Tag Archives: Times

Whistling by the Graveyard

On August 25, 2018, the New York Times published a “News Analysis” of Donald Trump’s treatment of the American legal system:  Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law, by Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner. https://nyti.ms/2oINv1V

The piece opens with this:

In his attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr. Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the foundation of the nation’s administration of justice.

The result is a president at war with the law.

Further, and presciently,

The president’s public judgments about the country’s top law enforcement agencies revolve largely around how their actions affect him personally – a vision that would recast the traditionally independent justice system as a guardian of the president and an attack dog against his adversaries.

The comment ends with this:

“No matter when this all ends, Trump will have caused long-lasting damage to the ability of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to execute on its mission…. He is sacrificing our public safety and national security on the altar of his own ego.” [quoting Christopher Hunter, a former FBI agent and prosecutor]

Certainly, the authors could not have precisely foreseen how Trump’s approach to governance would lead to the present circumstances, but their overall impression of the direction of Trump’s presidency was stunningly accurate.

Now, perhaps emboldened by what he convinced himself was “exoneration” by Mueller and thus a free hand going forward, Trump has been caught out trying to use a foreign power to influence the 2020 election. And, the evidence is clear, Trump and his loyal team of lawyers, who were also allowed to skate by Mueller, have clumsily tried to cover up the president’s crimes by secreting the records in a computer system designed to contain only coded high-security information. Indications are that this is not the first time they have done this. As we have come to expect, Trump responded to all this by threatening his “enemies,” attacking the press and deflecting by inventing others’ offenses that he purports to expose.

All of that was simply too much for the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who called for an impeachment inquiry and had the votes to do it. Trump responded by declaring that Pelosi was no longer the Speaker of the House. This from a man who publicly swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Also, as we have come to expect, Republican enablers in and outside the White House rushed to Trump’s defense with all manner of false and hysterical claims. While the wagons were being circled, more news emerged, including that Secretary of State Pompeo was listening on the Trump-Zelensky call even though he indicated otherwise in television interviews. Trump is demanding to “face my accuser” and has said that the White House is trying to determine the whistleblower’s identity even though the governing law provides for protection of that individual’s identity. Trump supporters have offered a large cash award for anyone who will conclusively identify the whistleblower. Trump has not repudiated them for this action, arguably putting the whistleblower’s life in danger.

And so it goes. Meanwhile, the Editorial Board of the New York Times and the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have both called for Trump to resign. Likely, other major newspapers will join the list. What goes around ….

The Times if, of course, still trying for “journalistic balance,” by giving print space to defenders of Trump to make their case. The same Sunday that the Times printed “The Allegations Are Grave. An Election Is at Risk. The Founders Were Clear,” a half-page op-ed appeared, entitled “Impeachment Is an Act of Desperation,” by Christopher Buskirk, publisher and editor of the very conservative website American Greatness. Buskirk’s argument is the reason for the title of this post.

Buskirk posits that by proceeding with an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct, the Democrats are playing into the Republicans’ hands and assuring Trump of victory in 2020. Why? Because (1) “we’ve all been down this road before” and nothing Trump has done or said so far has affected his support that “has bounced around in more or less the same range since he took office,” (2) what about Hunter Biden in Ukraine? (3) impeachment “success requires broad public support,” and (4) Democrats can only beat Trump by focusing on the issues.

The corollary to the first point is that “there will be no resignation, there will be no conviction in the Senate.” That is probably true, but it misses the point that Trump’s conduct is so egregious across a broad range of areas and issues that a well-presented impeachment case in the House will serve the Democratic agenda in 2020 as well or better than any candidate on her/his own. It also ignores the Democratic sweep of House seats, and return to a majority there, in 2018. Finally, to claim that Trump’s popularity has not been affected by his prior egregious acts in office ignores the reality that his “popularity” is very low. These are not the likely elements of a winning position.

Buskirk’s second point is the classic Republican trope transplanted from Barack Obama (the usual target of Trump ego-angst) to Joe and Hunter Biden. But, no matter what the Bidens may have done in Ukraine, and so far there is no evidence of wrongdoing, a point made repeatedly by past and present Ukrainian officials with reason to know, it would not justify Trump’s attempt to arm-twist a foreign government into investigating a domestic political opponent. Except for self-defense against physical threats, American law does not support a defense that “someone else broke the law so I can too.” This is essentially the “Hillary’s emails” defense and it’s worthless. As Yogi Berra famously said, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Buskirk’s third point – impeachment success requires broad public support – is, I believe, simply wrong. Impeachment requires only a smartly executed process of compiling and presenting for public viewing the evidence of corruption in the multiple scenarios in which Trump has acted as if he were above the law. But even if Buskirk’s claim is right, we are in early days and it’s premature to conclude that the public won’t get on board as the evidence of Trump’s venality and illegality is presented. Again, this assumes the presentation is properly done. I have argued repeatedly that this must not turn into another political show with politicians sitting on the House committees trying to act like practicing prosecutors. Develop a list of “points to be proved” and leave the questioning to experts that know how to do it.

Finally, the fourth point that defeating Trump requires beating him on the “issues,” is an attempt to divert attention from what is at the root of the current mess. Trump has willfully violated a serious federal law designed to protect American elections from foreign interference and then tried to cover it up. Moving the records to a secret computer for coded security information is functionally equivalent to Richard Nixon’s deletion of 18.5 minutes of tapes involving a crucial meeting between the President and his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, the revelation of which ultimately destroyed Nixon’s support in the Senate and forced his resignation prior to being impeached and removed. Trump’s crimes are extremely serious and they follow a thoroughly documented showing of at least 10 prior instances of criminal obstruction of justice in the Mueller Report. He was only saved from indictment by Mueller because the Department of Justice, dubiously, has opined that a sitting president may not be indicted.

Buskirk argues that impeachment of Trump now is just “political theater” and “more Washington psychodrama.” He claims the voters are simply uninterested in the crimes Trump may have committed and that they “just want to know what Washington is going to do for them.”

Methinks Buskirk has it backwards. Trump’s most ardent supporters seem only interested in political theater. The proof is evident in the endless tapes of Trump’s rallies that have little or nothing to do with “issues” and everything to do with performance. Trump is a star in that crowd because … he’s a star. He gives voice to their anger and fear and they see no irony in the fact that he is rich and unlike them in almost every way. He does not really share their fear and anger; he puts on the show they came to see and they love him for it even though the hard evidence is that he has done virtually nothing to make their lives better.

And that is the ultimate point. Even if Buskirk’s assessment regarding the “issues” is correct, it fails to reckon with Trump’s massive and ongoing failure to deliver on most of his electoral promises. If indeed it is only “issues” that will motivate the voters, and Trump’s illegal and immoral conduct of the Office of President and multiple violations of his oath of office are not “issues” of interest or force in the election, Trump’s performance still fails. Most of his governance actions are for “show” to impress his political base but it is not a stretch to show how he has failed to deliver.

So, is impeachment a mistake? I don’t think so. Democrats have been handed a weapon by Trump that needs to be used with surgical precision. We have a criminal in the White House, a person who does not respect the office he holds or guiding principles of the government he swore to serve. It should not be hard for the Democrats to show this to the electorate in a compelling way, to motivate their own base to go the polls in 2020 and, if Donald Trump still sits in the White House, to send him packing.

Experimental Blog Post re The Sound of Apple Carts Being Knocked Over

WARNING: Before getting into the substance, and because I am so ____ bewildered and more than a little ____ off, I have written this post with blanks so you, in the privacy of wherever you read these things, can fill in the blanks with whatever words you’re comfortable with. Such words may be namby pamby or they may be harshly vulgar. That’s up to you. No one will know but you. If so inclined, let me know what you think of this form of blog post as a way of communally but also privately sharing your feelings, at least with yourself. If that makes sense. I’m not sure it does. But whatever you do, when you come to one of the blanks do not think of vulgar words; think instead of something else that’s just as good. Really. Try.

Did you ever wonder what an apple cart sounds like when it’s knocked over? No? I thought not. Most people in the modern world never come in contact with an apple cart, let alone one that has been knocked over within earshot. But apple carts are being knocked over left and right (well, mostly left) in Washington with the arrival of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated a popular Democratic incumbent (actually the voters did it, but that’s a detail), and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez is also known as AOC. How cool is that? One week on the job in Washington and she’s her own acronym.  Donald Trumpski thinks she’s a new govt agency and can’t understand why he didn’t get to appoint her and can’t fire her.

Rep. Tlaib shocked the formerly Free World by using a profanity in a statement to a group of supporters, a profanity that, in the world of profanities, seems entirely suited to its target, the traitor-in-chief, Donald Trumpski. But you would have thought Tlaib had actually assaulted someone on the floor of Congress. The _____ Republicans were apoplectic. It’s one thing for Trumpski to say he could shoot someone and not lose votes, but for a woman, a freshman, a Muslim for _____ sake, to call Trumpski a “bad word, why this could be the end of civilization itself.  A “sad” day for the Republic, they said. Their delicate sensibilities couldn’t stand such coarseness. Oh my, I think I have the vapors, I may pass out.

The _____ Democrats too were quick to pounce on the use of profanity in politics. What have things come to? Not constructive, they said. Not moving in the right direction. ____ it. More on this in a moment.

So, what was the first reaction from the “establishment” on the left? Here are some examples:

  • Shut up!
  • Toe the party line
  • Mind your manners
  • Submit to the “rules” of decorum that we wrote in anticipation that one day someone like you might be elected
  • Stop calling attention to yourself, _____
  • Wait your turn – we’ll let you know, ______
  • Stay in your lane
  • Speak only when spoken to
  • Ask permission before proposing a policy your elders might not like
  • Above all – shut up: Congress is where good ideas go to die

And, on the right? Well, I’ll be ______, you’d have thought Mitch McConnell had voted for national health insurance. The right was both mightily offended and simultaneously gleeful that new targets for their misogyny and racism had arrived. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, unhappy with his new role of powerlessness, was quick to demand that Speaker Pelosi “reprimand” Tlaib. Pelosi rightly responded that she was not in the censorship business. _________. If hypocrite McCarthy wants to reprimand someone, he should start with the leader of his own party. When he brings Trumpski to heel, he can think about imposing his personal standards of propriety on others. What a _____ moron.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Republicans are having hysterical hypocritical meltdowns over a freshman Congressperson using a vulgarity in relation to the supposed President who has built his entire persona around “telling it like it is,” including the use of a multitude of vulgarities, all available on video even as he, with his usual practice of lying about almost everything, denies that he said what he said. Instead of ganging up on the Democratic newcomers, the _______ Democrats should be making videos of all of the lying and hypocrisy on the right, including their claims that they want to protect health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, then post the videos on every right-wing social media site every day until the next election.

AOC blew Republican minds when a video was released of her dancing in college. Imagine that! Dancing in college. _______! She responded … with more dancing. There was a profound lesson in that move that the Republicans, as usual, failed to grasp. Later, she spelled it out more clearly on Twitter:

“None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with YOU. You’re locked up in here with ME.”

BOOM!! EMT squads were dispatched to Capitol Hill to resuscitate Republicans who suddenly found themselves unable to breathe. There were no reported fatalities but ashen-faced Republicans retreated to a secret meeting to discuss their next attacks on the freshmen Democrats who threaten the entire world order of old white men by having ideas and the willingness to express them.

It’s doubly interesting and profoundly disturbing, I think, that the media have played a facilitating role in the shock and dismay at Tlaib’s alleged darkening of political discourse in the Nation’s capitol. A front-page article in the New York Times on January 5, entitled “Cry to Impeach Upsets Agenda for Democrats,” described Tlaib’s remarks as an “expletive-laden impeachment promise” that was going to “upend the bonhomie of a new Congress.”

Bonhomie? Really? In _____ Congress? Give me a ____ break. One remark by a freshman congressperson upsets the entire Democratic agenda? That must have been some ___ agenda. Where does the MSM get this tripe?

The Washington Post joined the chorus with a front-page article the same day, entitled “House freshman’s cursing revives impeachment talk.” CBS News referred to the statement as “harsh.” https://cbsn.ws/2D374GL

There is so much here, I almost don’t know where to begin, but I will plunge ahead. I understand that media writers have little time to produce their stories against deadlines and the ever-present concept of “breaking news” that they employ to get our attention. But I still expect some respect for the English language by them and/or their editors. I was particularly struck by the use of “expletive-laden” in the Times piece. The click-bait title of a Jan. 4 piece by the Washington Post refers to the speech as “profanity-laced.” https://wapo.st/2M4nwtq

Google reports that “laden” means “heavily loaded or weighed down.”  Tlaib used the “bad word” once at the end of her remarks. I suppose one can argue that the word is so powerful in some way that even a single use infects everything adjacent that then becomes “laden,” but frankly, I think the Times andd the Post simply chose to make more of the statement than it could carry by itself. The so-called mainstream media had best be careful lest their already tenuous hold on the popular mind is completely severed. If they want to criticize, do some homework and use English. Leave the click-bait _____ to Twitter and Facebook.

The other thought is this: does anyone really believe that words like that used by Tlaib are not thrown about by politicians in the Capitol all the time when they don’t think anyone’s listening but their fellow inmates? Really? ____ that ____. And can it possibly be true that the Democratic establishment is not aware that many many many people have been openly talking about impeaching Trumpski for two years??? The talk started the minute he was elected.

The final thought about this particular dustup is that the Democrats who are running around giving quotes to the press critical of Tlaib are feeding the beast that threatens to defeat them and our democracy. The CBS News article cited above reports that a huge majority of Americans support impeaching Trumpski. If Democrats from the Old Guard think impeachment right now is a bad idea, fine, say so, but why join the ______ Republican feeding frenzy in attacking Tlaib for using a “nasty” about Trumpski. Why is it that the Old Guard doesn’t understand by now that things have changed?

The reality of national politics is that people like AOC and Tlaib are not intimidated by the mere presence of the Old Guard. They, and the Americans who elected them, are fed up with the Old Guard that opened the door to the election of a traitor and incompetent like Donald Trump and they are fed up with the _____ Republicans who are failing to do their job to rein in a president who is out of control and blatantly unqualified for his job. Democrats had best take heed or more apple carts will be knocked over and they won’t know what the ___ hit them.