Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Little Sound And Fury, Probably Signifying Less


In an op-ed Monday in The Washington Post, forty-four former United States senators, most Democratic but many Republican (and Independents Joe Lieberman and Lowell Weicker), wrote

.... it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

Appearing on Cuomo Prime Time with former Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm, Rick Santorum commented (beginning at 17:33 of the video below)

What does this letter really say? I mean, it looks like a letter that was put together or the idea was for the Senate to go after Trump. But it looks like a letter that was put together by committee. They couldn't really come up with anything other than stand for God and country but it says nothing so I don't know what this is really all about. Is it a missive to say this is sort of a wink and a nod vote for impeachment when I think there isn't any realistic possibility that will occur in the next two years? I have no idea what the letter is all about.





That makes two of us. Impeachment, as Santorum undoubtedly knows and understands, takes place in the House. Therefore, even though there is a realistic possibility of impeachment because the House will be controlled by Democrats, the letter has nothing to do with impeachment. It may, instead, be an effort by these Republicans and Democrats, most of whom had a reputation for ideological moderation and/or bipartisanship, to put themselves on the right side of history.  

Additionally, the letter's authors may be big-timing the House, suggesting that Senators are superior to Representatives. "At other critical moments in our history," they write, "when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy."

In a mere ten sentences, the writers have stood for nothing except, as Santorum noted, God and country, or perhaps puppies and motherhood. Alternatively, they have done something worse, sending mixed signals.

The music is "sort of a wink and nod vote for impeachment," weak tea, especially because the Senate has nothing directly to do with that act, which approximates an indictment. However, the lyrics go in the opposite direction. 

"We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation," the Senators write, a dubious claim arguably intended to push for a conclusion of the investigation. This is similar to the periodic leaks, probably coming from the Trump-Giuliani, camp, that Mueller is about to wrap up his investigation. 

If not from a committee, it might as well have come from one. This letter adds nothing to nothing, playing no role in emboldening GOP senators (or Representatives), who have been, and will remain for awhile, no bolder than an inanimate object. The following morning on the same network, Jeffrey Toobin remarked

I think the Republican Party as s a group, and certainly it’s true for members of the Senate, have said, made a collective decision, that "we’re not gonna change our minds about anything until all of these developments are wrapped up, until there is a Mueller report and then we have to decide whether to throw Donald Trump over the side."

I think that is very unlikely. The Republican Party, as John Boehner said not long ago, is the Trump party today and they are going down with the ship, if the ship is going down.  I think, if you look at Donald Trump’s popularity within the Republican Party, within the voters, it’s still very high. And the Republican politicians are following along.







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Monday, December 10, 2018

Same 'Ol Joe


Hopefully, he has two left feet because

Joe Biden on Sunday waltzed into the backyard of potential future opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders sounding an awful lot like a 2020 candidate.

Six days after saying he's “the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden took the stage here and railed against “naked nationalism,” “phony populism” and a GOP that is “not your father’s Republican Party.”

“If you have a problem, what’s the problem? The other. The other. That immigrant, that black guy, that woman,” he said of populism, without mentioning President Donald Trump by name. “That’s the problem, instead of facing up to the problem called greed.”

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name.  That is, has been, and probably always been Joe Biden's problem.  In September, Amanda Terkel reminded us that Anita 

 Hill’s allegations became public just days before the Senate was set to vote on Thomas’ confirmation. Biden initially wanted to delay the vote by two weeks, but a GOP senator who was a Thomas supporter convinced him that fairness demanded the proceedings move faster.

Biden scheduled Hill’s testimony for Oct. 11, and agreed that the Judiciary Committee would not take another vote before sending Thomas to the full Senate on Oct. 15 ― a one-week delay. He also said he would keep questions about Thomas’ general sexual conduct ― such as his interest in pornography ― out of the hearings.

“Joe bent over too far to accommodate the Republicans, who were going to get Thomas on the court come hell or high water,” Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) told Mayer and Abramson.

Biden also handed a major victory to Republicans in agreeing to let Thomas testify both before and after Hill ― most crucially, scheduling his response to her allegations for 9 p.m. on a Friday, when millions of people were tuned in for their prime-time broadcast. 

In the end, Biden voted against Thomas. But when he did so, he said on the Senate floor, “For this senator, there is no question with respect to the nominee’s character.”





Even now, Biden can muster only a "The message I’ve delivered before is I am so sorry if she believes that. I am so sorry that she had to go through what she went through. Think of the courage that it took for her to come forward.” "Twas a shame," he says, but don't look at me."

The problem, amnesiac Joe Biden claims, is that this is "not your father's Republican Party."

It is your father's Republican Party. But accepting the former vice-president's short-sightedness, there still is a contradiction in his approach.  Donald Trump, not the GOP, is the outrage in Biden's view. Yet, he still won't mention the fellow's name.

That is Joe Biden's failure now. It was his failure roughly thirty years later. The Republican Party means well, he believes. And evidence indicates that when it doesn't, he believes Democrats can lead with a compromise and be willing to compromise off the compromise.  Even half a loaf isn't necessary; two slices are all which are needed for a sandwich.

The Democratic Party's "go along to get along approach," nearly perfected in the 2001-2008 era, needs to end. The obstacle facing Joe Biden, assuming he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, should not be race or gender. It shouldn't even be his age- but rather, for all those years he has been a public official, he has learned very little.




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Saturday, December 08, 2018

Knows What He Has


Today's "Donald Trump is smarter than a 5th grader" installment is the Attorney General Edition.

Rob Reiner, right about almost everything, including Donald Trump and Donald Trump and the Special Counsel investigation. However, he probably is wrong when he remarks

There is something wrong with Donald J. Trump, but more likely of a physical than of a psychological/mental nature. Moreover, suggesting he is delusional (or stupid)  is counter-productive, presenting a bar to recognizing and appreciating the truly vile nature of the man and his presidency.

Was that "bar" or "barr"? Most likely, a delusional president would not have decided to nominate

William P. Barr, a skeptic of the Russia investigation who served as attorney general in the first Bush administration a quarter century ago, to return as head of the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr, 68, would become the nation’s top law enforcement official as Mr. Trump and his associates are under investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for whether they conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election and help elect Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr would oversee the inquiry as key aspects of it are coming to a close.

Known for his expansive vision of executive power, Mr. Barr has criticized Mr. Mueller for hiring too many prosecutors who donated to Democrats and has cast doubt on whether Trump campaign associates conspired with Russians. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

Barr possesses a measure of establishment credibility among Republican senators, and possibly a little among Democratic senators, because he served as Attorney General for a couple of years for the recently (absurdly) canonized President George HW Bush. Further

In that role, Mr. Barr advanced a strong view of executive power. He told Mr. Bush, for example, that he could deploy troops to Panama, Iraq and Somalia without congressional approval. He also urged top lawyers at departments across the executive branch to be vigilant about congressional encroachments on executive power.


primary focus was on domestic law enforcement, particularly street crime — this was, after all, during the peak of the crime wave of the late 20th century. But he was also extremely concerned about the influx of unauthorized immigrants into the US — largely Mexican immigrants looking for work — that ultimately grew the unauthorized population to 2 million to 4 million by the time Barr and Bush left office in 1993....

Barr rolled out a multimillion-dollar plan to beef up security in the San Diego/Tijuana area where crossings were then concentrated. One component of that plan: building a steel fence with the assistance of the Department of Defense

So Barr checks all the boxes because he is obsessed with candidate Trump's opponent,  legitimate (especially in contrast to Matt Whittaker), hostile toward immigration, enthusiastic about the concentration of Executive power, and critical of the Special Counsel's investigation.

Although the last item is the most important to Trump, the next-too-last is critical. Whatever the President's physical or mental health, he may be dangerous. That is if  "may be" is spelled "is incomparably."








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Friday, December 07, 2018

Backlash Likely


On Thursday, Steve M. contemplated the political strategy in which Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test when President Trump ridiculed the Massachusetts senator for claiming that she had a Cherokee ancestor. One commenter sympathetic to Warren remarked "only White Males with an R are 'pure enough' to be beyond attack."

Evidently, that is accurate because it has now come to Kevin Hart. And coincidentally, Elizabeth Warren is among the numerous individuals eligible to pay the price. Esquire reports

Just days after being announced as the host of the upcoming 91st Academy Awards, Kevin Hart has stepped down from his position.

The move was prompted by fury that erupted following the announcement over anti-gay tweets the star had posted years ago—some of them preserved in infamy forever via screen shots, some still living on his account—as well as homophobic jokes that were included in earlier stand-up sets. (Hart has maintained that the bit was a satire of his own heterosexuality, and stopped performing it a decade ago.) He has defended the jokes for years.

When backlash began, Hart posted a video to his Instagram account saying he had evolved—and that he wasn't sorry. “Guys, I’m almost 40 years old,” he said. “If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain the past, then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man. I’m in a great place. A great mature place where all I do is spread positivity.”

He would not apologize, he added in a subsequent video, despite the producers asking him to do so, because he had already addressed those remarks "several times." He would not, he said, feed the internet trolls.





Exactly right. It's unlikely that all Hart does is spread "positivity." He is, after all, a comedian and most contemporary comedians excel at sarcasm, snark, and negativity, much of it deserved. The Academy must have realized that when it appointed him.

Hart does, however, try to avoid controversy and there has been no indication that such "homophobia" is a part of his current act nor that he has made similar remarks recently. These posts were posted in 2010 and 2011- at least seven years ago. However, as Esquire continues

Hours later, the 39-year-old actor-comedian's tone had changed drastically. "I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past," he wrote on Twitter, announcing that he is stepping down as host of the Oscars.

He issued a second apology via a follow-up tweet: "I'm sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."

If one is to apologize, whether half-heartedly or enthusiastically, the time to do it is promptly. If it comes only after a backlash- such as losing an Oscars gig- it comes off as insincere.  Issued belatedly, the apology also appears self-serving, though if issued after retaliation (as Hart's was), it is less likely to be self-serving because the damage already has been done.

Additionally, though, there is a portion of the public which suffers from apology fatigue and/or sensitivity fatigue.  For every individual whose respect for someone such as Hart is restored following an apology, there is one- or likely, more- viewing it as unnecessary, weak, or even pathetic.

In his third tweet after removal, Hart stated in part "Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."

You have just been kicked to the curb, your rear end still smarting from landing hard on the pavement- and you express your love and hope that you "can meet again?" Fourteen years later before Donald J. Trump would ride the principle to the presidency, Bill Clinton recognized "When people are insecure,they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right."

Yet, Kevin Hart whines "I hope we can meet again."

Worse yet, someone has again been penalized for what conservatives- and most Americans- believe is regrettable "political correctness."  Hart was not penalized for something he did, nor for being offensive last week. It was for tweets of 2010 and 2011, back when President Barack Obama, a liberal icon, still opposed same-sex marriage. (Obama said he was "evolving;" Hart also says that about himself. One of them was given a pass.)

Worse yet, if this fetish for tolerance, viewed by most Americans as intolerance, continues apace, someone will pay. It will not be in the workplace nor in the public square, where good manners prevail. It will be, as it was in November of 2016, at the ballot box. Justifiably or otherwise, voters will hold responsible one of the political parties, and it won't be the Republican.




Thursday, December 06, 2018

A Man, A Dog, And Religious Faith


She's right, you know. She was, and is.

Slate religion editor Ruth Graham outlined the outpouring of gushy romanticism at the photograph of George HW Bush's service dog, Sully, lying in front of the casket of the 41st President. She concluded that the image

is not proof that Sully is a particularly “good boy” or that “we don’t deserve dogs,” as countless swooning tweets put it on Monday. On its own, it says almost nothing other than the fact that Sully was, at one point in the same room as the casket of his former boss. This is simply a photograph of a dog doing something dogs love to do: Lie down. The frenzy around it captures something humans love to do, too: Project our own emotional needs onto animals.

Her point that the romanticized gushing of Sully has been aided by his "savvy public relations team" was validated by the torrent of critical tweets, strikingly few with any fact-based complaints, rained down upon Graham.

Graham is among the few who at least seem to sense the significance of Wednesday's gesture by President Trump upon recitation of attendees at the Bush funeral of the Apostles' Creed. A Washington Post reporter explains

Video from the funeral of George H.W. Bush showed a front row of presidents at Washington National Cathedral, standing and reciting it along with the program, as the voice of Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry boomed through the speakers to the thousands of mourners. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and their wives glanced up and down from the programs they held in front of them and spoke the prayer, along with everyone else visible in the video. The program, as is typical, calls for the Creed to be said in unison

President Trump stood, with his hands folded in front of him, waist-high, the program in his left hand, his lips not moving. Melania Trump also did not speak, nor did she hold a program.





Snarky tweets noted by Huffington Post included "The man wouldn’t know the Apostles Creed from Apollo Creed" and "he thought it was something about Apollo Creed and wanted nothing to do with it;" There were even "Are you telling me the so-called "Muslim" president knew all the words to the  Apostles’ Creed, but the 'Christian Conservative' President, did not?" and "Nor did the current evangelical savior (or nude model gold digger) feel it was necessary to recite the Apostles Creed...how very Christian of them."

But we don't know that President Trump doesn't know the words. The words were written on the program which the other mourners held in front of them.  And Trump did find something necessary- not to recite the Creed but to be seen refusing to do so.

The President (and the First Lady) could have held the programs in front of them, making it difficult to determine whether they were joining the others. They could have enjoyed lip-synching the words or in another manner made it appear they were doing as were the others. The man now called "President" in large measure because he was a spectacular actor on "The Apprentice"could easily have made it appear that he was doing as most of the mourners.

He might have done so but preferred to make a statement. Graham commented
He did it when he referred to "my little wine (and) my little cracker," when he tried to put an offering into a communion plate, and when he remarked "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

Yesterday, the President was making a point. He did not neglect to pray. He chose not to, instead "opting not to participate in the service."

Just as he did when he made the bizarre statement that he and Kim Jong-un "fell in love," he'll keep testing the limits, pushing the envelope   Although Trump believes white, Christian evangelicals may eventually hold him to account, he maintains their support while advocating forced birth, the right to invoke religious faith to discriminate, and arch conservatives for the Supreme Court.  Moreover, if so many people have projected their emotional needs upon a dog assigned to help an elderly former President, perhaps Donald Trump's evangelical supporters have found their own Sully.



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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Free Pass For Trump


The headline on Chris Cillizza's Washington Post column on October 11, 2016 read "Donald Trump's new attack ad on Clinton's health is brutal. It will also fail."  Notwithstanding the bad prediction, Cillizza accurately noted the ad showed Mrs. Clinton

coughing, needing assistance up steps and then, finally, having to be pulled into her security van after nearly fainting at the service last month in New York City. “Hillary Clinton doesn't have the fortitude, strength or stamina to lead in our world," says the ad's narrator over the Clinton fainting footage. “She failed as secretary of state. Don't let her fail us again."

The ad mirrored coverage from the mainstream media. Earlier this year, Paul Waldman reminded us

Hillary Clinton Is Set Back by Decision to Keep Illness Secret” said the front-page headline in the New York Times the next day. On that day, the cable TV networks ran a total of 13½ hours of coverage of Clinton’s health. Fox News went into paroxysms of speculation about the varieties of brain ailments Clinton might be suffering from. Politico published a photo gallery entitled “Hydrated Hillary: 9 times Clinton quenched her thirst,” just to show her bizarre water-drinking behavior that surely must have been concealing something.

Two days after the episode, the campaign revealed that Mrs. Clinton had been diagnosed two days earlier with pneumonia, which did not impede a you.gov poll asking whether voters believed the candidate's explanation (which most did not).

Yet, there was no such survey after Donald Trump sniffed his way through the first two debates with his Democratic opponent.  It might have been from medication, though no such claim has been made. One researcher in sociology claims "sniffling can be a way for a speaker to indicate a shift from personal to professional opinions and vice versa. I have called this ‘the emotional sniff’ as personal statements are allowed to be more emotional."

The sniffling may also be indicative of cocaine use. There is little evidence of this, although it does at least pass the Law of Parsimony/Occam's Razor test compared to "emotional sniffing." We may never know because Mr. Trump's medical records have never been released, only stolen, by a Trump Organization thug from Dr. Harold Bornstein's office in February 2017.





This issue should be a scandal, not only because it is preferable not to have a president under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, but also we simply don't know what- if anything- is wrong with a president whose behavior would be of intense concern to a family member of anyone as mercurial and erratic as he is.

There may be no drug problem and there may be no psychological problem. However, it should have been of more than passing interest when in May 2017 we learned

President Trump chose to ride in a golf cart while his foreign counterparts took a walk through Taormina, Sicily, on Saturday during the Group of Seven summit.

The Times of London reported the six other world leaders — from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — walked 700 yards to take a group photo at a piazza in a hilltop town. The U.S. leader decided to wait until he could get a golf cart.

Yesterday, President and Mrs. Trump were to join the GW Bush family at Blair House, at .2 miles less than a  five minute walk from the West Wing of the White House. Instead, the President decided to take a motorcade for what is roughly a 16- minute drive.

Even aside from ideology, were this a President (Mrs. or Mr.) Clinton exhibiting any behavior remotely similar to what we've become accustomed to the past 2-3 years, there would be widespread calls from Republicans- and not a few from Democrats- for resignation of the President.

Trump's refusal to release his medical records should have sent up a red flag. Given statements, tweets, and all manner of actions in his first 23 months in office, the health of the President of the United States of America must arouse far more concern than it has. In what should be a frightening thought, the prospect- actually, threat- of a Mike Pence presidency should do no less.



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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

He Wants Us To Go Along To Get Along


We have met the enemy and he is us.

Steve M reviews how GOP-controlled legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin are pushing legislation to hamstring newly elected Democrat governors and attorneys general.  The laws then would be signed by Republican governors on their way out the door. Slamming NPR, SM notes "Steve Inskeep interviewed a poli sci professor named Thad Kousser, who assured us all that Both Sides Do It."





But Kousser is merely one, presumably objective, professor. It is more serious when a former President- a Democrat, no less- does the same and no one notices.  Last week, putative Democrat Barack Obama stated (beginning at 24:31 of the video below) at the 25th Anniversary Gala of the (James A) Baker Institute at Rice University

When Jim arrives in Washington in 1981, you still had a whole bunch of conservative democrats, many of them from the south. You had Republicans, many from the north, who were extraordinarily liberal on environmental issues or civil rights issues on a whole range of topics and you know political scientists were getting angry at the fact that American parties don't make any sense.

Actually, they weren't "angry," rather suggesting the possibility that at some distant point in time the parties should transition from "Democrat" and "Republican" to "liberal" and "conservative." Obama understands that has largely, informally, occurred in the decades since. He also pines for the time when progressive leadership (i.e., Speaker O'Neill) was forced to sell out the progressive principles of the party. Obama continues

There's not always any rhyme or reason for it but the advantage of that was that you had overlapping- an overlapping ideological spectrum in each party so that there were going to be some Democrats you could have a conversation with who in turn were going to put some pressure on Tip O'Neill because they said "doggone it, If I'm gonna keep my seat in Tennessee, you're going to have to give a little bit because Reagan's really popular down there, and conversely Democrats would have to deal with the fact that there were going to be some Republicans who were going to reach across the aisle because actually they have same view on certain issues.

The former President continues his history lecture by blaming the media, The New York Times equally with Fox News, alleging

There are a range of reasons why that changed. Some of that had to do with the shift in the media because in 1981 your news cycle was still governed by the stories that were going to be filed by AP, Washington Post, maybe New York Times and the three broadcast stations and whether it was Cronkite, Brinkley, or what have you, there was a common set of facts, a baseline around which both parties had to adapt and respond to and by the time I take office what you increasingly have is a media environment in which if you are a Fox News viewer, you have an entirely different reality than if you are a New York Times reader.

Obama blames gerrymandering and believes both sides are in on it equally, about which North Carolinians beg to differ. The word "Georgia" never escapes his lips and he pretends to be unaware of voter suppression by Republicans there and elsewhere.  Nor does he mention that results of a democratic election are being undone in Wisconsin and Michigan. Instead, we hear

It means the basis of each respective party had become more ideological. It means that because of gerrymandering, members of Congress now are entirely sure they'll win the seat if they get the nomination. What they get to worry about is whether I get somebody from farther to the right or farther to the left who's going to run against me in a primary.  They then are not willing to stray from whatever the party line has become....

What they get to worry about is whether I get somebody from farther to the right or farther to the left who's going to run against me in a primary.  But it is not liberal and conservative activists who equally have mounted credible primary campaigns in, respectively, Democratic and Republican primaries.  It's as if the history professor/44th President had never heard the phrase Tea Party.





There is simply no leftist equivalent to the rightist Tea Party, which sent many conservative Republicans, including then-Minority Leader Eric Cantor, packing, and which has had a lasting impact upon GOP legislators, persuaded previously to oppose anything Obama and now supportive of anything Trump.

Playing the bothsiderism game, Barack Obama disappears that history, as he downplayed the threat from the far right while he was President.  In June, Axios noted that "at least nine" Democrats mulling a 2020 run had met with him because "meeting with Obama is an easy way for 2020 contenders to gain legitimacy and presidential wisdom — and, most importantly, a foothold with the man still largely considered to be the Democratic Party's figurehead."

So it matters what Barack Obama thinks.  And what he thinks is that the Democratic Party is becoming too ideological, Washington dysfunction is prompted by the media, and the Democratic Party is as guilty as is the Republican Party of subverting democracy.  And that nothing could be finer than a Democratic House Speaker and a Republican President sitting down together and forging consensus because that was the great thing about the Reagan presidency.



Little Sound And Fury, Probably Signifying Less

In an op-ed Monday in The Washington Post, forty-four former United States senators, most Democratic but many Republican (and Independe...