October 13th, 2016

The Spitballer and The Know-It-All

Hillary Clinton as a kid (actual photograph, previously unreleased)

Hillary Clinton as a kid (actual photograph, previously unreleased)

As some of you have noticed, this election isn’t about politics. It’s about two kids from middle school that we all knew.

The bookworm sat in the front row, did her homework on time and all the time, and raised her hand to answer every damn question.

The other kid never did his homework and sat in the back of the classroom firing spitballs at the front row.

The know-it-all, goody two-shoes, bookworm spent time after school helping others.

Donald Trump as a kid, previously unreleased photograph

Donald Trump as a kid, previously unreleased photograph

The spitballer spent time stealing lunch money and pushing kids on the playground.

The know-it-all took advanced placement classes when she got to  high school.

The spitballer went to reform school.

Fast forward roughly 55 years. The know-it-all is a policy wonk whose idea of fun is to spend Saturday nights reading briefing books on Syrian history. The spitballer is an entertainer who likes to spend his Saturday nights assaulting women.

Both kids now want to be President. Both kids claim they are good decision-makers.

Here’s the thing about making presidential decisions: They are all difficult, or they wouldn’t be on the President’s desk. And no, pardoning turkeys at Thanksgiving for crimes they didn’t commit doesn’t count as a decision.

The President is forced to decide between one option that is awful and one that is worse, and needs the wisdom to figure out which is which, and understand that there are still a thousand shades of gray between the two.

Decisions like this: Trying to solve the 10-sided Rubik’s Cube of Syria that involves Assad, ISIS, “moderate” rebels, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Kurds, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Russia.

Or trying to prevent war in the South China Sea over an area claimed by multiple nations, one of whom happens to be nuclear armed China.

We know that one is cool under intense pressure. The other wakes up at 3 am to pick fights with former beauty queens.

Who do you trust to make those decisions? The spitball kid or the know-it-all?

Here’s the thing: Even the know-it-all is going to screw it up some times due to the enormous complexities of the situations and the unknowables. If presidents get it “right” 75% of the time, I figure they’re doing pretty damn good.

And then Presidents have to deal with their failures, by analyzing the actual facts of a situation, to the best they can actually be ascertained in real time, and changing course if necessary. That means acknowledging an initial error. In other words, it’s not just tactics, it’s an issue of ego.

So there are really two issues here:

  1. Who is more likely to make the right initial call in a complex situation?
  2. Who is more likely to acknowledge error, own that error, and make the adjustment?

I don’t usually use this blog to discuss politics, unless it involves tort “reform,” but this issue is too big to ignore.

I don’t know about you folks, but I’ll take that bookish kid in the front row with her hand up every time, whether I like her or not. She may not get it right all the time when the problems are so complex the teacher doesn’t know the answer, but she sure as hell will have a better batting average than the spitball kid.

Given that this will involve war and peace and actual dead bodies, this kinda matters.



January 23rd, 2014

Hillary Clinton Swears In Rob Greenstein

Hillary Clinton swears in Rob Greenstein as Town of New Castle Supervisor

Hillary Clinton swears in Rob Greenstein as Town of New Castle Supervisor, January 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Gary Murphy, Hudson Valley Reporter

Several years back, the good folks at Above the Law had some fun with advertisements being run by a friend of mine, Rob Greenstein. His firm Greenstein & Milbauer was gently mocked by writer Kashmir Hill for having Spanish speaking squirrels to appeal to their Spanish speaking target audience.

But if that was the only thing written about Greenstein, it would leave a poor impression of him. He’s also spent a great deal of time fighting for civil justice issues before our Legislature as part of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association — time that isn’t billed to any client and doesn’t come back in the form of a fee in any other way.

And for those that think trial lawyers are somehow anti-business, you might also want to know that he ran on a platform of the revitalization of New Castle’s downtown business districts and the need for a Chamber of Commerce, which he succeeded in starting up a year ago.

When Greenstein thought things weren’t going quite right in the Town of New Castle, where he lives, he ran for the office of Town Supervisor. And won on the tickets of both the Republican and Independence parties.

I think it’s fair to say that the renumeration he receives from that public service position will not be as great as that which he can earn as an attorney (though the headaches that come with it, might be).

Last night he was inaugurated, and a pretty famous resident of the Town of New Castle (hamlet of Chappaqua) stepped up to swear him in.  You can see the video of Secretary Hillary Clinton swearing him in in this local news broadcast.  If you listen carefully, you will hear Clinton respond that “fair is fair” when Greenstein mentions that, because she was honored by doing the swearing in here, that such an honor would be returned one day.

Also sworn in by Clinton were Lisa Katz as Deputy Supervisor, Adam Brodsky as Town Councilman and Noah Sorkin as Town Justice. More details at Inside Chappaqua.

I’ve spent quite a few posts in this blog needling personal injury lawyers that did things I thought were unacceptable. So it’s nice when I can turn the spotlight on someone who has done quite well indeed.

For those that want to see Clinton in a purely local event — she did write “It Takes A Village,” after all —  or see the Greenstein swearing in its entirety, the full video is here, which is easily fast-forwardable.