Oprah Winfrey for president? Really?

Oprah Winfrey for president? Really?

On June 2, 2019, television host Bill Maher floated the name of Oprah Winfrey as a candidate for president against Donald Trump.

This is one of those screwball ideas floated by political amateurs during slack periods when there is a large field of presidential candidates, in either party, and no one candidate is breaking out because the campaign is still months away. It is sort of like November 1987, when Democrats like House Speaker Jim Wright and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Beryl Anthony were touting Donald Trump as a Democratic candidate for president.

Maher says he has scrutinized the notion of Winfrey for president from every angle and found Winfrey to be a “sure thing.”

“I have Nate Silvered the shit out of this,” he said.

Well, let’s see.

In the MeToo era, Winfrey has been great at talking. In January 2018, three months after the movement began, Winfrey jumped on the bandwagon with a widely praised speech at the Golden Globes. But when push came to shove, she didn’t walk the walk. In 2003, she cut the legs out from under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accusers during his campaign for governor by giving him the forum of her show to appear with his wife by his side. His accusers were excluded from the program and Winfrey didn’t bother pressing him about the issue while he and his wife cuddled.

Market Watch reported, “On ABC, Oprah Winfrey had no qualms about inviting the candidate and his TV journalist wife Maria Shriver on her show without grilling him on behalf of her overwhelmingly female audience, raising the ire of many viewers.”

“Oprah Winfrey was another media friend who helped Schwarzenegger weather the storm when the sexual-abuse allegations hit, inviting him onto her woman-focused program on the blockbuster first show of the fall (9/15/03),” said an account by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. “Winfrey fawned over her ‘good friends’ Maria and Arnold, and asked no hardball question about either the racism or misogyny complaints.”

Winfrey’s love fest helped defang Schwarzenegger’s “groping” persona and likely was responsible for rehabilitating his image enough for him to win.

Then there was Winfrey’s role in helping the Bush administration sell the war against Iraq to the public.

On October 9, 2002, the day before the U.S. House voted on authorizing war, Winfrey again stacked her program with one viewpoint, this time only pro-war hawks. She brought on Iraqi defector Intifadh Qanbar, Brookings Institution “fellow” Kenneth Pollack, and the incredible New York Times reporter Judith Miller to exaggerate the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Again, the program was framed to discourage dissent, and when a well-informed audience member questioned their “facts” as propaganda, Winfrey chastised the woman and then shut her down: “We’re not trying to propagandize – show you propaganda. We’re just trying to show you what is. Okay, you have a right to your opinion.” But Winfrey didn’t invite her to express it.

Note that the “we’re” in Winfrey’s verbiage put her in the Bush camp.

For war, against harassment victims. Try those items in your Nate Silvering, Mr. Maher.

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Electrical Grid Vulnerable…

Vice Admiral Lee Gunn

Retired admiral Lee Gunn was in Reno this March to speak to the National Security Forum of Northern Nevada. Gunn’s remarks to the Reno group were wide-ranging, raising some issues about which the public has seldom heard. He said the nation’s electricity system works well given the fact that it wasn’t designed. Rather, it is a patchwork of systems. In the early days of electricity, he said, lines were stretched to a county line and then stopped there. It would be picked up by another jurisdiction months or years later.

That system is pretty vulnerable, he said. The leading source of attacks on power facilities is—squirrels. There are also more than 200 annual incidents of what he termed “mischief”—non-political attacks on such facilities. As an example, he said, rifle shots were fired at the Metcalf transformer.

station near San Jose on April 16, 2013. The Silicon Valley and its region was without electricity for half a day, and the Metcalf station was shut down for half a year because of the damage to the transformer. Power companies, he said, do not keep spare transformers on hand because they are so expensive, and it takes months to build replacements.

One exotic issue the public knows little about is that the U.S. power system is vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse attack. He compared it to the Sept. 1, 1859 “white light” solar flare that lasted about five minutes, the impact reaching Earth the next day and lasting two days, lighting up the northern hemisphere with green, blue and red auroras, killing and injuring telegraph operators. Telegraph lines caught fire. Teletypes scorched paper, printed gibberish and continued to function for hours after being unplugged.

Gunn said he does not know whether the United States can wield an EMP as a weapon because he had no need to know when he was in the Navy, but the Pentagon believes Russia has such a weapon, and “right now there is no solution.”

An EMP attack “absolutely could … take down the United States,” he said.

In December, the Air Force released a report that received greater attention overseas—the London Daily Mail called it “shocking”—and said the U.S. is largely unprepared for such an attack, that it could eliminate all electricity, kill 90 percent of the people on the East Coast and lead to chaos worldwide. North Korea, Russia and Iran have been developing such weapons, the report said.

Few facilities that need to be protected against an EMP with “hardened” exteriors are so outfitted, Gunn told the Reno audience. Boeing is working on developing an EMP weapon for the United States and is also developing aircraft that can ward off EMPs—each of which is expected to have the price tag of an aircraft carrier—including a new Air Force One. Trump has said several times that he is working on reducing the cost for the new Air Force One, but a transportation trade website has said Trump’s “assertions have repeatedly proven to be hollow and now it is becoming clear that the program’s price tag has actually leaped considerably.”