Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Fully And In Plain View

CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening

said Democrats need to look at the political reality of launching impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

“It’s an unknown, alright,” said the host of “Cuomo Prime Time” on Tuesday. “And there is a real risk of making the bully in this so far, this president, look like a victim if you overreach in the name of oversight, like he keeps saying.”

Cuomo also suggested special counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress about his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.

“If you get Mr. Mueller on the stand and he says what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did, the path forward from there will be clear,” Cuomo said.

That would be great, as would the 2020 Lexus with a red bow awaiting you in your driveway on Christmas morning. And about as likely. On Tuesday morning The Washington Post had reported

Robert S. Mueller III and House Democrats have been unable to reach an agreement on how much of the special counsel’s expected congressional testimony would be public, and how much would take place in private, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel’s office, along with senior Justice Department officials, has been quietly negotiating with the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has been eager to have Mueller testify as soon as possible.

Later that day, Glen Kirschner, who served under Robert Mueller in the US Attorney's office, told (at 3:02 of video below) MSNBC's Ari Melber

Bob Mueller could take the principled position "look, folks, it's all there, 448 pages of it. And look at the way he concluded, Ari, Volume 2. Could it be any more transparent or any more powerful and frankly if I could just read it briefly.

This is how Bob ended Volume 2, which was chock full of obstruction of justice by the President. He said "the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person, including the President, accords with the fundamental principle of our government that no person in this country is so high that he is above the law. Period.

I could see Mueller taking the principled position that folks, it's all there and to have regurgitate what I've put in writing or testify to hearsay about what the witnesses said that led me to this conclusion is not what you need. What you need is the witnesses.

Please regurgitate. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has stated that he believes most members of Congress have not read the SpecialCounsel's report, and it's unlikely more than two or three percent of the American people have done so.

The Special Counsel's office wrote “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. We are unable to reach such a judgment.” But the President's false claim of "a complete and total exoneration" has been read by far more Americans than Mueller's strong inference(s) that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

And not only read, but more importantly, seen. The President is seen- transparently, powerfully, and completely dishonestly- maintaining that he has been cleared by the investigation. He put his face to the argument.

That is what is missing as long as Mueller does not testify completely, with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  He could do so without  repercussion. He is 74 years old and sufficiently economically secure to retire and if choosing not to do so, could write his ticket at any one of hundreds (thousands?) of law firms across the country.

This invulnerability to retaliation is not as clear in the case of Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, Felix Sater, or any of the other witnesses whom Glenn Kirschner presumably would like to testify.  Nor does any of them have the credibility or stature of the former US Attorney, FBI director, and decorated Marine from the Vietnam War.

Robert Mueller has one more responsibility to his country. Having put his foot into the water, he needs to put a face to the report and tell under oath, in public, all he knows. Although it now appears very unlikely, he must say, as Cuomo states, "what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did." If he does anything else, he damages the constitutional principle of checks and balance between the executive and legislative branches of government, the rule of law, and the integrity of the criminal justice system Glen Kirschner believes Mueller is dedicated to.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

About That Epiphany, Joe

It failed to capture my attention when on April 22 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

vowed to be the "Grim Reaper" for progressive policies if Republicans hold on to the Senate in 2020.

"If I'm still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass," McConnell said while speaking to community leaders in Owensboro, Ky.

McConnell noted that if Republicans win back the House or President Trump wins reelection "that takes care of it." But he pledged that even if Republicans lose the White House, he would use his position as majority leader to block progressive proposals like the Green New Deal.

"I guarantee you that if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you," McConnell added.

That probably did not escape the attention of the the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, who 3-4 weeks later remarkably predicted

that Republicans will have an "epiphany" and start working with Democrats once President Donald Trump is out of office.

"The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke," Biden told reporters at a diner in Concord, New Hampshire. "You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends."

Biden's echoed his dreams of epiphany when four days later he would approvingly tell a campaign rally

Some say Democrats don't want to hear about unity, That what they are saying you to have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don't believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.

Mitch McConnell had enough influence and power to tell President Barack Obama: no, not on my watch, there will be no Justice Merrick Garland. He now is telling Democrats that if Republicans win back the House, progressive legislation will fail because "if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you."

This is the unity that presidential candidate Joe Biden aspires to, and which President Joe Biden would embrace.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Not An Idiot, Part Infinity

Merriam-Webster defines "idiot" as "a foolish or stupid person."  Donald Trump is no idiot, although the former mayor and cabinet secretary from Texas evidently believes he is, given that


Democratic presidential hopeful Juli├ín Castro heard about President Trump’s rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday night—and he’s not having it. 

“The president,” he said in an interview with Mother Jones on Thursday, “is being a grade-A idiot.”

Trump was speaking about the tens of thousands of migrants at the US-Mexico border when he started talking about Border Patrol agents using deadly force. “And don’t forget—we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s—”
From the crowd, a woman reportedly yelled out, “Shoot them!”

The president paused before deadpanning, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the Panhandle!

People love being name-checked, even if it's in apparent ridicule. Evangelical Christians adore Donald Trump not only because he supports forced-birth and puts right-wing judges onto the US Supreme Court, but also because he mentions them, directly or indirectly.   It's why the Christian right loved him his flippant remark "That's my second favorite book of all time. You know what my favorite is?" The Bible! Nothing beats the Bible, not even The Art of the Deal. Not even close." (Of course, Trump wrote about as much of "The Art of the Deal" as he did of the Bible.)  

It's why he came out unscathed- arguably even more popular- when he demeaned, by misrepresenting, the sacrament of communion by stating "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

And it's one of the reasons the crowd roared it's approval when Trump,with  a "boy are these people off the wall" look,  said "it's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff."

Mother Jones added

In an exclusive interview in San Antonio, Castro slammed Trump, calling his behavior “unbecoming of a president.”

“I mean, the president is being a grade-A idiot,” he said. “Entertaining the idea that you would shoot a human being just because they’re looking for a better life. You know, somebody can think that that’s all fun and games, but we’ve already seen during this administration the level of hate crimes increase. We’ve seen so many white supremacists go out there and say that they’re inspired by President Trump and shoot people. And so he’s being a grade-A idiot.

The President is no grade-A idiot, or any kind of idiot. Journalist Greg Sargent and another tweeter recognize:

Trump is skillfully trying to have it both ways, yet either approach satisfies the longing of Trump's base supporters for the red meat it wants served up to them. It is an effective strategy which belies the argument that the President is an idiot or his remarks idiotic.  And each time Julian Castro or another political opponent mistakes evil for idiocy, it reinforces the impression that Donald J. Trump as merely another flawed politician, but one devoted to the interests of his supporters and of the country

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bolstering Trump

In a truly insightful piece, Politico editor-in-chief Peter Canellos argues that the depiction by Saturday Night Live's Alec Baldwin of Donald Trump has inadvertently reinforced a favorable impression of the President.  Baldwin very much dislikes Trump, but the attacks on his "intelligence and competence," Canellos understands, have had the perverse effect of humanizing the President and

What appears to be authenticity is one of Trump’s greatest electoral calling cards, and Republicans tend to take it at face value. He’s an amateur in a professional game, and that explains why he sometimes breaks the rules. There’s a kind of everyman logic behind his actions, and his supporters want him to shake up the system. Despite their antipathy toward him, there are many Democrats who assess him on similar terms.

Typically, Democrats believe Trump is "dangerously unqualified for the presidency but that he’s not fundamentally ill-intentioned." It's a misconception which runs counter to

other, much harsher assessments of Trump. One, suggested by the Mueller report, is of a man who willfully used the tools of his office for his personal benefit, who demanded illegal and unethical acts from his subordinates, threatened them and tried to replace them when they refused to go along and shredded legal and political norms in the process. In trying to save himself, that version of Trump isn’t some rogue elephant acting on instinct, but a narcissist who puts his own interests ahead of the country’s. There is, presumably, no twinkle in Trump’s eye when he orders his Treasury secretary to refuse a congressional subpoena of his tax records, no sharp intake of breath when he invokes executive privilege to shield an investigation into his own campaign. His mouth doesn’t twist into a petrified O when he maligns Robert Mueller or calls on Republican appointees of the Supreme Court to protect him.

And so Canellos concludes

This Trump isn’t the stuff of caricature, or the hapless figure of fun portrayed on “SNL.” He’s the one who shows up on TV nearly every day, president of the United States despite the disdain of all those knowing elites, bending Washington to his will.

That has been the fundamental character of the Trump Administration, one in which the elites excoriated by the President bend to his will. That includes not only Trump TV (formerly GOP TV, sometimes known as "Fox News"), GOP members of the House and the Senate, and House Democrats, terrified of the I (impeachment) word. It extends even to Democratic presidential candidates, only four of whom (Warren, Moulton, Massam, and Harris) have called for impeachment.

And then there is William Barr, whose obsequiousness to the President is brazenly unprofessional, unpatriotic, and dangerous. 

Midway through is article, Canellos asks "Is Trump calculating, or is he improvising?" From tweet to tweet, the President may be impulsive. However, the rhetoric and actions are less accidental than cunning, undertaken by a canny President empowered by an unparalleled ability to fake authenticity.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Slightly Trumpesque

It was the day before the Super Bowl in February, 2017, when dedication to self over country  was a little less clear that

President Donald Trump appeared to equate US actions with the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview released Saturday, saying, "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

Trump made the remark during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, saying he respected his Russian counterpart.

"But he's a killer," O'Reilly said to Trump.

"There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump replied.

A clip of the exchange was released Saturday and the full interview aired Sunday before the Super Bowl.

It was an unusual assertion coming from the President of the United States. Trump himself, however, has made similar points before.

"He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country," Trump told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in December 2015.

He continued, "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity," Trump said.

Moral equivalence can be result from being compromised by a foreign power, as likely in the case of Trump, or instead merely ignorant, naive, or wrong-headed. Campaigning in the first primary state

You say that anything has to be owned 50 percent by Chinese to invest in China, guess what? bears an eerie similarity to "our country does plenty of killing also, Joe." Biden probably is referring to regulations which went into effect last October which require foreign investors to notify the Treasury Department that they are trying to obtain a stake in an American company. The Department then could review the deal if it determined the investment a national security threat.

Be wary of a presidential candidate who compares American concern over national security with appropriation by the Chinese government of intellectual property by forcedtechnology transfers, espionage and theft. The source of Trump's benevolence toward the Russian government may be family business ventures in Russia, while Biden may be simply wrong. However

Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China. Bohai Harvest has put money into an automotive firm, mining companies, and technology ventures, such as Didi Chuxing Technology, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in the world after Uber....

Bohai Harvest operates and works with a number of funds to make its various investments, a tangled business structure that has brought Hunter Biden into close proximity to influential Chinese government and business figures, according to a review of Chinese business filings by The Intercept.

This is not enough to conclude that the former vice-president is compromised with Xi's mainland China to nearly the extent that President Trump is with Putin's Russia.   But Donald J. Trump has set the bar very low, and raising it a little with Joseph R. Biden is insufficient.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

That Notorious Justice

There was a time when nominees for the United States Supreme Court did not routinely lie, mislead, or fail to answer the questions upon testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so it was that when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was tapped by President Barack Obama for a seat on the United States Supreme Court, she stated

The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.

That might not have seemed a revolutionary statement at the time. But it is now that

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, setting up a court fight that Republicans hope will end with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” Ivey said in a statement.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the legislation, which prohibits abortion at any point during pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest. The bill, which was easily approved by the Republican-dominated House last month, does make an exception if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother.

Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, earlier Thursday vowed a legal challenge, saying the law violates the landmark 1973 Roe ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion until a fetus is viable.

The Republicans who pushed for and passed the legislation are hoping for just that. They believe the Supreme Court's new conservative majority offers the anti-abortion movement its best chance in a generation to overturn Roe.

Just this year, four states, including Georgia last week, banned abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy. But Alabama’s law goes even further. This measure prohibits abortion at any point during the pregnancy and while a woman can’t be prosecuted, a person who performs the abortion can be convicted of a Class A felony and be imprisoned for up to 99 years in prison — essentially a life sentence.

Of course he- or she- can.  Activists and their allies want to threaten only the doctor with prison because it is relatively safe politically.  They realize that were the individual (woman) who wants, seeks, obtains, and pays for an abortion to be held accountable for what they consider "murder," there would be public revulsion.

Moreover, they want to threaten only the doctor with prison because in so doing they remove from the woman all agency.   They deny her the ability to consider herself a fully adult human responsible for her own choices. And that is a very, very good day for the forced-birth movement.

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It's About Woman

At a campaign rally Monday in Hampton, New Hampshire

Shirley Sylvester, a retired project manager from Hampton, said she believed that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss demonstrated that the country “wasn’t ready for a woman.” And while she said she likes South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), she fears that the country isn’t ready for a gay man, either.

“Joe’s the only one that can give Trump a run for his money,” she said. “After having Donald Trump in office, a lot of even the Republicans will want to go back to just where we were before we became this country that we are now.”

Mindy Musumeci, a construction contractor who, along with her husband Jim, drove up from Bentley, Massachusetts, to see Biden in Hampton, offered a similar assessment.

“I feel like the country is broken right now. And we need somebody who can win and then heal it,” she said.

Asked for her opinion of her home-state Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Musumeci responded, “I like Elizabeth Warren and this is really hard for me to say as a woman, but I just don’t think the U.S. is ready for a woman president.”

Maybe it is Mindy Musumeci and Shirley Sylvester, rather than the country, who aren't ready for a female president.

Or maybe it's another contingent, as we learned yesterday from Politico:

Kamala Harris used humor to swat aside the chatter about her becoming Joe Biden’s running mate: Maybe it should be the other way around, she said Wednesday, given Biden’s experience in the No. 2 job.

But inside her campaign and among allies, such talk is not a laughing matter. They're rankled by the suggestion, privately venting that it’s demeaning to a woman of color and perpetuates an unfair critique that she’s somehow not prepared for the job she’s actually seeking.

"It's infuriating," a Harris confidant fumed several days before the idea began taking hold in the media.

Since then, the chorus of Democrats sizing up her run and concluding she’d be perfect as Biden’s running mate has rapidly gone from whisper campaign to national narrative. They include some fans of the California senator: Last week, members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus floated Biden and Harris as a “dream ticket.” That put her in the uncomfortable spot of trying to delicately push back on it without offending the group, of which she’s a member.

Talk of a Biden-Harris ticket more than half a year before the first vote is cast is foolish. A candidate who is ultimately unsuccessful but racked up a lot of popular support on the way to Charlotte 2020 may be the obvious choice for the second spot. And it is probably 22-24 months before it becomes clear who that individual is.  It may be Harris, Pete Buttigieg or anyone- even Joe Biden.

But it also is condescending and offensive, as the Harris camp recognizes. And as it realizes, it need be careful about fingering the culprit.

Three days before observing reaction of the Harris camp, Politico had reported

Some black lawmakers are agonizing over whether to back Biden or two members of the close-knit caucus — Sens. Harris and Cory Booker — who also are vying for the White House, according to interviews with a dozen CBC members.

But with the former vice president jumping out to a huge, if early, lead in the polls, several CBC members are warming to the idea of a Biden-Harris ticket to take on President Donald Trump.

“That would be a dream ticket for me, a dream ticket!” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “If she is not the nominee, that would be a dream ticket for this country.”

Wet dreams of installing Harris as #2 are interesting, given that not she but Bernie Sanders currently is second to Biden in national polls of Democrats. (Harris, Warren, and Buttigieg seem to be neck-and-neck for #3 nationally.)

It's curious also given that at this stage- May of 2012- twelve years ago, Hillary Clinton was the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Of the eight polls taken during the first two weeks of that month, Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama by two points in one- and by a substantial amount in the other seven.

Yet, there was no talk then of "Clinton-Obama." There is, however, talk now of "Biden-Harris," at least by the Congressional Black Caucus. (Below: Harris is right; also, not ready for the question.)

The reason is obvious. Such speculation is patronizing toward the trailing candidate- and undermines her effort to be considered for the top job. It helps shape perception of voters to a desired outcome. (Think Donald Trump's early and frequent complaints of a Mueller "witch hunt.")

This is being done to Kamala Harris, member of an ethnic minority and a woman.  It was not done to Barack Obama, member of an ethnic minority but a man. (Some prefer colored person/"person of color," which finally became unacceptable 40-50 years ago but has returned.)

The difference obviously is gender. One was (well, still is) a man and the other is a woman.  The Congressional Black Caucus, as well as others which might follow its lead, should check its values at the door.

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Fully And In Plain View

CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening said Democrats need to look at the political reality of launching impeachment proceedin...