Friday, January 24, 2020

If Only She Had Been Referring to Donald Trump

As almost everyone has heard or read:

Personally, I'd lean a little further south, even below Mongolia, to come up with our "greatest enemy" but your mileage may vary. However, I'll bite and recall reading in May 2017

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Were Donald Trump a private citizen, he'd be known by the word spy. Instead, one of his toadies, this one from Tennessee, suggests that President Bone Spurs is more patriotic than a Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq.  It's tempting to say "can Republicans go even lower?"  However, the answer is the same as it would be to "will Republicans go even lower?"  Yes.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Not Now, Then

The title of the autobiography of George Allen, the 1970s era coach of the Washington Redskins, was "The Future Is Now" because he believed in winning that season, the future be damned. The following decade,  anti-incumbent activists of the left and the right (at varying times) began warning "we'll remember in November."

Both are at play in the impeachment saga.

Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the US Senate, President Donald Trump is unpopular, and therefore conventional wisdom has it that there are three possible outcomes in November.  Trump may be defeated while the Senate turns Democratic with 50 Democratic seats (VP as tie-breaker); Trump is defeated and Republicans, now boasting a fairly strong advantage, remain in the majority in the upper chamber; Trump is re-elected and the Senate remains in GOP hands.

Nonetheless, there is an unconventional take that is becoming realistic, if still a fairly long-shot.  A CNN/SSRS survey released January 22 shows any of the six most likely Democratic presidential nominees defeating the incumbent were the election to be held today. However

The poll included an oversample of those living in 15 battleground states, defined as those where the race between Clinton and Trump in 2016 was decided by 8 points or fewer. In those states, the poll finds consistently tight races regardless of the nominees, with Democrats ranging from 46% to 49% support and Trump from 47% to 50%. In none of the six tested matchups does either candidate hold a significant advantage.

A presidential election, as we learned painfully and to the nation's disadvantage, is determined in the Electoral College- and there the election appears to be a toss-up.

President Trump's acolytes equate him with Jesus Christ. However, it would be more accurate to turn the comparison on its head, in which others pay for the sins of Donald Trump. Never-Trumper Rick Wilson, who is still a proud conservative Republican, is wrong about most things, but he's right about this:

In other words: while most Americans want witnesses in the impeachment trial, the GOP Senate, frightened of retaliation by their party's leader, won't allow it.  After Trump is acquitted, there will be a drip-drip-drip connecting the President to impeachable crimes which threaten the USA. Republican senators running for re-election will be stuck with having to defend their vote for a brazen criminal.

Donald Trump won't necessarily suffer.  He has a low ceiling and high floor; bad news about him or the nation affects him marginally at most. As we move closer to Election Day, his huge authoritarian-style rallies will only get larger and more vigorous. For whatever psycho-social reason, including Donald Russia's nearly incomparable charisma, Trump can get away with what others can't. If GOP senators think that Teflon will rub off on themselves, they're deluding themselves.

He'll notice that GOP senators up for re-election are in big trouble but he'll become increasingly focused on himself. Many Republican elected officials will have to pay the Donald Trump tax, and if it's them but not him, because there can be only one Chosen One, anyway.

The impeachment dance playing out now in Washington is not about guilt or innocence of the President. The fix is in for now. If the President's commission of impeachable offense(s) hadn't already been established, it was once Adam Schiff was finished laying out the case. Pursuing removal of the President pertains to doing the right thing- presenting the facts, putting them on the record, and leaving at least a small impact on the American people and voting public.

As in the title of Rick Wilson's book: Everything Trump Touches, Dies.  Jesus Christ died for the sins of sinners.  There are are Republican senators who will die (politically) for Donald Trump's abundant sins and will have only themselves to blame. The future is now because, by denying witnesses, GOP senators will be able to vote against conviction and thus avoid The Wrath of Trump. However, we will remember in November, and they'll wish we had amnesia.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Denial Is Not Only A River In Egypt

Call it stupid or call it stubborn. But call it something beginning with "s" (or maybe "i"). Three Politico writers report

Every Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders supporter seems to have an opinion on their infamous Dec. 2018 meeting.

One side believes Warren's account that Sanders told her a woman couldn’t beat Donald Trump: “He totally said it! Women are watching, Bernie." The other is just as convinced she embellished or lied for political advantage: “We obviously know that it was complete BS."

Interviews with more than two dozen voters at events for Sanders and Warren last weekend made clear that the hard feelings between the two progressive icons have extended to their supporters. The situation has injected a volatile mix of gender politics and alleged sexism into the final weeks of the campaign, and added another layer of uncertainty to a primary where any number of outcomes remain possible.

The issue has lingered not because of the media- which did what it could to gin up the issue initially- but because of supporters of the Vermont senator, as Politico implies. 

And it has lingered because of Bernie Sanders, who could have said that Senator Warren misinterpreted his remarks. However, with hand caught in the cookie jar, he instead responded in a manner nearly assuring the controversy would continue.

Bernard made two arguments: 1) Hillary Clinton, a woman, got more votes than did Donald Trump; and 2) Having encouraged women for decades to run for public office, why would I possibly have told Warren that she wouldn't be elected because she is female?

Though Hillary Clinton did get more popular votes than did Donald Trump, she lost an election virtually everyone thought she would- and should have- won. And Sanders, with his history of supporting women's causes, no doubt recognized misogyny as a factor in the defeat. It is realistic to assume that Bernard would have told Warren that gender would be an obstacle to her election effort because of precisely that recognition- and thus believed that he would have a better shot at beating Trump.

The Politico reporters quote one male Sanders supporter, presumably approving of Bernard's support of women's rights, maintaining "I can't imagine him saying it."

But that's exactly why this guy should realize his candidate made the alleged statement, or something close to it. As someone who does realize that a woman might not be able to be elected President and clearly disapproves of this bias, Sanders would have been comfortable making this argument. By contrast, master misogynist Donald Trump has never said such a thing- and never would because his approval of this sad state of affairs would be obvious.

One Sanders surrogate, according to Politico, sarcastically remarked “When I lie on my good friend I always make sure it’s a year after the fact, and only once they’re hammering me in the polls." Of course, it could have been because the non-aggression pact between her candidate and Ms. Warren was broken only a few days earlier, and by the Sanders campaign.

In a Politico article published on January 14, we learned

The controversial talking points attacking Elizabeth Warren that Bernie Sanders' campaign deployed were given to teams in at least two early voting states on Friday, three Sanders campaign officials confirmed.

Volunteers and staffers used the script on Saturday while canvassing for votes, meaning the talking points were more official than what Sanders previously suggested after POLITICO reported on the language.

The campaign pulled back the script — which described Warren's appeal as limited to the highly educated and financially well off — later on Saturday after the story published. Sanders initially appeared to blame the controversy on rogue employees.

“We have hundreds of employees. Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees. And people sometimes say things that they shouldn’t,” Sanders said Sunday in Iowa. His press aides never denied the veracity of the document.

The script mostly focused on Sanders' ability to beat President Donald Trump in a general election. But one page included attacks on the electability of Warren, as well as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.

Sanders initially implied the talking points, criticizing his main rivals, were the product of individuals who "sometimes say things that they shouldn't." Later, the candidate largely confirmed that, well, they were going negative as directed.

On January 13, CNN was first to reveal a description of the controversial meeting "based on the accounts of four people: two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting."

As the Sanders surrogate charged, the allegation did come a year later- but two days after the negative script was used by Sanders canvassers in two states. Moreover, it was after Sanders "who, me?" response and before his campaign admitted "yes, us." (Is that the real meaning of "not me. us?")

So maybe it wasn't stubbornness or stupidity but mere ignorance (case in point, below). (Or Sanders actually may believe he said it.) However, now that it is clear that Bernard Sanders wasn't honest about the meeting, nor in being called out for bending the truth, it's time for the candidate himself to admit to at least his supporters that mistakes are sometimes made.  He has nearly done so, having now stated that as a 78-year-old, "I think everybody has their own sets of problems." He should go all the way, which evidently will be the only way his supporters can admit the obvious.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Just Say "Yes"

Asked a question, most politicians go on and on in order to avoid answering a question and/or to consume so much time that the interviewer doesn't have the time (or possibly the patience) to ask a follow-up question.

But sometimes a "yes" or a "no" will suffice, and even be helpful. In anticipation of the four-hour , four-part documentary "Hillary" which will air in March on Hulu, Hollywood Reporter reporter (that's its name; not my fault) Lacey Rose interviewed Hillary R. Clinton. She asked the former senator and presidential candidate

In the doc, you're brutally honest on Sanders: "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." That assessment still hold?

The response? "Yes, it does."

That was a good answer because it was, respectively: a) accurate; b) accurate (Jeff Merkley of Oregon); c) no doubt an exaggeration but probably within the margin of error; d) could be, because he is obviously cantankerous; and e) largely accurate (see (d)).

It also may be close to meaningless that he has gotten little done.  The Center for EffectivePolicymaking gives each member of Congress a ranking "regarding the bills that members of Congress sponsor, how far they move through the lawmaking process, and how important their policy proposals are." Everyone is ranked as "above expectations," "meets expectations," or "below expectations." Amy Klobuchar ranked as #1 among all Senate Democrats (and thus "above"); Elizabeth Warren and Representative John Delaney as "meets expectations"; and Tulsi Gabbard and Bernard Sanders as "below expectations."

Without further analysis, this is (though interesting) next to meaningless.  Perhaps Sanders ranks low because as someone on the far left, his approach may be off-putting to Republicans, which- depending on circumstances- may not be a bad thing.

Rose then asked the critical, albeit obvious "if he gets the nomination, will you endorse and campaign for him," wherein Clinton responded

I'm not going to go there yet. We're still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it's not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don't think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don't know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you're just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that's a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.

The explanation is good; the answer is not. She would have been better off responding "yes, I would endorse him."  Or the response could have been "anybody is better than Trump," which would have the advantages of being an implied put-down of Sanders and of being true. If then asked whether she would campaign for Sanders, Clinton might have stated "I don't know whether he'd request that."  That remark could have been followed by her comments about Bernard's "prominent supporters" and his "Bernie Bros"  (video below for entertainment purposes only). 

Nonetheless, under no conditions should she have avoided stating definitively that she would endorse Sanders.  If queried about the superficially evident contradiction between that assurance and her criticism of the Sanders campaign, she need only have stated "Donald Trump."

That would be enough for virtually every Democrat and should be enough for most Americans. It's the easy answer, and the correct one.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

The Democrat, For Now

We've heard something similar throughout the Democratic primary campaign and on January 11, 2020 we learned that a Washington Post-Ipsos national poll found

48 percent of Democratic-leaning black voters back Biden as their choice for president, citing his time as former President Barack Obama’s vice president among reasons for their support.

Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second with 20 percent of support and led the field among black voters aged under 35.

In a group which includes four candidates with roughly equal support among non-blacks, 48% of the black vote for any one- white- candidate is truly extraordinary.

The most obvious, and probably most dominant, reason is that Joe Biden served eight years as vice-president (and a very loyal and warm one) to the first black President. And maybe voting for Biden is an affirmation that Obama was a great and successful President.

Consequently, Matt Stoller believes "One possible reason older black voters dislike Warren/Bernie is their candidacy is an implicit rebuke to Obama."

It's not surprising that Biden doesn't do as well among young blacks as among those middle-aged and older. That's not only because Bernard Sanders is particularly popular among young people across-the-board but also because there has been a continuing effort by Democratic politicians (and to a much lesser extent, pundits) to portray Joe Biden as the pragmatic, safe choice most likely to deliver a Democratic victory over Trump. The threat posed by this President, which never has been posed by any president of the USA, is perceived less by youth than by older people, who have more of a frame of reference. And black voters are very likely more terrified of Trump than are others.

Pragmatism- in this case, the "fierce urgency of now" to rid the nation of the scourge of the evil from Queens/Manhattan- dovetails with the the presence of more moderate or centrist African-Americans in the south than elsewhere (video below from 11/19).

Nonetheless, there is a completely unexplored reason that Biden has done particularly well with blacks. Conventional wisdom has it that among blacks, Senator Barack Obama overtook Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary campaign once Obama demonstrated that he had a viable path to the nomination. However, there probably is more to it than that because as reported by Reuters In early 2007

polls show he lags well behind Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York among black voters, the most loyal Democratic voting bloc, and his candidacy has been greeted cautiously by some veteran black leaders uncertain about his experience and views.

The wary approach is not surprising given Obama is a relative newcomer on the national stage and, unlike many established black leaders, did not build his reputation during the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, analysts said.

“People don’t know who he is. Outside of Illinois, black voters and everybody else are asking, ‘Who is this guy?’” said Ron Walters, a former adviser to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and head of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

“They don’t know his record, they don’t know his background or where he came from, so they are asking very understandable questions

The key phrases are "relative newcomer," "don't know his background or where he came from," and "the most loyal Democratic voting bloc."

As the first two phrases indicate, Obama was relatively unknown to most black voters (and a lot of others). As he became better known, he began to fit like a glove, or as whatever your favorite applicable cliche is. He no longer was the candidate challenging the establishment Democrat. Joe Biden has been around a long time and is well known to African-Americans, who probably feel reasonably comfortable around him.  

But the significance of being "the most loyal Democratic voting bloc" typically is ignored.  With fewer members of organized labor than in decades past and working class voters (whites, but not only) gradually growing more disaffected with the Democratic Party over the same time period, blacks constitute the popular base of the Democratic Party.

That prompts a preference- all else being equal for the candidate who best represents the Establishment of the Democratic Party. Further, it conveys a special interest in contributing to the victory of the nominee of the Party in which they have a stake.

A Democratic office-holder since 1969, a vice-president for eight years, and the leader from the beginning among likely primary voters, Joe Biden most clearly represents the Democratic establishment. He is Establishment.  

He also is being sold in part as the individual most likely to win an election against a President deeply unpopular in the black community. He probably is not, but that case is a difficult one to make until and unless Joseph R. Biden loses an early primary or caucus, and a caucus might not be enough.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Need To Know

On December 15, 2019 Joe Biden's physician released "a summary of the medical and surgery history" of the former vice-president. The summary included quite a bit of detail, including the usual, as well as the prescription medication he is prescribed for "standard anticoagulation" and for gastroesophageal reflux, as well as the over-the-counter medicine for sinus symptoms.

Release of Biden's records may have been motivated by release of Elizabeth Warren's medical records on December 6, wherein Dr. Beverly Woo described her as being "in excellent health." Of course, when candidates for political office release letters from their physician or even full medical records, they are typically characterized by their doctor as healthy as an ox. However

Woo also disclosed Warren's "only" condition is hypothyroidism, a common auto-immune condition most often in women.

"She currently takes levothyroxine 0.88 mg per day, which restores her thyroid hormone level to normal," wrote Woo, who has been Warren's doctor since 1999.

Warren's Thyroid Stimulating Hormone level, released as part of her medical records, suggests her hypothyroidism is well controlled. Results of her blood test and vital signs were within normal limits.

Senator Warren also had received a flu shot. Whatever its benefit or risk for the general population, that was a wise decision. Were the Senator to contract the flu, she might be subjected to similar vitriol as faced presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who contracted pneumonia in September, 2016 and practically declared dead by some political opponents. Like Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Warren is a woman.

The New York Times conducted an interview of Bernard Sanders amidst its other interviews of presidential candidates leading to its endorsement of one on January 19. It could not avoid asking the Vermont senator "Now I’d like to turn to your health for a moment. Do you know when you plan to release your complete health records to the public?"

We hope to — I want to make sure that it is complete. So we hope to do that, the goal is by the end of the year. I won’t swear to you. It may be a few days later, or a week or two later, but we will release them fully.

So we hope to do that, the goal is by the end of the year. In an interview otherwise blasted by supporters as biased against Senator Sanders, the editorial board here conspicuously left the candidate off the hook. Next up was the puff question "what are you doing to take care of yourself now?" ("If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?")

Declaring something a "goal," of course, is a means to avoid responsibility.  Millions of boys and girls in the USA aim one day to become a rich and famous athlete, a goal probably fewer than 1% of them will attain. My goal is to live to be 100 and healthy until the end. Spoiler alert: ain't gonna happen.

Bernard Sanders is more likely to achieve his goal. And why shouldn't he? It's to release his medical records by the end of the year, which is, to those keeping score at home, approximately eight weeks after the presidential election. By that time, either Sanders will have been elected President and looking forward to being inaugurated roughly a month later. Or he will have been defeated in the general election or earlier, in which case few people outside of the State of Vermont will care about his health.

Given that The New York Times failed to follow up on Sanders' pledge to release his records (maybe) until after the election, it is not unnecessary to point out that this is too late.  The media must demand full medical records of all the candidates- and especially of the incumbent, obviously not a well man.   If they are not released- as in the case of Donald Trump- this should be made into a major issue. Because it is.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Pixie Dust

The New York Times on Sunday will endorse someone for the Democratic nomination for President.  It has now published its interview of Bernie Sanders, self-described socialist and by far the preferred candidate of the avowedly socialist publication, Jacobin.

Responding to the interview by "the famously establishment-friendly New York Times editorial board," Jacobin asserts "In this era of resurgent left electoral activity, the conflation of left and right populism is one of the preferred tactics of the elite political center."

As it understands, not falling prey to this is B.S., who is "insistent upon" his "professed intention to use the presidency to inspire popular mobilizations." Conversely

None of the other Democratic presidential candidates are. In one way or another, they all reliably communicate the message, “Elect me and I’ll take it from there.” Bernie is alone in candidly saying that he will rely on the active participation of the masses to govern....

Bernie’s promise to encourage mass mobilizations is heartening: it means he understands the obstacles to reform he’ll face if he wins. If he does win, expect him to take every opportunity to impress upon ordinary people that they’ve been cast in the leading role.

Charlie Pierce recognizes:

And it's probably why Bernard Sanders leads Elizabeth Warren in polls of likely Democratic voters and nationwide.   This surely feels good and it flatters those masses, boosting egos. It makes them feel warm inside.

Nonetheless, among those things the presumably progressive masses don't understand is that if Senator Sanders is elected, it won't be exclusively protesters of the left who hit the streets.  The right would not be immune to the lure of the professed intention to use the presidency to inspire popular mobilization, nor will it be any more than the left be reticent to "tap into a powerful force outside the state that can bend it in the right direction."

But o.k. It at least sounds exciting and plays to the ego of those of us on the left. When Barack Obama, senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, intoned "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek," his supporters cheered.  It was inspiring and empty rhetoric. The Tea Party, however, took him at his word and responded.

Yet that is not the major problem with placing faith in the hope of mass mobilization of the left. Rather, it is that it removes agency and accountability from (in this case) him: the elected public official.  Instead of assuming agency for his actions, a President Sanders (assuming he's not conning us) would be abdicating the responsibility that is his as a result of having stood for election, requested our votes, and given the powers of the job. It would be failing the test of leadership.

Some 75 years ago, a Missourian became a highly successful chief executive and commander-in-chief in part because he did not pass the buck, instead embracing the slogan "the buck stops here."  Accurately or otherwise, the presidency is often referred to as "the most powerful job in the world"- and he or she is not elected to follow. Democratic presidents should take their cue from Republican presidents, who treat the office as a way to impose their values and beliefs effectively upon American government. Do the damn job.

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If Only She Had Been Referring to Donald Trump

As almost everyone has heard or read : Adam Schiff is hailing Alexander Vindman as an American patriot. How patriotic is it to b...