, the operative article of faith? That’s what you need to discover, and address. The rest is fallout and digression.

Keep digging until you get to what you think is the primary cause. Look at Trump’s

cabinet. School vouchers, science repressed, generals given tens of billions more and a much freer rein. All cabinet appointees committed to the evisceration if not destruction of their departments. It’s the “government is bad” philosophy first pushed hard by Reagan.

And why is government and its advocacy on behalf of the American people bad? (You know, safe food, clean air, protection from predatory Wall Street greed, aid after disasters.) Because, they say, regulations are excessive (some are) and strangle business competition and make our lives miserable? No, quite simply because the billionaires and big business that control the Republican party (and to a lesser extent the Dems as well) can make oh so many more trillions without those pesky regulations. A few (million) people are pushed into poverty, and some actually die? Well, they’re weak, life is tough and it’s survival of the smartest.

Big picture, my vote? Number One presidential advisor Steve Bannon, who seems to be the power behind the throne. Zero government experience. Comes from helming Breitbart “News,” much more poisonous than Fox, giving a platform to neo-Nazi organizations and other un-American hate groups. Do a little research if you need to. They are despicable by any civilized standards, and it’s outrageous that a man like that is even allowed into the White House, let alone calling the shots.



Everything I just outlined applies to our local politics. Should 4th-5th/Arizona be a huge

hotel complex, or a public square? How do we help solve the regional “housing

(affordability) crisis”? Make our City more bike and pedestrian friendly to mitigate horrible traffic? More and more hotels, for the union wages? A 40’ (at least) early childhood complex on the Civic Center grounds (of all places), construction starts soon, while the much-needed playing field promised over a decade ago still waits? Why do we have such a bloated and outrageously expensive City staff, and what can be done about it? Pam O’Connor throws her political weight around unethically to get Elizabeth Riel fired and we wind up paying off a million bucks in legal fees and O’Connor doesn’t even get a reprimand from Council? What’s going on here?

Don’t be distracted. It’s easy. You’re going to have to find your own primary source(s), but I’ll give you a couple of things to consider: SMRR, soaring land values, the money it takes to get elected and where that money comes from.


QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Red or green? Oh, I’m sorry — my friend Jill is coming from New Mexico where I grew up and is bringing precious chile supplies. Christmas! Means both, you don’t have to choose. Oh, if only the rest of life was that simple. And rewarding.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Don’t know much about history… don’t know much about a science book/But I do know that I love ME, and I know that if you love me too/What a wonderful world this would be.” — commemorating Trump’s appalling fawning Cabinet meeting Monday, with apologies to Sam Cooke for changing one important word

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else

in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at