Saturday, April 20, 2019

Not What Losing Looks Like

Many of us hope Robert DeNiro's dream becomes reality, that he "can handcuff him and take him away in an orange jumpsuit."

Of course, we all know of whom DeNiro was speaking because we learned Thursday of the crime(s) committed by Donald J. Trump. (The chat with Stephen Colbert had been taped Tuesday.) That's all the more reason the famed actor is wrong when he asserts "this guy has proven himself to be a total loser."

As noted by Will Rahn of CBS News Digital, there are ten instances which the Special Counsel identified President Trump possibly committing obstruction of justice. They are, in Mueller's words:

- the campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump;
- conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn;
- the President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation;
- the President's termination of Comey:
- the appointment of Special Counsel and efforts to remove him;
- efforts to protect public disclosure of evidence;
- further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation;
- efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed;
- conduct toward Flynn,Manafort (Redacted);
- conduct involving Michael Cohen

One piece of evidence is fairly insignificant. Two can begin to grab the attention of a prosecutor, and three is highly suspicious. Ten, and no prosecutor will give the suspect a free pass.

Nobody- and that might even include de facto Trump attorney William Barr- would deny that obstruction of justice would be considered a "high crime" under terms of the Constitution's impeachment clause. Mimi Rocah tweets

As a federal prosecutor I was taught to pursue obstruction of justice cases with zeal because if obstruction goes unchecked our whole justice system is at risk. If we let the POTUS get away with obstruction, what message do we send to criminals, prosecutors & juries?

Not a good one, certainly. And even Robert Mueller, though afraid of offending his boss, the Attorney General, implied that the President of the USA probably did obstruct justice. In a passive-aggressive assertion that the President committed obstruction of justice, the Special Counsel implied that some other measure (i.e., impeachment) should be considered. Mueller concluded

... If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

And yet, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives is slow walking the constitutional remedy, Elizabeth Warren is (at this moment) alone among Democratic candidates explicitly recommending impeachment hearings, and Democrats are being challenged not to justify their reticence but instead their belief that maybe, just maybe, the President should not be immune from consequences of his actions.

Though no one can know for sure how this ends, that doesn't sound like a "loser." That sounds a lot more like "winner," and a big one at that.

HAPPY PASSOVER                                                                             HAPPY EASTER

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Tinkers To Evers To Chance, Thomas To Kavanaugh To Barr

In her excellent analysis for Slate, Lili Loofbourow recognizes

In Barr’s summary of events, Trump wasn’t just innocent but wronged—a persecuted party whose injudicious actions could be chalked up to distress at being falsely accused. Sound familiar? It’s not a bad public relations strategy: It worked for Brett Kavanaugh. His extraordinary tantrum during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was rationalized by defenders as the understandable excess of a tormented man. No lawyer could have come up with a better defense for the president, anyway. As Fox News’ Chris Wallace characterized Barr’s press conference, the attorney general was essentially “acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president … talking about his motives, his emotions.” And just like Kavanaugh, Barr took his stage knowing he was performing for an audience of one.

And so, the nation whose elections were targeted and attacked by a foreign adversary (whose leader Trump constantly praises) was instructed, by its own attorney general, to forget its troubles and sympathize with the man who openly asked Russia to hack his opponent’s emails. Barr, no fool, understands that he has a challenging client. “In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context,” he intoned. That context turned out to be that Trump was upset. “Federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr stated, presenting this as a hardship. Worse still, “there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability.” Our attorney general wishes us to understand that this, too, was unfair. That Michael Flynn, the man Trump had chosen to be America’s national security adviser, was an unregistered foreign agent who had acted on behalf of a foreign government was none of America’s concern. Neither was Trump’s subsequent defense of the man, long after his firing, nor his request for James Comey to let it go. It wasn’t the conduct that was unwarranted and inappropriate, but the scrutiny of that conduct. It is we—the news media and the American people—who ought to think long and hard about What We’ve Done.

Turning accusation against the accusers, William Barr adopted the highly effective Brett Kavanaugh playbook.  However, this was not a playbook written by the Supreme Court nominee or even his facilitator/chaperone, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn.  It merely was borrowed by Barr (and sure to be used again) after it was adapted last autumn for the Supreme Court nominee.  

McGahn probably realized it had been used successfully previously. Late last September in the wake of Kavanaugh's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Michael Rosenwald drew a parallel in Kavaugh's strategy and that of another Supreme Court appointee. He described the

fury from Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh as he angrily denied allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, calling his confirmation process a “national disgrace” during testimony before a Senate committee. He testified after his accuser Christine Blasey Ford described an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh at a drunken Maryland house party in the early 1980s when they were in high school.

“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit, ever,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh defended his innocence again and again.

“Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who have known me my whole life. Listen to the people I’ve grown up with and worked with and played with and coached with and dated and taught and gone to games with and had beers with. And listen to the witnesses who were allegedly at this event 30 years ago," he said.

The comparisons with the Thomas/Hill hearing was inevitable.

In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened Thomas’s confirmation to hear Hill’s sexual harassment allegations and the nominee’s response. The lurid testimony that followed — about penis sizes, breasts, pubic hairs and pornography — captivated the nation, with open arguments in homes and workplaces over who was telling the truth.

Following Hill’s testimony, Thomas angrily addressed the committee, saying:

Senator, I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically that I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her. Second, and I think a more important point, I think that this today is a travesty. I think that it is disgusting. I think that this hearing should never occur in America. This is a case in which this sleaze, this dirt was searched for by staffers of members of this committee, was then leaked to the media, and this committee and this body validated it and displayed it in prime time over our entire Nation. How would any member on this committee or any person in this room or any person in this country would like sleaze said about him or her in this fashion or this dirt dredged up and this gossip and these lies displayed in this manner? How would any person like it?

And then he uttered the most repeated and analyzed portion of his defense:

This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity-blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kow-tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.

Circus. Lynched. Destroyed.

Those words set the tone for how Thomas saved his nomination, a defense that was later deemed shrewd and “well designed” by communication and rhetoric experts.

Kavanaugh shrewdly replaced the angry black guy shtick with the angry white guy shtick.

William Barr's line of strategy itself stretched from himself to Brett Kavanaugh and all the way back to Clarence Thomas. Rosenfeld noted 

“I desperately needed a break,” Thomas wrote in his memoir.

With his wife, Virginia, Thomas drove to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. From there, they took a ferry to New Jersey.

“The summer tourist season was over and the beach was deserted and quiet,” Thomas wrote, “but I found no peace there.” He had a nagging feeling that “my opponents were still holding something in reserve.”

He was right.

The day after returning to their home in Alexandria, Va., two FBI agents knocked on the front door.

“They flashed their credentials and started asking questions before I could close the door behind them,” Thomas wrote.

The first question: “Do you know a woman named Anita Hill?”

Oops. That "nagging feeling" probably was the realization that his history of sexual harassment in the workplace would catch up to him. Similarly, according to Jeff Sessions, when Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, on May 17, 2017 President Trump told then-AG Sessions “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked."

The parallel appears even greater when Rosenfeld explains that Thomas not only played the victim, vowing not to "provide rope for my own lynching" but also attacked the process. The nominee whined

I have endured this ordeal for 103 days. Reporters sneaking into my garage to examine books I read. Reporters and interest groups swarming over divorce papers, looking for dirt. Unnamed people starting preposterous and damaging rumors. Calls all over the country specifically requesting dirt. This is not American. This is Kafka-esque. It has got to stop. It must stop for the benefit of future nominees, and our country. Enough is enough.

On Thursday Attorney General Barr attempted to paint Donald Trump as a victim, complaining

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.

Slate's David A Graham noticed

In short, the attorney general is saying that the president’s possibly obstructive efforts were not corrupt, because Trump sincerely believed he was the victim of a conspiracy. Because the president was “frustrated and angered,” Barr seems to think it was reasonable for him to, for example, pressure the FBI director to drop an investigation.

The President was "frustrated and angry," as was Clarence Thomas ("enough is enough") by those "reporters" and "interest groups" and "unnamed people."

William Barr took from the script written by Clarence Thomas and passed along to Brett Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, it looks as if Donald Trump may survive politically, as did Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. And now- for the cherry on top of the cake- the fellow who smoothed the way for "high-tech lynching" Thomas to get a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land is set to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

An Idea Worthy Of Buttigieg

For the love of God (possibly this politician's favorite phrase), please stop:

Protesters shouting about "Sodom and Gomorrah" interrupted South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday at an Iowa campaign rally.

Buttigieg hopes to become the first openly gay president in American history.

One of the men who shouted about the biblical cities destroyed by God's wrath for their sinful ways was Randall Terry, a Christian activist who founded the anti-abortion rights group Operation Rescue. The organization says it split with him 18 years ago and now considers him too radical.

The crowd at the Des Moines rally drowned out Terry's shouts by cheering Buttigieg’s name.

"The good news is, the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you," an unshaken Buttigieg responded, pointing at the crowd.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reported that Buttigieg was interrupted three times by protesters and that they were all affiliated with Terry.

Randall Terry has to stop. He must stop not only because this is clearly intolerant. He must stop also because they can boomerang.

Pete Buttigieg is unusually quick on his feet as it is. And, unless his IQ is 100 points or so lower than suspected, he knew that he would face criticism, ridicule, or catcalls because he is gay. Moreover, this being the Democratic Party primary process rather than a general election including Independents and Republicans, calling attention to the mayor's sexual preference can only increase his popularity.

That would not be a good thing, and not only because Buttigieg's record as mayor has been, generously speaking, mixed.  Buttigieg,  well-informed, witty, civil, gay, and short, would like you to believe that he is the antidote to Donald Trump.

Nonetheless, there is one area, far more important than height or sexual preference, in which they are alike.

They both seem to have a problem with the United States Constitution. For Trump, in the matter of emoluments, immigration, and so much else, it is obvious. Not coincidentally, his Attorney General, who acts as the President's personal attorney rather than the nation's attorney, has the same allergy. Consider  

Amanda Marcotte argues that the offense cited is equivalent to a traffic ticket.  However, while a visa overstay is a mere civil offense, illegal entry is a Class B misdemeanor, roughly equivalent to what possession of a small amount of marijuana or stealing a loaf of bread would be on the state level. Still, not terribly serious- and individuals who apply for asylum have complied with the established, legal process and have broken no law.

Pete Buttigieg also has a bad court-related idea, an appellate rotation plan to increase the size of the Supreme Court, about which Mark David Stern explains

Also called the 5-5-5 plan or the “balanced court solution,” the 10 partisan justices would pick the remaining five justices from the federal courts of appeals and would need to select them unanimously. If the 10 partisans could not agree, they would lack a quorum to hear any cases. The Supreme Court’s work would grind to a halt until they reached a compromise.

One problem is immediately evident. Republicans being Republicans and Democrats being Democrats, the Democratic Justices would be tempted to acquiesce in the choice of the GOP Justices in order to allow court work to precede unimpeded. (Norms and the rule of law, you know.)

Assessing the proposal as a lawyer, Stern notes

This plan’s appeal is obvious—it gives neither party an advantage and thus avoids the judicial arms race that could result from straightforward court packing. Its flaw, however, is fatal. As Pack the Courts has explained in a white paper, the Constitution’s Appointments Clause declares that the president “shall appoint” Supreme Court justices “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” The justices themselves have no power to appoint other justices; that authority is explicitly assigned to the president alone. If Congress forced the president to share appointment power with the justices, it would radically alter a key constitutional procedure. That cannot be done by mere legislation. It requires nothing less than a constitutional amendment.

Pivoting from the legal to the strategic, Stern recognizes that appellate rotation

sounds technocratic and centrist. Buttigieg insists that he does not want to “make the court more progressive” but rather wishes to “arrest the decline in the perception of the court toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution.” Appellate rotation “takes the politics out of it a little bit,” making it the “most intriguing” option to him. “If we want to save that institution,” Buttigieg asserts, “I think we better be ready to tune it up as well.”

That line might poll well, but it’s the wrong way of looking at court reform—and not just because the “most intriguing” option is also unconstitutional. Buttigieg may not want to cross the Rubicon of altering the makeup of the Supreme Court, but Republicans already blew past that norm. In 2016, Republicans proposed, and partially enacted, their own version of court reform by refusing to even hold hearings for Garland. The GOP effectively shrank the size of the court to eight seats for more than a year, resulting in deadlocks that hobbled the court’s work. Then, multiple Republican senators—including John McCain, Ted Cruz, and Richard Burr—announced that they would not confirm any nominee put forward by Hillary Clinton if she won the presidency. Burr said he would “do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.” Sympathetic commentators like Ilya Shapiro cheered them on, arguing that it would be “honorable” for the Senate to refuse to confirm Clinton’s nominees and “let the Supreme Court die out, literally.”

It's an idea that's unconstitutional, dependent on Republican good faith, and redolent of an individual who is afraid to wield power:

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Not Hopeful

Unfortunately, this (only presumably, given Twitter pseudonyms) guy Seth McNeil is right:

In a far more complex manner, Ezra Klein lays it all out in this cogent analysis with the apt section titles "Hopeful liberals, concerned conservatives;" "Democrats miss Obama;" "Pete Buttigieg's play for the 'hope and change' vote;" and "It's not 2008 anymore" (more on that one later).

Objectively, in the last seven presidential elections- 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004 (arguably), 2000, 1996, and 1992- the more charismatic and engaging presidential nominee emerged victorious.  Additionally, in each of those contests- 2016, 2008, 2000, and 1992- in which there was no incumbent, the less experienced candidate won.

Neither is likely a coincidence.

The more personally appealing and less experienced candidate may prevail because, as McNeil understands, getting elected is not about policy or ideas but about emotion and reflecting "back what we want to see."

That played a major role in the election of Barack Obama, as many Americans sought to prove (as they saw it) that neither they nor their country is racist.  His nomination, aided by opposition as a state senator to the Iraq War that Hillary Clinton voted to give a GOP president authority to conduct, also was boosted by the appeal of the hazy "hope and change."  While once it was "who would you rather have a beer with?" it is now the "it" factor, or who grabs the voter's attention, or a similar factor..

Of course, another obstacle Elizabeth Warren faces is occupation of the ideological "lane" (insofar as the lane concept isn't actually lame) by Bernie Sanders as the one candidate who ran in 2016 and amassed a deep and loyal following. However, if Klein's analysis suggests that the mayor of a mid-sized Midwestern city is inevitable, he warns that it isn't still 2008 and

Another challenge for Buttigieg is that Obama didn’t win just by impressing openness-minded liberals. He won by building a coalition between them and black voters. As of yet, there’s little evidence of Buttigieg breaking through among nonwhite voters — and, notably, nonwhite voters aren’t as sorted by the openness dimension between the parties, so the messages that work for white liberals in New Hampshire often fall flat with black churchgoers in South Carolina.

That of course opens the door for a minority woman (Harris), the loyal servant to Barack Obama (Biden), and a few others to counter the support and experience Senator Sanders picked up the last time around.  If that too is hazy, we do know that if recent history is any guide whatsoever, any combination of brilliance, experience, and thoroughly researched policy prescriptions is not the path to the presidency.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Come Clean

A visibly excited Ezra Klein finds in Pete Buttigieg   "America’s history as a lesson in hope, cable news politics as a threat to the country, an alienated kid with a funny name whose unlikely rise proves change is possible." David Axelrod, who typically is excited only by the thought of that other "alienated kid with a funny name whose unlikely rise proves change is possible," concurs, remarking
Additionally, Buttigieg reportedly now has surged to third in popularity among likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, suggesting it is approaching time, or should be approaching time, for the South Bend, Indiana mayor to put up or shut up.

Admittedly, that could apply to all the Democratic hopefuls. However, it is only about the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana about whom self-identified "queer" Bob Moser writes

It was the dishonestly named “religious freedom” law—which Pence had signed in March 2015—that helped spur Buttigieg to come out publicly three months later. And Pence’s praise of Buttigieg came after his own popularity had tanked in the wake of the roundly unpopular legislation, which was making his re-election campaign for governor in 2016 an uphill climb. Pence was scrambling to save his political skin, until Trump tapped him as his running mate and delivered him from Indiana. No gay person, by then, could consider him anything but a dangerous and determined enemy of their very humanity.

By refusing to let Pence off the hook, Buttigieg was taking square aim at the religious right’s most cherished rationale for its anti-gay bigotry—the old canard of “loving the sinner but hating the sin.” Growing up among conservative Christians myself, I heard it constantly: “I love you as a child of God, and part of my love is telling you that you’re eternally damned if you don’t suppress your desires.” Pence is the poster boy for this insidious brand of hate masquerading as love, and the smiling face he put on for Buttigieg exemplified it.

Pete Buttigieg's life story, especially his sexual voyage, is heartening to many Democrats. However, the "change" cited by Klein and "the thing" cited by Axelrod are ultimately meaningless and prone to lead to disappointment if unmoored to actual policies.

The "religious freedom" (appropriately placed in quote marks by Moser) legislation signed by then-Indiana governor Pence may have in fact have pushed Buttigieg out of the closet. The mayor now, to much criticism from the right, declares "that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand—that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

So let's have at it. Neither a presidential candidate nor the mayor of an Indiana city can reverse Indiana Senate Bill 101/ Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which since has been amended.  But he (or she) can advocate the revocation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, unhesitatingly signed by President Clinton in 1993. 

That should not be difficult for Democratic candidates, several of whom already have blasted the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1994, whose ardent support by then-Senator Joseph Biden is considered a hurdle he must overcome to nomination.

Only one Democratic hopeful is openly gay, has explicitly referred to "my creator," or has boasted “My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”  He contends his own Party "has lost touch with a religious tradition that I think can help explain and relate our values.”

"Religious freedom" laws subject not only gay individuals but everyone to being denied equal opportunity by someone hiding behind a claim of religious faith. Pete Buttigieg must reveal whether he believes such measures are critical, or antithetical, to the values of a liberal, inclusive society. That applies to all presidential aspirants, but only one has proposed himself as a Christian antidote to the horrid values embodied in Donald Trump.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ilhan?

These two seem to have a disagreement:
It does appear that David Frum has remained a registered Republican. However, he has barely been in position to influence the Republican Party since he was effectively thrown out of the American Enterprise Institute in 2010, and probably not at all since he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In the article to which Frum linked in his tweet, he addressed the most recent controversy surrounding Democrat Ilhan Omar, in which the Minnesota congresswoman at a meeting of the Council of American-Islamic Affairs in March indelicately stated  “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Frum notes that two Democratic presidential candidates already "have offered full-throated endorsements" with other Democrats having defended her.  He reasons

Having promised not to “let him drive us apart” from Omar, Democrats are now stuck with responsibility for the reckless things the representative from Minnesota says, not only about Jews, but about other issues, too. Omar has already served notice that she does not intend to behave more circumspectly in the future. In a Friday-night interview, Stephen Colbert asked Omar whether she would heed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s advice to back-bench it for a while. Omar answered, “I think Nancy knows this very well. Women have been told to go slow and not be seen and not be heard for many years. She wouldn’t have made it to where she is if she did. And it’s certainly the case for minority women … We are not there to be quiet. We are not there to be invisible. We are there to follow the lead of people like Congressman John Lewis and make good trouble.”

Well, this is trouble, and not only because John Lewis suffered a skull fracture when clubbed by an Alabama State Trooper in de facto enforcement of de jure segregation.  Some 54 years later, Representative Omar, her family, and her staff  (thankfully) are being given increased security by Capitol Police in response to a death threat from a civilian, who already has been apprehended.

It's a problem also because, as Frum wrote

The Democrats are on notice. More remarks will be coming...

After Trump’s tweeted attack, Omar will become even more internally uncriticizable and unmanageable, without becoming any more careful or responsible. Indeed, the speech by Omar that provided Trump with the sound bite he exploited—“some people did something”—itself exemplifies her carelessness and irresponsibility.

CAIR was founded in 1994, which was seven years before 2001, a not insignificant distinction in light of the statement by the freshman Democrat. Nonetheless, her Democratic defenders rightly believe that the comment must be considered in context, in which it appears less callous than the GOP is making it out to be. However, the full context impels also the recognition that

Against Omar’s propensity to provoke, the Democratic Party seems institutionally almost defenseless. Pelosi was thwarted when she attempted to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitic expressions by House members. Instead, the House substituted more muddled language in which Jews appeared in a laundry list condemning all expressions of intolerance against “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others.”

And then at the Republican-Jewish Coalition convention, President Trump told the assembled American Jews that Benjamin Netanyahu is "your prime minister" and a Democratic victory in 2020 "would cripple our country and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves." Thus having accused Jews of dual loyalties, Trump could have been censored by the House of Representatives for anti-Semitic remarks had House Democrats not taken a pass on justifiably accusing Omar of a similar expression of hate.

And now, as Frum realizes, the Democratic Party is stuck.  Representative Omar, far more intelligent than careful, got the message when her Party refused to address her statement on its own (lack of) merit.  Therefore

It cannot be pleasant for Omar’s colleagues to have to wonder and worry what that next remark will be—knowing that Donald Trump and his Twitter feed will be waiting to blame all Democrats for the provocations of one. But by not putting themselves on record about Omar when they could, Democrats now find themselves bound to her for the duration. This problem will get worse, and its political consequences will become ever more costly for Democrats who want to win national elections and govern the country.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Immigration Diversion

First out of the gate with what was at that moment the latest Trump iteration of disturbing immigration policies was The Washington Post, which reported very late Thursday

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months — once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump’s border wall.

If you instinctively recognized that President Trump intended to punish his enemies, you win a prize because

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was among those the White House wanted to target, according to DHS officials. The administration also considered releasing detainees in other Democratic strongholds.

White House officials first broached the plan in a Nov. 16 email, asking officials at several agencies whether members of the caravan could be arrested at the border and then bused “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” places where local authorities have refused to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.

At least four Democratic Representatives- Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), Earl C. Blumenauer (Oregon), and Nydia Velazques and Alexandria (Sandy) Ocasio-Cortez of New York- have called for the abolition ofImmigration and Customs Enforcement, and at least two Democratic senators have strongly implied it should be dismantled. It seems, however, that it took that most evil of agencies to shoot down the President's brainstorm, for

The White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the plan was intended to alleviate a shortage of detention space but also served to send a message to Democrats. The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that “there are PR risks as well.”

After the White House pressed again in February, ICE’s legal department rejected the idea as inappropriate and rebuffed the administration.

As so few have, someone from within the federal government has stood up to Donald Trump, and it turns out he or she is from ICE.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, demonstrating an impressive depth of dexterity with adjectives, called the President's idea "ludicrous," "petulant," "insulting," "un-American," "illegal," "immoral," "pathetic," and- most impressively- "the sophistry of adolescence." He did, however, omit one critical adjective: revealing.

Suppose you are an unauthorized immigrant caught at the border or in the nation's interior. You may be returned to the host country, given a court date and then released, or (if arrested for an offense), jailed and then released.

But Donald Trump reportedly wanted to deport (at government expense) some detained immigrants to sanctuary cities.  There is no legal or official definition of "sanctuary city," rather a general concept. Still, we know that if an individual were taken to what the Administration considers a "sanctuary city," he or she could simply relocate if wished.

Presumably, however, the immigrant would not want to move. He/she has been given free passage to a jurisdiction which treats illegal immigrants rather kindly. Moreover, most of these are municipalities in which already reside a large number of the foreign-born, thereby making it easier for the individual to adjust.

Were this policy to have taken effect, President Trump would have been giving the illegal immigrant a huge break and belated Christmas gift. This would not be an unforced error; it would be precisely what Donald Trump intends.

This is revealing, and even a little obvious, if unremarked upon by virtually everyone. Of course, Donald Trump's immigration policies are intended to be cruel; that's Donald Trump. And they are intended to promote "liberal tears," to sadden and/or anger liberals, minorities, and the other folks his base dislikes; that's Republican.

But they are a fraud. President Trump may be mean and heartless. However, contrary to the assumption of both supporters and opponents, his intent is not to limit the number of foreigners in this country. If it were, he probably wouldn't be expanding the H-2B visa program, nor slashing aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, thereby offering residents of those countries incentive to travel north.

ICE may understand what so many on the left, the right, and the center do not.  Trump is motivated less by ethnic animus or a desire to make America great again than he is simultaneously to welcome cheap labor and to signal to his supporters that he's standing up for "us," not "them." It's a cynical game he's playing, using race and pseudo-patriotism as a diversionary tactic. But his strategy has worked before, and he plans to make it work again.

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Not What Losing Looks Like

Many of us hope Robert DeNiro's dream becomes reality, that he "can handcuff him and take him away in an orange jumpsuit."...