HL 1- Welcome to Hopelessly Liberal

November 15, 2016

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Welcome to Hopelessly Liberal, a blog going live this day of Trump + 7. Your blogger is an old fashioned liberal, having never deserted its shores for Progressive Land (sounds like a spaghetti sauce factory) or other euphemistic kingdoms. The title “Hopelessly Liberal” is borrowed from my son, who used it in his successful campaign for student council some years back at Riverdale Country School and from Al D’Amato who used it, also successfully, to defeat Bob Abrams in their 1992 U.S. senatorial contest. Mea culpa, as the Abrams campaign’s issues director, I influenced him to run on liberal policies, including universal single-payer health insurance.  By 1992 “liberal” had already become a term of derision for many on the right and far left.  Wimpy liberals abandoned it.  But that same year, I heard Sidney Poitier thank Hollywood Director Stanley Kramer for his lifelong efforts as “an old fashioned liberal” acknowledging the worth of people like Kramer, who eschewed the radicalism of the left and right but tenaciously and often hopelessly pursued pluralism, egalitarianism and the perfection of America through the peaceful means sanctioned and protected by our constitution.

Today’s first post is about the American tradition of peaceful transition, whose poster is the beautiful photo of Michelle Obama hugging George W. Bush during the September 2016 dedication of the Museum of African American History in D.C.


George and Laura Bush have been widely and deservedly praised by the Obamas for the gracious, thoughtful and enthusiastic way they helped President Obama assume the reins of power and residence in the Whitehouse.

During his first post-election statement to the nation, Obama made clear that he and his administration would emulate, and if possible top, the Bushes in cooperating with President-elect Trump. Saying that name with that title was hard but doable.

I have chaired one small transition and one of decent size, Eliot Spitzer’s 1998 transition to New York’s Attorney General and his 2006 transition to governor. But the spirit of the transition I recommend we all give Donald Trump is exemplified by my experience with Dennis Vacco, who was New York’s Attorney General from 1995 through 1998, and who I agreed with on about as many things as I do with Mr. Trump.

The day after Vacco’s upset election in 1994 his senior advisor James Ortenzio, an old friend, called me. After congratulating him, I said that from Vacco’s campaign, it seemed he knew nothing about what the New York Attorney General’s job actually was.  I facetiously offered to school him.  After a brief consultation with Vacco, Ortenzio said they would be at my office at 8am the next day.  And they were, for a full day session and again each day for the next 5 business days involving a soup to nuts review of the powers, duties and responsibilities of the New York AG.  At the tutorial’s conclusion, Vacco offered me any job in his administration that I might want and chairmanship of his transition.  I declined both saying that he and I would disagree on most things but we both wanted him to be the best AG he possibly could be.

In my estimation Vacco was not a great AG and I worked hard for my then law partner, Spitzer, to defeat his reelection bid in 1998. But every once in a while during Vacco’s 4 years I saw him do something valuable for New Yorkers and each time had the consolation of believing that my tutelage possibly played some part in that good thing.  The good thing we each and all can do right now is express in any way we can our desire for Donald Trump to be the best president he can be.  Doing that is not only liberal but self-serving as well.

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