Tag Archives: McConnell

Republican Titanic – “I don’t see no stinkin’ iceberg”

Republican senators had an advantage over the Titanic command – the attack on the Capitol occurred in broad daylight and was captured on video by hundreds of gleeful participants. The attack, we now know, was planned by some participants in advance. The mob was summoned to Washington by Donald Trump, then the president of the United States, and directed to walk to the Capitol to stop the counting of Electoral College votes that would, at long last, end any hope Trump had of retaining power. It all happened in public view – Trump’s call to action, hours of hand-to-hand fighting with police, the mob hunting for members of Congress (particularly for Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Pence—“Hang Mike Pence,” they yelled) and ransacking the hallowed ground of American democracy. Calls for help went unanswered.

The desecration did not end on January 6. After reviewing the undeniable evidence, only seven Republican senators (Burr, Cassidy, Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Toomey) had the courage, moral conviction, instinct for survival, call it what you will, to vote to convict Trump of the incitement to violence the entire world had witnessed. The other Republicans were fine with what happened, so much so that many of them literally ignored the proceedings in the Senate trial.

The media reported that Trump was “acquitted,” and while it’s a fine point, this was not an acquittal but just a failure to reach a super-majority for “guilty.” The total vote for “guilty” was 57, well past a simple majority and a historic first. In substance, Trump was found “guilty but not guilty.” In a supreme irony, the failure to achieve a two-thirds majority spared Trump by virtue of the very Constitution that he spat upon throughout his presidency.

Before the vote occurred, I was penning a blog post entitled “Senator Ted Cruz – Sophist in Wonderland,” addressing an op-ed Cruz wrote for, who else, Fox News. https://fxn.ws/2ZfvsQ0 The op-ed is remarkable for many reasons, but what stood out for me was the surprising conclusion that the Senate did indeed have jurisdiction to conduct a trial of a former president for in-office conduct. That conclusion, however, is followed by ““I believe the Senate should decline to exercise jurisdiction-and so I voted to dismiss this impeachment on jurisdictional grounds.” [boldface & italics mine] Thus, Cruz would have you believe that the Senate had jurisdiction but also did not have jurisdiction.

This style of reasoning is typical of the Republicans who have accepted Donald Trump as their liege lord. In their eyes, he can do no wrong. In the rare case where they admit he was wrong about something, they still support him. Absolute in their views about many things, so-called Republican “conservatives” apply total relativism for Trump’s conduct – relative to Satan himself. (Trump’s not so bad compared to the Beast himself, so what’s the problem?) Trump’s hallucinatory view of reality as totally malleable – essentially, “it is what I say it is” – is the Alice in Wonderland world the Republican Party has adopted as its operative principle. Beyond that, it has no principles. Power is all.

That much has been clear for the entirety of Trump’s presidency, at the very least since KellyAnne Conway uttered the infamous line about “alternative facts” two days after Trump’s inauguration. The January 6 insurrection that, reduced to its essence, was an attempt to overthrow the government by a sitting president, at least provided clarity about where the Republican Party stands.

Senators like Rand Paul can still appear on television and with a straight face argue that there are “two sides to everything.” But only someone with no moral foundation would say that. Even a craven individual like Mitch McConnell has admitted there is no evidence that the election was stolen from Trump. But, like Cruz, McConnell, moments after voting against the Senate majority, agreed that Trump had incited the violence for which McConnell had just voted he could not be held accountable. In Trumpland, reality really is whatever Trump says it is.

Now comes former Professor Alan Dershowitz in Newsweek, to offer cover for Republicans looking for a seemingly intellectually plausible basis to argue that Trump’s “incitement” was really protected speech under the First Amendment. https://bit.ly/3pnLWzY  [Disclosure: Dershowitz taught my 1L criminal law class at Harvard]

Dershowitz argues there is no difference between what Trump did and the actions of Representative Jamie Raskin’s father (Marcus Raskin) and others who, in the 1960’s, encouraged young men to resist the draft and endorsed  “the burning of draft cards, break-ins at draft boards and other unlawful actions to obstruct the war effort.” According to Dershowitz,

the defense was that the First Amendment protected Marcus’ advocacy of resistance to the draft, even if such resistance then took a form of unlawful actions by others….The jury acquitted Marcus, and the court of appeals reversed the convictions of the other defendants. They were all saved by a broad reading of the First Amendment.

While it’s remotely possible that my limited access to research has failed to find some relevant authorities, I am at loss to understand what Dershowitz is saying. The Court of Appeals case he refers to must be United States v Spock, 416 F.2d 165 (1st Cir. 1969). This was the appeal from the trial that acquitted Marcus of conspiracy but found the other four members of the “Spock Five” guilty. Contrary to the implication of Dershowitz’s description, the Court of Appeals in Spock did not reverse the convictions of the other four due to a “broad reading of the First Amendment.”

A couple of quotes from the opinion suffice to frame what was really going on:

The defendants here are not charged … with expressions of sympathy and moral support, but with conspiring to counsel, aid and abet Selective Service registrants to disobey various duties imposed by the Selective Service Act….

What we do determine is that the First Amendment does not, per se, require acquittal.

The central question addressed by the opinion was,

Whether … the evidence was sufficient to take the defendants to the jury.

There was, of course, an obvious and complex relationship between the First Amendment protections of speech and the adequacy of the evidence of illegal intent. The Court’s opinion expressly recognized the problem, but it also set out three different ways in which a speaker critical of the government could be found to have unlawfully conspired to violate the law, notwithstanding the First Amendment: (1) prior or subsequent “unambiguous statements;” (2) “subsequent commission of the very illegal act contemplated by the agreement;” or (3) “subsequent legal act if that act is ‘clearly undertaken for the specific purpose of rendering effective the later illegal activity which is advocated.”

The opinion, moreover, did not discuss Marcus Raskin at all because he was acquitted at trial. There is no way to know what the basis for a jury’s decision is, so Dershowitz cannot plausibly claim that Raskin was saved by a “broad reading of the First Amendment.”

The Court of Appeals did reverse the guilty findings of the other four defendants, as Dershowitz said. The Court reversed the trial court’s guilty finding for Spock because the evidence against him did not establish the “necessary intent to adhere to its [the charged conspiracy’s] illegal aspects.” Further, “Spock’s actions lacked the clear character necessary to imply specific intent under the First Amendment standard.”

While it’s certainly  true that the Court was applying the principle of strictest interpretation of law required by the First Amendment, as to which there was nothing surprising given the history of decisions regarding controversial speech, the actual decision as to Spock was based on evidentiary failures.

As to defendant Michael Ferber, at the time a draft-age student, the Court said,

the evidence did not warrant a finding that through other statements or conduct he joined the larger conspiracy for which the other defendants were prosecuted.

Rev. Coffin and Andrew Goodman had a different outcome entirely, but it was determined not by the First Amendment but by what the Court of Appeals determined, rather easily, was a fundamental error by the trial judge in posing questions to the jury designed to elicit “specific findings” of separate elements of the crimes charged, if they had reached a guilty verdict. That approach, condemned rather universally by precedent, ran afoul of the independence accorded to juries under American law. Juries, in other words, are free in criminal cases to do what they will; the Court of Appeals wrote:

To ask the jury special questions might be said to infringe on its power to deliberate free from legal fetters; on its power to arrive at a general verdict without having to support it by reasons or by a report of its deliberations; and on its power to follow or not to follow the instructions of the court. Moreover, any abridgement or modification of this institution would partly restrict its historic function, that of tempering rules of law by common sense brought to bear upon the facts of a specific case…

Uppermost … is the principle that the jury, as the conscience of the community, must be permitted to look at more than logic…. If it were otherwise there would be no more reason why a verdict should not be directed against a defendant in a criminal case than in a civil one. The constitutional guarantees of due process and trial by jury require that a criminal defendant be afforded the full protection of a jury unfettered, directly or indirectly….

Here, whereas, as we have pointed out, some defendants could be found to have exceeded the bounds of free speech, the issue was peculiarly one to which a community standard or conscience was, in the jury’s discretion, to be applied.

The Court thus reversed the trial court as to Coffin and Goodman and ordered new trials, leaving open the possibility that a properly instructed jury could convict them.

Thereafter, the government dropped the charges, ending the case.

Undeterred by those realities, Dershowitz goes on to expand his view of Trump’s innocence with this:

Several years later, Marcus [Raskin] was once again protected by a broad reading of the First Amendment, when he served as an intermediary between Daniel Ellsberg, who unlawfully stole the Pentagon Papers, and The New York Times, which published them despite their being classified. But for the First Amendment, Marcus would have been charged with conspiracy to publish classified material.

Unlike Dershowitz, I don’t claim to know what would have happened if there had been no First Amendment precedents, but I do know that the referenced case, New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), involved the government’s attempt to stop publication of stolen classified documents. It dealt with “prior restraint” of the press and is remotely, if at all, relevant to the fate of Marcus Raskin.

Dershowitz then engages in a clever application of “whataboutism,” not to mention historical speculation and revisionism:

If Jamie Raskin’s current view of the First Amendment had prevailed back in the day, his father would likely have been convicted of two felonies. If President Trump incited his followers to commit unlawful conduct, so did Marcus.

In an all-too-familiar trope, Dershowitz goes on with this:

I would have thought that Jamie Raskin—in light of his history as a constitutional law professor, his family history under the First Amendment and his own protests against the 2016 election—would be leading the charge to protect the First Amendment. But no! He is leading the charge to compromise President Trump’s free speech rights—and thus the rights of all Americans to express controversial, even wrongheaded and provocative, views.

The English translation is “I thought someone as smart as you would not hold such crazy and disreputable views.” I really hate to see that, perhaps because it’s been used against me by people holding Trump-ish views. If someone disagrees about something, explain yourself, but don’t do the “how could someone as smart as you be so dumb” routine, especially following an incomplete, and arguably inaccurate recital of historical facts about which the author should know better (he claims to have been involved in the defense of the Spock case).

Returning to what Dershowitz labels as the desire of various people and groups to create a “Trump exception” to the First Amendment, Trump’s speech on January 6 does not stand alone. Indeed, in the Spock case, the Court of Appeals addressed in some detail not only the words spoken but other conduct that indicated participation (or not) in the charged conspiracy.

Trump actively invited his supporters to come to Washington on January 6 to “stop the steal,” a false claim that the election had been stolen from him. His public statements, through Twitter and otherwise, painted a false picture of what had happened. More than 60 court cases had heard his claims and rejected them. Some of his staunchest allies, including the Republican Majority Leader and his former Attorney General, had publicly acknowledged that the claim of stolen election was false.

Trump could say what he wanted, but there is no plausibility to the argument that he actually believed what he was saying to the mob. He lied repeatedly to them. Why? The only plausible reason was to stir them up, to play upon their anger and fear. He was supported in this by his attorney (who called for “trial by combat,” a statement Trump did not reject), and his sons addressing the mob that assembled at the “rally” in Washington.

It should be obvious, but speaking at a Trump rally is not like karaoke night at a bar where anyone who wants to perform can take the mic. Trump approved everything. He explicitly stated that the mob was going to walk down to the Capitol and that he would be with them, a crucially important element in the incitement component of the speech. That is a fact that his Republican supplicants would like to overlook but Trump’s assurance that he would accompany the mob to the Capitol is conclusive of his intent to direct them. Even before he finished talking, a large contingent of supporters headed for the Capitol Building, apparently led by the Proud Boys. Trump continued egging on the others who soon followed.

Thus, Trump’s call for action went well beyond merely voicing objection to government action. He explicitly directed the mob to go to the Capitol, leading them to believe he would be going with them. That Trump lied about going with them is irrelevant to the question whether his speech was simply a complaint about the government or a specific incitement to specific violent action that was foreseeable because it was called for by his choice of words, his continuing to lie about the election and by his subsequent failure to take action to resist the assault on the Capitol.

Indeed, the fact that no steps were taken by the Secret Service to move Trump to a secure location in the face of a brutal physical attack by thousands on the Capitol that lasted for several hours of hand-to-hand combat is itself strong evidence that Trump had directed the attack and intended for it to occur. He was perfectly content to sit back and watch his handiwork play out. Statements from White House sources, not credibly rebutted by evidence of contrary action, indicate that Trump was pleased with the violence and could not understand why others on White House staff were not equally moved by it.

A finding in those circumstances that Trump incited the attack on the Capitol does not create a “Trump exception” to the First Amendment. Dershowitz flatly states that the First Amendment recognizes no exception for actions by the president, but his assertion begs the question. Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution.

Dershowitz’s argument that Trump could not violate the law because he was “protesting the actions of other  branches of government” also fails to address the key issue: was the “protest” an active incitement to violence that the president sought to inspire and that he effectively directed to occur? Was he merely complaining out loud about what he thought, however absurdly, was a bad election? Or, was he effectively leading (from behind, but still leading) a physical attack to stop a constitutionally-mandated action from sealing his electoral fate?

In World War II, General Eisenhower did not physically assault the beaches at Normandy, but he was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. No person of reason would say that Eisenhower did not lead and direct the attack. Dershowitz’s categorical claim that Trump’s words were protected by the First Amendment would, if true, immunize any person, including a president, from organizing and directing from a distance a violent attempt to overthrow the government and capture or retain power. Whatever the First Amendment means, it doesn’t mean that. If it did, the framers would have created the seed from which the defeat of the democratic republic they risked so much to create could be easily destroyed. Dershowitz’s snarky attack on Jamie Raskin aside, that facile exercise in “whataboutism” is simply implausible.

Returning then to the metaphor I used at the outset of this post, if the democratic republic we know as the United States is going to survive, and we know that democracy is rare in world politics, the Republican Party must now face a reckoning unlike anything in its history. If the republic is fortunate, the GOP has doomed itself by aligning with a wannabe-dictator. An overwhelming majority of Americans who believe in the principle of rule by the people through a neutral system of laws will emerge from the horrors of January 6 with a stronger commitment to assure that such outrages are not repeated.

An agenda to achieve that end should include strong criminal prosecutions not only of the perpetrators of violence at the Capitol but of the leader. The spinelessness of the Republican senators who voted “not guilty” in the second impeachment should motivate true patriots to demand complete justice accomplished through the justice system without political involvement.

In addition to the offenses arising from January 6, we must not forget that the Mueller Report documented no fewer than ten instances of blatant obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. Those cases must be prosecuted so that no future president thinks he or she can follow Trump’s approach to governance with impunity. Don’t forget that Trump claimed Article II of the Constitution authorized him to “do whatever I want.”

As part of that process, but separate from it, the Department of Justice should reconsider its policy position that a sitting president cannot be indicted while in office. The “Republican gap” – you can’t indict while in office and you can’t try impeachments after leaving — must be closed definitively.

The federal government also needs to re-examine the states’ voter suppression tactics, which are rampant in the wake of the 2020 election. While I remain profoundly suspicious that Republican-dominated state governments will give good-faith and fair consideration to voter -expanding processes, a brief attempt should be made to find mutually-acceptable policies, to be ingrained in federal and state laws, that will put a permanent stop to the meddling that occurred in 2020 and long before. Nothing is more important to the survival of democracy than assuring that the will of the people is effectuated through elections at every level of government. The Biden administration should add this to its long list of priorities.

Finally, Americans who are committed to the continuation of government of, by and for the people must wake up, sign up, get informed and vote in every election. Failure to attend to the democratic opportunity will result in its being eliminated. We saw this in 2016 and almost again in 2020.

As for the Republican Titanic Party, Americans who believe in the principles once held by the GOP now must find a new political home. The GOP has been taken over by conspiracy theorists and violent extremists. They believe America can survive as an independent country even as it returns to an imaginary yesteryear in which a huge percentage of the population is treated like property, the country’s best opportunities are reserved for white people and we ignore issues like climate change and the need for international relationships based on shared interest and peace. They often espouse principles that would destroy the separation of church and state, a bedrock element of American freedom and independence.

Those Americans who, for better or worse, still genuinely believe that a country in the 21st century can prosper only with smaller government, less regulation of virulent capitalism and the other central tenets of traditional conservative values must find a new political home. If they choose to remain with the GOP, they are going to be swamped by Trumpers who have captured the machinery of its state parties (witness the multiple censures of Republicans who dared go against Trump during the election and after the January 6 attack). The old GOP is a dead duck, a backward-looking myth-based hallucination. Donald Trump, Jr. said it straight out on January 6: the GOP is now Trump’s party.

I hope that genuine conservatives will reconsider whether a modern 21st century country can prosper, or even survive, if it relies on Trump’s values. I hope they will join the Democratic Party in a future that accepts reality and welcomes change (which is inevitable), is inclusive (more interesting people in a diverse population) and works extra hard to ensure that its children are raised as independent thinkers (not replicas of their parents) who are more prepared to face the daunting challenges of 21st century life, open to new experiences, new people and hope. If those people come over, the old GOP will lose a huge element of its power and become a marginalized collection of white supremacists, misogynists and extremists with little to no influence on American political life going forward.

Quo Vadis, Republican Party?

You may recognize the Latin phrase, or not. It derives from “Domine, quo vadis? meaning Lord, where are you going?” and was assertedly spoken by Saint Peter who, fleeing persecution in Jerusalem, came upon the resurrected Jesus and made the inquiry, leading Jesus to tell Peter that he was returning to be crucified again. [source: e­­ncyclopedia.com https://bit.ly/38OcLIG] [Also a 1951 movie title]

I was reminded of this by a, typically, erudite and lengthy essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in today’s New York Times Magazine, entitled The American Abyss: Trump, the mob and what comes next. Snyder also wrote On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, a book that should be required reading for every American interested in the survival of our democracy.

A major premise of Snyder’s Times essay is that the Republican Party’s political establishment has two main branches. One, the gamers,

is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government.

The main exponent of this group’s point of view is the former Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, of the failed state of Kentucky.

The other, even more craven group (my view, not necessarily Snyder’s) are the “breakers,” who “might actually break the system and have power without democracy.” That group is now led by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Snyder then begins the analysis, noting that to some Republicans the hopeless quest to overturn the election was just political theater, but

for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence ….

If that doesn’t lead you to immediately buy a Times subscription and also Snyder’s book, I don’t know about you….{I get no royalties; just trying to be helpful]

As noted, Snyder’s treatment is erudite and complex. My own view is more simplistic.

The principal distinguishing feature of our mish-mash American democratic republic with its squirrelly Constitution and three “co-equal” branches of government intended to mutually restrain each other, is that the people elect their leaders. If the leaders fail to perform as the voters think they expected, the voters can elect new leaders on the immutable schedule of elections. AND — this is critical — assuming a fair process, the loser accepts the loss and waits for the next election in the immutable schedule for another try. ALWAYS. The loser accepts the loss, moves on, reorganizes and so on.

If the acceptance of loss, a/k/a the peaceful transfer of power, were to be lost, the entire system, Constitution notwithstanding, would collapse and American democracy would be finished.

As noted, the essential premise of this scheme is “fair process,” and everyone knows that politics can be “rough and tumble,” “dirty,” and other unpleasantries, often in direct proportion to how much power is at stake. But “rough and tumble” or not, the process by which voting occurs must be accepted as fair, meaning each voter has a fair and equal opportunity to vote and to have her vote honestly counted.

Obviously, that goal is aspirational. We have, for example, gerrymandering which alters the “equal opportunity” element by rearranging the electorate to favor one party over another. Since both parties, in a floating tit-for-tat combat try to tilt the system in their favor when they can, the electoral system begins to resemble an exercise in mutually-assured-destruction, a/k/a MAD. And that doesn’t even account for the way in which the Electoral College system enhances the votes of smaller states or the way in which the allocation of legislative seats dilutes the votes of high-population states.

But those are features of the imperfect system that have been present for a very long time. At bottom, there remains, at least until now, the fundamental core principle that the loser will accept the loss and move on.

But, what if the process is not fair, in that the voting or the vote-counting is rigged in some way that favors one side? Why would the loser be expected to just accept defeat, an ill-gotten gain by an adversary with no recompense? Isn’t that exactly what Trump and his supporters have claimed?

No, it is not. The entire system by which the “truth” is determined in our society is based on arrangements provided in the Constitution. Thus, the taking of an oath to support the Constitution is an oath to accept those arrangements. The determination of “truth,” as close as we frail humans can come to its ascertainment, is made by a system of challenge-response-decision by independent courts which in turn have elaborate appeal arrangements so that erroneous decisions may be corrected before doing lasting harm. Like all human systems, the legal system is not perfect, but it is the closest we have come and is far better than a system in which appointed autocrats make all the decisions. And our systems have published “rules of engagement” that all parties must follow, so that the fight in a legal environment is as fair as it can be, assuming both sides have access to adequate representation.

Thus, our system includes the legal system as a fail-safe against faulty electoral process, as regards problems like obstruction of access to the polls, corrupt vote counting and the like.

Turning then to the 2020 presidential election, we first should recognize that the president began complaining of election rigging even before issue was joined with a chosen Democratic opponent. Moreover, through direct manipulation of the U.S. Postal Service, he tried to rig the election in his own favor, all the while complaining about what the opposition was up to. Aided by Republican governors, access to the ballot box was restricted by closing polling stations and other techniques of voter suppression.

Whatever one may say about social media and their manipulation by Trump and other politicians, those media also enabled the Democrats to call out the voter suppression as it was happening. So, it came to pass that the president, in sharply declining popularity as he downplayed the deadly coronavirus and was caught trying to pressure foreign governments to help undermine his opponent, lost the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, lost the key battleground states and lost the Electoral College vote. Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Trump fought back, screeching that the election had been stolen due to massive voter fraud, but only in the key battleground states he lost and, inexplicably, only regarding the presidential election but not the down-ballot races for supremely important seats such as that held by Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky, who survived a challenge despite having done little or nothing for his constituents. Trump sent a team of lawyers into the field, filing lawsuit after lawsuit, more than 60 cases, many to be decided by judges he had appointed. Not knowing and not caring how the legal system worked, Trump apparently expected his appointees to simply award him victories. He, and his crack legal team, could not, however, overcome the lack of evidence, defined as credible information of specific facts supporting a legal claim. Such evidence simply did not exist. Trump’s case was actually damaged by trotting out “witnesses” who did not understand how vote counting worked in their precincts. Trump lost ALL but one insignificant decision, more than 60 defeats. Even his “house lawyer,” William Barr, putative Attorney General of the United States, concluded that Trump had lost the election fairly.

And still Trump cried “foul,” arguing that he had won the election by a landslide, that the fix was in.  His mendacity was exposed yet again by a tape of his attempt to induce the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” a collection of votes just one more than Trump needed to reverse Biden’s win in Georgia. Never mind that for his claims to be true, tens of thousands of people would have had to conspire to tilt the vote count, a vast conspiracy that both theory and practice informs us could not happen without someone spilling the beans. There were no beans to spill.

And still Trump cried “foul.” And still his Republican enablers in Congress remained silent or engaged in full-throated support not only of Trump’s right to test the legal waters, but in support of the proposition that the election had been “stolen.” Stolen by means and persons unknown, but stolen nonetheless.

That “situation,” created by Trump’s own irrational insistence and domination of his political party, led to the January 6 assault on the Capitol Building in which a violent mob of Trump supporters tried to prevent the final certification of the Electoral College vote count. Trump watched on TV, apparently quite happy with his handiwork. He was a hero to his fans and within arms’ reach of getting the second term he claimed to deserve.

The attack failed, a perfect metaphor for Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s term ends at noon on January 20, just three days away. The nation’s capital city is an armed military camp awaiting a predicted resumption of the January 6 attack in an attempt to overthrow the government and install Trump as dictator.

Time will tell. But what is clear to me at least is that Donald Trump has violated the fundamental and central premise of democratic government. He has rejected his electoral loss and is trying to force himself on the country for a second term.

This then is the root of the tree of ultimate political evil. Unwillingness to accept the loss and move on after being heard more than 60 times in court, and despite multiple audits and recounts, is a  bridge too far, an undoing of norms, conventions and legal/Constitutional principles from which there is no recovery for forgiveness. In this effort, Trump is supported by multiple elected representatives of the people in the national legislature.

For those reasons alone, though there are many others, Trump should not only be convicted in his second impeachment, but he must also be prevented from holding public office again. If you don’t play by the rules, you must not be allowed on the field. The same is true for the other politicians who continue to falsify, fabricate and bloviate regarding the election result. They — Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and the others who voted to reject the final count even after the January 6 coup attempt —  must be removed from office and banned from holding another.

Trump Can’t Walk Back His Racism

No one paying attention will likely ever forget Trump’s response to the neo-Nazis marching with torches in Charlottesville: “very fine people [pause] on both sides.” There are many older examples but the one getting the most attention today is Trump’s refusal to reject white supremacy during the first presidential debate on September 29. Pressed by the moderator and by Joe Biden, Trump first tried to deflect by asking who specifically he was being asked to condemn. Biden promptly replied, “the Proud Boys.”

Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, Trump’s response will live in infamy: “stand back and stand by.” Like many other astounding statements from Trump, it’s on video and can’t be denied. But that never stops the Republicans from finding some path to altered reality other than the obvious need to admit that their candidate is a racist and is ready to call for violence in order to stay in power. Trump’s debasement of the presidency and destruction of American democracy are now fully out in the open.

The GOP autocracy/theocracy is bending itself into pretzels trying to cope with the exposed reality that their candidate is a racist monster who represents everything antithetical to the American values Republicans are constantly harping about. Politico.com reports the story. https://politi.co/34eExdZ

Senate Republicans spent much of Wednesday pressing President Donald Trump to denounce white supremacy, with few in the GOP willing to explicitly defend his refusal to do so during Tuesday’s presidential debate.

Trump’s unsubtle dog whistle was understood by the Proud Boys and other right-wing neo-Nazi groups exactly as it was intended. Many of them tweeted, in essence, “we await your orders to attack.”

Several pathetic deflections ensued. One suggestion was that Trump didn’t understand the question, or that he “misspoke,” which is preposterous to anyone who saw the event or the video of it. Then, Trump tried to say he didn’t know who the Proud Boys are, which is a lie. He was quite clear at the time. If he wanted to escape unscathed, he could have said, “I don’t know them, but I am opposed to white supremacy in all forms at all times.” But, he didn’t.

Politico again,

In a series of interviews and public statements Wednesday, Senate Republicans pushed Trump to clarify his comments, with party leaders and the rank-and-file eager to put distance between themselves and the president’s stance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he shared the same views as Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black GOP senator, who urged the president to correct his comments.

The suggestion that Trump’s remark can simply be “corrected” betrays the Republican perfidy in this entire subject. To them it’s just a question of what they can get away with and if exposed, “correcting” the comments fixes everything. But it doesn’t.

There are certainly gaffes and mistakes that everyone makes. This was not one of those. Given Trump’s history, it was virtually certain to arise in the debates one way or another and it is unimaginable that Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, Trump’s two primary debate preparers, did not address this with him. He knew it was coming, obviously didn’t like it but, visibly squirming, he said what he meant. Rick Santorum, the ever-reliable Trump toady who remains, for no apparent reason, a CNN commentator, objected that the question was unfair because the moderator knew how much Trump hates having to criticize his political base. If Santorum understands that Trump’s base has huge racist elements, you know all you need to know.

The Trump toady-in-chief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, certainly understood it:

…McConnell said Trump’s performance in the debate wouldn’t hurt his efforts to keep the Senate: “I don’t know of any of my colleagues who will have problems as a result of that.”

Other GOP lawmakers, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sen Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), lately of insider trading fame, tried to deflect the criticism, arguing that Trump had said he would designate the KKK as a terrorist group. He hasn’t, of course, and we know why.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, lately of Bridgegate fame, downplayed the alarm many had to the president’s remarks, saying on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he “heard it differently.” Uh huh. Pressed, Christie performed the pretzel twist with the claim that he  “didn’t read it that way, but if you want to read it that way that’s your prerogative,” insisting there was “confusion on the matter.”

Apparently, the White House believe-anything-he-tells-you-even-when-it’s-obviously-false” team didn’t get the Christie memo. Per Politico,

Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director, meanwhile told Fox News that “I don’t think that there is anything to clarify” from Trump’s comments the night before.” He’s told them to stand back,” she said, pointing to the president’s efforts to tamp down violence in cities across the country.

Farah conveniently ignored the “and stand by” half of Trump’s response.

Meanwhile, over at “Fox & Friends,” co-host Brian Kilmeade, always there for Trump, was quoted saying, “Why the president didn’t just knock that out of the park, I’m not sure.”  But, of course, he is sure. Trump is a racist and ignoramus. Trump believes that ‘antifa’ is some kind of organization bent on destroying America, a view even Trump’s own Justice Department, led by Trump’s personal consigliere the Attorney General William Barr, does not accept.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hit the nail on the head: “I think one thing he did present was the authenticity of who he is.”

We all know, I think, that public speaking is stressful, all the more so if much is at stake. If you have looked out over a large audience with expectant, perhaps even hostile, faces, you can understand how extemporaneous responses to questions can lead to regretful misstatements.

On the other hand, when you’re a public figure who has been  prepped and practiced and are aware of past issues and challenges with statements you’ve made, it is not too high a standard to expect certain things. First and foremost is ‘truth.’ We can accept and forgive dumb remarks, factual mistakes, failed memories over details and statistics. Those things happen in extemporaneous public speaking all the time.

The “stand back and stand by” comment by the president of the United States, almost four years into his presidency, is not in that class. Trump has history on this question. As Yogi Berra famously said, “it’s déjà vu all over again.”  Trump sent a message to the worst elements of his political base that he may call upon them to violently attack either the government or elements of the electorate he considers his enemies. They got the message loud and clear.

There is no walking this back, as the politicians like to say. Some things simply can’t be unsaid. Even if, under pressure from his Republican enablers in Congress, Trump were to categorically assert that he didn’t mean what he said, it’s too little too late. Everyone now has the clearest statement of Trump’s loyalties and they are not to the Constitution he swore to uphold. His loyalties are to himself ahead of everything and everyone else. The most remarkable aspect of this is that those same enablers do not accept Trump’s own version of himself. Or, maybe they really do and just don’t care.

Either way, the election draws closer by the day. Trump’s debasement of the highest office in the land will continue unless and until he is removed, one way or the other. You know what to do.

ICYMI – Part 5 [The Land of Oz]

The best hope for the country’s survival until Trump can be removed may lie in the inescapable fact that, like Trump himself, his administration is populated with some of the least competent grifters in history. Trump and his acting (like most Trump appointees) Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf don’t have the same understanding of why a federal force was sent to subdue Portland’s protesters:

While Trump said he sent federal law enforcement officers in to restore order, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said federal agents were in Portland primarily to protect federal buildings like the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which had become a target for protesters. [emphasis added]

[https://bit.ly/3hm1gcW] Trump’s administration remarkably resembles the Keystone Kops of comic book fame. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder why the mayor of Portland cannot initiate a meaningful process involving BLM leaders, among others, to address the concerns that led to the protests. Until that happens, it appears that the turmoil in Portland will continue (assuming Trump does not order his paramilitary forces to start shooting the protesters).

While there is much unknown about the federal assault on Portland, the evidence so far suggests the federal presence has led to escalation in violence, unlawful assaults and arrests by “police” and severe injuries to some protesters. Of course, it’s also true there has been property damage and that is unlawful and, in my view, counterproductive. On the other hand, as I tweeted earlier today, the solution is not physical suppression. If there is a solution at this late stage, it lies in the government addressing in a meaningful substantive way the reasons the protests started.

In related news regarding the federal invasion of Portland, retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore was reported to have said “”Police don’t do this. Watch this, what kind of b—-t is this?!” He added that Chad Wolf needs “to be run out of Washington. He has no business in charge of Homeland Security.” https://fxn.ws/30zUeus

Trump’s Storm  Troopers arrived in Columbus, Ohio and dragged at least one protester off the street into an unmarked vehicle. https://bit.ly/2CyjGIw These “officers” show no outward identification other than “police” on their other clothing. They brandish automatic weapons and threaten onlookers to “stay back.” This conduct is blatantly unlawful and must be stopped through intervention by the courts. I understand ACLU has filed suit. The Trump administration is responsible for these unconstitutional “arrests” in which no probable cause is stated and no Miranda warnings are given.

In a statement inexplicably reported by the Washington Post as an “apology,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who reportedly called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) “disgusting” and a “fuc*ing bitch” during an unplanned encounter on the Capitol steps, denied “offensive name-calling” [is there another kind?] He admitted to the “strife I injected into the already contentious Congress,” but his “apology” referred only to the “abrupt manner of the conversation.” In a masterpiece of linguistic legerdemain, Yoho said, “The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleague, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding.” Thus, Yoho does not deny that he said the words, just that he didn’t say them “to my colleague,” and his apology then only relates to someone else’s mistake in attributing the implicitly admitted statements as directed at AOC. Uh huh.

According to WAPO, and in a replay of the classic Republican response to situations like this, “Yoho appeared to become emotional as he described what he said was his experience with poverty, recounting that he and his wife used food stamps early in their marriage.” https://wapo.st/2X2ZW7d And, of course, the final Republican flourish, ““I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”

Trump would be proud of this performance: His playbook says, “When caught, never actually apologize; deflect, then bring up God and country.” Another interesting aspect of this encounter is that Rep. Roger Williams (Tex.), could hear some of the exchange, but in classic Republican mode, he demurred by claiming he was not paying attention to the confrontation because he was so engrossed in  thinking about issues in his district. The Republican Party should rebrand itself as the Stepford People.

While on the subject of clarity, a favorite, I was stunned the other day to read this in a WAPO news report subtitle: “Kathy Spletstoser is suing Gen. John Hyten for alleged sexual assault in federal court.” Admittedly, the report appeared in Apple News and the subtitle does not appear on WashingtonPost.com [see https://wapo.st/2CUU1Kb ], but the formatting suggests the subtitle was not invented by Apple News. Sooo, first, the allegation is not that the “alleged sexual assault” occurred “in federal court.” Second, and more important,  Col. Splestoser (Army, Retired) is not suing for “alleged sexual assault.” She is suing for “sexual assault,” which at the pleading stage is still just an allegation, but there is no offense (civil, criminal or military) of “alleged sexual assault.” One does not sue for relief from “alleged sexual assault.”

I understand this may be a pretty fine point. But we are in an era in which the so-called Main Stream Media is under attack by the government and is not trusted by a shockingly high percentage of the population. A recent online poll – I don’t much trust polls – by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and The Harris Poll found that “41% of Americans believe the news media are the “enemy of the people.” It is therefore particularly important that the real media (aka the MSM) be clear and as specific as possible in reporting news. People are easily confused by legal  and scientific language (witness the ongoing squabble over the difference between “total tests” and “tests per capita.” Trump does not know the difference and apparently many others don’t either. The  media need to be careful. This is one of the roles of editors. Do we still have editors?

On the merits of Col. Splestoser’s six sexual assault claims, the article reveals some shocking information about the military justice system:

The Justice Department attorneys representing Hyten have cited numerous rape and sexual assault cases that have been blocked over the years, including one in which the court said that “while the acts of sexual harassment served no military purpose, they were incident to” the plaintiff’s military service. Another says “even sexual misconduct can be within the scope of employment” in the military. [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, no specific cases are cited for these points and, not being versed in military law, I can’t address them. But, if accurate, these are genuinely astounding principles to operate in a modern military of the United States. Perhaps yet another example of how far we have to go in achieving the aspiring heights to which the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and basic morality call us. It is hard to understand why independent investigation of these types of charges is not required.

Our boy Matt Gaetz is in the news again with ethics issues. https://politi.co/2BnMdQx

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office [“at or below market rate”] from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor and legal client.

Naturally, Gaetz denies wrongdoing, claims everything was above board, no worries. Trumpworld in action. Read the article if you want a good, but ultimately depressing, laugh.

On a more positive note, the House has voted (with 72 Republicans joining – ooooh, Trump’s not gonna like that) to remove all the Confederate statues from the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md  observed that “Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty.” Meanwhile, back at the KKK rally, President Trump lost his appetite at the thought that traitors would no longer be honored in the nation’s capitol. But, maybe he doesn’t have to worry too much. The bill’s chances in the Republican-controlled Senate must be considered iffy in light of this disgraceful statement from Majority Leader McConnell:

What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery  [https://bit.ly/2CUzZiN]

Mitch McConnell — defender of liberty, as long as you’re white, and standing firmly behind the “principles” of the 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hero of the Week

No, it’s not any of the Democratic politicians who brought articles of impeachment against the criminal traitor Donald Trump (because they omitted the 10 cases of blatant obstruction of justice from the Mueller Report – more about that in another post).

No, my Hero of the Week is Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo who ripped into Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for their corrupt alliance with the National Rifle Association that the Sheriff said was ultimately responsible for the death of the officer he was there to bury [https://bit.ly/2RAg7XA]:

I don’t want to see their little smug faces about how much they care about law enforcement when I’m burying a sergeant because they don’t want to piss off the NRA.

Referring to the three senators, Sheriff Acevedo also said:

Make up your minds. Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers, the gun lobby — or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?

The Violence Against Women Act is stalled in the Senate in part because

the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends …. You’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you’re here for the NRA.

This is a law enforcement officer who speaks his mind. He is angry because he witnesses the real-life consequences of the Republicans’ refusal to advance legislation that might affect the position of the NRA that any restriction on access to guns is unacceptable. Cornyn is cited in the referenced article as, typically, blaming the bill’s failure to advance on the Democrats who won’t “negotiate” because they are focused on the small matter of a criminal traitor sitting in the White House with the support of, naturally, the Texas senatorial delegation and, of course, #MoscowMitch. I saw a TV clip yesterday of Cruz claiming that it was true that Ukraine interfered in the U.S. election in 2016, another example of gaslighting the nation with false narratives promoted by Russia for which zero evidence has been found to exist. Cruz cited a public statement made by an official in Ukraine to support his case, but it is blatantly obvious to any thinking person that expressing an opinion about something is not “interference” in an electoral process. Cruz is just another Trump toady.

In any case, kudos to Sheriff Acevedo for speaking the truth under the difficult circumstance of burying a fellow officer who died in the line of duty answering a domestic disturbance call involving an abusive boyfriend. The blood on NRA’s hands continues to mount. One day they will drown in it and good riddance.

Don’t Be Fooled by Republican Talk of Serious Gun Control Legislation

The New York Times has published an article entitled “Trump Weighs New Stance on Guns as Pressure Mounts After Shootings.” The article suggests that the “divisive politics of gun control appeared to be in flux” because, wait for it, “Trump explored whether to back expanded background checks” and Mitch McConnell said he was “open to considering” expanded background checks. So, “exploring” and “open to considering.” We have been here before. And before. And before.

To be fair to the authors of the NYT article, the next paragraph goes on to admit,” It is not clear that either the president or Mr. McConnell will embrace such legislation, which both of them have opposed in the past and which would have to overcome opposition from the National Rifle Association and other powerful conservative constituencies.”

There is nothing new here. We’ve seen it all before, followed by the equivocating, delays and then … nothing. It’s not a question of “clear” or “not clear.” McConnell has refused to call the Senate back into session in August, saying that doing so would just lead to legislators making political points and nothing substantive would happen. We’re being played. Pure and simple.

I am sitting before a TV watching an NRA member on CNN equivocate when asked a direct question about banning assault rifles, arguing that we need to deal with the “easy” issues and the most popular solutions, like background checks, first. She believes that because the claimed Second Amendment “right” to own guns of one’s choosing is the preeminent concern, we should address “crime control” rather than “gun control.” For her, the Second Amendment comes first and lives of innocent people come second because, in part, she believes background checks and “red light laws” can solve most of the problems by themselves and virtually overnight. And blah, blah, blah. Talking the good talk while making it clear that she can use clichés (enough is enough) as well as the next person, but really doesn’t think this is a big deal.

So, with all the handwringing, all we really have from the leadership of the Executive Branch and the Senate are posturing. The NRA has already declared the prospect of enhanced background checks “dead on arrival.” If history is any guide, and it usually is, the NRA resistance will strike terror in the hearts and minds of Republicans. According to a report from Politico, Sen John Barasso has basically said “forget about it.” Barasso is more concerned about “constitutional rights” than the deaths of hundreds of citizens at the hands of, usually, young white men armed with military grade, automatic-fire rifles.

The authors of the NYT article make much of Republicans beginning to support so-called “red-flag” legislation that “would make it easier to seize firearms from people deemed dangerous.” Imagine what is going to ensue if the federal government passes a law that permits the seizure of weapons from people “deemed dangerous.” How does the process of “deeming” occur? How many lawsuits and appeals will be filed and how many years will pass before even that most obvious of solutions can actually have an effect while free access to military grade weapons continues?

The real deal here is revealed by Trump’s recent Twitter activity saying he had been “speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.” Read between the lines. When Trump refers to NRA’s “very strong views” that must be “respected,” he is sending the message that, as usual, NRA will prevail and nothing meaningful will be enacted on his watch.

The NYT article reports that Trump is behaving like he always does, chaotically flailing in all directions with no intention to achieve an outcome.

“In private conversations, Mr. Trump has offered different ideas for what action on gun safety might look like. With some advisers, he has said he thinks he can get something done through executive action. With others, he has said he prefers legislation. With still others, he has said he would like a political concession in exchange for doing so. And he has insisted that he would be able to convince his most ardent supporters who favor gun rights that the moment for a change has arrived.”

McConnell, ever the reliable toady for Trump, said that Trump “very much open to this discussion.” History teaches that Trump is open about many things until he’s not. Nothing he says about gun control can be trusted. Nothing. He talks a lot, then usually does nothing, certainly nothing that he believes the NRA and his political base of ultra-conservative white men would oppose. Consider that Trump, quietly for him, reversed President Obama’s executive order allowing Social Security records to be used to identify people with mental health issues that would prevent their owning guns. Is it plausible to believe that Trump, who has the empathic level of a rattlesnake, has changed his view that the so-called right-to-keep-and-bear-arms prevails over everything?

Be aware also that, as the NYT reported,

“Part of the challenge for lawmakers seeking action is that the White House is divided — as is often the case. The hard-liners and Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who is close to pro-gun activists, are uneasy about angering the president’s heavily white and rural base by pursuing gun control measures ahead of 2020.”

Based on the reports of unidentified “Republican officials,” the NYT reports that Ivanka Trump has been “aggressively lobbying the president to take action.” You will have to look long and hard to find any evidence that Ivanka’s “lobbying,” hard or otherwise, has materially influenced he father’s agenda on anything. The greater truth is here:

“Regardless, senators of both parties are deeply skeptical that Mr. McConnell will bring any sort of gun control measure to the floor unless the president demands it.”

“There’s no way Republicans are voting for a background check bill unless Trump comes out in favor of it for more than a couple of hours,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, recalling that Mr. Trump also voiced support for strengthened background checks following the massacre in Parkland, Fla. “I’ve been to this rodeo before.”

And this is the final reality:

“On Thursday, more than 200 mayors, including the mayors of Dayton and El Paso, signed a letter demanding that Mr. McConnell bring the Senate back from its August recess to consider the House-passed legislation. “There’s no sense that the gun that the shooter used in Dayton — it was completely legal, he broke no laws to get it here,” said Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton. “And so here we sit, nine dead and 27 injured in Dayton. All we’re asking is for Congress to do its job.”

Don’t count on it.

Breaking News: Massive Cave-in at White House

Here’s how it went down.

When Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, first learned that Trump was caving on the government shutdown and the fight over “wall funding,” he misunderstood and thought that one of Melania’s escape tunnels had collapsed. He soon learned the truth. Trump was backing down! This was mightily puzzling to McConnell who, despite leading one-half of the co-equal branch of government known as Congress, was in reality a vassal to his liege lord Trump and was being left out in the cold. What could possibly be going on?

McConnell ran to the White House to get instructions from the master negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Trump was, however, confused by his fight with the Democrats over funding for his promised “border wall” (or, as he now says, “whatever you want to call it”). Trump had repeatedly rejected border security funding proposals that did not include the “wall,” preferring to shut down the U.S. government and thereby show how tough a negotiator he is. Trump’s negotiating principle was: “give me what I want or I will hurt you … or someone else you care about.” You know, like a mob boss. Trump apparently believed that it would be effective to simply continue demanding the one thing the Democrats, in solid control of the House of Representatives, weren’t prepared to give, complaining all the while that the Democrats wouldn’t negotiate. McConnell was at a loss how to help his lord and master out of this jam.

Many theories exist about how to negotiate effectively. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books have been devoted to the subject. The one tactic that virtually all negotiation authorities seem to agree on is that taking an extreme position at the outset and refusing to budge in order to get the other side to yield by simply repeating the position is the least effective approach to making a deal. Credible books on the subject devote considerable space to explaining how to deal with the “my way or the highway” negotiators because, despite their dismal record of results, there still are many “negotiators” who try the tactic.

Trump is a great example of this. By dint of his past position atop a real estate empire financed with other people’s money, he is accustomed to demanding and getting others to yield, lest he walk away or file a lawsuit (a favorite tactic). Surrounded by people eager to please, it appears no one told him that trying to negotiate by taking hostages and threatening to hurt them and continue hurting them is unlikely to lead to a favorable outcome. Even if someone told him, it’s unlikely he would have listened. Trump has made it clear many times that he already knows everything he needs to know about everything.

So, Trump shut down the government, loudly proclaiming that the shutdown was “on him” and no one else. Somehow, he thought that forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to either work for no pay (we’ll get back to you sometime later with your money) or stop working altogether without pay was going to force the Democrats led by the newly ensconced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to yield and give him the wall money he wanted. Maybe he thought, “she’s a woman and cares about people, so she’ll crack. I don’t care about anyone but myself so I can outlast her.” Maybe he just thought she was a weak person, since he thinks most people, especially women, are weak compared to him. Maybe he just had too many hamberders and couldn’t think straight. We’ll never really know.

What we do know is that the hostages in Trump’s power play tended to blame him and the Republicans for their inability to do their jobs and pay their bills. Members of Trump’s cabinet, in their usual fashion, tried to prove their loyalty and come to his aid, by pointing out that federal workers without incomes could simply borrow from a bank or credit union. Another characterized the work of federal workers forced to labor without pay until an unknown future time as “volunteering.” The wife of one of Trump’s wealthy sons pointed out that while, yes, there was a “bit of pain” involved in being without an income, it was for a greater cause and thus everyone should be happy to sacrifice. And on and on and on. They gave new meaning to the phrase “tone deaf.” Future historians trying to explain this time will be stymied by the utter absurdity of the theater created by these buffoons, all appointed by or otherwise owned by Trump.

As the casualties piled up, and the airplanes began to stack up as air traffic control faltered due to inadequate staffing, Trump finally caved. He accepted a short term funding and reopening of the government with negotiations then to begin regarding border security. The same deal he would have had back in December and on multiple occasions since then.

In classic Trump fashion, of course, the cave in was accompanied by a meandering blathering incoherent speech about border security and, finally, a repeat of the same old threat: “give me what I demand or I will declare a national emergency, shut down the government again and build the wall with money I will steal from other parts of the federal budget.” Indeed, in a tweet following his Rose Garden speech, Trump flatly denied he had made a concession at all. He reframed his collapse as a decision to help the

“millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The “understanding” Trump refers to is only an illusion within his own mind, not something that involves third parties.

To remove any lingering doubts about that, the putative White House Press Secretary, who now has nothing to do but repeat Trump’s messages, tweeted:

In 21 days President @realDonaldTrump is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats. The only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing. [emphasis added]

That must make sense to Sanders but for the life of me I don’t know what the hell she is saying. Someone I know well replied to her on Twitter with

Really? Trump caved to give Democrats another chance of yield to his demands? That’s your story?

So, apparently, if we’re to believe Trump this time, it’s still “my way or the highway” and this whole three-week suspension of the shutdown is only to help out the Democrats. Or the federal workers. Or somebody.

On that note, the “negotiations” will resume. Now, no one knows whether the courts will sustain a declaration of national emergency in these circumstances. Trump’s record in court is pretty bad, but this is largely uncharted territory. The data on border crossings do not appear to remotely support the idea that there is a national emergency but it remains to be seen whether the courts will simply defer to the “president’s authority” on this.

Of course, one must also wonder why, if Trump has the power to arbitrarily declare a national emergency, he would also have to shut down the government again. One may also wonder why, if he is so determined to build his wall, he doesn’t just use the powers he claims to already have and proceed to steal the money from some other budget item. But logic has never defined this presidency, so maybe that’s just a silly question. Or, just maybe, his legal advisors have warned him that he is on thin ice in claiming absolute power to build the wall on his own order. Again, we’ll likely never know what thought process, if any, actually underlies these twisted mental gymnastics. One thing we can reasonably be sure of – it’s not to help out the Democrats and it’s not about protecting federal workers, about whom Donald Trump gives not one … damn.

The other point to be made here was, I think, very well made in a Facebook post attributed to Dan Rather by the site, Truth Matters. Summarized, the argument is that to bring the issue of border security and the “wall” forward properly, Trump should have arranged for legislation to be introduced, after which hearings would be held, expert testimony collected and, ultimately, votes taken on the elements of a proper modern border security regime. In legislative terms, this would be called “regular order.” But, no, Trump thinks he is a dictator who can simply demand what he wants and everyone will yield as they did when he was in private life running his real estate companies.

The resistance led by Pelosi shows that at least one half of the Congress, under Democratic leadership, understands its proper constitutional role as balance against the executive. Trump thinks he’s going to win because he needs to satisfy his political base and he is blind to the reality that even some of that group of slavishly devoted followers were hurt by and disapprove of the government shutdown Trump directed and that he continues to threaten.

So, the negotiations will resume with Trump’s threat on the table: “do it my way or I will simply go around you.” This is not a formula for success and there is no reason for Democrats in the House to yield to this type of threat from the president. It is not in fact the Democrats who don’t want to negotiate – it is Trump who still insists “you will do it may way or else.”

I am not prescient and will not try to predict how this is going to come out, but it’s hard to be optimistic when one party takes the position of a 5-year old who won’t eat dinner unless he’s guaranteed two desserts.

When last seen, Mitch McConnell was seen standing in the cold in front of the White House holding a note addressed to the president. It read “My liege, what, oh what, do you want me to do now?”

Note: some of the above is satire but it’s impossible to know which part. It could all be true.

 

 

Laughing at Jeff Sessions

AHAHAHAHAHAHA … there, I am laughing out loud, really LOUD, at Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the Attorney General of the United States. You know, the one with skin so thin you can see what passes for blood coursing through his arteries. You may recall that Capitol police arrested a woman during Sessions confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate for laughing at Sessions’ remark about, get this, treating all Americans equally under the law. That’s a good one. No surprise that the lady laughed out loud. The charges were thrown out due to faulty jury instructions but Sessions is determined to try the woman a second time.

Dana Milbank wrote a wonderful column about this in today’s Washington Post, entitled “Our laughable attorney general.”  http://wapo.st/2f3PrKL. So, here I go again… AHAHAHAHAHA, laughing out loud at the Attorney General. Come and get me, Jeff; I dare you. I’m laughing at you, Jeff. It’s okay if I call you Jeff, isn’t it? Your feelings won’t be hurt? I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings, Jeff. You might have me arrested for assault on your feelings.

I recall that many years ago, Senator William Scott of Virginia called a press conference to deny a published report that he was the dumbest person in Congress. See http://wapo.st/2wGJTyO.

That was pretty funny. But I think Sessions is even funnier. He apparently intends to bring the full legal weight of the United States Government to bear on this woman until she is either convicted of a laughing offense or confesses her guilt of something that will make Sessions feel like a real man. “Wipe that smile off your face, lady, or I’ll wipe it off for you.” Sounds like a line from a 1950s B movie. “Nobody laughs at the Attorney General and gets away with it. Nobody.”

I am so glad the AG and the Justice Department have time and resources for this activity.

Of course, in one way Sessions has done everyone a favor. He has revealed why there is no humor in the Congress. Can you imagine what would happen if the decorum of the Senate were blemished by laughter every time something monumentally stupid was spoken on the Senate floor? They’d never get anything done. On the other hand, under the leadership ofMitch McConnell, the Senator from Kentucky, they seem to have managed to get nothing done without a single overt guffaw being heard. Maybe the Republican majority has managed to swallow those giggles like they have choked down their integrity and dignity. Just as with humor, no gagging is permitted in the Senate.

Footnote: For more potential parallels between former Senator Scott and current AG Sessions, see the Wikipedia piece on Scott. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_L._Scott. And your day cannot be complete without seeing the Scott quotes in the Chicago Tribune at http://trib.in/2xaMJgX. You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

Mitch McConnell – Hypocrite for the Ages

In the April 6 edition of the Washington Post, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote “Reaping what they have sown,” devoted to blaming the Democratic Party in Congress for, in effect, forcing Republicans to use the “nuclear option” to stop the filibuster of the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. http://wapo.st/2oVsKeP. McConnell called the Democratic filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination an “unprecedented attack on the traditions of the Senate.”

Not one word of McConnell’s 753-word “the devil made me do it” disquisition mentions the refusal of the Republican Party last year to even given a hearing, let alone a Senate vote, on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the seat that has now gone to Gorsuch.

Upon close examination, the real thrust of the piece is not to poke the Democrats about resisting Gorsuch per se. It is rather to say to Democrats, and everyone else watching: “we beat you on this one and now you should start cooperating with us and the Trump agenda instead of your “blind “resistance” to anything and everything this president proposes.”

Ah, yes, it’s time to stop resisting and start cooperating. See my blog post immediately preceding this one, entitled “On Tyranny-Read It Now.” McConnell’s call for “cooperation” is precisely what Timothy Snyder warns against in his prescient treatment of the sources of authoritarianism.

McConnell’s piece ends with this:

“Perhaps this is the moment Democrats will begin again to listen the many Americans – the people who sent us here – who want real solutions so we can work together to help move our country forward.”

Consistently with the rest of his thoughts, McConnell overlooks the fact that while Trump won the Electoral College vote, the majority of American’s voted for someone else. There is no case for listening to the Republican minority now. Indeed, as the former Democrats who flipped for Trump continue to become aware of how the Trump/McConnell/Ryan agenda is going to actually defeat their interests, it is reasonable to expect, by 2018 mid-terms, a significant shift away from the party that proposes to gut the federal government, reverse the environmental rules that have resulted in massive improvements in air and water quality and … on and on. Mr. McConnell is feeling pretty smug right now so he can, with a straight face, now call on Democrats to “cooperate.”

As long as the President of the United States continues to lie about the Russia connection (see “White House assertions on intelligence and Russia” in Fact Checker, Washington Post print edition, Sunday, April 9, 2017, inexplicably not online, at A2), promotes health legislation that reduces coverage for millions, supports desecration the environment and wanton killing of animals on federal land, to name just a few, there can be no “cooperation.” McConnell and the Republican Party’s hypocrisy is on full display now as the administration careens from one side of the listing ship of state to the other, with no principled leadership or strategy. So, NO, Mr. McConnell, there will be no “cooperation.”