On Politics 7: Just Keep Talking, Just Keep Talking

Dear Mister President,

Here we are again. I’m still writing, you’re still… being you. Being more yourself than I think anyone knew you could be. I’m sure you agree, it feels like you’ve been president a lot longer than just 1 month. What should we talk about? Michael Flynn? Russia? Your press conference?

Being the president is a hard job. All jobs are hard jobs when you do them well. There’s a school of thought– as you would put it “lots of people say”– that implies that anyone could be a political leader. The fact that you’ve been choosing a cabinet with (mostly) no experience in their representative fields makes me think you’re a member of this school. There’s also the part where you figured you would be an excellent choice for president, but I’ll just chalk that up to Exceptionalism– you think you’re exceptional, maybe you think other billionaires are exceptional too? I’m veering into speculation so I’ll quash this line of inquiry, but… sure. Fine. You have to make decisions somehow. I’ll focus on something you’re doing well, if not doing right.

Intentionally, accidentally, or haphazardly, you’ve done a good job of harnessing fake news. You’ve recruited one of its Sith Lords to your team… or you’ve been recruited to his, it’s hard to tell. There’s evidence mounting that you aren’t information literate, that you just assume what you’re told or see on Fox News is true. Not that you’re adverse to lying when you think it will help you, but there’s nothing that says no one can lie to a liar. Con men are often the easiest people to con. I think you’re legitimately mad at the media because a lot of what you’re saying feels true to you. It must be difficult.

Of course, you also get really sad when the media talk about the stream of falsehoods falling from your lips. Not because the reports are wrong, but because reporting the facts makes you look bad. You basically said this in your last press conference. There’s only one way to make this better– change the facts. No, don’t state “alternative facts,” that’s what got you and Kellyanne in trouble to being with. Start putting in the work necessary to do a competent job. Literally start educating yourself, humbly ask former presidents how to do the job, what skills you need to do the job. Put yourself in president school NOW, while you’ve got a chance to learn, and don’t rely on the freaking Steves (Bannon and Miller) to write your executive orders.

Read this and start learning how to know when people are lying to you.

I’m not going to lie– you’re not the president I want or wanted. This is the job you wanted, though. I still think the best thing that could happen is that you have your Thomas Becket moment– you try to serve the office instead of serving yourself. You seem really unhappy right now. You know you have to change something so start by changing yourself. Grandma Moses started painting at 78; it’s not too late to start.

Also, I know getting measured is really boring, but you need a suit that fits. Spend some of your own money and get it done.

Don’t look like this guy dressed you. Damn.


On Politics 6: The Extreme Middle

“I’m against all extremes: the extreme right, the extreme left, and the extreme middle.”

-Walt Kelly

I’ve been an admirer of Walt Crawford Kelly Jr’s work since I was 4 years old. In fact, I credit his long-running comic strip Pogo as the catalyst that led to my literacy. My father was and is quite a collector, and I wanted nothing more than to read the Forbidden Books filled with cartoons. Eventually he trusted me… or just realized I hadn’t hurt them when I snuck them off the bookshelf.

Kelly influenced my personal philosophy profoundly, and the man himself was a factory for quotable material. I always liked the above quote; he had the credentials to back it up. He mocked both Joe McCarthy and Nikita Khrushchev in his gently vicious way.

Khrushchev was a sinster pig in the strip which… well, fair’s fair.

I laughed at the idea of an extreme middle, but recently I’ve started to understand what he was getting at. Kelly’s opinions were his own, not governed by the constraints of ideology– but he wasn’t afraid to commit. He believed in believing in something– and acting on those beliefs.

Recently, I made the terrible mistake of talking politics with a stranger. It’s a legitimately terrible way of introducing yourself, even when you agree with someone. In this case we’d preemptively agreed to agree to disagree, but to stay civil and to do our best to appeal to logic and not emotion (“like Jesuits” is how I framed it). I learned a couple things from this discussion.

First, not everyone knows about “logic.”

Second, it’s very hard to grapple with an amorphous argument.

The discussion started around the question of the current opening on the Supreme Court and whether the Democrats should oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. He said he “didn’t like Trump,” but that the seat wasn’t stolen. So I asked him what the Democrats should do. He said that “all politicians are hypocrites,” and “seek power.” He strongly implied that the Democrats would likely lose this fight regardless of what they do.

To which I said “Sure. But that’s not useful. It’s a battle. What should they do to win the war?” At which point he begged off and promised to check out my blog.

His arguments were cynical, but hard to gainsay at first glance. However, they were not logical. The proposal that ALL politicians– every slimy eel among them– are corrupt, power-seeking hypocrites is an assumption, not a fact. It’s an assumption that most of us make in hearts every day, but there’s no logical proof. Politicians are people and we can logically assume that pols act like people. They don’t always do the right thing… but sometimes they do.

As evidence for my position I would point to THE MAJORITY OF HUMAN HISTORY. Life in the U.S. has definitely gotten better over time– our economy is no longer based on human slavery, for example– and in spite of widespread anxiety and fearmongering, life is better now for most Americans than it was 40-50 years ago– less crime, less poverty (though still way too much), and if justice and equality are still struggling, things have gotten better.

And the reason that things have gotten better is that sometimes people do the right thing. There are good politicians and sometimes even the bad-to-mediocre ones take a stand.

My father and his father before him were both politicians. My grandfather was a state senator; he ran (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. House of Representatives. He was a Superior Court judge, re-elected many times. He had the kind of backstory contemporary politicians often wish for– a poor family from a poor county, a violent alcoholic step-father, nights spent in the local library, Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Army, law school on the G.I. Bill. He was smart and able, loud and sometimes childish, 6 feet 5 inches tall with red hair and blue eyes, handsome for a man who looked like he could twist your spine into a loop, full of country charm. A Southerner seeking office during the Civil Rights era, he publicly left the VFW because they wouldn’t admit black veterans into their club. He was a good, principled man.

My father ran for Superior Court 3 times during his career; he’s never been defeated. He’s spoken out against corruption in state politics, forced local officials to maintain their courthouses, worked hard to keep the citizens of North Carolina safe from the likes of Blanche Taylor Moore and Michael Hayes. Campaigning for him, Republicans told me– not just friendly but joyous!– he was the only Democrat they planned to vote for*. I don’t always agree with my family or my family’s politics– my grandfather was a great advocate of Victims’ Rights, which I feel are a mixed bag and sometimes favor revenge over justice– but I know neither Daddy nor Pappy ever looked for power. They sought to serve. They worked hard because there is satisfaction in hard work, because they were capable, because they believed in their work. Don’t tell me about ALL politicians, friends. I know at least two who believed/believe in real things and knew/know how to take a stand.

So I disagree with my erstwhile conversational partner’s arguments. My disagreement with his unspoken philosophy runs a lot deeper.

What the Extreme Middle cannot do is take a stand. Cowards often accuse everyone else of cowardice. To justify a lack of character the Extreme Middle claims no one has ever had character. Instead of saying what they would do to make things better, they disparage the idea of resistance or action. They have a lot to say– like Polonius in Hamlet, they give as much contradictory advice as they can, hoping they’ll sound smart. Hoping they’ll feel like they won an argument they wouldn’t take a side in. Their minds are small and their numbers are legion.

Remember that quote about good men doing nothing?

This old thing?

If the current crop of Right Wingers are reminiscent of the Know Nothings, the Extreme Middle represents the voice of the Do Nothings. By the Extreme Middle’s self-fulfilling arguments nothing can get better; by default people who love money and power make things worse for everyone (themselves included– there’s no hallucinogen like money and power). It’s not much of an end game. They could be smug on the Internet, which admittedly is 75% of the reason for the Internet. In the end, there’s no cure for uselessness, no substitute for being useful.

Sometimes people mistake philosophy for useless rhetoric. It’s actually incredibly useful for finding direction. We are defined by the things we do, and defined even further by the things we fail to do. Counseling patience is one thing– if someone counsels giving up, then it’s not a rational argument. There’s no scenario where giving up makes things better, and nothing ever stays the same. Things can get better or worse; the only other questions are about quantity.

What? Ben Franklin said it first.

America is so very great; it can get so much worse. Let’s, like, do stuff, m’kay?

*If reading this blog makes my father look like a superhero, well, I haven’t exaggerated any of his achievements or exploits. Until I actually find the entrance to the Batcave, though, I’ll have to assume he’s merely awesome.


On Politics 5: The Elephant in the White House

Dear President Trump,

When we talk about the Elephant in the Room, we’re describing something obvious that no one wants to talk about. And now we’ve got an Elephant in the White House who obviously wants our attention; you want us to talk about you. Forever. The literary spirit in me wants to guess at your motives– are you seeking immortality? Dodging the Reaper?– but they’re not ultimately important. Media attention has obviously benefited you politically, so it makes sense that you’d want it to continue.

And to that end you, sir, are Doing Things. So many things. Honestly, so many things that it’s hard to make sense of your goals. I really want to speculate on those goals, but one of my rules from the start is that I won’t speculate in these open letters. And I’ll offer constructive criticism. Wow. My job is hard.

So let me talk about the best way for me to do my job. First, I’m going to have to ignore the majority of what you do and focus on actions of substance that will have far reaching effects and consequences. For example, you’ve made a record-setting number of Executive Actions since you took office. However, most of them are vague or ineffectual, impossible to implement, or are simply and immediately being blocked by courts. As a constructive criticism, you should learn the basics of writing a good, enforceable, constitutional law. You should also learn about the legislative process, since you’ll need it if you want funding for anything, and should look into finding ways to work with the departments your orders affect. Without those three things implementation of your orders will be haphazard at best, and may lead to unintended consequences.

Of course, attention has its own rewards. If that’s all you want then you can ignore everything I just wrote about effective governance. It’s not relevant to your interests.

However, you haven’t stopped at Executive Actions, Orders, Proclamations and the lot. You’re also working to fill cabinet positions, and almost every individual you’ve nominated is underqualified— or at least very weirdly qualified— and controversial. And then you put Breitbart’s own Steven Bannon on the NSC after removing the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


It’s like your spamming the Senate and the American people in a sustained denial of service attack. It’s an effective strategy, in that even if you lose a couple fights (you probably won’t) you will almost certainly win the majority. The question I don’t think you’ve asked, though, is whether these fights are worth winning. Will these nominees be able to do the job? Because if they end up like W’s crony Michael “Heckuvajob” Brown then they’ll embarrass you. They might all go off like firecrackers in a string, disaster after disaster. Of course this will be a lot worse for the people who literally die in disasters, the communities that lose their livelihoods, the kids who go uneducated– you know, America– but it will also humiliate you. I’m confident at least one of those things matters to you, so I hope you’ll reconsider your current MO.

Finally, you and your proxies have created Alternative Facts! Well done, imminently meme-able! That said, all of the weird buzz around the actual size of the crowds at your nomination, the absolutely imaginary illegal voters that lost you the popular vote? I have a toddler and this… this feels like a tantrum. Like something to distract us from the more consequential/potentially illegal things you’re doing. Or maybe you’re deluded and require your staff to share your delusions– a fact worth covering, but until there’s proof not an actual fact. Maybe there’s some third base I’m not covering. Regardless, I think the media and the world at large will do well to separate the wheat from the chaff, and ignore most of your Reality Distortions. When there’s too much to cover, then you have to triage, put the most important things first.

And whether you’re actually obsessed with crowd sizes or not, they’re not actually important. Nobody dies because a crowd gets undercounted. You’re starting to annoy your own party. Probably best to let it go and, I don’t know, lead the Free World. Sorry, that was overly flippant, but it’s still my sincere advice. Get better at your job right now Mister President. We’ve barely recovered from the Financial Crisis of 2008 and without a genuine and competent leader things are going to get worse.

Also, seriously, attend an intelligence briefing every day.


Matthew Z. Wood


Philosophe Stupide

On Politics 4: The Adviser

Like a clear majority of the voting electorate I’ve watched the pre-presidential developments around the Trump White House with trepidation, interest, and a bit of raw fear. The president-elect somehow didn’t get the memo I sent him. He hasn’t made any real governance decisions as yet– even the recent lightning round of cabinet appointments is still subject to Mr. Trump’s whims and/or mood swings, and I’d be a fool to think that anything is set in stone.

Encouraged by recent developments or not, I still maintain that a positive public face is still superior to ideological name calling or hair pulling. So, I’m going to continue my little game of make believe and continue to publicly advise the presumed next president of the United States. A letter every week or two– delivered also to his inbox, though its been widely reported that neither presidential candidate knew how to use a computer, maybe an intern will occasionally print something out for him thrust his lower lip out at in a simulation of consideration?

Since I’m not an actual wizard


I don’t think this will influence policy or change any minds. However, giving the president-elect some pre-impeachment civility and constructive criticism– does he really think that not reading the daily briefings will insulate him?– for a year or so is bound to result in an interesting record. I promise not to cry in public where you can see me.

Dear Mister President-elect:

This is an open letter, the first– well second I’ve sent you, but the first one in a planned series– of many. You’ve got a presidency of unknowable length ahead of you, and I plan to use these to comment on the year or so. I hope you find them entertaining if not instructive; I know that it’s pretty unlikely you’ll see them at all. This is more of a record of my own thoughts than a missive for you, but if somehow someone prints it out so you can read it, if somehow any one of these letters moves you, then I’ll figure I hit the jackpot. And then I’ll keep writing. It’s the only thing I know to do.

Congratulations are in order. Regardless of recounts, Russia, and the popular vote you are headed into the White House. The Rule of Law basically guarantees this; it is one of the traditions that has marked the United States’ hundred years or so of uninterrupted imperfect greatness. I hope you will enjoy your new home even if it has remarkably little gold leaf on its furniture. I know you have standards.  In preparation for your time in the White House, my wife purchased pocket copies of the Constitution for all of her students. Our local combination gun shop/toy store distributes American flag pins, and we wear ours unironically.

Going into office you have some considerable challenges ahead of you– more than most American presidents, more than most world leaders. You are entering office with a clear victory in the Electoral College, but nearly a 2% deficit in the popular vote; you have the highest unfavorability rating of any incoming president in decades.The decisions you make now are going to impact your entire presidency– its efficiency, its legitimacy, and eventually its legacy.

I’m a presumptuous person. That’s the only explanation for my decision to send you unsolicited advice. Admittedly, I’ve never felt like any other U.S. president could use my help, but I’m intelligent and educated and a political outsider. I also have no foreign or domestic policy experience. Based on your staffing decisions thus far, only my education stands as a strike against me, so I’ll presume to continue but I’m going to have to set some rules for myself.

Rule 1: I’m only going to address your actions– I can’t know your reasons, and that’s okay. The actual things you do are going to matter more than your intentions, so no guesses on my part, no insinuations.

Rule 2: No name calling. Name calling is the surest way to undermine civil discussion. Be it Fuckface von Clownstick, “Crooked Hilary,” or even “deplorable” it makes it hard to engage the other side. Democracy needs multiple sides. I get that the point of an election or a Twitter war is not engagement so I’m not going to worry about other people’s histories as name callers. It is an action, though, and as the Philippines’ President Duterte has demonstrated, it can have consequences. So I won’t call you or your friends names, but any time a world leader or political rival acquires an unflattering nickname I will have to notice.

Rule 3: Constructive criticism. I’m not just going to tell you “you’re bad.” I’ll probably disagree with you a lot, but I won’t lie to you, and I won’t offer a criticism without also offering a solution.

I’m not delusional. I don’t think you’re going to read these letters. If you do read them, I don’t think you’ll see them, slap your forehead, and suddenly appoint someone with actual human experience in urban planning in charge of HUD. Sincere or not, brilliant or not, advice from strangers has less influence on our decisions than advice from trusted advisers. You’ve got advisers, trusted and otherwise, crawling all over you now. I can only hope that they’ll give you the best advice and, when the time comes, you’ll listen.

Therefore, you’re going to need better advisers. I’m not exaggerating when I say your lack of political experience is historic, and the fact that you are already having to abandon many of your pre-election promises as unworkable should clue you in to the fact that your going to need some new ideas. Ideas that could, you know, work.

You like to point out that you are a smart person. Here’s my advice to smart people, by way of 90s television. It’s at the end of the clip.

You catch that? Surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. You still make the decisions, and you free yourself from the burden of toadies, echo chambers, and transparent manipulators. You stand a chance of being the president for all Americans you’ve said you want to be and– let’s face it– you’ll end up making decisions that are based on facts instead of guesses and opinions. Also, you might hear the word ‘kleptocrat’ a bit less often. Since it’s becoming a major vocabulary word for the American public– is 171,000 results ‘major’ enough?– I’d imagine that would be a relief.

I know you feel personal loyalty to Steven Bannon, for example. He’s a part of your victory. His ties to white supremacists are undeniable, though. People like Bannon are not going to make your presidency easier or better. Neither is Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Rick Perry, Ben Carson. Experienced people who care about their work are what you need. Otherwise you get a team of people each driven only by their particular prejudices and assumptions, unwilling to look at facts. People who are only looking to get something for themselves out of their newfound power. That’s how people– Americans– get hurt by their government.

You can’t make American great(er) by making it worse.

See you after Christmas


Matthew Z. Wood


Philosophe Stupide

On Politics 3: Open Letter to a President

Dear President Obama,

I know a part of you is probably looking forward to January 20. You’ve done the most exhausting job in the world for 8 years and you’ll finally have a chance to rest. A goodly portion of yourself– and myself, if I’m honest– is also probably dreading the day. The transition from ‘leader of the free world’ to ‘ex-president’ must be a strange one under any circumstances. How much stranger is it this year? How hard must it be to voluntarily give up the reins of power when no one can do more than guess at what a Trump presidency is going to mean for– and do to– this country?

I respect you all the more for handling the transition like an adult, though. I haven’t always agreed with you or your policies, but I have always appreciated the maturity you brought to the Oval Office. I thought it was a much needed commodity after the W. Bush years, a time when most Executive officials spoke to the American people like they were children asking annoying questions and when the Executive himself talked to the people and the press like a frat boy being forced to apologize for breaking the world economy.

God, how I’ll miss those days.

I voted for you twice. Some would take issue with this, but you did a lot of uniting. Not just our first black president but our first nerd president; hip-hop fans, comic book fans, and even basketball fans could all relate to you. You bridged the gap between jocks and nerds in your own person, and looked good doing it. You worked hard, but when you decided to meet with celebrities or with little kids dressed as Spider-Man you were obviously having a blast. You were a complete human being throughout your presidency and, even though you’re hardly universally beloved, I think you raised the standard there. Your successors might find themselves trying a little bit harder to be a little bit cooler as a result. Cooler in a “be nice to kids and old people” way. That makes me smile.


One of the true landmark moments from your first campaign was when you spoke to the American people about race. You talked to us not just like an adult, but like we were also adults. Thank you for that. You briefly elevated the discussion, changed what was possible if only for a little while. It was up to the rest of the nation to take the cue after that. I feel like we missed our cue, missed a lot of opportunities. I’m not surprised that things didn’t go perfectly, though, just a bit wistful.

I think people will remember your achievements… you know, eventually. I think historians will look back on your record of domestic success favorably. You successfully reformed the nation’s health care system– not perfectly, but successfully. My wife’s a policy expert and more than once she’s told me that the ACA (Obamacare, if you must) will probably survive as long as the pharmaceutical and insurance lobby wants it to survive. Big institutions don’t like big chaos; she’s right that it will probably outlive the 2-4 years I figure Trump will stay in office.

You and your right hand, Hilary Rodham, oversaw the death of Osama bin Laden, one of America’s greatest enemies. Mixed feelings about political assassinations aside, this was clearly a substantial victory, one that few could gainsay. That’s why your detractors generally forget about it, along with how your policies pulled us back from the brink of economic collapse. You spent 8 years trying to do the best things for this country, trying to pull it out of a hole that had taken 8 years of deregulation to dig, and trying to make sensible, fact-based decisions that would help Americans. And getting yelled at about imaginary attempts to take away people’s guns.

And now all I hear is that we’re now in a “post-fact” era.


Eras don’t last forever and some are remarkably short. Gone is the era of iPods, of landlines, of Disco Stu memes and all your base belonging to us. This whole “post-fact” thing might be more of a trend, we might be in more of a “post-Pokemon” era.

I think actions, words, and even morality have to be based on facts to mean anything. So… here’s hoping?

Even if the past 8 years had gone perfectly we’d probably be exactly where we are today. But I’m glad you were my president. You brought competence back to the White House; in spite of intransigent legislatures you tried to focus on real problems. Even when I didn’t agree with your solutions, I at least agreed that ISIS and the healthcare crisis were real problems endangering and harming Americans. You didn’t get bogged down in the endless nonsense that your Congress lived and breathed. As often as possible you rose above it.

You were a winner. Based on the recent Electoral College outcome– though not the popular vote— we got tired of winning. But I never saw you lose, sir. And yes, I would have preferred fewer drone strikes. I would have preferred a harder line with Syria, with Russia. I would have preferred no prison in Guantanamo. Most of all, I preferred an executive who made hard decisions and cared about the results but wasn’t destroyed by them. That’s what I got. Thanks Obama!

Respectfully yours,

M.Z. Wood


Philosophe Stupide

On Politics 2: Open Letter to a Fighter

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I know. I know, I know, I know.

Okay, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to devote so much energy, so many decades towards a goal, to log achievement after achievement only to have the Electoral College say “Nope. We’d prefer a record of actual literal fraud and hate speech and also Internet yelling to a record of leadership. Now let’s see how long it takes for him to go full Berlusconi on the U.S.!” This is who will represent us in the event of a crisis and, if we are lacking crises, will manufacture them for us.

There was a time, call it 1999, when I’d started to feel the way many people do. There weren’t enough differences between the 2 parties. My views were not represented, not in the absolute fashion I would have liked anyway. I felt like politics were increasingly irrelevant to my increasingly busy existence. I was an adult, and the passions that drove my early political involvement felt like childish things.

Then George W. Bush took office and, in a short 8 years, I watched the international respect that your husband had built for our nation dissolve, watched the international economic system nearly fall apart in the wake of a crisis enabled by the W. Bush administration’s absolute faith in deregulation. And of course, I watched our country go to war in several regions nearly simultaneously– wars that destabilized much of the globe while also not representing our international best interests.

I was slow to learn to the lesson, but I learned it. Competence matters.

When I voted for you in the general election– I voted for Sanders in the primary, but I didn’t feel shocked or agrieved when he lost– I was voting for competence. Not for someone I would always agree with. Not for a perfect candidate, but a smart and able and competent one who would move forward on the progress of the last 8 years. Someone with experience and courage and mental toughness– as Donald Trump called you during one of your debates, a fighter.

You won everything that should count. You won 3 debates– easily. You won the popular vote by over 2 million votes– almost 1% of the total electorate. Maybe this is what your opponent meant when he said Americans would be tired of winning? So tired that they wouldn’t pick a winner? But we both believe in the rule of law, you and I and I don’t know about that other guy, and the Electoral College is our nation’s law. We will grumble– well, I will– but accept what’s happened because the alternatives are so much worse.

I don’t know. I really don’t. It must be so frustrating– you’ve weathered a smear campaign that continued unabated since the early ’90s. You’ve managed to tolerate invasions into your privacy, insults to your daughter, and bizarre conspiracy theories that frame you as a murderer, a traitor or worse. It’s never been enough for your opponents on the Right to attack your beliefs, they’ve always come after you as a person. You’ve seen the rise of misinformation, replacing reality in American minds as surely as carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in human bloodstreams. You’ve not always been perfect, but you’ve weathered so many storms with poise that you make the Gorton’s fisherman look soft.

Sometimes you even dressed the part.

Sometimes you even dressed the part.

In your place I woulda just stabbed a fool on national TV, woulda just looked at those jiggly white faces that love to make up facts about your family and said “I will cut you.”

I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know what kind of president you would have been, or what kind of president Mr. Trump will be– as I will reiterate here, we are what we do, and other than garner attention and declare bankruptcy he has done so little. I think our nation missed an opportunity. I think your presidency would have mattered and not just for symbolic reasons. I think we are bleeding from the hole we shot in our own foot. And I’m scared for what will happen next.

You’ve always been a fighter. Please don’t give up now– I mean, yes, don’t challenge the electoral results or anything (even though I kinda want you to). But we’re going to need leadership in the days to come, going to need that fighting spirit– many fighting spirits. Thank you for fighting, and thanks for not giving up on America. Our next act will be painful– self-inflicted wounds always are. Just think of the recovery, though, of the lessons we’ll learn. This is what I have to believe, anyway.

Moving Forward and Fingers crossed,

M.Z. Wood


Philosophe Stupide

On Politics 1: Open Letter to a Landlord

Note: I have briefly interrupted my novel writing to compose a brief series of letters. I will be sending each of these letters to the politicians in question. I want to make each of them laugh and I want to be gracious.

Because it’s too easy to be bitter and angry right now, and that combination has never helped.

Dear President Elect Trump,

Those words I just wrote… they are not the best words. I hope you’ll forgive me saying this but I think it’s better that I’m forthright about my feelings. Right now my feelings are as follows:


“Doom looms, dearly beloved, doom looms.”

I’ve followed your career in public life for 30 odd years; you’ve made me laugh, early and often, but I’m not a fan. I’ve typically thought of you as a high-end confidence man, preying on the weak; more recently I’ve seen you as a bully, busying himself with finding scapegoats for what you see as your inevitable failures.

So prove me wrong. Please. I don’t want you to be a bad president; I don’t want you to be impeached by a Republican congress and– even though a lot of words on the Internet disagree with me here– I don’t want you to die in a fire. I love my country; those things would hurt my country.

I want good things for you. I want you to be America’s greatest president. This is something we have in common– if for no other reason because this is where our self interest collides. If you do a good job, lives all over the world get better. American lives get better. I will spend less money on booze.

I’m a nobody and I know you don’t put a lot of stock in nobodies. That said, I’m a dad and I make people laugh, two of the highest callings in life. Two things that we share. Arrogant as it is, let me offer a little bit of inspiration. You can do a lot of good in the next four years and I’d honestly like to help.

First, leave your gut behind.

You’re not being chased by a bear and you don’t have to make fight or flight decisions.

Ask for facts and make decisions based on those facts. The purpose of laws has never been to prevent imaginary things or ‘what if’ scenarios. All things are possible; not many of them are likely, and most things are stupid and annoying. Laws exist to deal with real problems, and the only way to know where your problems are lies in asking questions and looking at boring-ass numbers until you get your answers. That is maybe the only way that governing is like running a business– they both need a solid foundation, they need plans that are based in reality. And if you’re fighting an imaginary fight then you’re ignoring the real one– America has some very real fights in the offing. Please don’t let this happen.

Second, stay inclusive.

We have a big country and it’s deeply divided. Right now, if I could make this country better through the power of kickpunching or yelling on the Internet then I’d do it. It’d feel good. Maybe my main job in life isn’t to feel good, though, and maybe picking fights and whining aren’t good long term strategies for me to pursue. Instead, let me urge you: please reach out to the communities you’ve used as rungs in your ladder to the White House and let them know you’ll listen. If you’re really interested in stopping Islamic Terrorism in the U.S. then reach out to the countless patriotic American Muslims and ask for their help, ask them to look for signs of trouble in their communities. Give them every reason to trust their government, to trust your judgement, and they will respond.

To this end, focus on hate crimes as an early target. I don’t know why violent White Nationalists don’t get labeled as terrorists in the media– terror is their obvious goal– but they don’t. If you start calling the Alt Right “terror babies” then you will gain millions of supporters. I know you’re not afraid to offend people and this is a great place to put that skill to use. You’re welcome.

Third, take responsibility.

Noted conspiracy Mormon Glen Beck has identified you as a historic threat to the United States. He’s also called our first black president a possible anti-Christ, so, you know, grain of salt. He gave a remarkable interview with NPR’s “On the Media” recently and I urge you to seek it out. I think you’ll enjoy listening to him squirm. He comes off as a bad guy, even though he’s saying a lot of things that I want to hear, and it’s because he won’t take responsibility for more than a decade of conspiracy theories, made up facts and borderline hate speech. He blames himself for your rise to power… but all he wants is his interviewer’s praise for agreeing with him about something. “I’m going against my tribe!” he insists, but no part of me respects a half-brave man.

If you end up being the best American president– hell, the best person!– things are still going to go wrong. Lots of things. Huge things. The best things. When that happens, don’t look around for a bus to throw someone under and don’t start building the bus. After the sixth or seventh time, people will sense a pattern and– as distractible as we are– they’ll see the coward in their midst. Not that you are a coward, just that we are what we do. Republicans will eat their own, Mister President Elect, and some of the most powerful people in your party are ready to see you fail. If you start trying to sacrifice your potential enemies– we’re all potential enemies– then they will see you as a threat and unite against you. When people are watching, scapegoats are a trap. Think of the great scapegoaters of the 20th Century and the bunkers they ended up huddled in. Billions of people are watching you, and millions of them aren’t going to blink.

In summary, I know I’m going to continue to disagree with you about a lot of things. Barack Obama is the president I voted for, twice, and there are a ton of things he and I don’t see eye to eye on. Drone strikes, for example, and Spider-Man comics– which I like, but I haven’t really read any since Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man and of course Bendis’ early Ultimate Spider-Man books. These are deep-seated divisions, y’know? A big reason I’m going to disagree with you, though, is that I don’t know best. I’m a mistake-maker; I make the best mistakes.

I’m a fact-based guy, though, and I believe in results more than rhetoric. Be a president I can be proud of and you’ll win me over. We are what we do, Mister President Elect. You can do great things.


M.Z. Wood

MA, MLS, Philosophe Stupide