Thursday, September 19, 2019

Can’t Keep His Mouth Shut

Via the Washington Post:

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. spy agencies. One former official said the communication was a phone call.

People who are much more knowledgeable about the inner workings of operations like this are speculating that this phone call and the risk to U.S. intelligence are what caused John Bolton to quit/resign/get fired.

If so, and if what was in the phone call to the foreign leader was such a breach, it’s just another log on the fire of what should constitute grounds for impeachment.  And now the House Intelligence Committee, lead by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) will, after threats of contempt of Congress citations, get to hear from the acting DNI next week.

So who did Trump call?

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

[…]

The complaint was filed with Atkinson’s office on Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

He’s running the White House like he ran his businesses — always skirting the law and ethics — and compromising our intelligence networks to make some kind of deal  — for what, who knows? — and all to prove that he’s the bestest dealmaker around ever, especially better than that gay Kenyan Muslim with the butch wife and funny-looking dog.

This is madness.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Reading

Trust Exercise — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker on the Democrats’ debate.

Resilience in the face of a personal setback was the subject of the final question in last Thursday night’s Democratic debate, in Houston. When it was the turn of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, to answer, he spoke about the years in which he lived with the fear that, as a military officer and an elected official in a socially conservative community, revealing that he was gay would end his career. But he reached a point, he said, where he was “not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer,” and he came out during the final months of a campaign. “When I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them,” he said, “they decided to trust me, and reëlected me with eighty per cent of the vote. And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated.”

Buttigieg’s story was moving on its own terms, but it also threw into relief a fundamental question of the Democratic primary race: What vision of themselves—and of voters—are the candidates willing to trust? At a basic level, that question has to do with being able to convince voters that they’re being spoken to without deceit. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke, of El Paso, has that ability, and it was on display in one of his stronger moments on Thursday. Asked whether he was serious when he said that he would require the owners of military-style weapons to sell them to the government, he replied, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” Politicians are often anxious to offer assurances that no one is coming for anyone’s guns, but O’Rourke said he believed that these gun owners, too, were sick of seeing children dying in mass shootings. When he visited a gun show recently, he added, some people told him that they would be willing to give up their guns, because “I don’t need this weapon to hunt, to defend myself.” Doing the right thing, O’Rourke said, was not a separate task from bringing all Americans, including conservative Republicans, “into the conversation.”

The health-care segment of the debate also hinged on questions of trust. The Medicare for All bill, which Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, wrote, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, signed on to, includes a provision—“on page eight,” as Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, helpfully pointed out—that would effectively ban most forms of private insurance. In this respect, the bill is far more restrictive than not only the “public option” but also the European universal-health-care systems that Sanders admires. Both Buttigieg, who favors “Medicare for All Who Want It,” and Senator Kamala Harris, of California, who introduced a plan in July that includes a longer transition and a larger role for private insurers, maintained that people should be trusted to choose their own option. (Harris has zigzagged on the issue—she originally signed on to Sanders’s bill—raising a different question of trust. Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, who co-sponsored the bill, has also backed away from elements of it.) When Sanders said that workers whose unions had agreed to wage cuts in return for private health-care coverage would be able to recover that money from their employers, Vice-President Joe Biden told him, “For a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.”

That exchange, like several others on Thursday, was largely about how radical, or just how ambitious, the Party is prepared to be. Is sweeping, structural reform the best way to effect change, or is Obamacare worth building on? (Some factions in the Party have been busy rejecting parts of Barack Obama’s legacy—in the area of immigration, for example.) Pervasive doubt about existing institutions could make it easier to persuade people to commit to entirely new ways of doing things; it could also lead them to give up on a political system that they think is irredeemable, or just mean. Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, did not help matters when, during a discussion of public-option insurance enrollment, he seemed gleeful at a chance to portray Biden as doddery—“Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?” he asked. Castro later said that his approach was the way the primaries are supposed to play out. But his gibe seemed a crude bit of gaslighting, since Biden hadn’t quite said what Castro claimed he had. As Klobuchar put it in an interview following the debate, the remark was “not cool.”

Castro barely qualified for the debate; he is averaging about one per cent in the polls. Of the ten candidates on-stage, only three—Biden, Warren, and Sanders—are polling in the double digits. For some of the others, to continue competing seems to call for either an extraordinary amount of confidence in themselves or, especially in the case of Andrew Yang, in the resonance of their message. Yang, a businessman, presents a notable example of the twinned qualities of pessimism and hope. He believes that, in the face of automation, traditional responses to unemployment, such as retraining programs, are hopeless, but that, with a universal basic income of a thousand dollars a month and the “boot off of people’s throats,” Americans will not sink into inertia but remake their lives and their country. He undercut his own message on Thursday, however, by announcing, game-show style, that his campaign would give that money to ten American families so that they could try the plan. At its most developed, the strength of the case for basic income lies in how it would change the entire economic climate, not just the prospects of a few lucky winners.

There is also the reciprocal aspect of the trust equation: having faith in voters. The Democratic Party seems split on the question of how much of its resources should be directed toward certain voters, particularly white working-class men struggling with deindustrialization. The willingness of so many voters to cast their ballots for Donald Trump has been disorienting. But the case remains that some of those same people previously voted for Obama. The categories are rarely neat. As Buttigieg noted, “Where I come from, a lot of times that displaced autoworker is a single black mother of three.”

None of this is easy. Even Buttigieg’s decision to come out publicly, which he did in 2015, would likely have turned out very differently twenty years ago. But it is true that the victories surrounding L.G.B.T.Q. rights have been brought about by a combination of activism, litigation, and people telling their stories within their communities—through conversation, as O’Rourke put it, as well as confrontation. This is how primaries ought to play out. Every election is an exercise in trust.

Of Course It Is — John Nichols in The Nation on the House moving to open an impeachment inquiry.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan has been saying for months that “Congress must now do its job” and open a formal impeachment inquiry. It’s been a frustrating fight for the Wisconsin Democrat in the face of resistance from House Democratic Caucus leaders.

He’s not alone in his call. Most members of the caucus now support formal action that might lead to the impeachment in the House and a trial by the Senate. They know Mitch McConnell’s amen corner for this presidency might reject its duty to remove an errant executive whose presidency has turned into a daily assault on the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

But Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has it right: “I want to see every Republican go on the record and knowingly vote against impeachment of this president knowing his corruption, having it on the record.” Instead of worrying about holding the president to account, Democrats should be forcing the issue—if only to identify the Republican senators who are willing to “protect the amount of lawlessness.”

But even as the Democrats who matter—the members of the House Judiciary Committee—are acting on the issue, leaders of the party keep sending mixed signals. And the media, obsessed as it always is with the meanderings of the powerful rather than the actual news of the day, tends to go along with the charade. So there is still some confusion about whether the Judiciary Committee has launched an actual impeachment inquiry.

Let’s clear things up: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that she’s “not answering any more questions about a possible inquiry, investigation, and the rest” because “there is nothing different from one day to the next.”

But something new did happen on Thursday. The Judiciary Committee’s Democratic majority voted to open an “investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with regard to President Donald J. Trump.” In so doing, they established guidelines for pursuing an inquiry—with committee chair Jerry Nadler noting, correctly, that “Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms.”

The “resolution for investigative procedures” that was approved by the committee allows its members to accept sensitive evidence in closed executive sessions. It clears the way for subcommittees to schedule hearings and question witnesses on impeachment-related issues. And it permits legally and technically experienced staffers to join in the questioning of witnesses during committee hearings.

This is how an impeachment inquiry works—no matter what Speaker Pelosi says or refuses to say about it.

Doonesbury — In the future.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday Reading

Between the Moon and Woodstock — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker on two events in the summer of 1969 that both defined the era.

Anyone old enough to remember the moon landing, fifty years ago today, is also old enough to remember what was said about the moon landing while it was happening. At the time—the very height of the Vietnam War, when the establishment that had sent up the rocket faced a kind of daily full-court-press rebellion, from what had only just been dubbed the “counterculture”—the act of sending three very white guys to the moon seemed, as Norman Mailer wrote at the time, like the final, futile triumph of Wasp culture. It was still called that then, to distinguish it from the culture of Italian and Jews and the other “ethnic” whites, who were seen, in Michael Novak’s famous phrase, as “unmeltable ethnics,” not at all as part of the élite caste of white people. (O tempora! O mores!)

Mailer’s book on the topic, “Of a Fire on the Moon,” which was serialized in Life magazine, another long-gone instrument of that culture, was the usual mid-period Mailer mix of eight parts bullshit to two parts very shrewd observation—in some of his earlier books, the shrewd stuff was all the way up to three parts—but its interpretation of the meaning of the moon landing is still potent. The Apollo 11 mission was, he insisted, chilling in its self-evident futility, its enormous orchestrated energy, and its ultimate pointlessness. We went there because we could go there, with the strong implication that this was also, to borrow the title of another Mailer book, why we were in Vietnam; the Wasp establishment had been restless since it got off the Mayflower, and was always seeking new worlds to conquer for no reason.

What is easy to forget now is that it was a summer balanced between two equally potent national events: the Wasp triumph of the moon landing, answered, almost exactly a month later, by the counterculture triumph of Woodstock. (This reporter recalls standing on a street corner that summer, in Philadelphia, selling copies of an underground weekly, Distant Drummer, with the headline “Woodstock Ushers in Aquarian Age” and nary a word about the moon.) Of the two events, there was no question which seemed more central to anyone under thirty.

Nowadays, of course, if Woodstock were to happen as it happened then—the mud, the squalor, the late shows, the bad acoustics—everyone would complain, and the organizers would all be brought up, so to speak, on Fyre Festival charges. And if we could send a man to the moon again—well, it wouldn’t likely be a man, and almost certainly not one called Buzz, and we wouldn’t talk about a small step for a man or a giant leap for all mankind.

The moon landing is, if anything, more urgently felt as cultural material now. Some of that is due to helpfully revisionist history, which makes the event seem slightly less Waspy, slightly more Woodstockian. The moon mission has yet to be queered, as they say in academia, but it has been re-gendered. The role of women in making the moon landing happen, which back then was presented solely in the images of the tasteful, cautious astronaut wives, has been greatly deepened. (Though one of the virtues of Ron Howard’s fine film “Apollo 13” was to allow, in the character of Jim Lovell’s wife, Marilyn, nicely played by Kathleen Quinlan, the grit in those dutiful space wives to shine through.)

There was, of course, the movie “Hidden Figures,” from 2016, which documented the shamefully under-sung role of three African-American women at NASA in making the Mercury program possible. Another, more eccentric retelling, Nicholas de Monchaux’s terrific book “Spacesuit,” from 2011, describes how Italian-American seamstresses, accustomed to making women’s underthings, made the astronauts’ overthings. It was “a story of the triumph over the military-industrial complex by the International Latex Corporation, best known by its consumer brand of ‘Playtex’—a victory of elegant softness over engineered hardness.” Most recently, we have been re-instructed in the crucial role of the computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, who led a team at M.I.T. that wrote the software—though it was not yet often referred to as such—that made the flight possible.

In a larger sense, though, the two landmark events might best be seen as one, since both the moon landing and Woodstock were, above all, tech fests. Though the rhetoric of Woodstock was swooningly pastoral—“We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” the great Joni Mitchell, who wasn’t there, sang—the truth is that it was the new Marshall stack of amplifiers that made hearing the music possible. When Jimi Hendrix played “The Star-Spangled Banner”—shocking one half of America and delighting the other by turning the anthem into a delirious machine-gun, air-raid-siren shriek—it was on a Marshall 1959 system, with two four-by-twelve-foot cabinets (his “couple of great refrigerators”). That was, in its way, as much a triumph of Anglo-American artisanal tech—Jim Marshall was English, but the Fenders, who made Hendrix’s Stratocaster guitar, were Californian—as the onboard computers. Indeed, the two events were more alike than they seemed then, since both took place in remote, inaccessible settings and became public, above all, through long-distance broadcasts: everyone saw Woodstock in the movies and heard it on records, as they saw the moon landing on television. What no one could have foreseen then was that the two veins would meet in the efflorescence of post-Woodstock high-tech culture—the pop culture of the Steve Jobs generation—that has become the central American preoccupation of the period that came next, our own. Pop culture dependent on new tech and new tech pressed to the uses of pop culture—that’s our anthem, our music.

The curious thing is that, in the midst of our own overkill tech culture, the moon shots suddenly look attractively modest, like a decent, craftsmanlike approach to a problem presented. The most moving cultural representations of NASA and the Apollo missions lie in dramatizations not of the tech triumphs themselves but in the human struggles that made them happen—in, for instance, Ed Harris’s wonderful performance in “Apollo 13,” as the flight director Gene Kranz, who was also the flight director of Apollo 11. When everything goes sideways, and panic is imminent, and all seems lost, Kranz says, simply, “Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”

Those words—like the more famous statement attributed to Kranz, “Failure is not an option”—may be apocryphal. But his official, recorded words seem even more apropos. After the catastrophe of Apollo 1, when three astronauts—Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee—died in a prelaunch rehearsal, Kranz gave a speech to his NASA team. “From this day forward,” he said, “Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘tough’ and ‘competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do, or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities.” He continued, “Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. . . . Each day, when you enter the room, these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

“Tough” and “competent” were, well, echt Wasp words, as Mailer would doubtless have pointed out. (Woodstock words were more often magical-minded: “wild” for charismatic leadership, and “weird,” meaning expert.) But it is worth being reminded of the genuine values those words once held: “tough” for Kranz meant the opposite of showy braggadocio; it meant being accountable and taking responsibility for what we do. “Competent,” in that dialect, meant actually being good at something difficult, and valuing expertise and education above all else. These words could still be the price of admission to a position of leadership, in a broadened and diverse America, as much as they were to the narrowly defined team back then. They might still get us out of the mud, and onto the moon.

John Nichols in The Nation on the 95 who voted for impeachment last week.

”My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution,” declared Congresswoman Barbara Jordan as she embarked on the work of impeaching a president in 1974.

The Texas Democrat’s use of the word “spectator” was deliberate and vital. Members of the US House of Representatives were afforded the impeachment power not as an option but as a duty. It is an essential instrument of the Constitution, and it should be employed not when it is convenient but when it is necessary.

Ninety-five members of the House decided this week that it was necessary. They voted to consider a resolution from another Texas Democrat, Congressman Al Green, to impeach Donald Trump for using racist language to attack four Democratic congresswomen of color. Many of Green’s fellow Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, argued for a slower process that would allow congressional inquiries to consider additional evidence of presidential wrongdoing—a process that next week will feature testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller. The opponents of Green’s proposal prevailed.

But the Texan told them they were on the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of the moment we are now in. Green argued that the issues and the moment were too urgent for any more delays. “The Mueller testimony has nothing to do with his bigotry. Nothing. Zero. Nada,” declared the congressman. “We cannot wait. As we wait, we risk having the blood of somebody on our hands—and it could be a member of Congress.”

Not long after the congressman uttered those words, the president was doubling down on his attacks—naming the names of Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. At a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump announced, “They are always telling us how to run it, how to do this. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.” At the mention of the name of Omar, who came to this country as a refugee from Somalia, wild chants of “send her back” erupted, as a gleeful Trump egged on the crowd.

Trump dismissed Green’s proposal to impeach him as “ridiculous.” In fact, it was a modern variation on a historic article of impeachment against one of the most vile presidents in American history: Andrew Johnson. Faced with objections to his undermining of the post–Civil War work of Reconstruction, his veto of civil rights legislation, and a litany of other concerns regarding his vile statements and obnoxious behavior, Johnson appeared at rallies across the country to rile up his supporters. His language was incendiary. As the University of Virginia’s Miller Center recalls, “Johnson [denounced] the so-called ‘Radical Republicans,’ specifically Representative Thaddeus Stevens, Senator Charles Sumner, and reformer Wendell Phillips, as traitors.”

Johnson accused his congressional rivals of “trying to break up the government.” He appealed to soldiers to “stand by me” in his confrontation with his critics, so that, “God being willing, I will kick them out. I will kick them out just as fast as I can.”

On February 24, 1868, the House voted 126-47 for 11 articles of impeachment against Johnson—including Article 10, which charged him with attempting “to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States.” Johnson would, by a single vote, escape removal from office by the Senate. But the House had done its job. And history reflects far more charitably on the chamber that checked and balanced Johnson, as opposed to the one that allowed the foul pretender to remain in office.

Trump uses different language than Andrew Johnson, But his demonization of his critics, particularly women of color, is straight out of his predecessor’s playbook. And so it was appropriate that Al Green’s response was straight out of the playbook of the Radical Republicans who challenged Johnson on behalf of racial justice and the republic.

The articles of impeachment against the 17th president of the United States took him to task for “intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues” against members of Congress. He deserved to be impeached for that. And he was.

Trump’s go-back-where-you-came-from racism merits an equal response. The full House refused to provide it. But 95 members of Congress, all of them Democrats, answered the call of constitutional responsibility with their votes on July 17, 2019. It is important to record their choice to take up the issue of impeachment, and to do so for this reason. We know that they acted for different reasons: some were ready to impeach immediately, some wanted to have the debate, some wanted to assure that Green’s proposal received proper consideration from the proper committee. What matters is that 95 members refused to go along with the tabling of Green’s resolution.

House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler was one of them, as was Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee chair Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) joined them in voting to explore the prospect of impeaching the president for on the grounds that he has “brought the high office of the President of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute, has sown seeds of discord among the people of the United States, has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President, and has betrayed his trust as President of the United States to the manifest injury of the people of the United States, and has committed a high misdemeanor in office.”

So did Congressional Black Caucus chair Karen Bass (D-CA). Tlaib, a stalwart champion of impeachment, was joined by Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Omar in voting to have the impeachment debate. They were joined some of the savviest members of the chamber, including Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, the constitutional scholar who has done so much to put the struggle to impeach Johnson in context.

Remember these votes to have the debate on Al Green’s impeachment resolution—these votes to take Donald Trump’s racism as seriously as a previous Congress did Andrew Johnson’s racism.

History will eventually look as favorably on the courageous 95 who moved to hold Trump to account as it does on those who moved against Johnson 151 years ago. As for those who voted to table Al Green’s resolution? Many of them may yet come to embrace their constitutional duty. For now, however, they have chosen not to place a whole faith in the Constitution and, instead, to serve as spectators.

Doonesbury — Place your bets.

Monday, June 3, 2019

How To Win The Impeachment Argument

Dan Pfeiffer in Crooked lays out the way to convince the country that Trump should go.

Despite the protestations from Democratic Leaders and handwringing from pundits and consultants, it seems like House Democrats will vote for an impeachment inquiry sooner rather than later. The moral and constitutional arguments for impeachment are much stronger than “Yes, Trump committed crimes, but we can’t impeach him because politics or something.”

With that in mind, Democrats need a plan to manage the politics and maximize the spotlight of an impeachment inquiry. Impeachment is undoubtedly the politically riskier path, but also the one with greater upside for the country and the party. If Democrats are united behind a smart strategy, they can use an impeachment inquiry to prosecute a devastating case against Trump that increases the likelihood that Democrats win the White House, expand our House Majority, and take the Senate.

First, Democrats need a message. They need a concise and compelling argument for what Trump did wrong, how his misdeeds connect to the lives and concerns of voters, and why this merits the extraordinary response of impeachment.

My suggestion for that message is:

Donald Trump has abused his power to hide multiple crimes and massive corruption. He has used the Presidency to punish his enemies, reward his friends, and enrich himself at the expense of the American people. No one is above the law, not even a rich politician.

This narrative (or one like it) needs to be repeated over and over again by every Democratic Member of Congress and talking head. The Democratic SuperPACs should run ads. The grassroots organizations should be delivering this message at the door, on the phone, and in townhalls. The Democratic presidential candidates should make it part of their message. No voter should be confused about why this is happening and what is at stake.

Second, the impeachment inquiry should be broader than the crimes outlined in the Mueller report. A narrow focus on Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation makes it easier for the Republicans to accuse Democrats of trying to relitigate 2016, and deprives Democrats the opportunity to introduce evidence of additional impeachable offenses that Trump has committed since taking office. An impeachment inquiry should look broadly at Trump’s abuse of power: his politicization of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, his refusal to protect our elections and our country from foreign sabotage, and the rampant corruption in an administration where everyone from the president on down enrich themselves at the expense of American taxpayers and America’s security.

Third, an impeachment inquiry should be plotted out more like a TV show than a trial. The star witnesses and high-profile hearings should be spaced out and timed for maximum impact. They should tell a story about Trump’s misdeeds. There should be no rush to get this over with quickly or to meet some artificial timeline. The audience for this show is not the Senate. It’s not Twitter and it’s not the panel on Morning Joe. The audience is the American people – specifically the new and sporadic Democratic voters who came out in 2018, or the independents and Republicans who say they’re most concerned about Trump’s conduct. Our job is to persuade them, not the DC pundit class.

Fourth, turn the relative unpopularity of impeachment into an asset. The polls are clear that impeachment is unpopular. Majorities oppose it. While that fact may change over time, Democrats should make a virtue of the fact that they’re taking a principled position out of conviction, not calculation or convenience.

Fifth, use Senate Republicans as a foil. Mitch McConnell has already indicated that no matter what crimes Trump may have committed, he will do everything in his power to ensure that the president escapes accountability. Democrats should view this as an opportunity to pressure Republican Senators who are vulnerable in 2020. If Cory Gardner or Susan Collins or Martha McSally refuse to hold Trump accountable, paint them as Trump flunkies who put party over country. Every one of them is aiding and abetting the president’s corruption and criminality.

Finally, Democrats must show the public that they can walk and chew gum at the same time. At Trump’s unhinged statement in the Rose Garden last week, he previewed his response to impeachment. Trump wants to run against the “Investigate Everything, Do Nothing” Congress. Democrats should rob this argument of its political potency by laying out a detailed legislative agenda that focuses on the kitchen table issues that matter most to voters. Pass these bills in the House, and then hold public events demanding that McConnell give them a vote in the Senate. None of these bills will become law, but they’ll give Democrats a platform to run on, as well as a response to Republican attacks and media handwringing.

There is no question whether impeachment is the right vote, only if it’s the right politics. I can’t tell you how the politics of impeachment will play out – no one can. But through impeachment proceedings, Democrats have the power to shape the debate, grab the microphone away from Trump, and tell a compelling story about why he’s unfit to be president. The political risk is real, but so is the potential upside – if done well. No matter what Democrats do, Trump and Bill Barr will be falsely accusing Democrats of treason and spinning absurd conspiracy theories about the origins of the Mueller investigation. A well-planned and well-executed impeachment inquiry may be the only way to wrest the microphone from Trump and tell a story on our terms about who Trump is and the damage he has wrought on our country.

Make the case, then do it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

One Little Crack

I don’t put a lot of hope in the fact that one Republican congressman from Michigan has come out for impeachment.

Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash said Saturday he had concluded President Donald Trump committed “impeachable conduct” and accused Attorney General William Barr of intentionally misleading the public.

Amash’s comments recommending Congress pursue obstruction of justice charges against Trump were the first instance of a sitting Republican in Congress saying the President’s conduct meets the “threshold for impeachment.”

The only glimmer that it offers is that up now the GOP has been rock-solid behind Trump.  That’s more owing to their own self-interest than anything that could be considered loyalty: they want to get re-elected, and if it turned out that being against Trump would better their chances, they’d be lined up around the block to denounce him.

But don’t look for this one little crack to lead to erosion.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Real Threat

Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post:

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

The Republicans, of course, will not listen to this.  All they will say is that she’s a sore loser and E-MAILS!  But what is so striking is that they and a lot of other people were willing — and still are — to take Trump’s word that the Russians did nothing to interfere with the election of 2016 and are just as likely to do the same next year.  Oh, but our real national security is threatened by refugees from Central America who are begging, with their last dime, for asylum.  But the systematic corruption of our electoral system?  Nah.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

The very fact that Trump and his toadies are saying “Move along, folks, nothing to see here,” is reason enough to hold hearings and get to the truth.  It may lead to impeachment; it may not.  But to sit back and do nothing is exactly what the Russians are expecting us to do.  They know we’re too easily distracted by trivial bullshit and shiny objects; while the country is obsessed with the latest Kardashian sighing, they’re robbing us and getting away with it.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Not There Yet

I would like to think that in a sane and just world, having a president who hired people who were actively committing tax fraud before, during, and after their tenure with your campaign and hired a lawyer who would willingly pay hush money to women to buy their silence about committing adultery would raise serious questions about their fitness for office.  And that’s not even taking into account the ongoing investigation as to whether or not he or his advisors worked with a hostile foreign autocrat and his government to throw the presidential election.

But that’s in a sane and just world, and we’re not there.  We haven’t been for quite a while.

After the events of Tuesday — and adding in all the other considerations and previous antics — naturally the call is coming from some quarters along the lines of “What more does Congress need to start impeachment proceedings?”  The answer is pretty simple: a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and a smoking gun.  Right now we don’t have either.

Impeachment is hard to pull off.  The framers made it tough for a reason: they didn’t want it to be used for superfluous or political reasons.  In the three times Congress has tried it on a president, it has never been successful in removing him from office through the whole process.  Andrew Johnson survived the trial, Nixon resigned before the House could even vote on all the articles, and Bill Clinton beat the rap in the Senate.  Not only did he beat it, the process backfired spectacularly on his accusers — Newt Gingrich was forced out as House Speaker — and Mr. Clinton ended up more popular with the electorate than before the whole thing started.  So despite the mountains of lies, pettiness, and outrageous tweets spewed by Trump, until there’s rock solid evidence, provable in a court of law, that he committed the Constitution’s requirements for impeachment, we’re going to have to bear with it.  (And even if he were to, as he once boasted, shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight, there will be the 27% — and Fox News — that say the person who got shot had it coming.)

New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens follows my trail but ends up making the case for impeachment now, basically saying Trump’s actions reach the level of removal, holding up the Clinton case as the bloody shirt to the Republicans.

If breaking the law (by lying under oath) to conceal an affair was impeachable, why is breaking the law (by violating campaign-finance laws) to conceal an affair not impeachable?

If “cheating the electoral system” (by means of a burglary) was impeachable, why is cheating the electoral system (by means of illicit hush money) not impeachable?

If cheating “our institutions” (by means of an “assault” in “every way” on the legal system) is impeachable, why is cheating those institutions (by means of nonstop presidential mendacity and relentless attacks on the Justice Department and the F.B.I.) not impeachable?

Pragmatists will rejoin that there’s no sense in advocating impeachment when the G.O.P. controls Congress. I’m sorry that so many congressional Republicans have lost their sense of moral principle and institutional self-respect, but that’s a reason to seek Democratic victories in the fall. The Constitution matters more than a tax cut. What the Constitution demands is the impeachment and removal from office of this lawless president.

I’m sure he’s sincere in his outrage, but shaming the Republicans into doing the right thing is a fool’s errand.  When it comes to choosing moral principles and self-respect over winning an election, we all know where that’s headed.

So we need to elect a majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate so that they will be able to methodically and with due diligence look into this president and his actions.  Going off on a banshee screed about locking him up will only harden the hearts of his defenders and provide them with soundbites for their witch-hunt memes.  And we need to hear all of the evidence — solid and irrefutable — of the alleged crimes.  Whether or not that comes from the Mueller investigation is yet to be known; it may or may not.  But until that happens, we’re going to have to wait for both the election in November and the report from the investigation.

Trump and the Republicans have so mangled our senses that it seems impossible to think that we can wait much longer without causing permanent damage to both our lives and the future of this form of government.  But we survived a civil war, a depression, and numerous acts of venality and criminal acts by people in high places of power and yet survived.  If we could get through those, we can get through this now.  And if we’re going to take action to get him out of office, it has to be done right.  Miss or mess it up and we’ll be worse off.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Impeachment Won’t Solve Everything

There’s a good piece by Jeet Heer in The New Republic about the Democrats’ dangerous obsession with impeaching Trump.

The practical problem is that for impeachment to be meaningful, Trump would not just have to be impeached by the House of Representatives (which requires a simple majority) but also removed by the Senate (requiring a two-thirds vote). It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018 and have the necessary votes for impeachment. But even in that best-case scenario, in which Democrats win every toss-up race for the Senate, they would still be well short of the votes they need in the Senate. Which means that kicking Trump out of the White House by necessity has to be a bipartisan effort with significant Republican buy-in.

[…]

The Republican Party has proven that they will tolerate just about anything from Trump. They continue to stand with him despite his demented tweeting, the political support he’s given to Roy Moore, his repeated expressions of contempt for the justice system, and his cavalier threats to launch a nuclear war. Unless Robert Mueller finds the possibly apocryphal “pee tape,” Republicans are likely to remain loyal to Trump. In fact, there’s a real possibility that even if the “pee tape” is real and widely viewed, Trump would still remain politically sacrosanct among his own party.

The most promising route for stopping Trump, then, is through the ballot box. Democrats need a convincing platform and effective organization to win elections at every level. If the party can win back Congress in 2018, it can immediately start hamstringing Trump’s presidency without resorting to the unlikely path of impeachment. Democrats can launch investigations into Trump’s many improper acts. They can stall his nominees, especially in the courts. They can also start laying down rules for reining in the imperial presidency, including the thermonuclear monarchy, so that no future commander-in-chief has the dangerous power Trump possesses.

Impeachment is hard to do and it’s a political act as opposed to a judicial function.  In my lifetime it’s been put in motion when the opposition party has held the majority in Congress, and that’s how it will play out.

The only way to truly rid the nation of the Trump effect is to vote him and every Republican who supports him and his policies out of office the next time around, which is eleven months from now in the midterms, and then come up with both a viable and impervious candidate in 2020 who can not just be the anti-Trump but someone with a vision that brings us back to reality.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Unpardonable

Via the Washington Post:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

Yeah, I’ll bet.  Innocent people don’t look for ways to get out of legal trouble or scuttle the investigation.

Via the New York Times:

Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller, who has assembled a team of high-powered prosecutors and agents to examine whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers aided Russia’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

This, along with the sniffing around the pardon parameters, makes it pretty clear that Trump and his gang are really nervous about what Mr. Mueller might come up with.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Trump Gets Fired

Evan Osnos has a very good article in The New Yorker (subscription required) on the mechanics of getting a president out of office.

Basically there are two ways to get rid of a president: impeachment or through the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4, which allows for the Cabinet or other designees appointed by Congress to certify the president is incapable of fulfilling his duties.

How likely is it that either scenario will take place?  The Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4 requires that the majority of the Cabinet — people appointed by the president — sign off on his disability.  That’s not going to happen without some medical emergency or state of unconsciousness; they all think that when he farts they’re hearing Tony Bennett croon.  This Congress will not pass any law that takes over that duty.  So unless Trump is struck by lightning, he’s safe.

Impeachment is another route, but history has shown that only happens when the opposition party is in control of Congress where the articles of impeachment are drafted and voted on.  With all due respect to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), that’s not going to happen until the Democrats take over Congress again.  So the earliest that could possibly happen is in 2019 after the Democrats sweep the mid-terms.  (And how likely is that?)

The only other way out is through resignation when the president realizes that he no longer has the support of the people and Congress.  Given Trump’s propensity for delusion, that’s not even on the horizon; he’d think he’s doing great even as they handcuff him.

As Osnos notes, it requires a certain level of delusion to be president in the first place.

The history of besieged Presidencies is, in the end, a history of hubris—of blindness to one’s faults, of deafness to the warnings, of seclusion from uncomfortable realities. The secret of power is not that it corrupts; that is well known. “What is never said,” Robert Caro writes, in “Master of the Senate,” about Lyndon Johnson, “is that power reveals.” Trump, after a lifetime in a family business, with no public obligations and no board of directors to please, has found himself abruptly exposed to evaluation, and his reactions have been volcanic. Setting a more successful course for the Presidency will depend, in part, on whether he fully accepts that critics who identify his shortcomings are capable of curtailing his power. When James P. Pfiffner, a political scientist at George Mason University, compared the White House crises that confronted Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, he identified a perilous strain of confidence. In each case, Pfiffner found, the President could not “admit to himself that he had done anything wrong.” Nixon convinced himself that his enemies were doing the same things he was; Reagan dismissed the trading of arms for hostages as the cost of establishing relations with Iran; Clinton insisted that he was technically telling the truth. In Pfiffner’s view, “Each of these sets of rationalizations allowed the Presidents to choose the path that would end up damaging them more than an initial admission would have.”

Law and history make clear that Trump’s most urgent risk is not getting ousted; it is getting hobbled by unpopularity and distrust. He is only the fifth U.S. President who failed to win the popular vote. Except George W. Bush, none of the others managed to win a second term. Less dramatic than the possibility of impeachment or removal via the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the distinct possibility that Trump will simply limp through a single term, incapacitated by opposition.

The most likely scenario for him leaving office before his term is up is that he will decide being president is for losers and he’d rather be playing golf.  The problem with that is the country can’t wait for him to figure that out.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Amendment XXV, Section 4

There is not much likelihood that Trump will be impeached.  In practical matters, it’s not going to happen as long as the Republicans are in control of the House, which is where articles of impeachment originate.  The last two times that a president was either impeached or got close to it — Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon — the opposition party to the president was in the majority in the House.  In addition, the bar for impeachment is “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which basically means the president has to commit a criminal act.  Tweeting outrageous garbage at 3:00 a.m. is not a crime; if it were, a lot of people — especially jilted boyfriends — would be under indictment.

So what recourse have we?  Well, there’s the part where we can genuinely question whether or not the current president is capable of fulfilling his duties due to mental disease or disability.

Martin Longman writes:

There was a period of time when it was at least in doubt whether Trump was a genuine Birther or just a cynical one using the slander as a shrewd ploy to win political support from the far right. That debate should be settled now that we see him in office embracing theories concocted in the fever swamps of Breitbart and the Alex Jones InfoWars radio show. He isn’t sophisticated enough to understand the difference between mercenary partisan propaganda and actual news reporting. This is why he repeats things like the story that New Jersey muslims were celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers and that millions of non-citizens (all) voting for Clinton cost him the popular vote.

He doesn’t just repeat these stories that are intended to deceive the audience and enrich the author, but he asks that the government actively investigate them.

And this is the stuff that actually does move Trump closer to being removed from office. Because, you can be sure that many, many Republicans are more than perturbed that they have to constantly apologize for or try to rationalize the president’s insupportable statements and theories. They know he’s a dangerous loose cannon. They know he can’t be trusted or even reasoned with. And they want to live to see their grandchildren.

There seems to be push back when anyone accuses the president of having a mental disorder or disability, as if to say so is to suggest that people with mental problems can’t be trusted to take positions of responsibility. People say it’s wrong to try to diagnose a person without having the proper credentials or the opportunity to closely interact with them as a patient.

This is taking things too far when it comes to the president of the United States who commands enough radioactivity to end sentient life on Earth. You don’t want me to say that the president has narcissistic personality disorder and is clearly insane?

Fine, how about this? It’s a bad idea to hand your three year old a loaded handgun. Saying so is not to disrespect three year olds or to dismiss all the wonderful things they’re capable of doing. If you hand your three year old a handgun and he pulls the trigger and kills someone, that’s entirely your fault. And if your see a three year old walking around with a loaded handgun, your responsibility is to immediately disarm them.

That’s the best analogy for our current situation. And it would be true even if the president were not ethically compromised beyond belief. It would be true even if he were not undermining the European Union, demoralizing NATO, and seemingly more interested in furthering Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy goals than the strength and unity of the West.

It’s not that Trump tweets and re-tweets wild and unsubstantiated stuff from conspiracy-theorists and hate groups.  It’s that he believes it.

There is a solution.  It’s not easy, and it will require the cooperation of people close to the president and who owe their current position to him.  But it’s there: Amendment XXV, Section 4.

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

The question remains, however, is what will it take to get them to use it.  By the time there’s a consensus among the principal officers, it could be too late.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In This Corner

The House Republicans have trapped themselves with all this impeachment talk.

Boehner and other Republican leaders are now trying to walk an impossible tightrope. On one hand, they’re arguing that they have no interest in impeaching the president — they know that it would be a political catastrophe if they did — and any suggestion to the contrary is nothing but Democratic calumny. On the other hand, they’re arguing that Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution. If that contradiction has put them in a difficult situation, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Mr. Boehner says its all a “scam” started by the White House to raise money for Democrats and that no Republicans are talking about impeachment.  Well, except for these Republicans.  But that’s it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting Out The Vote

Steve Benen on you-know-who’s call for Congress to impeach President Obama:

First, for a prominent Republican figure to use immigration as a rationale for presidential impeachment – just four months before the midterm elections – is pretty much the opposite the message the party establishment wants to convey. GOP lawmakers have already killed a popular, bipartisan immigration bill, alienating Latino voters nationwide, and now Sarah Palin is making matters worse, largely because her contempt for the president is unrelated to any kind of sensible electoral strategy.

Second, the more the party’s highest-profile personalities raise the volume on impeachment talk, the more it motivates the Democratic base to actually get in the game this fall (look up “1998, midterm elections”). Put it this way: who do you think is more excited about talking up Palin’s harangue this afternoon, the RNC or the DNC? I’m guessing the latter.

[…]

And so, with 118 days to go before the midterms, Republicans are increasingly positioning themselves as the anti-immigrant, anti-contraception, pro-impeachment party that shut down the government last year for no reason. The GOP, in other words, is practically begging the Democratic base to wake up, show up, and get engaged.

There must be some kind of psychosis in the G.O.P. that compels them to do everything they can to poison their own water and yet think they can get away with it at the ballot box.  Maybe it’s because they’ve rigged the system through gerrymandering congressional districts so that no matter how crappy Congress comes off to the electorate — right now a 10% approval score would be an upgrade — so many individual districts are in the hands of the hard-core base that a competitive election would be as rare as one in North Korea.  It gives them the feeling of invincibility, and all too often the Democrats have accommodated them by barely trying.

But now that the screaming reminder of G.O.P. incompetence (thank you, John McCain) is holding forth, perhaps the Democrats will seize the chance to exploit the fact that the threat of impeachment is no longer the mutterings of talk radio and the birthers.  She has laid this turd smack in the middle of the Republican salad bar.  Enjoy your lunch, Speaker Boehner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Count On It

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), soon to be retired, raised the possibility of impeaching President Obama over his immigration directive.

I’m kind of surprised it took this long for a comparatively balanced member of the GOP to bring it up. Of course, calling him “comparatively balanced” in a party that includes Michele Bachmann and Allen West sets the standard a little low, and with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) going for the tin-foil-hat gun-control theory, merely suggesting impeachment is the moderate approach.

If President Obama wins a second term, though, bet on impeachment hearings to start in February 2013.

Count On It

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), soon to be retired, raised the possibility of impeaching President Obama over his immigration directive.

I’m kind of surprised it took this long for a comparatively balanced member of the GOP to bring it up. Of course, calling him “comparatively balanced” in a party that includes Michele Bachmann and Allen West sets the standard a little low, and with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) going for the tin-foil-hat gun-control theory, merely suggesting impeachment is the moderate approach.

If President Obama wins a second term, though, bet on impeachment hearings to start in February 2013.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Short Takes

Great Depression II — Jobless rate hits its highest level since 1992, and the economy is losing jobs faster than any time since the 1930’s.

Blagojevich Impeached — The Illinois House votes to impeach the governor, and he follows that up with a press conference that can only be described as either surreal or Marxist…as in Groucho.

Two Big Steps for Equality — “The House voted on Friday to give women powerful new tools to challenge sex discrimination by employers who pay women less than men for the same or substantially similar work.” President Bush said he would veto them, but President-elect Obama is “eager” to sign them.

Saving the Everglades — The Obama administration is seen as the hope that funding for Everglades restoration will be fully implemented after being slowed to a trickle by the Bush administration.

Want to Buy a Paper? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has 60 days to find a buyer or Hearst will either make it web-only or cease publication.

Thomas Jefferson Says… P-I cartoonist David Horsey on the future of print media.

Green Stems Save Money — Florida is going to save $50,000 a year by changing the color of the stem on the orange blossom on the standard state license plate from brown to green. (Here’s an idea: how about they lose the stupid graphic design altogether? No wonder people buy the 100+ specialty plates.)

Happy to Be Here — Toledo and the Midwest are getting another big snowstorm.

Saturday Morning Cartoon — Tom and Jerry.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dennis Quixote

From Raw Story:

An Ohio Democratic lawmaker and former presidential candidate has presented articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush to Congress.

Thirty-five articles were presented by Rep. Dennis Kucinich to the House of Representatives late Monday evening, airing live on C-SPAN.

“The House is not in order,” said Kucinich to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), upon which Pelosi pounded her gavel.

“Resolved,” Kucinich then began, “that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate. …

“In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed the following abuses of power…”

The first article Kucinich presented, and many that followed, regarded the war in Iraq: “Article 1 – Creating a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture a false case for war against Iraq.”

I don’t give his efforts much of a chance, and I’m sure a lot of people, including the Democratic leadership, view him as a crackpot, but I have to give Mr. Kucinich props for sticking to his principles, and if a blow job is worthy of articles of impeachment, certainly starting a war is worthy as well. And sometimes there are windmills worth tilting at.

Monday, November 26, 2007

When Republicans Had a Conscience

Vincent Rossmeier at Salon.com looks back at the time when Republican members of Congress had other priorities than party loyalty and allegiance to a president of their party.

The Bush era has drawn various comparisons with the Nixon era, but what seems forgotten from that time is the courage exhibited by a handful of lawmakers, once fiercely loyal to the president, who ultimately decided to impeach him. In recent interviews with Salon, some of those former congressmen spoke about their reasons for risking their political career and taking a principled stand, the kind that seems so unlikely on Capitol Hill today.

[…]

One them was M. Caldwell Butler of Virginia. In Nixon’s 1972 landslide reelection, Butler’s district had voted 73 percent in Nixon’s favor. In an interview given for a 1984 PBS documentary titled “Summer of Judgment: The Impeachment Hearings,” Butler said that when the Judiciary Committee began its deliberations, he was “still very defensive of the president.” Yet, by the end of that summer, he became one of the decisive Republican votes that sealed Nixon’s fate.

Behind his large, Coke-bottle glasses, Butler gave a rousing and emphatic speech to the committee that today seems both resonant and remote:

If we fail to impeach, we have condoned and left unpunished a course of conduct totally inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of the American people. We will have condoned a presidential course of conduct designed to interfere with and obstruct the very process he has sworn to uphold. We will have condoned and left unpunished an abuse of power totally without justification. In short, a power appears to have corrupted. It is a sad period in American history, but I cannot condone what I have heard, I cannot excuse it and I cannot and will not stand still for it.

Now 82, Butler told Salon in a recent interview that impeachment was “warranted because of the president’s conduct.” From his perspective, the impeachment was never a partisan issue. “I didn’t have any problem separating the Republican problem,” he said. “It was my first term in Congress, and I wasn’t all that crazy about the job anyway … I think it would have been a terrible thing if we had decided to vote strictly along party lines in the committee.”

However, Butler did feel pressure from his constituency to vote against impeachment. “Everyone one of us Republicans and Southern Democrats were from areas that had strong Nixon support in the previous election, so we all felt in jeopardy.”

Other Republicans who voted for articles of impeachment were Tom Railsback of Illinois, William Cohen of Maine, Harold Froehlich of Wisconsin, Lawrence Hogan of Maryland, Robert McClory of Illinois and Hamilton Fish of New York.

[…]

It should not seem far-fetched for a politician to put conscience before party loyalty or political prospects. As Butler and Railsback put it, and as Mann Jr. said about his father, they and the other lawmakers who held Nixon accountable were only doing their job. But it is hard not to label their efforts as heroic in light of today’s inaction on Capitol Hill.

Near the close of the Watergate committee’s proceedings, James Mann Sr. issued a prophetic statement. He said, “If there be no accountability, another president will feel free to do as he chooses, but the next time, there may be no watchmen in the night.”

Of course, when the Republicans had the chance to impeach a president, they went at it hammer and tongs because as we all know, a blow job is much more of a threat to the Constitution than starting a war based on lies, instituting warrantless wiretapping, and condoning torture in violation of the UCMJ and the Geneva Convention. It was also all about Bill Clinton, and this time it’s our Dear Leader. But remember, IOKIYAR! (It’s OK If You’re A Republican.)