All I want for Christmas is for Donald to disappear

In the streets of Philadelphia where I grew up, if you didn’t get picked to play in a half-court basketball game, you might say: “I’m taking my ball and going home.” Of course, it would have to be your ball, and it would not make you very popular.
Well, Donald Trump decided he was taking his ball and going home during the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton. If I can’t win, he said, I’m not going to accept the result. And the day after the debate, he confirmed it, telling his supporters at a rally in Ohio: “I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.” He sounded like a spoiled brat, and as a result he’s not very popular.
During the showdown in Las Vegas, Trump told moderator Chris Wallace he wouldn’t concede gracefully: “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” Of course, it was not okay. It proved he was a loser, a grumpy Trump who claimed the election was rigged, before it even took place.
And at the weekend at a rally in North Carolina, Trump claimed the country’s leaders and the Obamas were the babies: “We have a bunch of babies running our country, folks. We have a bunch of losers, they’re losers, they’re babies.” He was responding to criticism by President Obama, who attacked Trump for trying to discredit the election process: “If you start whining before the game’s even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job. I’d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”
Donald Trump is a bully, a brat, a baby. That’s why he will probably lose the election. Hillary is no saint, but at least she acts like a lady. When they both appeared at the Al Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the weekend, a charity function named after the popular New York governor who ran for President in 1928, but was defeated because he was a Catholic, jokes were hard to find on the menu. The dinner at the Waldorf Astoria was hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan who described the atmosphere at the Manhattan hotel as the “iciest place on the planet.” In an attempt at humour, Trump said this of Hillary Clinton: “Here she is in public pretending not to hate Catholics.” He was booed when he called her corrupt and criticised the Clinton Foundation. Al Smith would have been spinning in his grave.
Hillary told the dinner she was no saint but added: “Getting through these three debates with Donald has to count as a miracle.” I have to agree with her. Each debate got worse, and more difficult to watch. An estimated 71.6 million Americans watched the third debate, down from 84 million in the first, but a substantial number of viewers tuned in to see what was billed as the decisive debate. Most pundits, except Donald Trump, thought Hillary Clinton, won the final debate, making it a clean sweep. But Trump’s description of his rival as a “nasty woman” didn’t help his chances, as the number of women alleging he had sexually assaulted them moved into double figures.
To demonstrate how out of touch Donald Trump is, he made the threat to sue all these women during a speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of one of the most famous orations of US history, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettsyburg Address during the Civil War in 1863. President Lincoln, one of the creators of the Republican Party, was dedicating the hallowed ground where so many had died in a bid to unify the nation. Trump’s original speech idea sounded good: “President Lincoln served in a time of division like we’ve never seen before. It is my hope that we can look at his example to heal the divisions we are living through right now. That is why I’ve chosen Gettysburg to unveil this contract.” His campaign called it a groundbreaking contract with the American voter. But instead of trying to unite the country, Trump said the system was rigged against him, the media was corrupt and, worst of all, attacked his female accusers: “Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.” Not very presidential.
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images of Donald Trump below)
Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to point out Trump’s mistake: “I saw where our opponent Donald Trump went to Gettysburg, one of the most extraordinary places in American history, and basically said if he’s president he’ll spend his time suing women who have made charges against him based on his behavior.” (The photo at the top of this post shows Hillary Clinton with her vice-presidential running mate Tim Kaine – left – on her campaign plane. Washington Post/Melina Mara) Trump’s Gettysburg speech became a satirical hashtag on Twitter, like this one from Eric Wolfson reminding voters about the Donald’s criticism of John McCain: “Lincoln wasn’t a war hero. He was a war hero because he was assassinated. I like people that weren’t assassinated.” #TrumpGettysburgAddress Abraham Lincoln, like Al Smith, would have been spinning in his grave. It was, after all, Lincoln who delivered his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858, arguing against slavery: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Republican Party must be thinking how close Donald Trump is to bringing the house down.
I’m not the only one who wishes this election was over: friends, family, pundits and politicians have expressed their disgust with the way the campaign has been conducted, on both sides really, although Trump takes the cake. Can he still win it? I think he has a very slim chance. Guy Rundle, writer-at-large for Crikey, former editor of Arena Magazine, a writer for the satirist Max Gillies, and author of numerous books, including Inland Empire: America at the end of the Obama Era, is one of my favourite commentators. He reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson, who puts the gonzo in my gonzomeetsthepress blog: brash, bold, outrageous, insightful and not afraid of calling a spade a spade or a Trump an asshole. (I’m sure he’s called him worse things, but asshole suits Donald Trump and Guy Rundle is a wordsmith.) This is what Rundle had to say in his Crikey column today about Trump’s chances:
“… Trump has not lost this yet. He may still be president. The tales that the Republicans tell themselves of skewed polls, etc, are largely bullshit. But they may be right, given three recent, Trump-favourable, polls — the IBD/TIPP. The LA Times tracker and the Rasmussen — may be more pertinent than others. These polls show Trump either leading by two points or at evens. If they’re picking anything up it’s this: that Trump has rearranged the map as he promised he would, bringing the rust belt and white-dominated northern states into play — Ohio, Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota — even as “new diversity” states — North Carolina, Arizona, and Florida — slip from their grasp. That would still be a difficult path to power for Trump, but not an impossible one. It would simply mean that polling, en masse, has been as unresponsive to the Trump revolution as has the rest of the body politic. Should that happen on election night, that’s how it will have happened.”
Are you scared yet? I am, and won’t be able to sleep well until he loses on Wednesday, November 9, Australian time. It would be nice if it were a landslide, but I’ll take an Electoral College vote of 270 electors. And then I hope Donald Trump’s face disappears from our tv screens, newspapers, and online publications, forever. Okay, that won’t happen, but that’s all I want for Christmas.
FOOTNOTE: The latest ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post polls show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 12 percentage points among likely voters, 50 to 38 percent, in the national survey, her highest support and his lowest to date in these polls. My Christmas wish is looking good.

An Award and Some Recognition — Tom Gannon Art

My cousin Tom Gannon has received a well-deserved award for his book of poetry, Food For a Journey, by a Canadian arts organisation. He has written a short blurb about the award and the recognition he has garnered from three alumni magazines on his website below ( I wrote a review last year and posted the above photo of Tom with an exhibition of his paintings. I described him as a renaissance man, and he certainly is. I highly recommend his book, and if you haven’t read the review, please do so now. You will understand why I was so excited about it, and why the Book Excellence Awards have given him this prize. Congrats, Tom.

vcm_s_kf_repr_161x241A Canadian arts organization, Book Excellence Awards, has informed me that Food for a Journey has been chosen as the winner of the organization’s 2016 Book Excellence Award for Poetry. A year ago, when the book first appeared, my publisher at Antrim House, Rennie McQuilkin, told me that he thought the book might win a […]

via An Award and Some Recognition — Tom Gannon Art

Hillary Clinton, watch your back: There’s a bully behind you

“Suppose they gave an election and nobody came.”
Okay, that was a paraphrase of a 1970s movie title, but it popped into my mind about halfway through the second agonising, awful debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
I was sitting next to my wife, who was groaning nearly every time Trump spoke, and I was taking a lot of notes. I was looking forward to the debate in St Louis, but it started badly. Before a boxing match, the referee tells the two combatants to shake hands and come out fighting. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton did not shake hands until the fight was over.
The result was ninety minutes of a prowler making faces and sniggering at nearly everything Hillary Clinton said. For the first time in 12 months of watching nearly every Republican debate and the party’s convention, I felt myself getting angry at Donald Trump. Why? Because he’s a bully. He looked like a prune with his sourpuss face, and Hillary responded with a steely gaze. She had to do something because he was trying to intimidate her by walking around and standing behind her as much as he could. (The AP Pool Photo below by Rick T. Wilking is an example.) It was as if he was trying to get her in his line of sight. Remember he’s a great supporter of the 2nd Amendment.
This was after he accused Bill Clinton of abusing women, and just before the debate Trump had an impromptu press conference with three women who claimed to be sexual assault victims of the former president and another who was raped at the age of 12. The man accused of the rape was represented by his lawyer, Hillary Clinton. One of the four, Juanita Broaddrick, said Bill Clinton had raped her and Hillary threatened her. During the debate, Trump mentioned that Juanita and three others, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Kathy Shelton, the woman raped at age 12, were in the audience. If you want more background on these women, you can find it on the Washington Post transcript of the debate, highlighted with annotations on various issues.
After the two candidates failed to shake hands, Trump was asked early in the debate if he understood the video released last Friday was describing sexual assault. The NBC 2005 video from Access Hollywood showed Trump bragging about how he could use his celebrity to do anything he wanted to women. His first response was bizarre to say the least: “I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker-room talk. It’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS.”
ISIS? Why the hell was Donald Trump talking about ISIS when the question was whether he had ever treated women as described in his “locker room banter” with then host Billy Bush (suspended from the Today Show yesterday by NBC for his lewd comments). The CNN moderator, Anderson Cooper, persistently asked Trump if he had ever done “those things,” before he finally answered: “No, I have not.” This after saying: “I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”
Hillary’s reply was perfect: “Donald Trump is different. I said starting back in June that he was not fit to be president and commander-in-chief. And many Republicans and independents have said the same thing. What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is.
“But I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is. Because we’ve seen this throughout the campaign. We have seen him insult women. We’ve seen him rate women on their appearance, ranking them from one to ten. We’ve seen him embarrass women on TV and on Twitter. We saw him after the first debate spend nearly a week denigrating a former Miss Universe in the harshest, most personal terms. So, yes, this is who Donald Trump is. “
She added the killer line: “But it’s not only women, and it’s not only this video that raises questions about his fitness to be our president, because he has also targeted immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, POWs, Muslims, and so many others.”
When one of the Town Hall audience, Gorbah Hamed, a Muslim, asked the candidates: “With Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people?” Trump didn’t answer the question, saying, “We have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on, when they see hatred going on.” Hillary Clinton did answer: “My vision is an America where everyone has a place if you are willing to work hard and do your part and you contribute to the community. That’s what America is. That’s what we want America for our children and grandchildren. It’s short-sighted and dangerous to be engaging in the kind of demagogic rhetoric that Donald has. We want Muslims to be on the side of our eyes and ears.”
Donald Trump could hardly wait for an opportunity to attack Hillary Clinton over her emails, saying she should be apologising for “the 33,000 e-mails that you deleted, and that you acid washed, and then the two boxes of e-mails and other things last week that were taken from an office and are now missing.” Secretary Clinton said it was all false, but not before Trump said he would “instruct his attorney-general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception.” President Obama’s former A-G, Eric Holder, said: “In the US we do not threaten to jail political opponents.”
Hillary Clinton tried to finish the discussion of the emails with this: “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.”
As Clinton walked back to her chair, Trump quickly added: “Because you’d be in jail.” His supporters laughed and cheered.
It was at this point I wanted to throw something at the television, and I was hoping Hillary would get stuck into Donald. But I think she was a bit rattled by the bully. After such a weekend and such a debate, it’s no wonder the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told his fellow party members yesterday that he wouldn’t campaign with — or defend — Donald Trump, and urged his members to “do what’s best for you” in the month left before Election Day. He told them protecting the Republicans’ House majority must be their priority. Trump’s poll numbers are plummeting.
As far as the debate was concerned, Hillary Clinton was good on policy, and Donald Trump was good on interjections, but it was not a quality encounter. I can understand why only 63 million people were watching on Sunday, compared to the 84 million who tuned into the first debate: NFL Sunday Night Football and the Major League Baseball playoff games were certainly more entertaining.
The legendary news presenter and journalist, Dan Rather, summed up the night eloquently on his Facebook page: “We have serious problems facing our nation, and our world. Our ship of state must be prepared to navigate the perilous shoals of our complicated world – and yet I feel tonight as if we have been hijacked into an alternate universe. This national nightmare will end one way or another and we will awaken to the same world from which we have been so disengaged. That is our challenge and it is a challenge from which none of us can opt out.”
Suppose they gave an election and nobody came. I’m still afraid if the campaign gets any dirtier, the voter turnout will reach a new low. And the national nightmare will be the election of Donald Trump … a nightmare which may haunt America and the world for years to come.
Footnote: I got an email from Hillary Clinton this morning, asking me to donate to the Democrats, which she does every day. But I can’t afford it since I’m not making any money. However, I have already voted for her by absentee ballot, and in this case, it was pure serendipity. It was as if she had read the post above and was replying to me. The subject line was: “I know how to take on a bully.” Here’s what she said (before she asked for a donation!):
“Tom, I can take whatever Donald Trump wants to throw at me — I know how to deal with a bully. But what I cannot and will not accept is the way this man goes after entire groups of Americans.
His comments about the way he feels entitled to grope women are deeply disturbing — but he says it’s just “locker room talk.” When pressed on Sunday, he doubled down on his excuses and refused to admit he’d done anything wrong.
When a Muslim woman at the town hall asked him how he’d address Islamophobia, he responded by blaming innocent Muslim Americans for some imagined failure to report terrorism.
And he once again questioned the intelligence of military leaders who employ tried and proven strategies to save civilian lives.
He’s shown us again and again how deeply unfit he is to be president. I’m absolutely unwilling to take even the smallest chance that he might win — are you?”

No, I’m not, Secretary Clinton. Thanks for your email. Keep fighting the good fight.

Memories of Edward Albee: A playwright who was not afraid of Virginia Woolf

(Photo above of Edward Albee in Sydney in 2009 by Renee Nowytarger, The Australian)
This blog post is a bit unusual as it’s been handed over to an old friend of mine, Dr Michael Nardacci. We first met fifty years ago as graduate students at New York University. Mike went on to get his doctorate in American Literature at NYU, I settled for a Master’s degree, teaching in Harlem and Sydney, and a long career in journalism in Australia. But this post is not about me, it’s about Mike and his lifelong interest in Edward Albee, the most influential American playwright of his generation. Mike interviewed Albee at his home in New York City in 1965 when he was a senior at Siena College near Albany, and the interview was published in the school’s literary magazine. Albee described it as “the best interview I have given,” and on his recommendation, it was published in The Playwrights Speak, a book by Walter Wager. Mike Nardacci (pictured below on the top of Sandia Peak, New Mexico) is also an accomplished caver, a veteran teacher of high school and college courses in English and Geology, and his column, Back Roads Geology, appears in the Altamont, New York newspaper, Enterprise. He is the author of a brilliant long poem about the celebrated cave explorer, Ghosts of Floyd Collins*, and an acclaimed play about the legendary Akhnaton, Fragments of the Pharaoh.
Here are Michael Nardacci’s poignant memories of Edward Albee:

I interviewed Edward Albee with a colleague from Siena College, Walter Chura, in 1965 shortly after his play Tiny Alice had a successful run on Broadway, confusing and fascinating audiences as it continues to do today. Albee had become internationally known on the basis of his early one-act play The Zoo Story and the great success of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Albee received us in his elegant town house on West Tenth Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. He spoke of his plays, dismissed much of the commercial Broadway theatre, and held surprisingly conservative views of the political scene and the then-raging Vietnam War.
He then escorted us to his garage in which was parked a Lamborghini he had purchased on a trip to Europe, along with the miniature castle from Tiny Alice — a beautifully-crafted, intricate piece of work. I wonder what became of it.
He often sounded like one of his more complex characters: well-spoken, thoughtful, with broad cultural knowledge. I told him that I aspired to be a writer and that I expected to attend NYU, expressing hope we might meet again if my plans came to pass.
They did. In the fall of 1966 I moved to New York and as a grad student at NYU I was put up in the venerable One Fifth Avenue Hotel on the corner of 8th Street near Washington Square; the One Fifth was owned by NYU and had two suites on each floor reserved for students. As I had no morning classes, often at around 11 at night I would take a short walk around the area close to the hotel, and on several occasions I encountered Albee who was out walking his dog “Pucci” at an hour when he was unlikely to be recognised. But I did — and to my pleasure — he recognised me. We would chat about the obvious things: the theatre scene and his own work. (His play A Delicate Balance had recently opened to good reviews and was enjoying a healthy run with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn in starring roles.) Once or twice I offered to buy him a drink but as he had his dog with him, that never happened.
After that first year in New York, I lived for a year on Carmine Street and then in the legendary Judson residence on Washington Square South and did not encounter Albee but followed his career as he completed such odd experimental works such as Box and Quotations from Chairman Mao-Tse-Tung. The summer of 1968 my historical drama Akhnaton (since re-thought as Fragments of the Pharaoh) was performed by a local theatre company in Albany. I sent Albee an invitation to the premiere, and though he did not attend, on opening night he sent me a congratulatory telegram wishing me luck in this new phase of my life. Rest assured it was displayed and read to the cast and crew of my play!
Soon, however, Albee entered a dark period in his life. The characters in plays such as Virginia Woolf and Delicate Balance had serious problems with alcohol — and their creator followed a similar path. Until then, his only real Broadway failures had been the inexplicably awful book for David Merrick’s musical adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s — which closed in previews — and a stage version of James Purdy’s twee novel Malcolm. Now he had a series of failures, culminating in the vituperative Man With Three Arms — roundly denounced by the critics as “a temper tantrum in three acts” — and the impenetrable, unpleasant Lady From Dubuque filled with what might be the foulest language from a major playwright ever heard on Broadway.
But following a number of extremely nasty incidents in which his drinking caused major problems with friends and colleagues — which are numbingly detailed in Mel Gussow’s biography Edward Albee: A Singular Journey — he began a recovery which revived both his talent and his persona. There may have been a number of factors that led to the turnaround. He was hit by a car in California, an accident which nearly cost him an eye. His increasing debt might finally have awakened him to his self-inflicted precarious situation. But it was also in this time that he took up with a young Canadian artist, Jonathan Thomas, with whom he began a decades-long relationship, which ended with Thomas’s death in 2005. Albee himself attributed his recovery to Thomas’s influence. Albee’s homosexuality had long been an open secret, and caused some critics — William Goldman and Robert Brustein among them — to read all kinds of double meanings into the relationships between the heterosexual couples in his plays.
Albee deeply resented these inferences. He remarked acidly, “I know the difference between men and women,” and used legal manoeuvres to shut down productions of his plays — particularly Virginia Woolf — in which the parts were played by all-male casts. He was criticised by a number of gay and lesbian writers for not writing plays with gay themes. But his politically incorrect response was: “I am a playwright who happens to be gay; I am not a gay playwright.”
Following his rehabilitation and vowing to abstain from alcohol, Albee’s career began to bounce back. His powerful drama Three Tall Women — written following the death of his adoptive mother, with whom he had had a difficult relationship — exploded on to the New York theatre stage and let the theatre world know that the much-admired playwright was back and in control of his medium. The play has since been performed in many countries and won him his third Pulitzer Prize. He followed this with three plays which were also critical and financial successes: the mysterious Play About the Baby, which ranks in its confusing storyline with Tiny Alice, and a comedy/drama The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?. After a long delay, his play Occupant about Sculptor Louise Nevelson was produced off-Broadway and provided still another powerful part for an actress.
It was around the time I went to see Occupant that I wrote Albee a letter. I re-introduced myself to him as the college-boy interviewer and expressed admiration for Occupant. I also told him that I would be honoured to take him to lunch some time when I was visiting New York City. To my surprise he wrote back, told me that he remembered me, and accepted my invitation, saying that spring was his least busy time (this was in the fall and he travelled a good deal lecturing.) I responded with a letter to which I attached a poem I had written about rafting through the Grand Canyon. He congratulated me on having written a “nice old-fashioned poem” — still not sure if that was praise or put-down! — and recommended a couple of changes in the wording which I gladly made.
But aside from a couple of Christmas cards which we exchanged, I never heard from him again. I wrote him a couple of lengthy letters, one after I had just seen a production of his The American Dream and The Sandbox at the Cherry Lane Theatre which Albee directed. I praised the production and inquired about new work he might be engaged in. I also sent him a copy of my play Fragments of the Pharaoh.
Some time after that I read about a New Jersey production of a new Albee play titled Me, Myself, and I which was allegedly headed for Broadway. But the production never happened, and for the last three or four years there has been little news about Albee or any new work.
And then he died on September 16 at his summer home in Montauk on Long Island following a brief illness. Broadway theatre lights were dimmed a couple of nights later in his honour and no doubt there will at some point be a star-studded tribute to the playwright featuring readings from his works.
While a number of his works including some clearly experimental ones will probably not pass time’s test, there is little doubt that plays such as The American Dream, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance, Three Tall Women, and that tiny gem, The Sandbox, will be staples of the American theatre scene for many years to come. All of them contain sometimes extraordinary acting parts even though critics have quibbled over the internal logic of all of them. His more curious efforts, Ballad of the Sad Café, Tiny Alice, and Seascape among them, probably will be revived from time to time as works containing bits of overlooked brilliance. His more feeble efforts, The Lady from Dubuque, The Man With Three Arms, and his attempted stage dramatisation of Nabokov’s Lolita are perhaps best forgotten, being false starts in an otherwise highly interesting career.
But I will always regret that my invitation to take him to lunch, though accepted, never came to pass. The two hours I spent with him as an undergraduate and our brief conversations on Eighth Street in the late night were captivating. You knew you were in the presence of an intelligent, fiercely talented man whose long career –whatever its misfires such as the book for Breakfast at Tiffany’s — contained the work of a creative talent who was never afraid to try something new, never hesitant about exploring unknown territory, always willing to invest his work with his own singular sensibility. His passing leaves a sizeable gap in the American literary scene. But I will always be proud of the fact that Albee knew me by name, sometimes shared his thoughts and observations with me, and once critiqued one of my works. How many other aspiring writers can make that claim?
*I wrote a blog post about the Ghosts of Floyd Collins five years ago, complaining to the New Yorker and its then managing editor, Amelia Lester (now the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Good Weekend magazine), that they had never acknowledged receipt of the poem. It was their loss — Tom Krause.

I dream of Donald dropping bombs and building walls

I breathed a sigh of relief after watching the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton this week. The world is a safer place. There is a chance Hillary can still win the election.
The braggadocious (a word he used to say he wasn’t bragging) billionaire didn’t win the debate, but he didn’t lose it either. Although most of the post-mortem polls had Secretary Clinton on top of the most watched presidential debate in US history, Donald Trump didn’t cause any reduction in his support base. The would-be president attacked his rival from the start, playing the employment card: “Our jobs are fleeing the country.” He also won the trade battle criticising the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as one of the worst deals since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. He also made the point Hillary Clinton originally backed the TPP until she realised it wasn’t a vote winner.
So Donald trumped Hillary until she brought up his tax returns or lack thereof: “I have no reason to believe that he’s ever going to release his tax returns, because there’s something he’s hiding.” Trump had a good reply: “I will release my tax returns against my lawyer’s wishes when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted.” Clinton apologised: “I’m not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake and I take responsibility for that.” Trump responded: “That was done purposely. That was not a mistake.” But he failed to follow up, and went off on a tangent about his own taxes.
I was watching all this at the US Consulate General in Sydney with an audience of about 100 political junkies, including Bruce Hawker, political strategist and former adviser to Kevin Rudd; Jenny Brockie, presenter of SBS’s respected Insight program; Elaine Thompson, political scientist and former associate professor at the University of New South Wales; and Greg Holland, Labor candidate for the seat of Miranda in 2015, and his wife Ann, to name a few. The host of the program was the US Consulate’s new public affairs officer, Selim Ariturk, in his second day in Sydney with the post-mortem led by Dan Twining, senior fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund, a Washington think tank, and a former adviser to Senator John McCain.
The audience at Hofstra University in Long Island where the debate was held was asked by the moderator, Lester Holt, of NBC Nightly News, to keep quiet, which is hard to do at any function featuring Donald Trump but they were for the most part. In Sydney, there were some audible gasps and laughter, particularly after Donald Trump criticised her trade deals and then turned to his rival to say: “Yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.”
In another funny but fiery moment, following more attacks on her by Trump, Hillary Clinton sighed: “I have a feeling by the end of this evening I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened.” Trump quickly replied: “Why not?” Clinton smiled and said: “Why not? Yeah. Why not? Just join the debate by saying more crazy things. Now, let me say this . . .“ The Consulate audience laughed, but before she could finish, Trump made one of his many interjections: “There’s nothing crazy about not letting our companies bring their money back into the country.” The man who defeated all 16 Republican candidates with quips and interjections was getting angry. It was to be his downfall.
“We need law and order,” Trump bellowed. “We have to stop the violence.” How would Donald Trump do that? “We have to stop and frisk,” he told his supporters. “Stop and frisk had a tremendous impact on the safety of New York City. Tremendous beyond belief. So when you say it has no impact, it really did, it had a very, very big impact.” It’s not a policy popular with African Americans or Hillary Clinton, who said “stop and frisk is unconstitutional.” When Lester Holt also claimed the policy was unconstitutional, Trump went ballistic: “It went before a judge who was a very against-police judge … [New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio] refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal.”
This led Donald Trump to claim he knew more about the inner cities than Hillary Clinton and how the African American communities had been badly treated by politicians: “I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home and that’s OK.” The audience groaned at that one, with Trump suggesting Hillary wasn’t campaigning, just preparing. “I think Donald just criticised me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said. “And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.” By this time, Hillary was looking happy on the split screen while Donald was definitely looking glum. (Photo below by Melina Mara, The Washington Post)
She won on the birther controversy, after Trump continued to blame Clinton for starting it, and taking credit for finishing it, although he was the only one bringing it up year after year until he admitted two weeks ago Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. His logic was laughable: “I figured you’d ask the question tonight, of course. But nobody was caring much about it. But I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate, and I think I did a good job.”
By the end of the debate, Trump was floundering, reiterating doubts about Hillary Clinton’s health and stamina (four times in four sentences): “She doesn’t have the look, she doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.” Secretary Clinton was ready for that one: “Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities and nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Trump gave Clinton an opportunity to talk about his temperament, which was fraying at that stage of the debate: “I have much better judgment than she does. I also have a much better temperament than she does … My strongest asset maybe by far is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win.” Hillary’s response said it all: “Whew. Okay.”
It was not okay for Donald Trump as Hillary Clinton criticised the way he treated women, in particular a former Miss Universe, Venezuela-born Alicia Machado. Clinton said: “He called this woman ‘Miss Piggy,’ and then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she is Latina.” Trump was upset and said: “Where did you find this?” After the debate he said he was proud of himself for not mentioning Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions which he had planned to do. Amazingly, Donald Trump was praised for holding back. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Bloomberg’s Master in Politics podcast, Trump “restrained himself from saying, and I know he would like to say, except the fact that Chelsea Clinton was in the audience, and that is, that she enabled and supported a president who was a disgrace to the White House.”
In the post-mortem with Dan Twining, most of the audience thought Hillary Clinton won the debate: Trump got angrier and angrier, interrupted too much, drank six glasses of water and sniffed a lot. The latter complaint was minor, but noticeable. I just thought it was a glitch in the broadcast. I tended to agree with a participant who said Donald Trump pushed the right buttons, as the anti-politician protesters did in Britain with Brexit. I suggested to Twining that Trump hadn’t lost any supporters from his base while Clinton hadn’t gained many. He disagreed, saying that he felt Hillary would have picked up a few and maintained a 40 per cent base, enough to win the election.
But there are 40 days to go until election day with two more debates and a possible October surprise. It really is too close to call.
There you go, as Ronald Reagan used to say. Now it’s going to be another sleepless night while I dream of Donald Trump bombing North Korea, declaring war on China and building a barrier on the border with Mexico, stationed by heavily armed guards, reminding us all of the Berlin Wall.
I can imagine it now: a future Mexican president giving a speech in Mexico City, uttering those immortal words: “Mr Trump, tear down that wall.”

Hillary’s health scare has Trump on the rise

It hasn’t been a good week for Hillary Clinton. It started with her describing half of Donald Trump’s supporters as belonging in a “basket of deplorables … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it,” and ended with her having to spend three days recovering from a mild bout of pneumonia.
What made matters worse was the amateur video showing her wobbling as she got into her car after leaving a Ground Zero 9/11 memorial service, and having her doctor reveal that she had diagnosed Mrs Clinton with pneumonia two days before the incident.
The illness and its aftermath, which had Donald Trump wishing her well and looking forward to seeing her at the first debate, were a godsend for the Republican candidate, with the latest national polls showing Trump on 46 per cent to 44 for Clinton. An earlier poll had Trump 5 points ahead in Ohio, a state that in recent presidential elections has always picked the winner.
In a country that spends a lot of time worried about health (just watch the medication ads on American television), and its many citizens who suffer from all kinds of illnesses, as well as hypochondria, the health of its president is paramount. Hillary Clinton was first to produce a clean bill, even while she was on her sick bed, with her doctor, Lisa Bardack, saying she “has not developed new medical conditions this year other than a sinus and ear infection and her recently diagnosed pneumonia. She is recovering well with antibiotics and rest. She continues to remain healthy and fit to serve as President of the United States.” Whew, breathed the Democratic National Committee, who would have had to choose another candidate if Secretary Clinton had to withdraw from the race.
Donald Trump, of course, is fit as a bull (and full of the bull as well), or so he has declared many times during the campaign while suggesting that Hillary Clinton might not have the stamina to be president of the United States. He took the opportunity to appear on a TV medical show (there are quite a few of them as you can imagine) with Dr Mehmet Oz, and just so happened to have a copy of his own records in his suitcoat pocket, tests taken last week by his GP, Dr Bornstein. He handed the letter to Dr Oz, who read some of the details to the audience, and said the results were good. Donald Trump later released the letter which summarised the tests, saying he takes a cholesterol-lowering drug and is overweight but overall is in “excellent physical health.”
Game tied, with Trump admitting he should lose weight, and Hillary Clinton back on the campaign trail, telling supporters in North Carolina: “I recently had a cold that turned out to be pneumonia. I tried to power through it, but even I had to admit that maybe a few days’ rest would be good. I’m not great at taking it easy even under normal circumstances, but with just two months to go until Election Day, sitting at home was just the last place I wanted to be.” You can see from the photo above by the Washington Post’s Melina Mara, Secretary Clinton looks well.
Trump couldn’t resist having a go at Clinton at a rally on the day after his doctor’s appointment. He wondered aloud to the audience if she “would be able to stand up here for an hour and do this.” Washington Post reporter Robert Costa fills in the rest of the story:
“I don’t think so,” Trump told the cheering crowd. “I asked a question,” Trump said in the interview soon after. “Everyone screamed ‘No!’ I want to be respectful. I’m a respectful person. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stay there. But right now, she’s in bed recuperating and I want to be respectful.” Trump also said that he resisted weighing in on Clinton’s illness on Twitter because “I thought it would be inappropriate to tweet when I saw her in serious danger.” But was he tempted? “No,” Trump said quickly. “No. I was not tempted. Not even a little bit.”
The health issue is not going to disappear before election day on November 8. Hillary Clinton will be scrutinised every time she goes to a rally or gives a speech, especially at the three presidential debates. And health problems can lead to the withdrawal of a candidate. One of the most famous withdrawals occurred in 1972 when the Democratic Senator from Missouri, Thomas Eagleton, was forced to resign as George McGovern’s running mate in 1972 after he revealed he had been treated three times for mental illness, including electroshock therapy in hospital.
Eagleton was a late entry as the vice-presidential candidate at the Democratic Convention, and Senator McGovern wasn’t aware of his mental problems until the Monday after he was chosen. McGovern was hoping he could stand by his man, and his campaign staff put out a statement declaring he was “one thousand percent for Tom Eagleton.” But he finally had to cut Eagleton loose when Democrats stopped donating to his campaign against the incumbent president Richard Nixon. When he sacked Eagleton, McGovern tainted his image as an honest politician. As Rick Perlstein put it in his biography of Nixon, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, “The saintly don’t survive in politics.” He quotes James Naughton of the New York Times: “In the Democratic primaries, Senator McGovern managed to convey the impression that he was somehow not a politician in the customary sense. His reaction to Mr Eagleton’s disclosure may have seriously impaired that image.”
As regular readers of will know, I have often mentioned the parallels between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, and one of my journalistic heroes, Hunter S. Thompson, wrote a wonderful, gonzo book about the 1972 election, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. If you substitute Donald Trump for Richard Nixon in this paragraph by Thompson on page 414, you will see what I mean: “The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about ‘new politics’ and ‘honesty in government,’ is one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, is we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.”
A vote for Hillary Clinton will ensure that the best instincts of the United States will be kept out of the hands of hustlers like Donald Trump. I’m also hoping that the Democratic candidate will know when it’s time to take a short break – a night with husband Bill perhaps — from the madness of a presidential campaign in the next 51 days to recharge the batteries.
Undoubtedly, Donald Trump’s campaign team will say something like the statement they released this week: “We are pleased to disclose all of the test results which show that Mr Trump is in excellent health, and has the stamina to endure – uninterrupted – the rigors of a punishing and unprecedented presidential campaign …”
I’d rather have a rested Hillary Clinton than a hyped-up show pony any day.
Footnote: If you ever needed evidence of Donald Trump’s line of bull you need go no further than the news overnight that he has finally admitted Barack Obama was born in the United States. But after five years of leading the birther controversy, Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton started the rumours in 2008. How low can you go? It’s not the first time he’s accused Secretary Clinton of creating the controversy, but fact-checkers in the US have repeatedly disproved his assertions.

A Banner Day at the SCG: Memories of a Swan Lake

If you told me 34 years ago that I would be a member of the Guard of Honour of the Sydney Swans footy club at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), I would have said you’re crazy.
Guard, Me? Honour, Me? Well, I am an honourable man, or at least try to be, but lining up with other guards to high-five the players as they run through the team’s banner on match day is an honour I will always cherish.
I joined the Swans in 1982 after they moved from Melbourne where they had a long and distinguished history as the South Melbourne Football Club, mainly to promote Australian Rules in New South Wales (Disclosure: I was a Carlton supporter in those days). Gradually as the Swans gained exposure and members, the club flourished under a management and culture that encouraged the code and embraced its supporters, including those who barracked for South Melbourne aka The Bloods, and I fell in love with the Swannies.
I knew I was hooked in 1993, when the Swans were at their worst, having lost 26 games in a row, and played Melbourne at the SCG on June 27. They defeated the favourites that day and when they came off the ground, I had tears in my eyes. It felt like a Grand Final. Three years later the Swans were in a Grand Final against North Melbourne. It was a side featuring Tony Lockett and Paul Kelly but they lost by 25 points. I was there, producing a story for the Channel Nine Sunday Program about how the Swans would win the Grand Final. I had to change the beginning and the end (a montage with highlights of North Melbourne’s victory). The Swans did win the Australian Football League (AFL) premiership in 2005 – their first since 1923 as South Melbourne in the Victorian Football League (VFL). I was also there for that Grand Final, which I will never forget. The Swans beat the heavily favoured West Coast Eagles by 4 points when Leo Barry took a magnificent mark with seconds to go in the game. The next morning my wife and I travelled to the Lake Oval in South Melbourne where long-time Bloods fans brought their memorabilia and photos from 1923 as the victorious and hung-over Swans arrived by bus. When Club Champion Brett Kirk shouted “Bloods” as he got on the podium, there was hardly a dry eye on the ground. In that moment, the Sydney Swans and South Melbourne had merged into one happy family. I felt privileged to be there to see it.
You can tell from the above I’ve become a Swans fanatic, and through both the lean and glory years, have screamed “Victorian Cheats” at bad umpiring decisions and “Percentage” when the team gets ahead, even by one point at the beginning of a game. Some of my screams from earlier days are not suitable for a family post. Now, I save them for outside when we lose, so that I don’t frighten the children inside the stadium.
Ten years ago or so, I had my first invitation to a guard of honour ceremony at the SCG to celebrate the great players on the Swans’ Honour Roll, including Barry Round, Tony Lockett, Paul Kelly, to name just a few, as they were driven around the ground and we were placed every few metres to stand by our heroes. In my case, it was Barry Round, the first captain of the Swans, a great full forward whose kicking sometimes left a bit to be desired. In fact, he often used to hit the post, converting a goal into a behind. Naturally, every time any player hit the post, we would yell “Barry Round.” When I told him this as he stood in the back of the convertible on the night, he didn’t seem to appreciate my humorous gesture, though I did detect a slight smile as he turned away.
I swapped these stories and more about Lockett and Round and Nick Davis who kicked us into the 1996 Grand Final with another Swans fan, Allan Cameron, whom I met on Saturday at celebrations for the Members Recognition Round. The function was held in the Indoor Cricket Centre next to the SCG where several hundred Swans supporters who’ve been members for at least 14 years gathered to hear special guests, former players Lewis Roberts-Thompson and Jared Crouch, present but injured forward Sam Reid and Josh Francou, the team’s stoppages coach.
Hosting the event were two journalists, Ellie Laing, a friend and former Ten and SBS reporter now on maternity leave from her teaching job at MacLeay College, and Amber Greasley, a graduate of MacLeay now working at Seven Digital. Amber is also the girlfriend of Swans’ defensive ace, Jeremy Laidler.
Jared Crouch talked about how the culture is different in Sydney, a city of a multitude of sports, to Melbourne where the game is a religion. He remembers the days of playing in the backyard in Melbourne with four young brothers. But he also mentioned the growth of Australian Rules in New South Wales. There were only half a dozen Aussie Rules junior clubs in 1978. Now the sport is played in schools throughout the state. Lewis Roberts-Thompson, humble as always, talked about other Swans, the imminent return of the injured Kurt Tippett and how much the club will miss Ted Richards who’s retiring at the end of the season.
As soon as I mentioned Roberts-Thompson’s name, Alan Cameron said: “He should have won the Norm Smith Medal in the 2005 Grand Final.” Hard to disagree with that. Roberts-Thompson, aka LRT or The Hyphen, was one of the Swans’ key defenders from 2003 to 2014. He still looks like he could stop a forward in his tracks.
Speaking of stoppages, that’s what Josh Francou works on. Stoppages are a Swans success story, led by players like Josh Kennedy, one of the best defensive midfielders in the AFL and a Brownlow Medal favourite this year, and the many debutants in the 2016 side. He admitted he doesn’t get as much time as he’d like to train the players because there’s so much to focus on during the week. Listening to Josh, you realise what a professional outfit the Swans are.
Sam Reid didn’t want to talk about his injury, but he’s hoping he and forward Kurt Tippett will be out on the hallowed ground soon. We hope so, too. The Piano Man, as he is known, sang “New York New York” to get us in the mood for our walk out to the ground. It turned out to be pouring rain for old-timers as the guards of honour were led to the members stand by one of the Swans membership staff. (I took a photo of my guard of honour wristband before putting it on the notice board. See above.)
As one of those old-timers – Allan reckons there was nobody under 40 at the function – I had trouble taking photos with my mobile as we gathered around the banner. The battery was running low, and it was hard to see what was on the phone. I got a couple of shots, but my son-in-law took a great photo from our seats in the Brewongle stand (picture at the top of this post). I am on the right side of the photo – hard to see but I’m only one guard of honour away from the banner – where I got high-fives from four of my favourite Swans: Dan Hannebery, Isaac Heeney, Gary Rohan and Aliir Aliir.
Last year I high-fived Kurt Tippett as he ran toward the banner and he kicked four goals. This year all four of my Hands-on-Swans performed well on the ground. My son-in-law called it “The Hand of Krause” effect. Perhaps that will get me a ticket to the Grand Final, which I’m hoping will be between the Sydney Swans and the GWS Giants, primarily to upset Eddie McGuire. (For overseas readers of this blog, Eddie McGuire is the president of the Collingwood Football Club, a commentator for Foxtel and the host of a TV quiz show. He also dislikes the Sydney Swans.)
FOOTNOTE: And lest I forget, I’d like to thank the membership staff of the Swans — Fern, Kathy, Amy, Melissa, Jamison, Chris, Nic and Anna – as always, the friendliest and most helpful I’ve come across in my decades as an Aussie Rules supporter.

A Villanova Reunion: Home is where the heart is, despite Donald Trump

You can go home again. Despite the American writer Thomas Wolfe’s advice to the contrary in his novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, I went back to the US for the first time in a decade this month.
The occasion was Villanova University’s Reunion Weekend where I attended the 50th reunion of the Class of 1966 on the affluent Main Line 20 kilometres from centre-city Philadelphia. There were more than a hundred alumni from our class – mostly healthy septuagenarians – and hundreds more in class parties ending in the years 1 and 6, from 1956 to 2011, celebrating the good old days at Villanova and the national basketball championship won by the Wildcats in March.
It was quite a trip from Sydney to my hometown of Philly. After years of travelling on an Australian passport, I arrived in Los Angeles on the first leg of the journey to go through customs on my US passport. The Homeland Security agent looked at my photo, then me – a slimmer version than the picture — and said: “Welcome back home.” It was a far cry from the days when customs officials looked askance at my Aussie passport. It gave me a warm feeling to be welcomed home again.
I had decided to ask everyone I met on the trip what they thought about Donald Trump. Staying with friends in northeast Pennsylvania, I noticed a few Trump yard signs on neighbouring lawns, and a particularly nasty one: “Hillary for Prison 2016.” I felt better when all nine people at dinner party two nights later said they’d never vote for Trump. Hallelujah!
Then came the first night for the Class of 66 festivities: A welcome back reception at Picotte Hall at Dundale, a former private mansion now a venue for alumni and generous donors. It makes a McMansion look like a shack. The food and grog were plentiful, making it easy to steer the conversation toward politics. My first interviews were with three African-American bartenders; all of whom were definitely not fans of Donald Trump: “He may kill us all in a war. He’s no president. He’s dangerous,” said one. The suggestion was echoed by all three – none had a good word for the Donald, who once described a black man at a California rally as “my African-American.” He couldn’t understand why people thought he was racist. There are also fears that the British vote to leave the European Union because of feelings of disillusionment with governments will spread to the US given Donald Trump’s attacks on politicians and globalisation. In small-town America, where manufacturing jobs are disappearing, Trump is a hero. A manufacturing worker in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, about 60 kilometres from Philadelphia, John Keyser, who usually votes for the Democrats, told the New York Times this month: “I like him because he is to the point, and it’s time for a change. I think he’s got the oomph to rattle some cages.”
Later that evening, I asked an old friend, Steve Freind, the president of the student body for part of the year in 1966 (more on that later), and a former Republican representative for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, if he would vote for Trump. “Yes,” was his quick reply. “Why?” I asked. “I’m not going to vote for that (a rude word referring to Hillary. Steve doesn’t like her!).” Steve told me at the 40th reunion he didn’t like George W. Bush because he refused to demand that the United Arab Emirates should stop looking after the security of American ports and “his handling of Hurricane Katrina was atrocious.” He was just one of many alumni I talked to then who were against Bush; most because of Dubya’s involvement in the war against Iraq. In a piece in The Bulletin magazine in December 2006, I wrote: “I was proud of my fellow alumni. Despite their obviously comfortable lives, they were willing to sound an echo against George W. Bush and his war in Iraq.”
Ten years later the echo ringing around the halls of Villanova was against Hillary Clinton. A Villanova nursing graduate (they are the best), Lorraine (Farino) Brewer, told me at the reunion picnic: “Anybody but Hillary.” There was a fair bit of that going around. When I asked the Chair of the Class Committee, S. Curtis Seifert, if he was going to vote for Trump, he said “Yes” immediately. “I don’t like politicians and Donald Trump is not a politician.” Rich Galli, who’s an attorney in suburban Philadelphia, said: “I have to vote for Donald Trump. He’ll scare the foreign leaders and he’s not afraid to say what he thinks.” Joe McCauley, a retired bank vice-president, was standing next to his wife when I asked if he would vote for Trump: “My wife would kill me. I’m not going to vote, I think. I don’t think I’ll want to vote for Trump and I can’t vote for Hillary.”
Another old friend, Tom Sproul, who was one of my flatmates in the New Jersey beach resort of Wildwood in the mid-sixties, surprised me with his reply: “Who else am I going to vote for? I’m not going to vote for Hillary. She’s terrible on foreign policy.” An alumnus standing nearby chimed in: “I can’t stand listening to her.”
(Twitter Photo above of Wildcats at Reunion Picnic from Left: Eric Paschall, Nasir Reynolds and Kris Jenkins)
Some of the most interesting comments about Trump came from the Banmiller twins. Brian was a student government vice-president and Dave was also involved in student government and a member of Gamma Phi, the business honour fraternity. Dave now lives in Kingston, and is a former CEO of Jamaica Airlines. Dave said he met Trump at his house for lunch. Was he a good host? “Not really, he was arrogant and not very friendly. And I was CEO of Pan Am at the time.” I pressed him about whether he’d vote for Trump: “Well, I wanted to get Mitt Romney elected.” He thought Romney was a much better businessman than Trump – an opinion backed up in an article in a recent New York Times magazine by Adam Davidson: “Romney was an undeniable superstar in the field of private equity, and former business associates praised him as someone who could see a business problem more clearly than others and create powerful, profitable solutions. The professional biography of Trump, by contrast – though the man is clearly exceptional at something – hardly inspired such confidence.” I asked Dave again if he’d vote for Trump and he repeated he wished Romney would have run for president. He wouldn’t say for certain if he’d vote for him, but it seems likely: “I just wish Donald would tone it down a bit.”
Brother Brian had a similar response: “I don’t know who I’m going to vote for. He (Trump) should just shut up.” Brian is a long-time broadcaster and is now working for CBS. As a former business reporter at Fox News, he was surprised by the animosity towards Fox at CBS. He admitted Fox News was biased. I could have told him that. On a more serious note, I had written ten years ago about the battle between the well-to-do Tweeds, led by the Banmillers, and the down-to-earth Dirtballs, guided by Steve Freind et al (including me), during our senior year. It was a college brouhaha which saw Frank Eck elected student body president for half a year and Freind for the other half. A successful lawyer in Richmond Virginia, Frank died of motor neurone disease (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease in the US) in 2011. Brian and Dave took Frank for a cruise on the Queen Mary 2, including 24 members of both families in July. Brian wrote at the time: “He had a great time … then I visited Frank at his farm in early August. He died two weeks later. It was a blessing. He had lost total control of everything except his mind. Very sad.” Brian said later that Frank told him after a Mass on board the Queen Mary that he felt like the “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” quoting Lou Gehrig at his emotional farewell at Yankee Stadium. I told Brian and Dave at the reunion the Tweed-Dirtball feud was officially over: “The way you looked after Frank … it was just the best thing …”
I guess you can say that’s what friends are for. Later during the trip, I was thinking more about mates than I was thinking about Donald Trump. The gala dinner was a night to remember friends, with silver balloons made up with the class year on them, a clip of the Kris Jenkins basket that won a championship, a great band, Soul Patch Philly, and the university president, the Rev Peter Donohue, OSA, singing “New York New York.” (The photo at the top shows from left: Bill McCloskey, Bill Dolon, Tom Krause, Betty Keech & Jim Morgan. The photo below shows me hanging on to the ’66 balloon at the Keech house.)
IMG_1038 (2)
Fifty years on, my fellow alumni and their partners are still my friends: Jim and Roz Morgan, Tom and Betty Keech, Bill and Nancy McCloskey, Bill Dolon and Larrie Majors and Ron and Eileen Javers (Ron and Eileen weren’t at the reunion. I stayed with them the following week; their hospitality like my other friends was huge) and my best mate from my days in New York, James McCausland, fellow journalist and co-screenwriter of the first Mad Max film, who took me to Sydney as his photographer on an Israeli company freighter 45 years ago. He’s beaten cancer, but has severe back pain and I only wish I could wave a magic wand and make it disappear. He has a saint for a wife, Maureen, a former nurse and now lawyer, who loves him and cares for him. He came to northeast Pennsylvania from Staten Island to stay with the Morgans for a few days, and it was great to see him. I just hope he can make it to his daughter’s wedding later this year. I would wave the wand again to send him and Maureen to Melbourne first class on Qantas. I wish I could bring back my good friend Carol (Egan) McKeon, who died a few years ago. She and Dr Betty Keech were very close, having graduated with nursing degrees in 1966. Carol was wonderfully brilliant, so too was the president of our class, Jimmy Griffin, who died of cancer only a year after he graduated from Villanova. He could easily have become president of the United States, and I really believe that. His wife Ann Meyers has just established a Villanova scholarship in his name so that he won’t be forgotten. As long as someone from the Class of 1966 is still alive he won’t be forgotten. I wish we could bring him back, too. I believe in miracles, but this is a bridge too far.
Speaking of miracles, I hope Hillary Clinton gets the nomination; the FBI gets off its bum and admits it doesn’t have enough to indict her over email server allegations; she beats Donald Trump soundly in the presidential election, and Villanova repeats as NCAA basketball champions in 2017. Before I end this long-form post, I should put in a plug for my alma mater. Villanova is known for its sporting prowess: basketball and track and field come to mind immediately, but it also has excellent academic credentials. As Father Donohue mentioned in his address to the Class Dinner, Villanova is now a doctoral university and gone from a regional to a national status, with 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in its six colleges. Bloomberg Businessweek has designated Villanova as the number one business undergraduate university in the US, and the US News and World Report has consistently ranked Villanova among the top ten undergraduate engineering schools in the country.
There were two moments during the dinner when I choked up a bit: the singing of God Bless America and the school anthem at the end. God Bless America because everybody sang it loudly and passionately, and the school song because it brought back many memories:
Loyal heirs of Villanova
Sing a hymn of praise
To our dear old ALMA MATER
And our College days.
Donald Trump talks about making America great again. Well, Donald, if you were at the Villanova Room at the Connelly Centre on the night of June 10, you would have realised that America is still great and you’d need to find a new slogan for your hat. But one thing I’ve learned is that you can go home again. As the 20th Century US clergyman and author, Gerald Stanley Lee, once said: “America is a tune. It must be sung together.”
That’s a tune you should learn, Mr Trump.

Muhammad Ali: “Who’s he?” asked the Harlem schoolkids

(AP photo above of Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston)
Muhammad Ali was a hero of mine, even though I grew up in a white Philadelphia neighbourhood bordering on a black one where you were called a “n….er lover,” if you sympathised with African Americans. Racism was rife in Philly.
My crime was teaching in Harlem, the famous black community in New York City. I taught there because it was a way of avoiding the draft in the late 1960s, by teaching in a disadvantaged area. I decided I’d much rather teach black kids in Harlem, than kill Vietnamese kids in Vietnam. During my time there, a friend, a Vietnam veteran, came to watch me teach and observe the school. His comment was: “At least they gave us a gun.”
Regular readers of will have heard all my Harlem stories, except for one involving Muhammad Ali. In 1969 I was given a home room class of 12 sixth grade boys at IS88 (a junior high school then) at 114th St and Seventh Avenue. I was young and enthusiastic and the idea was to get close to the pupils, to curb the recalcitrant and encourage the keen. Yes, a few had behavioural problems, so I did my best to get them involved in their studies.
Well, I’ve always been a sports aficionado, having played and coached basketball, baseball and American football on a high school level, and taught how to box by my father, who was a US Navy World War II veteran, and unofficial light-heavyweight champion of the ships competition in the South Pacific. I can’t confirm that as my father never talked about the war, but my brother Jack, who’s no longer with us, told me that, so I’d like to think it’s true. (I’ve written to the Naval Archives for information on my Dad’s service record. I should hear soon.)
Anyway, my Dad was a boxing fan. In the 50s he was a regular watcher of the Gillette Friday Night Fights and used to invite friends and neighbours over for a beer and a chat. But they were not allowed to talk during the actual fight, only between rounds. If they talked, they were never invited back. Like most Dads in the neighbourhood, he was not a civil rights activist. That’s an understatement. He loved Rocky Marciano, the undefeated world heavyweight champion, but as time went by, the white boxers declined in number and African American fighters grew. He stopped watching the fights, but occasionally when a really big bout took place, he would turn on the TV, even if it involved two black Americans. His favourite line was: “I’ll bet you the black guy wins.” He used another word. So I never really found out if my Dad thought Muhammad Ali was a better boxer than Rocky Marciano. I’d like to think in his mellowing years, he would have had nice things to say about Muhammad Ali, although he’d probably call him Cassius Clay.
But I digress. This is not a biography of my father, although the more I think about it, I should write one. Jack Krause was one hell of a bloke. But so was Muhammad Ali. Going back to my teaching days in Harlem, I decided to give my class a lesson on boxing and Muhammad Ali as part of my campaign to get their interest. We had been doing profiles of famous American sportsmen, and there was an article in the New York Times about Muhammad Ali and how he was stripped of his heavyweight championship, had his boxing license revoked, after he was found guilty of draft evasion, was fined $10,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. He had refused to be inducted for religious reasons – he had joined the Nation of Islam in 1964 – and even more famously, told authorities why he didn’t want to go to Vietnam: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. … No Viet Cong ever called me n—-r.” Thankfully, he was free on bail to tour US campuses and plead his case on Vietnam. Eventually, the US Supreme Court overturned his conviction by 8-0 in June, 1971. But he lost four years of his boxing career in his prime, aged 25 to 29.
But my teaching lesson was in 1969, and I asked the boys what they thought of Muhammad Ali. “Who’s he, Mr Krause?” asked Herman in the front row. “Yeah, who’s that?” echoed Howard sitting next to him. Not one of the African American pupils in Harlem had ever heard of Muhammad Ali, a former heavyweight champion of the world, one of the most famous boxers in the history of the sport. I was flabbergasted.
By the end of the class, they knew who he was. I told them how I had evaded the draft legally by teaching in a school in Harlem – a disadvantaged area where it was hard to attract good teachers. So in a way I was a draft evader. I don’t think I was a very good teacher then, I was still learning, but they responded to my enthusiasm, Muhammad Ali’s success and subsequent raw deal. It was my second year in Harlem, and I was already being called a “n—er lover” by the regulars in the pub across from my parents’ place in West Philadelphia. I was proud to be called that, but I hated the word – still do, of course. I loved those kids, but it wasn’t an easy gig. That’s another understatement.
Muhammad Ali was an Olympic gold medallist, the heavyweight champion of the world, a civil rights activist, and as Kevin Mitchell, the boxing correspondent for the Guardian and Observer, puts it in his wonderful obituary of Muhammad, he was not only a fighter, but a joker, magician, religious disciple and preacher. If you only have time to read one Muhammad Ali obit, this is it.
I’d love to hear what those sixth graders are saying about him 47 years later. There was only one Muhammad Ali, and I’d like to give the last word to Kevin Mitchell from his last paragraph. “Whoever Ali was, there was only one of him. Categorically, there will not be another. I doubt we could stand the excitement.”

Primarily a New York State of Mind

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but it sure is the city (and the state) that likes to vote. The presidential primaries came to New York yesterday, and the results may just be a turning point in the campaign.
As expected, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won big, and they acted like winners. They also put on their best presidential personae during their victory speeches.
It was more pronounced in the case of the front-running Republican, Donald Trump, who in previous primaries advertised his golf courses, steaks and wine, slammed his opponents and mocked the media. This time he gave a short 8-minute speech, thanked everybody, called his rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, by their respective titles, Senator and Governor, instead of “Lying Ted” and “Absentee Governor,” and was kind to the media. (Photo above by Jabin Botsford, The Washington Post)
As one CNN commentator said: “It was a fundamentally different Donald Trump” on his Big Apple stage – Trump Tower. His only dismissal of his main rival, Ted Cruz, was more of a boast than a sledge: “We don’t have much of a race anymore, based on what I see on television. Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated. . . . We’re really, really rocking.”
And he was rocking. He stepped out on the Trump Tower platform to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” and as we all know if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. With nearly all the votes counted, Trump won 60 per cent of the ballot, compared to 25.2 per cent for Kasich, and 14.8 per cent for Cruz. He now has 845 delegates to 559 for Cruz, and he needs 1237 to secure the nomination.
Trump warned the Republican establishment: “Nobody can take the election away from us,” saying the system was rigged. He suggested if he didn’t reach the magic 1237 number by the July convention, but got close, he deserved the nomination. CNN’s numbers man, John King, said he might even get there if he wins the five East Coast primaries next week, and can keep up his streak all the way to California on June 7. He was supremely confident in his hometown: “I can think of nowhere I’d rather have this victory.”
A distant third, Ted Cruz campaigned in Philadelphia, the major city in Pennsylvania, whose primary will be held on April 26. Cruz made a plea to the city’s Republicans: “Join me on this journey of less talk and more action because I know you may have been knocked down, but America has always been best when she is lying down with her back on the mat and the crowd has given the final count. It is time for us to get up, shake it off and be who we were destined to be.”
For Hillary Clinton, a senator in New York for 8 years, her victory over Bernie Sanders was particularly satisfying, telling her supporters in Manhattan: “You have today proved once again, there’s no place like home.” She added: “The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch, and victory is in sight.” (Photo above by Melina Mara, The Washington Post.) And after a bitter slanging match with Sanders leading up to the primary, Clinton took on a presidential air and held out an olive branch to Bernie: “I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us.”
Her speech to the party faithful was longer than Donald Trump’s but as in past primaries, she was giving her stump address about barriers, in contrast to her Republican rival: “He’s been so against everything America stands for … so instead of building walls we are going to break down barriers.” In an emotional ending, she praised Erika Smegielski, the daughter of the principal of Sandy Hook elementary school, Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in the mass shooting in Connecticut in 2012. Clinton said Erika has become an advocate for gun control, and “turned her sadness into a strategy and her mourning into a movement.” Let’s hope Hillary continues to push for gun safety, especially when the National Rifle Association takes aim at her.
Hillary Clinton got over a million votes, 57.9 per cent, to more than 750,000, or 42.1 per cent of the vote for Bernie Sanders. She has 1,893 delegates to 1,180 for Sanders, and needs 2,383 to become the Democratic nominee. The 74-year-old Senator from Vermont gave no sign he was about to quit, telling reporters: “Today we took Secretary Clinton on in her own state of New York and we lost. There are five primaries next week. We think we’re going to do well.”
Born in Brooklyn, Sanders tried to capture voters with a campaign ad
linking him to the Democrats’ legendary leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The narrator said over footage of the former president: “Even when the deck is stacked, a New Yorker will find a way to break up big banks, create millions of jobs and rebuild America. Some say it can’t be done again. But another native son of New York is ready: Bernie.”
Both Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have mountains to climb if they have any hope of catching up to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Barring unforeseen events, always possible in this bizarre primary season, Clinton and Trump are likely to emerge as their parties’ respective nominees, and fight one of the dirtiest political campaigns in US history.
Let the mayhem begin.
PS Or Americans can listen to the wise counsel of President Barack Obama. This was his reaction to the Trump triumph: “Last night’s results should be a wake-up call to all of us.”