Category Archives: Politics

Sammies – A Better Oscar

Some years ago, when my wife worked for a union representing federal employees, I attended a Sammies award ceremony. Sammies is the shorthand for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal. You may not have heard of them, but this is the deal:

The Sammies, known as the “Oscars” of government service, are a highly respected honor with a rigorous selection process. Named for the Partnership for Public Service’s late founder who was inspired by President Kennedy’s call to serve in 1963, these awards align with his vision of a dynamic and innovative federal workforce that meets the needs of the American people.

The Partnership is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help make our government more effective, and the Sammies honorees represent the many exceptional federal workers who are doing just that—breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results. Whether they’re defending the homeland, protecting the environment, ensuring public safety, making scientific and medical discoveries, or responding to natural and man-made disasters, these men and women put service before self and make a lasting difference. [https://servicetoamericamedals.org/about/]

Like the annual Oscars, I frankly don’t recall much of the detail of the ceremony which was, like the movie Oscars, long with speeches explaining each award and with thank you statements from recipients. What I do clearly remember, however, is how impressed I was with the nature of the achievements being honored.

I was reminded of this by today’s editorial in the New York Times entitled “The Wreckage Betsy DeVos Leaves Behind.” https://nyti.ms/3hFswo7 It’s a condemnation of the terrible legacy in one of the nation’s most important components (education of our children). It summarizes what happens when the philosophy of “less government” is turned over to incompetent ideologues who simply produce “bad government” and believe it’s the same result. This is the story of agency after agency, function after function under the morally and substantively bankrupt management of the Trump administration’s gang of grifters.

Yet, under it all, persevering and achieving, were federal employees accomplishing amazing feats, largely without awareness by the general public. This is the true “deep state” that was so often vilified by Trump’s lieutenants in service to his fevered imaginings. Here are just two excerpts, among thousands of their achievements:

LINA ALATHARI, PH.D. – 2020 Finalist in Safety, Security & International Affairs

As head of the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, Lina Alathari has expanded the agency’s traditional role by supporting state and local governments, law enforcement and school districts nationwide in the fight against targeted violence.

… Alathari and her team have delivered more than 1,200 training sessions to more than 83,000 law enforcement officers, educators, mental health providers, government officials, faith-based leaders and other private organizations across 50 states. Hundreds of schools and communities have adopted Alathari’s behavior-based threat prevention protocols.

“The 2019 Secret Service research report analyzed 41 attacks and found that many could have been prevented by using Alathari’s threat assessment model,” Murray [Director of the Secret Service] said. “There are people doing active shooter response research, but no one is doing prevention intervention research like her.”

Rory Cooper – 2017 Winner in Science & Environment

In the years following … [a] 1980 accident [while serving in the Army that left him paralyzed & confined to a wheelchair], Cooper founded the nation’s leading assistive technology research laboratory and has been the driving force behind game-changing innovations in the design of manual and power wheelchairs, adaptive sports and recreational equipment, and rehabilitation instrumentation.

“Rory Cooper’s inventions are used by over one-quarter million people with disabilities, and research equipment he designed is being used in nearly 100 laboratories and training facilities around the world,”

Cooper and his team are credited with 25 patents that have advanced wheelchair technology. He has spearheaded such innovations as a wheelchair with robotic arms that features hands that can grasp, and he has improved motorized wheelchairs by taking advantage of new capabilities in electronics, safety and controls, and by making changes to steering mechanisms and seating functions.

I could go on and on with this, but you get the idea. Just take a cursory look at the website if you dare to have your preconceptions about the federal workforce changed.  https://bit.ly/2LaXNDb And the next time you hear someone make a crack about federal workers, or government workers at any level for that matter, challenge them to do some self-education. Throughout the past four years, Donald Trump, his family and his enablers in the White House, Congress and elsewhere have done everything they can to undermine the effectiveness of the United States government, to weaken it, and with it the entire country, in the eyes of the world. It’s time now to reverse that disgusting, ill-informed and self-defeating legacy of shame with recognition and honor for those laboring largely in the shadows to make the world safer for everyone.

 

Republican Traitors Last Try to Subvert the Constitution

I am sorry to start the New Year 2021 on this note, but I am unable to escape the news that Republicans, led by a senator Hawley from Missouri, will attempt yet again to undermine the constitutional system for electing national leaders by urging Congress to reject the 2020 election result. https://bit.ly/34YJecO This move, reportedly to be endorsed by at least 140 House Republicans, is, of course, doomed to failure.

It could be seen, indeed has been seen even by a handful of Republicans, as just an act of political theater to appeal to Donald Trump’s political following and to serve as the “first hat in the ring for 2024” in case Trump himself is unwilling or unable (in prison?) to run again. It could be seen that way and thus dismissed as just another act in the political play the Republicans have been staging since Trump first declared the election was going to be rigged against him. It could be seen that way even as Trump himself took steps, through the Postal Service and with the help of compliant Republican governors, to suppress Democratic votes around the country. It could be seen that way even though no complaints of election-rigging have been presented as to the down-ticket Republicans who won elections in states Biden won.

One could go on and on about what “could be seen” as harmless politicking by a group of people with no principles other than winning-at-all-costs, a group who readily align themselves with looney conspiracy theories propounded by QAnon, whatever that is. Harmless politicking by a group of unprincipled politicians who brought dozens of lawsuits around the country claiming, without evidence, that electoral fraud was responsible for Trump’s defeat and who lost all but one (insignificant) such case. Harmless politicking by a president who continues to claim that he won the popular vote, that he won states where multiple recounts found that he lost, and on and on. Harmless politicking by a group of spineless sycophants indifferent to or, more likely, intent upon inspiring acts of violence against, for example, the Governor of Michigan and others.

But, in my opinion, that is not the right way to see this. The correct way is to recognize and, in due course, to act upon this reality: a large group of elected officials from across the United States have chosen to adhere to the blatantly false, phantasmagorical ravings of a desperate and, possibly, mentally impaired, president and are threatening to overturn the lawful and proper election of that president’s opponent. These acts are, I submit, acts of treason against the United States.

To be clear, I use “treason” here in the colloquial sense, not the strict legal meaning that we are often reminded is extremely narrow and almost impossible to prove. https://nbcnews.to/3o6Uyvc Treason as defined in the Constitution, Article III, section 3 is only this: “… levying war against [he United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The U.S. Code [18 U.S. Code § 2381] implements that provision this way:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

I use “treason” instead to refer to overt acts designed to, and with the potential to actually, subvert the Constitution, leading inevitably to regime after regime refusing to recognize “elections” and continuing in power with the support of the military and police despite the actual desires of the population, until, eventually, power is determined solely by who has the support of the military. Then, of course, the United States will have ceased to exist in any meaningful political or cultural sense. It will join the legions of other failed countries where the people do not get to choose their leaders. Democracy will be finished, here and, very likely, everywhere. This version of “treason” is good enough.

Political theater and political stunts are commonplace in our past. We understand that a senator standing alone with the dictionary, encyclopedia or recipe book and blathering on and on to prevent legislation from being voted upon is “just filibustering,” something permitted in some circumstances by Senate rules that enables a single senator to halt the progress of legislation even if everyone else in the United States wants it to pass. Nothing like political theater or “stuntery” is going on here. No, the president of the United States and a large group of elected Republican congressmen and senators are trying to use blunt force to simply discard the results of the 2020 election and declare Donald Trump the winner (and possibly president for life).

This action has been labeled, correctly in my view, as a “threat to the republic.” See Michael Gerson’s piece in the Washington Post (https://wapo.st/3oaRmi4),

In the cause of his own advancement, the senator from Missouri is willing to endorse the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans — particularly voters of color — and justify the attempted theft of an election. He is willing to credit malicious lies that will poison our democracy for generations. The fulfillment of Hawley’s intention — the ultimate overturning of the election — would be the collapse of U.S. self-government. The attempt should be a source of shame

Gerson goes on to note that Donald Trump,

rose to prominence in the GOP by spreading racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. Now, he is making the acceptance of conspiratorial myths about Biden’s legitimacy into a test of GOP fidelity. And Trump has made room in his party for even more extreme versions of his method, involving the accusations that Democratic leaders are pedophiles: “Stop the steal” and QAnon are on the same spectrum of vile lunacy. This is the type of politics that Hawley is enabling — a form of politics that abolishes politics. A contest of policy visions can result in compromise. The attempt to delegitimize your opponent requires their political annihilation. And a fight to the political death is always conducted in the shadow of possible violence.

I part company with Mr. Gerson regarding what should be done about this. Certainly, he is right in calling for rejection of Hawley’s self-serving treachery. Maybe, though I doubt it, he is right in suggesting we praise the handful of Republicans who, as of today anyway, indicate dissent from the Trump-at-all-costs version of politics that Hawley promotes. Republicans, like Trump himself, are all too transactional in their support, so that the likes of Romney, Murkowski and some others still vote with Trump/McConnell almost all the time. They should get no reward in public or political acclaim for doing the self-evidently right thing now.

In my view, what I have chosen to call treason should become a standard label associated with those who have made their choice of Trump over the country, over democracy and over commitment to freedom and opportunity for all Americans. It should be part of their identification in the media along with party and geographical affiliation. Their names should reside in history alongside Benedict Arnold. They should be reminded regularly in the House and Senate chambers that their traitorous conduct has been noted and will never be forgiven. And, of course, every available resource should be devoted to removing them from office as soon as possible, through election and, in appropriate cases, criminal investigation and prosecution.

The time for politics-as-usual is over. To be clear, I am not suggesting a Democratic political vendetta but an aggressive and definitive legal response to overt acts plainly intended to overturn an election judged fair by all 50 states and multiple courts (including judges appointed by Trump). The fact that the effort is being executed in the halls of Congress does not excuse it. There is no excuse. Brute force politics must be met with a brute force legal response. I leave the details to others with the skill and knowledge to do it. Enough was enough long ago.

 

 

 

Big Block of Cheese Day [Guest Post by Dina Ruden]

I walked to the White House today and when I got there, I wept.

After a hiatus of three years, I returned to DC and one of the first things I wanted to do was take a walk to my old stomping grounds. For 13 years, I worked a block and a half from the White House and often walked over at lunchtime or after work to admire the view of “The People’s House,” the ever-changing scene of school groups, selfie-taking tourists (both foreign and domestic), law enforcement officers mixed in with the “regular” protestors, daily fixtures with their signs and their lawn chairs. My version of Americana at its best.

In the time of Trump, everything has changed.

DC is a post-apocalyptic nightmare right now. As I walked the eight blocks from my apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, I could hear my own footsteps on streets that were once packed with office workers and tourists. I walked for five minutes across downtown DC without seeing another human being. My heart was heavy as I approached the Executive Office Building and the Renwick Gallery and encountered fence after fence and signs warning me off.

Surely, there was a way to walk through Lafayette Square to the park! No, there was not. I walked up to H Street and had to walk all the way around to 16th Street and even then, behind all the fences and barricades, I could barely make out a portion of the White House. I read about this and saw it on TV, but nothing could prepare me for the emotional impact of seeing one of our nation’s most loved historical treasures being closed off from the American people.

An article in The Atlantic aptly describes the scene I encountered:

“The White House today is hidden behind a welter of barricades, anti-scale fencing, bollards, and Jersey barriers…Lafayette Square, the scene of one of Trump’s most vulgar assaults on core American values, is now impenetrable.”

Enterprising citizens have made their displeasure known posting signs along the fence. I found some comfort in arriving at Black Lives Matter Plaza, which brought me hope that the people will ultimately prevail.

There’s a running joke on the show West Wing about Andrew Jackson and Big Block of Cheese day. In the show, they say that Jackson brought the cheese to the White House and invited people who would not normally get the ear of the president to state their cases. According to historians, the 1,400-pound block of cheese was presented to Jackson by a dairy farmer from New York to promote the Empire State. Apparently, Jackson did not know what to do with such a large block of cheese so at the end of his term, he hosted a reception for 10,000 people and invited them to take the cheese. Following that event, the web site, Thought.com, reports:

“The new occupant of the White House, Martin Van Buren, banned the serving of food at White House receptions. Crumbs from Jackson’s mammoth cheese had fallen into the carpets and been trampled by the crowd. Van Buren’s time in the White House would be plagued by many problems, and it got off to a horrible start as the mansion smelled of cheese for months.”

My hope is that on Jan. 21, President Biden will order the barricades, fencing and bollards torn down and the “People’s House” will once again be restored to us. I only hope the stench left behind by the previous administration does not last for months.

 

 

 

 

Rebuttal to “The case against indicting Trump”

 

It’s fair to say that I mostly agree with positions taken by Randall D. Eliason, who is an adjunct faculty member and teaches white-collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School. Some of his WAPO articles are listed at https://wapo.st/3nKdvDc

Nevertheless, having addressed the subject of pardons/indictment of Donald Trump (https://bit.ly/3m32c8L),  I feel compelled to respond to this latest set of arguments as to why the U.S. government should let Trump and his family walk away unscathed from the wreckage he has wrought on the country and the treasure he has stolen. https://wapo.st/39fwOk1 So, I plunge ahead.

Eliason’s first argument is,

“Launching criminal investigations into an outgoing president would set a dangerous precedent. In this country, we don’t use the criminal justice system to punish political opponents.”

This is a problematic framing of the issue. The purpose of criminal actions would not be to “punish political opponents.” First, the issue is crimes committed in office, not “punishing political opponents” for being opponents or for pursuing policies with which we disagree. Second, it’s far from clear that Donald Trump will remain a “political opponent” once he is out of the presidency. There is speculation, of course, that he has tasted the drug of political power and, like every addict, will be unable to resist going back for more. But there are a multitude of obstacles to his being a serious political force once he is not commanding the news cycle all day and night every day and night. [For clarity, I am fully aware of my assumption that the media will cease amplifying every stupid and outrageous thing Trump says and does and that it will pay most of its attention to the actual government and what it is doing for the country].

Eliason anticipates my position to some degree, in noting that Trump’s supporters will see criminal investigation as an effort to silence Trump in anticipation of his next run for the presidency. No doubt that is true. The “minds” of politicians like Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the Grim Reaper Mitch McConnell will explode with endless invective as occurred when Trump was impeached, and Republicans became hysterical even though they knew they would not admit relevant evidence or witnesses of the crimes Trump had committed in the Ukraine affair.

The question on this issue, I respectfully suggest, is not what Republican sycophants will say but whether what they say is worthy of consideration and continuing influence in the nation’s public affairs. Catering to them, I believe, will have the effect of validating Trump’s rhetoric in a way that is fundamentally inconsistent with the core of the country’s reason for existence, it’s “soul,” if you will.

Eliason also argues that many of Trump’s actions are not “actually criminal.” Fine, I have no objection to giving him a pass on those, no matter how offensive his views and behaviors may have been. There are still plenty of grounds for indictment, including the ones that the Democrats, for reasons I have never understood and railed against at the time, failed to bring in the impeachment articles. I refer the ten (minimum) instances of “obstruction of justice” established by the Mueller Investigation. No indictment was brought on those very strong cases only because Department of Justice policy (dubiously) forbad indictment of a sitting president. See https://bit.ly/3768GNI  https://bit.ly/372xCG3 https://bit.ly/35YyjB5  https://bit.ly/35WpnMg https://bit.ly/2UUurKR

There are likely many others, some of which will only be discovered when the documentary record of Trump’s White House is available for inspection (assuming, of course, that they don’t destroy the key documents before exiting). For example, there are the original notes of the call with Ukraine President Zelensky that we were told had been stored in a secure White House server and have never seen the light of day. The records related to the policy of caging kids at the southern border will also make interesting reading. Because Trump was known to destroy documents he created and given other propensities of White House aides to do whatever Trump demanded, there is a high risk that many documents have been destroyed and, if so, there is the question whether such conduct should go unpunished because Republicans don’t care about such niceties as federal record retention laws or the Hatch Act that was deliberately violated repeatedly by Trump’s staff.

Eliason addresses the obstruction of justice issues but resists criminal enforcement because “the Democratic House of Representatives did not even see fit to impeach the president over those alleged crimes.” To that, I retort, “so what?” That was a political decision, one that was terribly misguided in my view, but, in any case, it was not a creditable judgment that a criminal case could not be based on obstruction. I simply don’t understand Eliason’s conclusion that the “book appears largely closed on Trump’s obstruction.”

Eliason then turns to the “other punishments” of Trump’s misconduct, noting that “the country saw his behavior and booted him.” And Eliason is likely right that “Trump is destined to go down in history as an impeached, disgraced president.” Trump won’t care much about the judgment of history, however. He will spend his remaining years in luxury, denying the truth, interfering in political issues solely for attention and generally being disruptive to keep attention on himself.

That leads nicely into Eliason’s final argument, that “criminal investigations would guarantee that the next few years continue to be all about Trump.” My answer is that even if Trump is allowed to just walk away, he will do everything in his power to keep the media attention on himself. And he will be aided in this by the same collection of spineless, traitorous Republican politicians that have been too cowardly to stand up to him for the past four years.

So, while there are respectable arguments that the United States should just write Trump’s presidency off as a terrible mistake and focus entirely on repairing the damage, I continue to believe that such focus will be impossible and will in fact be continually impaired by Trump’s arrogant interference. If he is under criminal indictment, his attorneys will almost certainly advise him to shut his mouth, stop tweeting and behave responsibly for once in his life. He may resist. So be it. But any way you look at this, Trump is going to be around and will refuse to be ignored.

Finally, I observe that in his closing, Eliason acknowledges that grounds may well exist to pursue a former president. He mentions one who “sold our most sensitive intelligence to an enemy.” I remind us all that there were multiple instances in which Trump gave intelligence information to Russian diplomats and in which he destroyed notes or otherwise prevented record-keeping of conversations with leaders such as Vladimir Putin. In these types of cases, Eliason admits that “it would be unimaginable to say that president is immune from prosecution” While he thinks Trump’s record in this regard is not egregious enough, I contend we don’t know enough at this time to reach that conclusion. There are plenty of grounds for concern in the cases I have mentioned. This goes well beyond “norms” and other traditional practices that Trump savaged.

The solution to the problem of “appearances of weaponizing” the Department of Justice is not to do it. President Biden can make clear, and live by his word, that prosecutorial decisions will be made solely by prosecutors and that he will stand by whatever decisions they make. Republicans will scream like stuck pigs, of course, but we have heard more than enough of their false moralizing and false equivalencies for many lifetimes. The republic’s best move, then, in my opinion, is to put Trump on the legal defensive by aggressively pursuing well-founded, sharply focused criminal indictments for his worst crimes in office.

 

To Pardon or Not to Pardon – That Is the Question


Just over a year ago, I posted a piece entitled Going Along to Get Along. https://bit.ly/2UCmkTi The central theme was the criminal conduct of the Trump administration for which, I naively argued, “The time has come for a reckoning.” The impeachment proceeding was imminent. While I acknowledged the likelihood that the Republicans would continue to support Trump no matter what crimes he committed, I predicted that,

Impeachment, rarely used because it is so serious, is about holding to account a lawless regime that threatens to undermine the democratic republic that was created by the Constitution. If the case is properly made, the majority of Americans will support the action.

In that small regard, I supposed I was right. Trump was massively defeated in the 2020 election by more than 5 million votes and by the same number of Electoral College votes that Trump won by in 2016.

Yet, here we are, two weeks after Election Day and Trump continues to claim that “I WON THE ELECTION!” His legal team, “led” by Rudy Giuliani [I am not making this up], has filed and lost multiple lawsuits across the country. But those suits are only in states Trump lost. Apparently, Trump’s legal team has no quarrel with the vote counting in states he won. Many of the law firms involved have withdrawn their representation. All of the lawsuits have either been dismissed outright or rendered meaningless by either the complete absence of supporting evidence or narrowed so that even if validated, the ultimate election outcome will not be affected.

Trump had previously threatened that he would not recognize the election result if he lost and, in this one respect, he has kept his word. This has brought to the forefront the question whether, once Joe Biden is inaugurated, he should pardon Trump’s commission of federal crimes. At the risk of giving away the plot too soon, I think not. No pardon. Not ever. Here’s why.

I will use as my guidepost in this argument a provocative think-piece published on Nov. 17 by Michael Conway, former counsel to the  U.S. House Judiciary Committee, entitled “Why Biden Should Pardon Trump – and We Democrats Should Want Him To.” https://nbcnews.to/3lB4NGN Mr. Conway was counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in the impeachment inquiry of President Nixon in 1974. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a retired partner of Foley & Lardner LLP in Chicago. His views are seriously presented and worthy of consideration.

The rationale offered by Mr. Conway is simply that a pardon for Trump’s multiple federal crimes is necessary if the nation is to heal from the four years of division, fear-mongering, racism, misogyny, hatred and other despicable qualities exemplified by the Trump administration and its enablers and supporters.

That is a heavy load for a pardon to carry, especially considering that, as Mr. Conway rightly recognizes, a presidential pardon would give Trump no legal protection from state crimes provable on the same facts. Conway’s argument also acknowledges that Trump is undeserving:

Trump would, of course, be one of the least deserving recipients of a federal pardon in history. His pardon could not be justified based on his innocence or his contrition because Trump is not contrite; to the contrary, he is currently endangering our democratic processes by relentlessly undermining the legitimacy of Biden’s election and thwarting a peaceful transition.

That said, the argument for a Biden pardon is based on several distinct ideas:

  • A pardon necessarily indicates an admission of guilt;
  • Exposure for prosecution under state law would continue;
  • State prosecutions would not be “laid at Biden’s doorstep;”
  • Biden can show he’s better than Trump by declining to do what Trump tried to do: use his administration to punish political adversaries [“lock her up!”]
  • American democracy would be undermined if we accept the prosecution of political opponents;
  • Declining to prosecute Trump will assuage some of the anger of Trump’s supporters who, however wrongly, believe he was cheated out of a second term;
  • Pardoning Trump will help “heal the nation” and prevent an “ongoing cycle of retribution” as political control inevitably cycles;
  • Precedent exists in President Ford’s pardon of Nixon;
  • Prosecuting Trump would enhance his martyr status among followers, add to partisanship and could “even lead to civil unrest.”

That is as strong an argument for a pardon as I can imagine. Here’s why I think it’s wrong.

  • The admission of guilt would be “by operation of law,” but Trump would continue to argue that he was unjustly punished in various ways, especially in light of (2) under which he would continue to be exposed to state prosecutions, especially in New York;
  • Avoiding the “onus” of prosecution for Biden is of low value in the scheme of things, considering the scale and gravity of Trump’s crimes; protecting the incoming president from responsibility for enforcing the law is not a good reason to pardon;
  • We already know to a certainty that “Biden is better than Trump” as a moral force and as an empathetic leader;
  • Avoiding further blows to democratic institutions is a serious point, but democracy has already been severely undermined by Trump’s conduct, as well as that of the Republicans who enabled him;
  • Protecting Trump from federal prosecution is unlikely to assuage the anger of his most ardent followers who, we have learned to our everlasting sorrow, are totally disconnected from normal emotional responses to truth/facts/reality; assuaging their “feelings” is a fool’s errand – it just won’t work;
  • True that there is precedent but for many the Nixon pardon remains, after all these years, a very sore spot indeed; there is little juice behind the precedent argument;
  • In sacrificing the “healing” opportunity, we likely do increase the risk of more partisanship and the possibility of “civil unrest,” but those risks will exist even in the face of a federal pardon if, for example, New York prosecutes Trump for state crimes;

Moreover, pardoning Trump does not achieve the intended goal of peace with the Trump family writ large. There is likely evidence, known or to be uncovered after January 20, that members of the immediate family are guilty of multiple crimes as well, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, destruction of federal property/records, money laundering and others perhaps even worse. Trump and his followers are not going to take well to facing such charges even if the capo is pardoned.

Finally, pardoning Trump would send the signal that the more crimes you commit and the more outrageously you behave, the better your chance of a pardon. American democracy has been shaken to the core by the four years of Trump’s mal-administration. This outcome of a pardon would tell the next unprincipled demagogue that “anything goes,” because the worse you are, the greater the likelihood you’ll walk free and clear with the loot you have acquired.

I readily confess that some of my thinking about this is driven by the belief, reluctantly reached, that Trump’s acolytes among the general population (he received more than 73 million votes at last count) are not going to be satisfied regarding Trump’s treatment, regardless of the generosity accorded him, They may be forced “underground” again, where, we have learned, they subsisted and persisted all the time many of us thought we had entered the post-racial world heralded by the election (twice) of Barack Obama. But they won’t be “gone;” they won’t likely experience some profound awakening of empathy and generosity toward others; Whatever the “solution” for those people is, I am constrained to believe that a pardon of Donald Trump is simply not relevant to the factors that motivate them.

In the end, perhaps, it can be concluded that I am more a “law and order” person than Trump’s most ardent fans. I believe in the principle that a properly functioning society needs a “just system of justice” that includes the goal of deterring the highest forms of white color crime, the types of crimes committed most egregiously, and often in the open, by Trump and his family and friends. Accountability is essential to prevent demagogues from becoming the norm of our political life. One important lesson from the Trump ascendancy in American politics is that our frequently sneering disrespect for “banana republics” could very readily become an apt description of the United States if we do not insist on full accountability from our leaders.

The harshest lesson, I think, is that we are not really who we thought we were. American aspirations and reality do not mesh as we had believed. That does not mean, however, that we should reject our aspirations. On the contrary, and as Joe Biden’s election has reminded us, we can and must continue to aspire to a higher calling for our country. We have the choice to make: despair that we have fallen short or renew our commitment to making a better and more just society for all who live here. Pardoning Donald Trump will not help us do better.

This position does not mean that every last drop of retribution must be exacted. The pandemic must be the top priority. Restoration of relations with allies is also critical to our national security. And, obviously, I think, action to aggressively address climate change is essential to our survival as a functioning species. Trump and his family can stew in the uncertainty of their ultimate fate until it is appropriate to take up their crimes, a day that will come all the sooner if Trump continues his insistence that he will hold office against the will of the people, as expressed in the 2020 election. If he wants to be drug physically from the White House, that can be arranged, in which case the day of reckoning will come even sooner. That choice is, to a degree, his to make. His family should recognize that truth, at least, and urge him to stand down. Either way, he must go.

 

Joy in the Land

I will not search for words to memorialize this extraordinary day in the life of the country. Others with greater gifts have done and will do that quite well without my meager words.

Shortly after the word came down that the election had, at long last, been called in favor of Biden-Harris, my wife and I ventured out to Columbus Circle, a few blocks from our New York City apartment. We had seen TV coverage indicating people were gathering there in celebration. Little did we know that the gathering was to last most of the day and that thousands of New Yorkers were absolutely beside themselves with excitement that Donald Trump was, at long last, going to be gone. We took a few photos. Here are some of them:

One of the highlights was a group of singers, decked out in bright costumes and led by a man with “Songs in the key of F*You” on his shirt. They sang and danced a bit. By way of example only, the lyrics to the tune of Hello Dolly went like this:

Well, goodbye, Donny. No more lies, Donny.

We can’t wait to send you back where you belong!

It gets a little raw after that, so I’ll spare you the rest. Here they are:

After enjoying the jubilant scene for a while, we walked along Central Park South to 5th Avenue, thinking we would visit the Trump Tower. Many cars and even a bus went by with horns blaring and people leaning out the windows pumping fists in the air.

We discovered that the NYPD had blocked off access to the Trump Tower from blocks away. The streets were deserted.

We could find no reasonable path to our destination and stopped on West 56th for an outdoor lunch, then returned to Columbus Circle. There, we encountered the tail end of a spontaneous march along Central Park South. These photos capture that event.

The NYPD was obviously nervous as it had a huge presence in the immediate area, including a caravan of vehicles that included one of those ominous black vans with no windows (you may have seen video of protesters being pulled off the streets into such vehicles by “police” with no visible identification) though there was not the slightest hint of anger or distress in the crowd. It was a joyous, happy scene of exhilaration in every respect.

We continued to watch the unfolding scene for a while before returning home:

And so, with a final salute to the Trump International Hotel:

we returned to our apartment to await the much anticipated (only four years) speeches of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. We were not disappointed. Their words were inspiring, as was the appearance of their families, normal and happy people committed to supporting a team that faces enormous obstacles to success but whose commitment to serving the American people cannot be questioned by anyone with a rational mind.

At long last, the beginning of the end of the catastrophic Trump presidency is at hand.

Why Americans Are Dying By the Thousands Under Trump’s Leadership

Here are a few excerpts from WAPO regarding the federal response to the pandemic as we head into Election Day. https://wapo.st/3oJDI69 They speak for themselves.

“President Trump’s repeated assertions the United States is “rounding the turn” on the novel coronavirus have increasingly alarmed the government’s top health experts, who say the country is heading into a long and potentially deadly winter with an unprepared government unwilling to make tough choices.”

“Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert, said: … “All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

“Fauci … said the country could surpass 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day and predicted rising deaths in the coming weeks. He spoke as the nation set a new daily record Friday with more than 98,000 cases. As hospitalizations increase, deaths are also ticking up, with more than 1,000 reported Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the total to more than 230,000 since the start of the pandemic….”

“Trump has rallied in states and cities experiencing record surges in infections and hospitalizations in a last-ditch effort to convince voters he has successfully managed the pandemic. He has held maskless rallies with thousands of supporters, often in violation of local health mandates. Even as new infections climb in 42 states, Trump has downplayed the virus or mocked those who take it seriously.”

“… he baselessly said that U.S. doctors record more deaths from covid-19, the disease the coronavirus causes, than other nations because they get more money.”

“By contrast, former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris have consistently worn masks in public, and have held socially distanced events.”

Fauci … described a disjointed response as cases surge. Several current and former senior administration officials said the White House is almost entirely focused on a vaccine, even though experts warn it is unlikely to be a silver bullet that ends the pandemic immediately since it will take months under the best of circumstances to inoculate tens of millions of people to achieve herd immunity.”

“Fauci said … he has not spoken to Trump since early October…. He also lamented that Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and Trump’s favored pandemic adviser, who advocates letting the virus spread among young healthy people and reopening the country without restrictions, is the only medical adviser the president regularly meets with. “I have real problems with that guy,” Fauci said of Atlas. “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”

[Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, attacked Fauci for speaking his mind, accusing him of being a member of the Washington Swamp and repeating Trump’s talking points that the president “always put the well-being of the American people first.” Believe what you will.]

“Some White House advisers … complain [Fauci] is too focused on his personal reputation and is “not on the team,” said one senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment. The doctor has become loathed among many Trump supporters, and Fauci has told others that he has experienced a surge in harassment and threats.”

[See https://wapo.st/3kUAOJK for a list of the 184 times Trump has downplayed the pandemic threat, a reality he confessed to on tape in the Woodward interviews].

“Several senior administration officials and outside advisers described a White House overwhelmed by the pandemic, with a feeling of helplessness over the inability to curb its spread without also throttling the economy or damaging the president’s reelection chances.”

“… the campaign trail message that life is returning to normal underscores how little the president and White House have focused on the pandemic beyond pushing for development and approvals of vaccines and treatments. With the clearance of a vaccine unlikely until year’s end, that raises questions about what happens after Election Day, during what is projected to be the worst stretch yet of the pandemic. The Trump administration will be in charge of managing the pandemic until at least Jan. 20, no matter who wins.”

“Trump’s former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Scott Gottlieb said, “If we don’t plan now, we’ll lose the opportunity to prioritize [school]opening what should be most important to us, just as we lost that chance in the fall because we didn’t plan appropriately this summer.”

“And one of the ways to say the outbreak is over is [to say] it’s really irrelevant because it doesn’t make any difference. All you need to do is prevent people from dying and protect people in places like the nursing homes,” Fauci said. “And because of that, Debbie [Birx] almost never ever sees the president anymore. The only medical person who sees the president on a regular basis is Scott Atlas. It’s certainly not Debbie Birx.”

“Fauci said that many people who catch the virus recover “virologically” but will have chronic health problems. “The idea of this false narrative that if you don’t die, everything is hunky dory is just not the case,” he said. “But to say, ‘Let people get infected, it doesn’t matter, just make sure people don’t die’ — to me as a person who’s been practicing medicine for 50 years, it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“A similar assessment was offered by Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration. “It sounds alluring,” Bossert said. “It sounds so seductive. It’s not possible. Math makes it irresponsible to even try and say it.”

Trump’s Presidency in Memes — Final??

As we approach the, hopefully, final hours of Trump’s catastrophic presidency, I am submitting a final round of memes collected from Twitter, Facebook and … wherever. If there is any justice in this country, this will be the last time it’s necessary to do this, although his electoral defeat may not entirely end his presidency. More about that another time soon. Meanwhile, back in the looney bin known as the Trump presidency:

 

Dear Jack Nicklaus

I saw your recently published “letter” about your having voted for Donald Trump’s re-election. For the benefit of my readers who missed it, this is the document:

[Click on the red square if you want to read all of it]

Your embracing Trump appears to be based on a set of nine specific ideas. Those are :

  1. His “resolve and determination to do the right thing,”
  2. He “delivered on his promises,”
  3. He “worked for the average person” & “tried to help people from all walks of life – equally,”
  4. He “has been more diverse than any President” you have seen,
  5. He is committed to “strong family values,”
  6. His policies will bring the “American dream” to “many families … who are still trying to achieve it,”
  7. We should “look past “ the “way our President says or tweets some things” and focus on “what he has tried to accomplish,”
  8. He “has put…his country first,”
  9. We don’t want to “evolve into a socialist America and have the government run your life.”

These observations about your letter remind us of Trump’s talking points that usually have little to do with reality and often are simply lies. That said, since you’ve already voted for Trump, there is no hope of changing your mind. Nevertheless, the nature of your statements cries out for response, and this is mine. In writing this, I’m assuming that, unlike many Trump endorsements, this one did not come from a golf-course conversation in which Trump offered to trade his endorsement of you as the greatest golfer of all time in exchange for your endorsement of him as the greatest president you have ever seen.

I believe the last item on the list (last because it was the last expression in your letter) is the truest explanation for all that preceded it. You think, somehow, that election of Joe Biden will lead America to fall into a “socialist” chasm in which the government will “run your life.” Trump’s re-election, on the other hand, you believe will promote something called the “American dream.” Nowhere do you explain “socialism” or the “American dream.”

That’s concerning because throughout your long life, you were able, admittedly through considerable skill and discipline, to make a fortune playing golf for a living. You also designed golf courses, gave product endorsements and engaged in other commercial activities largely related to golf. And you’ve done some charitable work.

Good for you. But during that period of 80 years, the United States had seven Democratic presidents and seven Republican presidents (counting Trump as a Republican). One Democrat (Kennedy) was assassinated and one Republican (Nixon) resigned in disgrace. And here we are, with the ‘American dream’ intact (at least for the same people for whom it was a realistic goal during your career) and no “socialism” by which the government is running your, or anyone else’s, life.

I’ll offer a serviceable definition of the “American dream” as the opportunity to grow up safely, get at least a middling education, pursue a lawful career of your choice and be paid at least reasonable pay for your labors, the chance to advance in your career free of racial/sexual/ethnic/religious discrimination, share the risk of getting sick or injured by having access to affordable health insurance and medical care, the chance to grow old and receive back the money you paid the government for retirement, the chance to invest your earnings in excess of current needs in safe markets and related elements.

People like you who have not been subject to racial or other structural discrimination throughout life have plenty of chances to “live the American dream.” You seem, however, as unaware and uninterested as Donald Trump in the millions of Americans who have not been so blessed. These are our Black, Latino and other ethnic populations who struggle to make ends meet with two and sometimes three jobs, people who were denied equal opportunity throughout their lives, who did not get a fair start and a straight course to run.

You seem to be willfully ignorant of American history in this respect, much like the man you appear to idolize. Your use of the phrase “who are still trying to achieve it” suggests that meaningful numbers of Americans have given up on the American dream as a goal. That may be true, but Trump has done nothing to encourage them to resume the quest. Instead, he demonizes minorities and “others” with travel bans, praising Neo-Nazis as “very fine people” while claiming that adherents of Black Lives Matter are going to rape, pillage and destroy the lily-white suburbs. He promotes preposterous conspiracy theories while openly praising dictators around the world. He denies science, regularly uses racist tropes in speech, encourages violence and openly threatens to reject the fundamental principles on which the American democratic republic is based.

You claim Trump wants to do the “right thing” but fail to say what the “right thing” is.  Do you mean the forced separation of children at the southern border, with now more than 545 of them orphaned because the government lost track of their parents? You say he delivered on his promises but don’t identify which promises those are. For sure, Mexico is not paying for Trump’s wall. For sure, since he’s reversed most of the climate advances and environmental protections adopted before his terms, you can’t mean he’s made the air and water safer.

You say Trump has worked for all people equally but, just looking at the pandemic alone, the impact has been disproportionately high on Black and other minority populations and Trump downplays it, saying it’s over even as cases and death surge around the country. You praise his “diversity” in the same histrionic terms he uses, but ignore the composition of his cabinet and the overwhelming majority of his appointments.

Mr. Nicklaus, you claim Trump adheres to “strong family values,” and that we should just ignore his vile insults and personal vilification of everyone he believes is opposed to his agenda. You  seem quite content to overlook his sordid personal life, including buddying up with Jeffrey Epstein and the huge number of sexual assault allegations made against him  (he still refuses to produce DNA samples that could establish his innocence, if he is in fact innocent). What “family values,” exactly, are you referring to?

You also maintain Trump puts his country first. This must be a reference to his “America First” theme that led to tariffs undermining American farmers, phony claims of bringing jobs back to the United States. But did you also consider how Trump’s refusal to separate from his businesses (despite promises to do so) have resulted in his personal/family enrichment from foreign interests, how his refusal to disclose his tax returns (promises kept? Really?) has enabled him to avoid scrutiny of conflicts of interest? Apparently not.

The list of abuses goes on and on. Yet, you call on Americans to overlook everything Trump says, everything he does, everything he stands for so that … what … we can prevent the transformation of the United States into a socialist dystopia?

Here are some thoughts penned by someone else n Facebook that perhaps you should have considered before voting for the most corrupt, ignorant and incompetent president in American history:

A Day in the Life of Sue Republican

Sue gets up at 6 a.m. and fills her coffeepot with water to prepare her morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.

With her first swallow of coffee, she takes her daily medication. Her medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised. All but $10 of her medications are paid for by her employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Sue gets it too.

She prepares her morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Sue’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the shower, Sue reaches for her shampoo. Her bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for her right to know what she was putting on her body and how much it contained.

Sue dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air she breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

She walks to the subway station for her government-subsidized ride to work. It saves her considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Sue begins her work day. She has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Sue’s employer pays these standards because Sue’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Sue is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, she’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think she should lose her home because of her temporary misfortune.

It’s noon and Sue needs to make a bank deposit so she can pay some bills. Sue’s deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Sue’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Sue has to pay her Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and her below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Sue and the government would be better off if she was educated and earned more money over her lifetime.

Sue is home from work. She plans to visit her father this evening at his farm home in the country. She gets in her car for the drive. Her car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.

She arrives at her childhood home. Her generation was the third to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

She is happy to see her father, who is now retired. Her father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Sue wouldn’t have to.

Sue gets back in her car for the ride home and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Sue enjoys throughout her day. Sue agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m self-made and believe everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

——–

Mr. Nicklaus, you are a serious disappointment. I understand why someone like you would be a Republican, but Donald Trump is no Republican and certainly not a conservative. You have voted for a monster. Shame on you.

So, in closing, I also want you to know that I always liked Arnold Palmer more than you.

 

 

Supreme Court Gives Back of Hand to Voter Protection

CNN reported last week that the Supreme Court, without opinion or explanation, granted a request by Alabama to prevent voters from dropping off their ballots by handing them to an election official at the curbside. https://cnn.it/3osEjJB The decision in an unsigned 5-3 order, to which Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer dissented, addressed a permissive ruling by a federal District Court judge permitting, but not requiring, willing Alabama counties to allow curbside voting, as they have done in prior elections in 2016 and 2018. The District Court judge’s opinion was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

The District Court judge reached the following conclusions issued in conjunction with a lengthy set of Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law:

1. As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to voters who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, the requirement under Ala. Code §§ 17-11-7, 17-11-9, and 17-11-10 that absentee ballot affidavits be witnessed and signed by a notary public or two adult witnesses violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

    1. As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to voters who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 complications because they are either age 65 or older or disabled or have underlying medical conditions that make them susceptible to COVID-19 complications, the requirement under Ala. Code §§ 17-9-30(b), (d), and 17-11-9 that absentee voters provide a copy of their photo identification with their absentee ballot applications violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
    1. As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to voters who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 complications, the curbside voting ban violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
    1. As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to voters with disabilities who cannot safely obtain a copy of their photo ID, the requirement under Ala. Code §§ 17-9-30(b), (d), and 17-11-9 that absentee voters provide a copy of their photo identification with their absentee ballot applications violates the ADA.
    1. As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to voters with disabilities, the curbside voting ban violates the ADA.
    1. As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirement under Ala. Code §§ 17-11-7, 17-11-9, and 17-11-10 that absentee ballot affidavits be witnessed and signed by a notary public or two adult witnesses violates the Voting Rights Act.”

For the highly determined, the court papers may be read at: https://bit.ly/3opiLgI

The Court of Appeals reversed all of the District Court’s conclusions except for the curbside voting issue.

In a classic Trump Republican fashion, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argued that “Some level of risk is inherent in life and in voting.” Stated differently, if voting in person ends up killing you (there are no mask requirements in Alabama), well, that’s life. The Alabama Secretary of State had earlier expressed concern about the security of ballots because voters “wouldn’t be able to physically put their ballot into the machines that read the ballot since they’re held indoors.” Apparently, the Alabama Secretary of State does not trust the poll workers that the counties employ for the purpose of assisting voters.

Justice Sotomayor’s dissent said, in part, “We should not substitute the District Court’s reasonable, record-based findings of fact with our own intuitions about the risks of traditional in-person voting during this pandemic or the ability of willing local officials to implement adequate curbside voting procedures.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is remarkable insofar as it permits a state to disallow voting practices that, at least in a pandemic, could reduce vulnerable voters’ exposure to sometimes deadly health risks, especially for older and health-vulnerable voters. The ultimate rationale for the state’s inexplicable overturning of prior practice was the Republican Attorney General’s view, in effect, that “life’s a bitch and then you die, so who cares?”

In truth, the state position is a form of voter suppression directed at a segment of the population more-likely-than-not to vote Democratic. These types of decisions, especially unexplained, are particularly problematic when considered against the anti-democratic decision of the Supreme Court in the landmark Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013) that gutted the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those provisions compelled certain states to seek prior approval of the Justice Department for any new election or voting laws, because of those states’ prior history of voter suppression.

Shelby County involved one of the worst examples of judicial legislating ever seen, as evidenced by Chief Justice John Roberts’ explanation of the decision:

A statute’s “current burdens” must be justified by “current needs,” and any “disparate geographic coverage” must be “sufficiently related to the problem that it targets.” The coverage formula met that test in 1965, but no longer does so.

Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned nationwide for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in the covered States have risen dramatically in the years since. Racial disparity in those numbers was compelling evidence justifying the preclearance remedy and the coverage formula. There is no longer such a disparity.

As reported in The Atlantic, https://bit.ly/34uqn9C,

The results have been predictable. Voter-identification laws, which experts suggest will make voting harder especially for poor people, people of color, and elderly people, have advanced in several states, and some voting laws that make it easier to register and cast ballots have been destroyed. For many of the jurisdictions formerly under preclearance, voting became rapidly more difficult after the Shelby County decision, particularly for poor and elderly black people and Latinos.

Decisions like the Alabama curbside voting case are the predictable consequence of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority inserting its judgment, without explanation, where only the legislature should go. At the risk of repetition, the current decision affirms the elimination, for partisan political purposes, of a health-based practice that was permitted in two prior elections.

This is what we have to look forward too as the Republican majority of Trump enablers in the Senate affirms yet another right-wing judge to the high court this very day. I don’t know what the solution to the Supreme Court dilemma is, but Joe Biden’s thoughtful and measured approach seems the right way to move forward, provided his commission acts swiftly. The issue has been exhaustively analyzed by many constitutional scholars so we’re not going into new territory here. The composition of the Court has changed before and the nation survived. It’s less clear today that the Republican approach to governance is survivable by anything resembling a democratic republic. Time is therefore of the essence once the Democrats take control of the government in January.