Saturday, September 21, 2019

Denial, Deflection, Diversion, Alliteration

Is this deflection effective or ineffective?

In an exclusive interview with NPR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment but is ready to change the law to restrain presidential power and make it clear that a sitting president can, in fact, be indicted.

"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. [A] president should be indicted, if he's committed a wrongdoing — any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted," Pelosi told All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro and NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis on Friday. "That's something cooked up by the president's lawyers. That's what that is. But so that people will feel 'OK, well, if he — if he does something wrong, [he] should be able to be indicted.' "

It is simply too obvious to be effective.  There is merely one remedy the Constitution lays out to punish a lawless president, set out in  Article II, Section 4, which provides that he (as was assumed) "shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

As Pelosi notes, there is no constitutional provision or statute which prohibits charging, or even indicting, a sitting President for a criminal offense. 

The Speaker recommends allowing indictment of a future president, thereby giving this president a pass.  As she would happily admit, there is no chance that this United States Senate, controlled by the GOP (and by a Majority Leader whose wife serves in Trump's cabinet), would approve legislation which would include the incumbent. Further, Pelosi's reference to "wrongdoing" minimizes the actions of the current President, which go far beyond mere "wrongdoing."

Pelosi was understandably vague, though she notes there is no constitutional provision or statute which prohibits charging, or even indicting, a sitting President for a criminal offense. Rather, the troika of Attorney General Barr, then-Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Mueller decided law would not apply to this President. Indictment of a sitting President should not imply that it is overturning existing law or in any way plowing new ground. Instead, it should reflect the reasoning laid out in late May by Senator Warren, who argued

Congress should make it clear that it wants the President to be held accountable for violating the law, just like everyone else.

Title 18 of the United States Code, which contains most provisions of federal criminal law, applies to “[w]hoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission[.]” Congress should clarify that it intends for this provision to apply to all persons — including the President of the United States.

If Congress does so, one of the strongest arguments against indictment disappears: that the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to decide when to interfere with the President’s duties, and that a criminal indictment would forcibly take that power away from Congress. It’ll also remove any statutory ambiguity that remains.

That recommendation is self-serving in reverse; it was made by someone hoping to become the next president, who thus would be bound by its provisions.  By contrast, Speaker Pelosi's suggestion was a transparent effort to deflect attention from the new, additional support for impeachment proceedings in the wake of the revelation of the President's effort to convince the government of Ukraine to investigate a major rival.

Impeachment of President Trump is a moral, and perhaps strategic, necessity. However, Speaker Pelosi obviously believes that proceedings would jeopardize re-election of House Democrats in swing districts and, thus, the Democratic majority in the chamber. She's making a big bet that in the absence of impeachment, in November 2020 she retains the majority and Donald Russia is defeated.  This is a gamble neither she, the country, nor the world can afford to lose.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Premature Assumption

The reviews of Rudy Giuliani's interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo are in. They were not kind, and included

To paraphrase and adapt liberally a trite cliché:  Gura has forgotten more about broadcast journalism, Nichols about foreign policy, and Bitecofer about polling than you or I ever will ever know.

However, we should recall the time when the question was "will he or won't he?" Trump, it was explained, had too much of an ego to refrain from going up against the Special Counsel and coming out on top. He craved the spotlight and wouldn't pass up an opportunity to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller.

But President Trump, inaccurately derided as stupid (though he is ignorant) and crazy (though he's obviously not a healthy man), made the rational decision. Though the President had been asked to answer questions from the Office of the Special Counsel about obstruction of justice

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said questions about obstruction of justice were a "no-go."

Giuliani's statement was the most definitive rejection yet of special counsel Robert Mueller's efforts to interview the president about any efforts to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians. It signals the Trump's lawyers are committed to protecting the president from answering questions about actions the president took in office.

It's unclear if Giuliani's public position has been endorsed by Trump, who has said he wants to answer questions under oath. Negotiations about the scope and format of an interview are still ongoing. If the legal team holds its stance, it could force Mueller to try to subpoena the president, likely triggering a standoff that would lead to the Supreme Court.

Giuliani may have known, or at least suspected, what most of us didn't, and what still was an abdication of responsibility by Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel would not only avoid subpoenaing, but wouldn't even ask, Trump to be interviewed in person, rejection of which would have revealed that the President had something to hide. 

Trump agreed to answer questions in writing, presumably because any responses could be vetted by both his legal and political teams. He would answer in writing- without follow-up, as demanded by Giuliani- inquiries only about whether the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia. That inured politically to the President's advantage. The former New York mayor had his way on the matters of a) in what format the questions would be answered; b) whether there would be follow-up; and c) the subject area. And so we learned

Trump's legal team has argued that the president has the power to hire and fire appointees and the special counsel does not have the authority to ask him to explain those decisions. Giuliani said Thursday the team was steadfast in that position.

"That's a no-go. That is not going happen," Giuliani said. "There will be no questions at all on obstruction."

In a letter last week, Mueller's team said it would accept written responses from Trump on questions related to Russian election interference. Giuliani suggested Thursday that Trump's lawyers had agreed to those terms but wanted to prohibit investigators from asking follow-up questions.

The former New York City mayor is belligerent, emotional, and dishonest. But as of now, he also has been an extraordinary legal adviser to President Donald Trump. So don't count him out.  While no one can predict what an impulsive and corrupt President will do with, or to, his staff,  we cannot assume that Rudy Giuliani's remarks to Chris Cuomo were stupid, detrimental to the President, or reflected the ramblings of a lawyer over the hill. We made that mistake once about the guy.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Not Biden, At Least Not In This Answer

It was a response infamous for the invocation of the "record player."  However, a trio of Young Turks blasted for another reason Joe Biden's response at the last Democratic debate to the question "as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?" The former senator and former vice-president responded

Well, they have to deal with the — look, there's institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I'm married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers in to homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It's not want they don't want to help. They don't — they don't know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there

Ideally, Biden should have fashioned his response around the critical point that students have "problems that come from home" highlighted by the (not vetted) remarkable statistic that there is "one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today."

There also are far fewer school nurses than needed, a problem even greater than the paucity of school psychologists.  This, however, was not the issue for the TYT ladies, including for Brooke Thomas, who contended

But I think what was missing in a lot of discussion about this, at least right after the debate, was (excuse me) was, like, the racism, the coded racism in that comment and the far too widespread-held belief that black people can't be good parents-aren't good mothers, aren't good fathers, don't know how to take care of their children.

The reason the racism was "coded" is that it was not racism.  Biden himself did not raise the issue of the "legacy of slavery;" it was asked of him. His reply pertained to poor people, as in "a kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background..."

The stereotype often held by whites is that black children are raised exclusively by mothers or grandmothers. Not so with Biden, at least not as reflected in his answer. He not only did not say "black people can't be good parents"-  the thrust of his argument was that mothers and fathers can be good parents- play the radio, the record player, and "make sure that kids hear words." 

If Thomas were to sit around with a group of black women and ask about problems in the black-majority community they live in, she'd likely hear complaints about parents raising their children. If she asked a group of white women about problems in their majority-white community, she probably would hear the same. It's what many people do when they talk about problems neighbors encounter from youth; they blame the parents.

That doesn't mean that Biden's remarks about parents were wise.  Perhaps he should have clarified that he was speaking of both black parents and white parents, given that much of the left is sensitive of anything that implies there may be issues more prevalent in the black community than in the white community, which is true as is the reverse.

When Quinnipiac in July asked voters if they believe Donald Trump is "racist," slightly over half admitted they do. Those respondents were not asked whether they nevertheless would vote for him, but it's a fair bet that some would.  They may have concluded that in a nation of "racists," being a racist might not be disqualifying. When we attribute such motives to people like Joe Biden, we shouldn't be surprised that serious bigots among us are tolerated.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:
I can think of a few, perhaps beginning with campaign finance reform and re-regulation of the financial services industry, two of the things Green's organization advocates when its co-founder isn't falling in love with the idea of a congresswoman dancing.   I'd figuratively kill to be a salesman selling this guy a beautiful new car, at double the invoice price.

This gave comedian and conservative commentator Terrence K.Williams the opportunity to tweet out a video- showing footage of Omar dancing- with the comment "Girl, what in the world were you celebrating on the anniversary on 9/11?"

As vigilantfact-checker Daniel Dale pointed out, Omar and colleague Ayanna Presley (D-Ma) were enjoying themselves at an event, connected with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference, which actually occurred on September 13.

Williams took down the tweet but not before the nation's Liar-in-Chief re-tweeted him with the comment "IIhan Omar, a member of AOC Plus 3, will win us the Great State of Minnesota. The new face of the Democrat Party!" As of 3:20 p.m. eastern on Wednesday, Trump's tweet remained on his feed.

Defending Omar, even when she is gracelessly smeared, is not a road congenial to Democrats. However, there is no reason this incident can't be legitimately and justifiably turned back on Donald Trump, whose 9/11 career is vulnerable.

Campaigning in Alabama in November of 2015, candidate Trump boasted "I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." Politifact rated that claim "pants on fire."

On the morning of September 11, 2001 itself, Trump bragged “40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan. Before the World Trade Center it was the tallest. Then when the built the World Trade Center it become known as the second-tallest, and now it’s the tallest.” The building did not sustain any damage in the attack but Trump still applied for, and received, federalrecovery money intended for small businesses.

It is not a joke, and not mere hyperbole or dishonesty. It takes someone thoroughly hostile not only to American Muslims, but to Americans of all backgrounds, and a kind of evil only Donald Trump and that giant in Dante's Inferno is capable of. This is an issue just begging for a campaign. When President Trump gives Democrats an opportunity, they should take advantage by turning lemons into lemonade, garbage into gold, and exposing him for what he is.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

In Fits And Spurts, At Most

It has become conventional wisdom that the two major political parties in the USA have become increasingly polarized, with the Republican Party becoming more conservative and the Democratic Party more liberal.

That politically correct view, sometimes accompanied by a wistfulness for bipartisanship, is 50% accurate.  Because of their fondness for comity in politics, centrists like the notion that the Democratic Party is fleeing the ideological center. Conservative politicians adore it because they can accuse liberals and Democrats of being "socialist" while most of their base doesn't even know what the word means. Centrist Democrats are partial to the notion because it allows them to claim party progressives are out of the mainstream of American thought and life, while the left is proud that it has (allegedly) persuaded tens of millions of voters to support progressive ideas.

In an article published a few days before last November's election, the Atlantic's David Graham maintained that survey data demonstrate that Democrats "are moving leftward on certain issues, especially immigration, economics, and race."

Many Democrats have grown uncomfortable with the policy adopted by the Obama Administration to deport illegal immigrants who have committed felonies, and the Party, thankfully, has maintained its opposition to Trump's wall between the USA and Mexico.  The openness of Democratic politicians to studying reparations for slavery, and especially the unwillingness of any to criticize the scheme, attest to its evolving position on race.

But if Democrats who hold office have been moving leftward on either education or health care- which are not trivial matters- they have been doing so at at a snail's pace.

In last week's presidential debate, one of the co-hosts identified Andrew Yang as "the most vocal proponent on this stage for charter schools" and asked "why isn't taxpayer money better spent on fixing traditional public schools?"

Yang didn't say, probably because he doesn't want money spent primarily on helping traditional public schools, though he did state "we need to pay teachers more," thereby boldly jeopardizing support with the Pay Teachers Less lobby.

However, it was not only Yang who refused to defend the traditional public school.  Pete Buttigieg boldly proclaimed "I believe in public education," likely because he realizes that charter schools, subsidized by tax revenues, also are considered "public schools." He, too, grasped the low-hanging fruit, noting "we have to support and compensate the teaching profession" and also "pay them more like the way we do doctors."   He did not explain how service-for-fee would work in education, nor whether he would cap teachers' salaries at the upper six-figure level.

Massachusetts senator Warren promised she would nominate a "public school" teacher as Secretary of Education and declared "money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else." Given that it was Elizabeth Warren, the candidate probably was referring to the traditional public school, but it was telling that she did not find it advantageous to be specific.

Senator Harris recommended "investing in our public school education system" while giving no clue as to whether that includes charter schools.  She did, however, endorse the idea of black children being taught by black teachers, though she did not indicate whether white children would benefit from being taught by exclusively white teachers. Segregation dies hard (not so the quaint idea that teachers should be assigned by such factors as experience or seniority.)

After that, the worst response to the question about traditional schools, there was one last chance because only five individuals were asked to address the issue. Bernie Sanders' primary recommendation was to pay teachers at least $60,000 per year, an idea, not uncommon in Democratic circles, echoed by Joe Biden in response to a different question. Sanders (as had Warren) advocated canceling college debt, as both he and the Massachusetts senator have done many times before.

The liberal or progressive party, the one allegedly hurtling left at breakneck speed, currently has ten major candidates for president, if defined as those able to meet the threshold for the third round of debates. Asked about K-12 education, the number of candidates willing to state that non-profit making schools should be the exclusive recipient of school aid from taxpayers dollars is.... zero (0).

There are other issues, ones outside of immigration and race, on which the the Democratic Party's leftward swing has been virtually imperceptible. Of the more than two dozen persons who are or have been candidates for the Democratic nomination, there are three (3)- Warren, Sanders, and Bill deBlasio- who realize that effective and affordable health care is incompatible with the continued existence of private insurance companies.

On various cultural issues, including race, immigration, gun safety, and gender and reproductive rights (the latter somewhat economic in nature), Democratic office seekers are moving left. (Still, none is willing to say that he/she has any doubts about the sanctity of the Second Amendment or to offer support for the right to bear muskets, as the Founders intended.)

Nonetheless, on most economic issues, the vast majority of politicians in the nation's not right-wing party are failing to challenge concentrated economic power. While Warren and Sanders are willing to assert that health care should be freely available for all and not subject to private profit, even they will not apply that same understanding to K-12 education.

This country was built in large part on the traditional public school, available to all in regardless of status, a focal part of the community which brought together children of all backgrounds for a significant part of the day and sometimes beyond. When most of the Democratic candidates are willing to promise that as President only these schools will be funded by taxpayers, I'll buy the theory that this is a Party barreling left.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Terrible Idea

It has been over fifteen years since initial publication of Thomas Frank's near-classic, What's The Matter With Kansas, and it may be time to ask "what's the matter with Delaware?"

Of course, it's the center of the credit card industry, which convinced Delaware senator "Middle Class Joe" to assume the role of a major defender of the entire financial services industry. But now it has given us Senator Chris Coons. May God help us.

I understand, I understand; President Trump was annoyed about the growing realization that Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrogantly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he tweeted
But dear Lord, Senator Coons, are you daft, man? On "Fox and Friends" on Monday, Senator Coons stated "This may well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran, if that's what the intelligence supports."

Riyadh also has been carrying out against Houthi rebels in Yemen airstrikes which, The New York Times notes, have "devastated the impoverished country and exacerbated the world's worst humanitarian crisis." Yet "we," the President explained, "are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to... under what terms we would proceed." 

In his recurring effort trying to make Americans understand just who he is, the President has told us that it's not the USA, but Saudi Arabia, on whose behalf he'd be acting. Undermining America's sovereignty is terrible; doing so behalf of the nation that sliced and diced an American citizen, probably on orders of the Saudi Crown Prince, and is a monarchy based on Sharia law, is terrible, immoral, and dangerous.

That is the Kingdom which President Trump has thrown America's lot in with.  It is no defense for the Senator from Delaware that Trump is being Trump, possibly only blowing off steam or diverting voters' attention from Brett Kavanaugh. That is not a President worthy of supporting, nor a President whose presentation, and interpretation, of intelligence can be trusted.  The Gulf of Tonkin beckons.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Look At The Transcript, Folks

You may have heard it from Chris Cuomo on CNN during the Democratic debate, and from Anderson Cooper (at approximately 5:00  You may have read it from Jeff Greenfield, who claimed he "took a body shot from Julián Castro, who (inaccurately) accused him of forgetting what he’d said a moment earlier, but didn’t crumple." You can read it from supposedly straight news reporter Rebecca Morin of USA Today, who quoted the leading candidate stating "Anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have" and (Morin added) "Several minutes later, if Americans lose their insurance, 'you automatically can buy into this.'"

Neither Morin, who is paid to be objective, nor Cuomo or Greenfield, who are not, noted that former Vice-President Joe Biden had stated also

If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance — from your employer, you automatically can buy into this. You don't have — no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in. You get covered, period.

You automatically can buy into this (and) no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in.  That means two things: 1) Julian Castro was accurate when he charged Biden with having said "just two minutes ago that they would have to buy in;"  and 2) Cuomo, Greenfield, and Morin did not follow what Biden said or did not read the transcript.

Rebecca Morin of Axios, by contrast, is merely confused. She points out "Biden did reference his plan earlier in the night saying that anyone who can't afford gets automatically enrolled in the medicare type option." However, he had not stated "Medicare" but "Medicare-type option," which may be anything given reference to Medicare-type and option, the latter a funny way of describing something which is automatic.

Later, in the exchange featuring Castro's charge, Biden indicated that it would not be automatic. ("Nothing can stop you from buying in.")

It is possible, of course, that if elected, Joe Biden will undergo a progressive transformation and- under pressure from Republicans not to permit any option- will demand that the GOP accept automatic enrollment. And I am the King of England.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

It's O.K. if You're America

Yesterday I argued that it doesn't matter a whole lot that the Joe Biden at Thursday's presidential debate demonstrated little knowledge about criminal justice- which puts him only a little behind his Democratic rivals and still far ahead of Donald Trump.

However, it is very much relevant that he's fairly regressive- or confused (difficult to tell these days about Biden)-  on health care policy. A great Philadelphia-based journalist picked up on what even Bloomberg News didn't even notice (see video at end):

Fact check: mostly true. The front-runner said nothing in the exchange about the absence of good, universal health care.  That was, instead, included in Sanders' response to Biden's "this is America." However, it is clear below that Biden was rationalizing the USA's exorbitant costs for health care. The exchange:

SANDERS: Let us be clear, Joe, in the United States of America, we are spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on earth.

BIDEN: This is America.

SANDERS: Yes, but Americans don't want to pay twice as much as other countries. And they guarantee health care to all people. Under my Medicare-for-all proposal, when you don't pay out-of-pocket and you don't pay premiums, maybe you've run into people who love their premiums, I haven't.

What people want is cost-effective health care, Medicare-for-all will save the average American substantial sums of money on his or her health care bill.

Being nothing if not always on message, Bernie Sanders was not diverted by Biden's three-word comment, responding only "yes" and reminding us of the cost of health care. His was a crucial point which debate hosts and most of the Democratic aspirants- most notably Biden- refuse to acknowledge. Individuals need help to pay for health care because it is grotesquely expensive

To the guy leading the pack, however, the spiraling cost of health care is acceptable because "this is America." If pundits and the other candidates are ignoring it, at least one journalist did not, and we don't have to.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Opening The Jail Cells

Joe Biden is hopping mad, and should be expected to direct his ire toward federal judge Indira Talwani.

On Friday, Judge Talwani sentenced Felicity Huffman to 14 days in jail/prison (plus supervised release, community service, and to pay a fine). This no doubt does not sit well with the ex-vice president and ex-senator, who at the Democratic debate Thursday night stated

Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime. As — when we were in the White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system. Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons.

Biden emphasizes that individuals with a drug problem may be in prison, whether he/she merely uses the illegal substances or additionally distributes them as part of an organized crime operation. However, he maintained also "nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime (and) we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system."

It would have been an ideal time for one of the nine other candidates to interject something similar to "I, too, believe too many Americans are in prison. However, there is one person I'd like to see there- Donald J. Trump." Alas, no one thought of it, or this set of candidates is loathe to see anyone behind bars.

It would have been neither a cheap shot at a corrupt president nor merely a way to get what would have been the most raucous ovation of the night.

Biden's statement was uncommonly stupid. Donald Trump appears to be guilty of numerous white collar crimes, as income tax returns and loan documents he is still hoarding would very likely indicate. However, he is not unique among Americans in committing white collar crimes, although the scope of his offenses may be.  One tweeter rhetorically asks
Some non-violent crimes not of the white collar variety often warrant incarceration. Among them are being part of a drug distribution ring; motor vehicle theft; and burglary, particular of a home and especially if one or more individuals is present (below, an instance from 4/18 in which no one was home).

Given that Biden is not vying to be elected as a  judge or prosecuting attorney, this was among the least harmful of the foolish statements he made at Texas Southern University. Nor was he the only candidate (looking at you, Cory Booker) making an absurd remark about criminal justice. However, he's making a habit of this sort of thing while being sold as the experienced hand and most likely to defeat Donald Trump. That candidate has yet to make an appearance.

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Viva Castro

If you believe the 22 "experts, insiders, activists and political professionals" polled by Politico about the Democratic presidential debate of Thursday night, one thing is clear

"Castro was mean, and too biting."

"The loser of the night, hands down, was former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Castro for taking a cheap shot at Biden on his memory. Dinging Biden for his age was a calculated risk that failed. You can have policy differences without getting personal."

"Biden did little to dispel the notion that he has lost his fastball, though he may have received an inadvertent boost from Castro’s ill-advised, mean-spirited personal attack."

"Castro, on the other hand, secured the title of the biggest loser. His mean-spirited remarks directed at Biden drew boos from the audience and uncomfortable looks from the debate stage."

".... while irrelevant players like Castro took overly aggressive swipes toward the front-runner former vice president..."

"The underperfomers were Castro, Yang and Buttigeig. Castro came off as too hot."

"I doubt that—or Castro proving less effective than normal at knifing people—moves the numbers up or down."

"Castro’s attacks on Biden didn’t come off as calculated or strategic; they came off as mean. He came off as unlikeable and insensitive."

"In an evening marked by civility and calls for unity, Castro misplayed his interaction with Biden over what he could and could not recall."

The only positive comment about the confrontation in the first half hour between former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and former Vice President Joe "a noun, a verb, and Barack Obama" Biden came from political science professor Seth Maskett.

If you read everyone's statement, one obvious omission is consideration of whether Casro's charge was accurate.  Although that's difficult to determine definitively- understanding Biden's health care plan is even more difficult than understanding the ACA- the verdict still should be yes.

Castro charged

 I know that the problem with your plan is that it leaves 10 million people uncovered.

Now, on the last debate stage in Detroit, you said that wasn’t true, when Senator Harris brought that up. There was a fact check of that, and they said that was true...

If they choose to hold on to strong, solid private health insurance, I believe they should be able to do. But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in and I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled. They wouldn't have a buy in.

And then the figurative fireworks:

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: Do not have to buy in if you can't afford it.

CASTRO: You said they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: Your grandmother would not have to buy in. If she qualifies for Medicaid, she would automatically be enrolled.

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you're saying they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that.

BIDEN: I said anyone like your grandmother who has no money.

CASTRO: I mean, look, look, we need a health care system...

BIDEN: She — you're automatically enrolled.

Automatically enrolled? Not quite, Wilmington/Scranton Joe, for you had stated

The option I'm proposing is Medicare-for-all — Medicare for choice. If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance — from your employer, you automatically can buy into this. You don't have — no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in. You get covered, period.

Very likely Biden sneaked in the word "automatically" to assure voters that it would be easy to opt in- or simply to mislead them. He stated that individuals who want Medicare "can buy into this. You don't have- no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in." ("You get covered, period" emphasizes that the person will be covered as long as she buys in, with no further requirements.)

Castro was widely slammed for implying his rival was suffering from dementia because of the criticism

Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you're saying they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that.

It was, we are to believe, "insensitive," "a cheap shot," and "mean-spirited," or at least "ill-advised."  Perhaps Castro should have said "there you go again, intentionally misleading voters. We've already had too much of that the past four years," which would have implied that the former Senator and veep is a liar. But there was no reason that front-runner Joseph R. Biden should have been allowed to reverse course and contradict himself without someone calling him out on it.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Nevertheless, She Persists

There were two things which stood out to me in the Politico Magazine article detailing the rocky relations between the Obama-Biden White House- including Tim Geithner,  Lawrence Summers and other insiders- and Elizabeth Warren. Alex Thompson notes that Senate Minority Leader Harry

Reid, who appointed Warren to the (TARP) oversight panel and has been an admirer of her presidential run, says he thought Warren clashed so fiercely with Geithner and Summers in part because she understood financial markets well enough that they couldn’t condescend to her.

“One thing about her conversations with Summers and with Geithner, they couldn’t talk over her head,” says Reid, adding that Summers, a former Treasury secretary and president of Harvard University, wasn’t used to that. “I met with Summers many, many times and, frankly, he talked about a lot of things I didn’t quite comprehend. But with her, that wasn’t the case.”

Negotiating with a President who understands the business of business is not Wall Street's idea of a wet dream, nor something the titans of the universe are used to. However, that's only one reason CNBC's Jim Cramer says (beginning at 1:39 below) "I don't know what's going to happen. Look, when you get off the desk and talk to executives, they're more fearful of her winning- look, I've never heard anybody say (i.e., of anyone else) 'look, she's got to be stopped, she's got to be stopped.'"

Two days later, Cramer remarked (at :21) "There are people who say 'how can you put her on- how can you' as if she's some sort of pariah. She's a Senator of the United States of America."

Politico's Thompson quotes one individual working with Warren during the Obama period (but not on her campaign) charging "Obama called the bankers fat cats once and spent seven years feeling bad about it." By contrast, Cramer's colleague maintains Warren is "a very serious, rigorous person... somewhat relentless- strong characteristic for people who achieve things."

While there have been presidents- Obama and Bill Clinton included- who were "smart as a whip," hardly anyone would describe these guys as "relentless."

Thompson quotes also David Axelrod,. President Obama's campaign strategist and adviser, warning "the one thing you need to know about Elizabeth Warren is that you don't get from Norman, Oklahoma, to where she is right now and take the journey she took without a steel spine and indefatigability."

Wall Street executives now know what they've suspected for a long time, and Mitch McConnell learned early in the Trump presidency. Confronted by opposition, the junior senator from Massachusetts is determinedand relentless, and will not back down. No doubt they have reason to consider her a "pariah."

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"Not My Job"

To his credit, General James Mattis does not emphasize his former status as a member of the military, yet in an interview with PBS' Judy Woodruff on September 2 he remarked

I believe that when someone departs an Administration over policy disagreements, you have what the French call "a duty of reserve, a "devoir de reserve." I don't want to, on the outside, be making it more difficult for our Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and President, who have to deal with this very complex world. There will be a time when it's right for me to come out on strategy and policy disagreements (but not at this time).

Nine days later, the former Defense Secretary, this time at an appearance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said much the same thing. He commented

But there is a 700-year tradition in America about military officers not passing political judgments on our political masters. And that's the way we want it. We don't want the military mastering decisions in this country.

That would be valid if Mr. Mattis were still General Mattis, active military. However, he is now retired from the military and thus, like almost all of the rest of us, has no Commander-in-Chief. President Trump is merely President Trump, not Commander-in-Chief, to everyone not currently in the armed services. The (ex-) General continued

But there's also the sense when you look at that tradition that we, I believe when you leave a government, leave an Administration and you leave it over a matter of policy- the President was straightforward with me, I was straightforward with him. I put it out on a letter, that's all I have to say about it.

I had certain policy disagreements and now that I walked  out, the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, they are dealing with some very, very difficult issues. They don't need someone who was in there before, coming outside, no longer responsible and critiquing what's going on.

The American people do need that person now. It is precisely now that he has the freedom, the moral duty, and the ability to critique what is "going on." Mattis explains

You have right now over a million troops and tens of thousands of them are deployed overseas. Now what would they be thinking if the former Secretary of Defense was coming out making political assessments right now and particularly at a time when the political discussions are so corrosive?

They might be thinking "that's what we believe but while on active duty we cannot say what we want to about the President," who actually is their Commander-in-Chief and thus owed strict loyalty. Mattis, by contrast, owes his loyalty to law and to country, not to any political figure. He notes 

So I believe I've led a responsible life. I've done the best I can and I was in the Marine Corps for 40-odd years, I was in the US Marine Corps. I belonged to you, answerable to you, and I think right now, the French call it devoir de reserve. Doesn't that sound impressive that I would say in French? But it's a duty of quiet when you leave to allow those who carry this very heavy responsibility of protecting what I call America, this experiment that we try to keep alive.

I can not speak or understand French and therefore have a hard time confirming this. Nevertheless, this online conversation, for what it's worth, suggests that the "devoir de reserve" pertains to the responsibility of maintaining confidentiality while employed by the federal government. That no longer applies to Mattis.

Moreover, this "experiment that we try to keep alive" is probably the notion that the USA is not a people- French, British, Chinese, Sengalese, or whatever- but an idea. That idea- most often symbolized by the Statue of Liberty- is perhaps best encapsulated in e pluribus unum- "from many, one."  President Trump's hostile and bigoted remarks aside, consider policy. A quick glance at the cages on the border, an essential part of dividing members of one family from another in order to deter people from pursuing that idea, reveals that Donald Trump is hostile toward "this experiment that we try to keep alive."

Additionally, the suspicion that determination of human worthiness is based on skin color or ethnicity is hardly consoling. Then Mattis concluded this segment with

I don't want to do anything right now that our adversaries can interpret as a weakening the fabric of those who are out there right now, the diplomats, the intelligence agents, the military guys and gals who are out there right now defending the country. So I'm just going to stay quiet.

That's touching, especially the part about "intelligence agents" because the President

has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President "believes we shouldn't be doing that to each other," one former Trump administration official told CNN.

In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump "believes they're people who are selling out their country."

Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community.

Of course, if James Mattis really wanted to stay quiet, he could have avoided writing a book, or at least going on an interview tour to hawk it. Still,  that's selling Mattis short. He did answer what he believed to be a call to duty, spending over 40 years in the military, so he deserves to be criticized for something more substantive than simply wanting to make money, a common human instinct.

Mere hours before Mattis took the stage in Chicago, Donald Trump revealed that one of the two most brutal dictators in the world held veto power over the President's appointment of a national security advisor: "And I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that. And he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton." James Mattis should recognize dereliction of duty as a former general choosing to give strategic air cover to a President whose loyalty lies elsewhere than with the security of the nation.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Snapping To Attention

In a bit Monday night/Tuesday morning about Donald Trump's latest antics- which he understands are far more serious than mere antics- Seth Myers played a clip from Sunday's Meet the Press. In a portion beginning at approximately the nine-minute mark, Missouri senator Roy Blunt states well, I actually spent most of this month at home in Missouri and I think this whole Sharpie thing is way being overplayed."

Generously, Myers concludes the segment by conceding, generously but unnecessarily, "it might seem trivial when it's just about Sharpies or flamingo dancers, but Trump's war on reality also has real consequences for real people...."

The lie itself, as part of what the comedian labels "Trump's war on reality," is trivial. But the incident is not, not when

The Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at the federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts last Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

After Trump displayed the altered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

intervened two days later, early last Friday, according to the three people familiar with his actions. Mr. Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode.

NOAA's acting chief scientist has pushed back, issuing a statement indicating that he will “potential violations" committed when the agency backed the president in opposition to the agency's scientists. Even in Trump's government, there are a few people in the federal government who can't be bought, but fighting the political shop with science and facts is an uphill battle.

Sometimes it's not the lies radical distortion or lies themselves, about Dorian or Doonbeg or Turnberry, but the role the lies play in emboldening the federal bureaucracy to assist President Trump in erasing western norms and liberal democracy.  This only his first term, and in a second term it will be easy to convince anyone and anything- the courts, Congress, the military, etc.- that all resistance is futile.

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Monday, September 09, 2019

Can't Stop Laughing

This summer, we have had several reminders of the seriousness of climate change.There have been devastating fires in the Amazon rain forest, which is "critical to the Earth’s climate, influencing weather systems, generating oxygen, and absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide — the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming."  Hurricane Dorian, briefly a Category 5 storm, was an example of the increasing severity of storms as ocean water and air warm. July was globally the warmest month ever recorded.

And Donald Trump's warning to the American people has been echoed by at least one other individual in a position to know, now that

Speaking to a convention of Republican Party delegates in Indian Wells, California, Brad Parscale also said the campaign’s goal is to build a national army of 2 million trained volunteers, far beyond the president’s 2016 organization, that in California could help the GOP retake a string of U.S. House seats captured by Democrats last year.

“The Trumps will be a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party,” he said. “One that will adapt to changing cultures. One must continue to adapt while keeping the conservative values that we believe in.”

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reports

a campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and without official authorization to discuss the speech, said that Mr. Parscale was referring less to possible candidacies in the future and more to activities such as political speeches and fund-raising.

That was a clean-up job so good it was literally unbelievable. The "he didn't really mean 'dynasty' when he said 'dynasty'" is akin to the oft-heard excuse from Trump surrogates that, when the President is criticized for an outrageous remark, he was really "joking."

Four months ago, Trump had written online

Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stollen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.

This followed the sex-crazed, deceitful, unscrupulous, and fraudulent Christian conservative Jerry Falwell Jr. tweeting "I now support reparations- Trump should have 2 years added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup."

He did it again Monday when, at another outdoor, planned spontaneous news conference before boarding Air Force One, Trump stated "We're going to have extend my second term...I'm going to have to extend it for a couple years."

A German understands:
(The spelling errors may remind us of Donald Trump, but this guy is from Berlin and not New York City.)

President Trump's remark is similar to the one from his campaign manager, throwing something against a wall to see what sticks. And as with Category 5 hurricanes and record-breaking heat, it's a warning.

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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Superficial Advice

This is in part why we don't hand the keys to the bus to Never Trump Republicans.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson, who out of revulsion for Donald Trump ran Evan McMullin's 2016 campaign, offers the Democratic presidential candidates free, unsolicited advice in an opinion piece published in USA Today. The old adage is valid: you get what you pay for.

Wilson early on notes, accurately, "The election, like all presidential reelection campaigns, is a referendum on Trump," though he means "on the incumbent" rather than "on Trump."  He goes downhill from there.  "In the heat of a Democratic primary," Wilson argues

.... it’s tempting to think that America is so very, very woke and that all the people in this country crave is a massive government plan to hand out free stuff. For Democrats, the primary incentivizes a race to the left edge of the ideological spectrum and — again, I’m not judging their policies — but just telling them what the polling and politics look like outside the Democratic primary bubble.

He does not specify what this "free stuff" is, though thankfully he says he is "not judging their policies." Except that he is, maintaining "on questions from keeping their private health insurance to abortion to guns to fossil fuels, the Democratic nominee will have to move back into the center to win. "

This comes from- seriously- someone who cautions "it’s tempting to think that America is so very, very woke" while "most of the 15 swing states are decidedly unwoke on at least one major litmus test issue in the Democratic primary field." This is a clever sleight of hand, suggesting that ol' regular Americans are practical, down-to-earth guys and gals while he himself is "woke."  However, there is no Democratic candidate who is obsessed with winning the popular vote, or even of winning it, which is consistent with the push to abolish the Electoral College.

But if Wilson were as aware- uh, er, "woke"- as he implies he is, he would not assume that the populist strain in the American voter responds to centrist policies or candidates. Instead, he contends

... .the Democratic nominee will have to move back into the center to win. In most of the swing states, the Democratic vote model must capture people outside the base to pull off a victory. Don’t underestimate Trump in these states; the populist strain is strong in most of them, and it’s a present danger to the Democratic nominee.

Not surprisingly, Wilson does not identify the "base" of the Democratic Party, nonetheless implying that it is pro- universal health care, abortion rights,and  renewable energy, and anti-gun. For better or worse, however, that is inaccurate because the base of the party is not formed around ideology. The base, the foundation upon which success of the Party rests, is quite simply African-American.  (in 2008, Senator Obama trailed Hillary Clinton, supported by most black Democrats. He won in Iowa, thus convincing African-Americans that he could win and was a safe choice for the party establishment, and turned that deficit around. We know what happened next.)

Wilson notes that the Democratic nominee should ignore all but the approximately fifteen swing states and "As a corollary rule, take the phrase “popular vote” out of your lexicon. You know what a majority of the popular vote and $5.25 get you? A pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks." (Note to everyone under 50 years of age- this is part of the old Republican playbook to tar Democrats as elitist, which began with calling Democrats "limousine liberals." Now it's Starbucks and "woke.")

As Wilson sees it, I would be an outlier. A primary voter who supports elimination of private health insurance, firearms safety legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans, reproductive freedom, and who doesn't believe coal is the wave of the future, I don't buy coffee at Starbucks. And if I did, it never would be pumpkin spice latte. There probably are a few like me.

We have a strategist seemingly concerned with the sentiments of populist Americans in states not reflexively liberal or Democratic who advises a nominee not to appear leftist on health care, guns, abortion, and energy.  That is curious, given that Trump's victory - even accounting for the impact of economic discontent- was fueled primarily by hostility toward immigration and to racial minorities. )Voter suppression, Russian meddling, and Comey missteps are of a different kind.) And yet, beyond Wilson's radar are reparations and immigration, the two issues upon which Democrats have most dramatically moved left during this campaign.

It is entertaining to hear from Never Trump Republicans, interesting to learn of their perspectives. But they helped drive the Republican Party, emphasizing the grievances that gave rise to Donald Trump, ultimately enabling his election to the presidency. They're welcome to come aboard, and may even talk on their cell phones or play their music aloud while in their seats. But they will not be allowed to drive the bus.

This blog is going on brief hiatus. Please come back on Monday, September 9 for analysis you won’t find anywhere else, for which you may be thankful.

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Denial, Deflection, Diversion, Alliteration

Is this deflection effective or ineffective? In an exclusive interview with NPR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has not cha...