The Importance of Voting

There is ample evidence—but not proof—that more Americans are Democrats than are Republicans. According to various polls, half of all America voters identify themselves as Democrats or Democratic leaners whereas only 39 to 44 percent (depending on the poll) call themselves Republicans or lean to the GOP.

So why do Republicans win elections? Because so many eligible Democratic voters don’t vote. Some are prevented by gerrymandering or voting rules designed to discourage or prevent voting; many, especially minority members, believe that their vote won’t make any difference. A few simply don’t care.

I’m a strong believer that voting is a civic responsibility. And it is clear to me that the reason why the working class is so often deprived to the benefit of the well-to-do is because the rich vote when the poor don’t. We all need to commit to voting for the good of all.

That means, among other things, that we need to make voting as easy as possible. And we need to abolish the electoral college which allows candidates who lose the popular vote to win an election (Donald Trump, for example).

The time has come for the U.S. to mature. We must work to correct our flaws (e.g., our devotion to firearms, our huge prison population, our choice to make health care a way to earn money rather than a right) and join the advanced nations of the world in making life better for our citizens. To get there from here, we all need to vote.

I believe we are already on our way. Almost 160 million people voted in last November’s election, more than in any year since 1900. And we elected a progressive administration that will improve the lives of our majority, the middle and lower class members.

We’ve made a strong beginning. Now let’s expand it.

Republicans: Forget Trump

So many Republican legislators appear to be fearful of accepting publicly Donald Trump’s defeat in the November election, and they’re hesitant to condemn his call for marauders to attack the Capitol. I think they need not concern themselves. By the time Trump leaves office next week, he will be so discredited that no one will pay heed to him. And once he is no longer president, previously hidden evidence of his malfeasance will trickle out. We’ll learn of corruption we knew nothing of. In short, Republicans, feel free to speak openly of your disgust with your president. Over the next year, Trump will cease to be a powerful figure.

Those Republicans who do not speak out against Trump risk righteous condemnation from the majority of Americans. The only ones who will support them are others who lied about the outcome of the November election or who believe that the mob violence against the Capitol was acceptable. Those numbers will decrease quickly.

The Republican party is so damaged by Trump’s lies and corruption that it may not survive over time. That the Republicans have been complicit in Trump’s degeneracy will remain a stark blemish on the party. We’ll all long remember the injury that the GOP inflicted on our nation.

Leadership in a Time of Chaos (2)

So now I see that the most virtuous means of working with others—leadership—can be used to damage the followers. It should have been obvious to me all along. I now must alter my advocacy of leadership to stress its use for the good of all. I must condemn leadership that leads to evil.

I’ve been impatient with Joe Biden because he has not called for the punishment of Trump and the Republicans for their misdeeds. He has instead emphasized bringing together the divisive forces in America. Trump’s example has finally made me understand that Biden is right. We need virtuous leadership to escape the evils of the past. He pleads with us to work together for a better future. In Biden we will have a leader showing the way to an upright America. I hope we have the wisdom to follow.

Leadership, in sum, can be manipulated in the service of autocracy. Let’s never let it happen again.

Leadership in a Time of Chaos

Several times in the course of the years I’ve been posting to this blog, I’ve urged Americans to choose leadership rather than management as a way to achieve. Recent discussions with readers have made me realize that it’s time to reappraise the role of leadership in American life. I have seen for the first time in my life leadership used for destruction of democracy.

Donald Trump has rarely relied on leadership. He has instead exploited the sycophancy of his base and the Republicans who support him to attack American democracy. In the end, he tried to overturn a legitimate election and establish himself as a dictator. He failed.

But when his worst moment came, he used leadership, as I define it, to attack the underpinnings of the country and maintain his presidency. On 6 January 2021, he called upon his followers to storm the Capitol and prevent the Congress from endorsing the election he had lost. It worked, to the detriment of all involved, until members of Congress refused to follow his lead.

Trump’s call for vandalism was not management or power grabbing. He summoned his followers to be the best that they could be—as defined in his credo—and restore him to power. The result was the savagery seen at the Capitol.

It was the first time I had ever witnessed leadership being manipulated against democracy. Trump’s actions made me realize that it is possible to abuse leadership. In retrospect, it is now clear to me that Hitler and Mussolini led their followers in seizing control and becoming dictators. Not force. Leadership.

More tomorrow.

Larry Matthews Interview

Larry Matthews’ interview of me from earlier this year on the program “Matthews and Friends” is now available online. You can hear it at    Larry talks to two other people during the same clip. My interview starts about 25 minutes in.

In the interview, I talk about writing my most recent novel, Secretocracy, and about my experience in the U.S. intelligence system. If you take a listen, let me know your reaction.


Obama Top Best Seller

I’m informed by the press that a book I reviewed, Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (Crown, 2020), is currently outselling all other books on the market. That’s a first for me.

In my estimation, the book deserves its sales. It’s the best nonfiction I’ve read for many years and a book I’ll long remember. You can read my review at

I liked the book for all the obvious reasons—superbly written, subject matter thoroughly explored, historical accuracy meticulously respected. But my fondness was also more personal. I find Obama himself likeable. He is, like me, a disciplined researcher, intrigued as much with the history and depth of the topic he’s writing about as with the breadth of his view. I remarked in the review on his flair for similes. And his occasional forays into humor were so subtle that I often only appreciated them in retrospect.

I can’t claim that I write like Obama. His style, like his subject matter, is complex and intricate. I, as a novelist and short story writer, stress simplicity, brevity, and poetic construction. His very long sentences, while suitable to his milieu, would not work well in my prose. And I don’t see him consciously striving for musicality in his structures.

None of that is intended to be a criticism of Obama’s writing. His style and approach are ideal for subject matter. I’m delighted at his success. I continue to believe he is a great man that we all can learn from.

Corruption of Intelligence

For the safety and wellbeing of the republic, it is urgent that intelligence professionals, those who keep our leaders informed about the doings of other nations, remain independent. They must be free to report unwelcome news to the president and other top officials. They must be invested to contradict the powerful with facts. The truth, not flattery, must guide them.

I know what it is like to be the bearer of unwelcome news. As head of the covert National Security Agency (NSA) operation in Saigon in April 1975, I repeatedly warned the U.S. ambassador, the president, and other top officials that the North Vietnamese had surrounded us and were preparing to attack the city. But the U.S. ambassador in Saigon, Graham Martin, was able to persuade top U.S. officials that the North Vietnamese had no intention of launching an assault against the city despite the overwhelming evidence I reported, based on the intercept of North Vietnamese radio communications, that the onslaught was imminent. When the attack came—and I escaped under fire—Washington was taken by surprise.

That was 45 years ago. Now we are faced with a grimly similar situation. President Trump has removed impartial experts from key intelligence posts and put loyal minions in their place. Unwilling to allow any criticisms of the Russians, for example, Trump presumably hears nothing untoward about a country that has, among other things, offered a bounty for Americans killed in Afghanistan.

The situation is particularly dangerous right now. With the government in upheaval over the storming of the Capitol on 6 January and Trump in his last days in office, this is an ideal time for an enemy to strike. Our government would have great difficulty pulling itself together quickly to detect preparations for a hostile probe and to respond.

When, later this month, Joe Biden is inaugurated as president, he will, I’m sure, clean house and see to it that intelligence officials are professional and independent. Biden has been at the top of the federal government for too long to be fooled into allowing yes-men to lead our intelligence effort.

But what might happen in the meantime, before Biden takes office or before he has time to weed out gofers? Thanks to Trump, the nation is in grave peril of being taken by surprise.

Why I’m Not Writing

I explained in a blog a few days ago why I write. But these days, I’m not writing, except for this blog. Why?

The answer is a series of events that arrived simultaneously. The onset of the pandemic brought with it a lockdown. I found myself threatened by a disease that might kill me (an older man with a history of lung cancer) and isolated from all human contact. The economy crashed. It was my extreme good fortune that my income is a federal government annuity that continued despite the shutdown. The Trump administration spiraled downward in competence and effectiveness. Worst of all, my partner for over twenty years, Su, died at the end of March.

So for the better part of a year, I have been living in a strange new world in which my life is at risk and I am devoid of human contact while I grieve over the loss of my mate. Nothing is the same. I can’t even spend time with my children lest we infect one another. I am more alone than I have ever been in my life.

One result of inhabiting a barren realm is that my drive to write has vanished. Worse, I can’t write even when I try. A part of me has gone silent. The creative juices have ceased to flow. I am voiceless.

I believe that over time I’ll return to a normal life where I meet with others and communicate. My voice will return. The story I most want to tell, of the death of a loved one during the pandemic, will finally find its way onto paper.

Maybe I’ll call it Love in the Time of the Coronavirus.

Beware Trump’s Next Moves

We are in the worst era I have lived through. The New York Times on 8 January, described it:

“The worst pandemic in a century is becoming more severe, with a contagious new coronavirus variant spreading and thousands of Americans dying every day. The mass vaccination program is behind schedule. Almost 10 million fewer Americans have jobs than did a year ago. The U.S. president, with the backing of dozens of members of Congress, has tried to overturn an election result and remain in power. Hundreds of his supporters overwhelmed police officers and stormed the Capitol, one of the few times in history that an U.S. government building has been violently attacked.”  

Donald Trump, our current president, deserves blame for how bad the situation has become. He made no moves against the pandemic and even dismissed it as trivial—we now have had more than 365,000 deaths. He failed to bolster the economy in the face of a lockdown. His “warp speed” vaccination effort is a dismal failure. We are in the midst of a depression that promises to get far worse. Then, claiming falsely that he had won November’s election, Trump urged his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol. Once there, they overran the building, savaged offices and the Senate chamber, and triggered the evacuation of members of Congress and their staffs. Five deaths and 82 arrests resulted from the carnage.  

Months ago, I called upon Americans to beware of what Trump might do, particularly after he lost the November election. His nefarious actions since have more than met my expectations. But as I write, Trump still has eleven days in office. He wields all the powers of the presidency. We are in real danger.  

So I call upon members of Congress and federal officials to move at once to stop Trump by taking away his power. Removing him from office through the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or by impeachment are critical to the safety of the country.  

I encourage all citizens to beseech their representatives to act.