4 min readAug 23, 2020


I listened carefully to the Obamas’ inspiring, patriotic and ominous remarks at the 2020 DNC. I thank them for their elegance and grace, their life experiences, their devotion to this country and its founding principles, their many qualities that informed those remarks.

They, of course, will never read this or anything else I write. Most bloggers, I’m guessing, think they have something so important to convey that others should use their valuable time reading it. I have more than my share of hubris, but that’s not my primary motivation to write. (Candidly, so few people read what I write that if my blogging were driven by pride or self-confidence, I’d be in the fetal position on the floor.)

What initially drove me to pay more attention, to become more engaged, was President Obama’s January 10, 2017 Farewell Address, linked below. I wrote about that speech in my first blog post shortly after the last presidential inauguration, about his admonition to “lace up your shoes” and become engaged. I watched and listened to it twice at the time.

I just watched it again. Inspiring. A tribute to American exceptionalism. I strongly encourage you to watch it before the beginning of the 2020 RNC. Mr. Obama’s words are poetic reminders of what was and is possible. Some three-and-a-half-years later, with a fully debased presidency, Mr. Obama’s Farewell Address sits in stark contrast to and as a vivid reminder of how far US leadership, stewardship, competence and standing in the world have fallen. You won’t be sorry.


Trump was my other motivation to pay more attention and become more engaged. We all foresaw the likelihood of a malign presidency but hoped, as the Obama’s recently reminded, he could — and would — become even nominally presidential.

So, writing has become part of my personal learning and engagement. There are many things I thought I understood. By writing about them, however, I gain a much deeper knowledge and appreciation. So I write because it helps me stay informed, helps me learn and understand and helps keep me engaged.

Since January 30, 2017, I am nearing my 200th blog post. Most are serious, some sarcastic, others parody. I’ve written extensively about the Republican Platform 2016 and its abject hypocrisy, the former inexplicitly resurrected for the 2020 RNC and the latter a mainstay of current Republicanism. Through this process I’ve learned much more about liberal democracy, the Constitution, federalism and how state and federal governments work, should work and don’t work in the United States. I’ve come to understand some of the constitutional and legal gaps a mendacious president and administration have exposed and through which Trump and his many enablers slither.

I’ve learned much more about America’s underbelly, white supremacy and nationalism, domestic terrorism, racism, ethnic and religious bigotry, transphobia and homophobia, the dire need for criminal justice and prison reform and that more of us should be taking a knee. I’ve learned more about geopolitics, NATO, the importance of alliances, betraying allies, war crimes, violations of human rights at home and abroad, immigration, and denial and suppression of civil rights. I’ve learned more about evangelicalism, money ministries, the exchange of one’s moral foundation for owning liberals, and some of the psychology behind wittingly voting against one’s interests.

I’ve learned more about mental illness and personality disorders, lack of empathy, bullying, refusal to accept responsibility, self-aggrandizement and claiming credit for others’ accomplishments, the inability to delay gratification, fascism, authoritarianism, zero-sum governance, oaths of office and their breaches.

While I thought I had a deep understanding of public corruption, my knowledge, even as a white collar criminal defense attorney, was no match for what’s transpired these last few years. I’ve learned much more about whistleblowers and Inspectors General. I’ve learned more about laws requiring registration as foreign agents, racketeer influenced corrupt organizations and criminal enterprises, tax crimes, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, financial disclosure requirements, false statements to federal investigators and on government forms, perjury, subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice, obstruction of congress, campaign finance laws and their violation, the Hatch Act, the Logan Act, bank fraud, money laundering, insider trading, bribery, solicitation of bribery, the FISA Court, FISA surveillance applications and warrants, the Nuremberg defense, ego-driven government shutdowns, sexual violence and misogyny, US and foreign intelligence services and compromise. I’ve also deepened by understanding of federal cooperation agreements in the criminal setting and federal sentencing.

I’ve learned much more about climate change, its causes and solutions. Most recently I’ve learned some about RNA viruses and infectious diseases, their spread, simple and obvious cause and effect between a pandemic and the economy, and how countries led by women who place the interests and lives of their citizens above their own egos, leaders who understand, respect and follow science and facts, have addressed and are solving the crisis.

What really will be celebrated at the 2020 RNC are the failures of the past three-and-a-half years, the destruction of Republican conservatism, a criminal enterprise that headquarters at the Oval Office, a lack of American credibility and reliability, a president we know is lying because we can hear him — in sum a total retreat from and abdication of American exceptionalism.

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s next novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming and Norway, will be published by Signature Books this fall. This novel, The Contortionists, tells the story of a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community.




Exercising my right not to remain silent. Criminal defense and First Amendment attorney.