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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Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Party Inching Rightward

Charlie Pierce made two valid points about Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate. The one which he himself would concede is the less significant is

.... the Warren-Sanders business is going to be what people take away from Tuesday night. I have no idea what was said during the famous conversation about whether a woman can be elected president. But the response from the Sanders supporters, especially on the electric Twitter machine, has been so hysterically over the top—Responding with snake emojis? That’s only the oldest misogynistic smear of all time, going all the way back to Genesis.—that it does make me wonder whether or not there’s something in that campaign that attracts the Democratic equivalent of the incel boys. I hope it stops soon, but I doubt that it will.

If the Sanders people want to go down in history as the campaign that kneecapped two talented, accomplished women, that’s their decision. I thought Warren recovered nicely with her bit about how she and Klobuchar were the only two people on the stage who’d never lost an election. Other than that, the debate was little more than a reminder that starting this process off in Iowa is no way to elect a president of this whole country. That’s absurd.

It's Thursday, the response still is over the top and increasingly brings into question the tolerance of Twitter Sanders supporters, Warren recovered nicely, and this is no way to run an airline- or an election. More critically, however, was that during the debate

Joe Biden was punished with the soft cushions and the comfy chair. Nobody laid a glove on him after Sanders jibed him about his Iraq War vote early on. In the run-up to the debate, it was widely believed that Sanders would press Biden on his past support for various Simpson-Bowlesian notions for “reforming” Social Security, while Warren seemed ready to tee him up (again) on the noxious bankruptcy bill that Biden wrote.

Both of these are very big fish in very small barrels, and both of these continued un-shot through the evening’s festivities while Pete Buttigieg soft-shoed his way through every discussion and Amy Klobuchar decided this was the time to be a deficit scold.

These are three critical points- about the financial industry (bankruptcy bill), Social Security, and the deficit- which put a lie to the quaint and comforting notion that Bernard's two presidential campaigns have nudged the discussion among national Democrats leftward.

Senator Warren inexplicably said nothing about the bankruptcy bill, though it not only clearly separates her from Biden, but also demonstrates her economically progressive bonafides and her willingness- nay, eagerness- to take on the powerful in a way a President Sanders is unlikely to do.

For his part, Sanders, who has an excellent record on Social Security, joined Warren in remaining completely mum about the earned benefits program.  Biden long has been cool toward Social Security, including supporting: in the 1980s freezing benefits freezing Social Security and all federal spending in 1994; supporting cutting the program as part of President Obama's Grand Bargain effort in 2011; and in 2018 means-testing benefits in order to "save" the program. In 2008 he boasted that he resisted political advisers, who told him to avoid the issue because it is the "third rail" of American politics.

Yet, neither Sanders (nor Warren) even mentioned Social Security. If not a glaring omission, it was a crucial omission.

But while Biden's support for a modest Social Security program was motivated in part by his concern about deficits and the federal budget, even he did not become the "deficit scold" in the Des Moines debate. Instead, it was Amy Klobuchar who bragged

I am the one person up here who has on her website in her plan a plan to actually start taking on the deficit, by taking part of that money from that corporate tax cut that they put in there and putting it in a fund to pay back the deficit.

Or it could be used to expand accessibility to health care, fight climate change, provide free pre-kindergarten programs, rebuild dangerous bridges and expand public transit, or (insert your own favorite long-neglected need).

Buttigieg then maintained

And my plan is paid for. Look, our party should no longer hesitate to talk about the issue of the debt and the deficit. Now, we've got a dramatically better track record on it than Republicans do. In my lifetime, it's almost invariably Republican presidents who have added to the deficit, a trillion dollars under this president. And it's why everything I've put forward — from Medicare for all who want it to the historic investments we're going to make in infrastructure to dealing with climate change — is fully paid for.

The Democratic Party never has hesitated to talk about the debt, even after Walter Mondale tried it in 1984 and got shellacked by Ronald Reagan, nor when President Clinton balanced the federal budget, nor when President Obama boasted that he had changed the trajectory and set the nation on the way to a balanced budget. Republican presidents explode the federal deficit to pay for their favorite programs (especially defense) and get rewarded at the polls.

In 2016, big-government Trump challenged for the GOP presidential nomination traditional Republicans, who at least posed as "fiscal conservatives" opposed to big government spending and deficits. We know what happened next.

Very few Americans care about the debt or deficits. It's something they like to tell themselves and pollsters they care about (like PBS in the past) right before they vote for whatever candidate wants to blow up the federal budget.  We care about where the money goes- but we all want the money to go somewhere.

One of those priorities is Social Security, which no one wanted to talk about Tuesday night.  And no one challenged Klobuchar and Buttigieg, pointing out that "but the deficit!" is merely something conservatives invoke to cut spending on social services and other needs of Americans.  Coupled with avoidance of the issue of financial reform (the obvious argument for Warren's candidacy), this is a Party which largely has not been driven left by Bernard Sanders' influence, but bafflingly in the opposite direction.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Sanders Whiffed

A lot of Democrats are looking for a candidate who can stand toe-to-toe against Donald Trump; a candidate who not only can take Trump's slings and arrows but also be the aggressive "tough guy." (It's cliche day at the blog.)

Prior to Tuesday's debate in Des Moines, I believed the Democrats might be on the precipice of finding that man- and that it would be a man. Bernie Sanders has shown flashes of impatience at a "corporate" media more interested in profits or horse races than in substance.  And as the candidate whose supporters are most hostile toward the mainstream media, he faced the least risk in making that argument.

Moreover, he had the issue- the kerfuffle with Elizabeth Warren over a November, 2018 meeting, which probably pertained merely to a differing interpretation of a statement that he has a better chance of winning over an electorate which still views being female as disqualifying for a President.

However, he didn't seize the opportunity. Abby Phillip asked "Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?" Sanders responded "well, as a matter of fact, I didn't say it. And I don't want to waste a whole lot of time on this because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want."

There is no "maybe" about it. Much of the media- CNN and MSNBC, as I have observed, and probably Trump News Network- have played this to the hilt (cliche day, remember?).  It has nothing to do with policy, what the individual would do as President. Further, what transpired in a private meeting cannot be definitively determined.

Left, right, and center, voters distrust the media, and Sanders could have turned it on here. Instead, he foolishly pivoted to

Anybody knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States.

Go to YouTube today. There's a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States. In 2015, I deferred, in fact, to Sen. Warren. There was a movement to draft Sen. Warren to run for president. And you know what, I said — stayed back. Sen. Warren decided not to run, and I then — I did run afterwards.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States? And let me be very clear. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination, I hope that's not the case, I hope it's me.

Hillary Clinton also lost a winnable election, one which Bernie Sanders likely believes he would have won, and which was lost in part because of attitudes toward women.  Yet his argument here boils down to "of course, there is no problem with female candidates. Hillary Clinton did so well."

If Sanders had stressed criticism of the media, he would have played on his turf, making a charge every other Democrat is unwilling or unable to make. Instead, he decided to play on the turf of Elizabeth Warren (and of Amy Klobuchar).

That was, on this question, a fatal error because it allowed Senator Warren to transfer seamlessly to

 .... Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it's time for us to attack it head-on.

And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people's winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump?

Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections.

This, of course, was met by approving laughter and Warren added "the only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women."

This, in turn, was meant by predictable applause, followed by the inclusive "Amy and me," which appeared generous toward a rival. A moment later, Warren continued

And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me.

And here's what I know. The real danger that we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can't pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency.

We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in and give everyone a Democrat to believe in. That's my plan and that is why I'm going to win.

That was a strong finish and Sanders should have left it at that. However, he couldn't resist self-inflicted damage and a moment later this transpired:

SANDERS: Well, just to set the record straight, I defeated an incumbent Republican running for Congress.


SANDERS: Nineteen-ninety.

That's how I won, beat a republican congressman.


Number two...

WARREN: Thirty years ago.

SANDERS: ... of course, I don't think there's any debate up here...

WARREN: Wasn't it 30 years ago?

SANDERS: I beat an incumbent Republican congressman.

WARREN: And I said I was the only one who's beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years.


SANDERS: Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact.

That's not a good look, not a strong look, but at least the look of someone who, inexplicably, did not seem to have anticipated that the matter would be raised. However, at least he then noted "But I don't know that that's the major issue of the day." (Actually, it was the major issue but most definitively should not have been.)

The back-and-forth will not be determinative, nor should it be.  It's not health care, foreign policy, education, privatization of the economy, or any policy. But at least for a few moments, Democratic primary voters saw a candidate who does not understand that 30 years is a long time, and one who does; one who was not prepared, and one who was; one who was passive, and one who is active, engaged, and goes for the jugular.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Deflection Election

Donald Trump is dishonest, bigoted, and ignorant (probably in that order) but he's an excellent strategist- and he's doing it again. You will be forgiven- not by me because only the Chosen One himself can forgive your sins- if you barely noticed

Russian hackers recently targeted the Ukrainian gas company that was at the center of President Trump's impeachment — and they succeeded in gaining access to its email accounts, according to California cybersecurity firm Area 1 Security.

The hackers are said to have infiltrated Burisma Holdings months after Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served on Burisma's board.

"What we've uncovered is that the same Russian cyber actors who targeted the [Democratic National Committee] in 2016 have been actively launching a phishing campaign against employees of Burisma Holdings and its subsidiaries, to try to steal their email usernames and passwords," Area 1 co-founder Oren Falkowitz tells NPR's Morning Edition.

So the GRU probably is screwing with our elections again, emboldened not only by the President himself but also by the other leaders of his cult, the GOP members of Congress, who have bagged election security while the media has been paying insufficient attention.

And you may not have noticed at all when a few months ago President Trump's State Department concluded its study of Hillary Clinton's private email server by declaring "there was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information;" nor that after a two-year investigation, the investigation by Trump's very own Justice Department into Hillary Clinton's activities evidently has "found nothing worth pursuing" and "has effectively ended with no tangible results."

Neither the ongoing Russian effort to subvert American democracy nor the exoneration of Hillary Clinton- three years after her opponent successfully branded her as "corrupt"- has been extensively covered because neither is a bright, shiny object.

Neither has much drama or any sex appeal. Instead, the past twenty-four hours have been dominated by a he said, she said tiff about whether Bernard Sanders told Elizabeth Warren that a woman can't be elected President.

Determining who said what- and the validity of whatever Sanders said to Warren- is up for grabs and really should not be the focus.  It is to keep your eyes on the prize, to put forward a credible, achievable progressive agenda, and to defeat the incumbent, a fake, phony, and fraud. 

This is made more difficult by pro-Sanders and pro-Warren supporters duking it out on Twitter, encouraged by a media more interested in exploiting minor differences in the Democratic Party than in examining Donald Trump's record and pattern of corruption.  President Clinton's Labor Secretary has the condensed version:

Donald Trump is a master of diversion. Instead of emphasizing his emasculation of the social safety net, passion forviolence, depth and breadth of prejudice, and effort to rig the next election cycle, the media and many supporters of the two progressive candidates are fighting over who said what and why at a meeting 13 months ago. Tonight in Des Moines, the candidates need to answer the bloodlust of the media (and probably of the questioners themselves) by noting the thoroughgoing failure of the Trump Administration. Additionally, it would help to turn the tables on the media for assisting Donald Trump in his strategy of diverting attention from substantive issues.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Forgive And Forget

Well, this was a damn (with apologies to One Million Moms) good retort:
Currently, polls indicate that against President Trump, Joe Biden would be the strongest candidate, followed by Sanders, then Warren, and Buttigieg. And nationwide polls of likely Democratic primary voters show Biden in first, followed by Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg.

That is not a coincidence. When a candidate looks like his is most likely to be nominated for a position, his/her place in surveys in a general election rise.

But it's impossible to determine  whether Bernard Sanders would defeat Donald J. Trump nor whether he would be the strongest candidate the Democratic Party could nominate. Nonetheless, it's clear that the President should hope and pray the Democratic candidate not be Elizabeth Warren.

Joe Biden, promoting bipartisanship for the 883rd time- in only the last year- has told MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid "I know you're one of the ones who thinks it's naïve to think we have to work together. The fact of the matter is, if we can't get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive. Zero."

He expects that consensus because "The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends."

In November, Pete Buttigieg, promoting bipartisanship only for the 683rd time, remarked "my campaign is about inclusion.... ’m reaching out to progressives. I’m reaching out to moderates. But I also know that there are a lot of what I like to call future former Republicans out there." 

The now-former mayor of the medium-sized city of South Bend, Indiana, still fairly new to national politics, has an excuse. The former US Senator and vice-president to Barack Obama does not. Neither does the individual currently Biden's main rival, who when asked by The New York Times about "the pardoning process" in a "discussion" conducted on December 3, 2019

I think many of the military leaders, past and present, were disgusted by that action. The United States, as a nation, we have historically held certain values: that we don’t torture, we don’t humiliate. We fight wars when necessary, but we have a standard of conduct. And when Trump pardons people who’ve been convicted of crimes, he sends a message to the whole U.S. military and to the world, so that our troops get captured in a war, God forbid, and they’re going to be tortured. And our enemies say, “Hey, what’s the problem? It’s exactly what you do. You set the standard. If you could do it, we can do it.”

So we’ve got to be a little bit better than that. And I support those people in the military who themselves understand that that is not what this country should be about.

Queried about the criteria for pardoning someone, the Vermont senator added

Well, I think in terms of war crimes, in terms of behavior of troops, there are standards that we have held for a long time, which are I would support. I mean it’s not for me to be judging every case, that we have a process that does that. But there are international standards and standards that this country has upheld and when there are individuals in the military who violate those standards, they should be punished, not pardoned.

One of Bernard's rivals should ask "if our soldiers who have committed crimes or betrayed the American people are punished and not pardoned, how about their Commander-in-Chief who obstructs Congress, obstructs justice, abuses his power, and attempts to bribe a foreign country so he can win an election?" (He did that as President, not as commander-in-chief, but never mind.)

Three paragraphs, thirteen sentences, approximately 190 words and Senator Sanders couldn't, or wouldn't, suggest that if he is elected, the gangster he would have unseated should be prosecuted and if convicted, serve his sentence. There must be no clemency, no pardon, nothing but the rule of the law and the quaint notion that no one is immune to the demands of the law.

By contrast, as early as ten months ago Elizabeth Warren maintained

Congress should make it clear that Presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice. And when I’m President, I’ll appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no President is shielded from criminal accountability.

Now, was that so hard? It is for Joe Biden and Pete Buttiegieg. But it should not be for Bernard Sanders, and for some reason it has been.  For a guy who has a reputation as a straight-shooter, it certainly is a mystery. Hopefully- given that he may get the nomination- he's not afraid of whatever President Trump might do or say to him if he implies that if the former is elected, the latter may end up in a yellow jumpsuit.

Alternatively, it may be fine that he is intimidated. Otherwise, he may simply believe that Donald J.Trump should get a free ride out of town than face a jury composed of the peers he is constantly betraying.

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

National Bank Of Trump?

Alex Pareene of The New Republic has an article up about the most popular governor in the USA, corrupt Republican Larry Hogan, who has made millions more than has anyone ever has while serving as  governor of Maryland.  While he "has advanced highway and road construction projects that directly boosted the value of land owned by his" real estate brokerage firm

The normalization of this sort of personal self-dealing has turned out to be one of the most successful political projects of our age; it has happened right under our noses. With Hogan, we can see clearly how the scheme works. But no one can credibly explain how Mitch McConnell’s wealth keeps increasing, or why Andrew Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission, or why Bob Menendez is still a senator, or why Democrats in Congress are only pretending to seek Trump’s tax returns while doggedly refusing to investigate his personal finances and business dealings.

The day before that article was published, Fox News televised Laura Ingraham's interview with Donald Trump, in which the President gave Democrats new cause to investigate his personal finances and business dealings.  Remarkably- but given this gangster's track record, not unbelievably- Trump stated (seen beginning at 13:23 of the video below)

I said to Saudi Arabia. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said "listen, you're a very rich country. You want more troops, I'm going to send them to you. But you've got to pay us." They're paying us. They've already deposited one billion dollars in the bank. We are going to help them but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us 500 million dollars. I said "you gotta help us along."

At best, Trump simply has made yet something else up out of whole cloth, his very fertile imagination. At second best, he is offering American soldiers as mercenaries and lifting up a "for sale, American foreign policy" sign.

However, he may be doing something a little different. We have learned that the President conflates the country with himself.  He is the USA; the USA is Donald Trump; Donald Trump is Jesus Christ. 

And so when this President says "they're paying us," it's foolhardy to assume that he means that the USA or any of its subdivisions has been paid.  He may be referring to Deutsche Bank or Professional Bank, the Coral Gables, Florida-based bank to which the President shifted some of his brokerage holdings when Deutsche Bank was asked for Trump financial records.

Riyadh (and Seoul) may be paying Donald Trump personally, albeit probably not directly with a bag of cash in some dark alley.  He already has been impressively successful in monetizing his presidency, yet is open to new and varied ways to profit from the American people or foreign nations.

If this is the case, Trump has accepted a bribe. If he did so on behalf of the US Treasury- if by "us" he means the federal government- it bears a striking resemblance to the bribe/extortion deal he tried to swing with Ukraine.

President Trump has been impeached for that (as well as for obstruction of Congress).   It seems that one political party would want to investigate whether he has done a similar thing by bribing, or extorting money from, a radical Islamist state supporting terrorism and murdering tens of thousands of Yemenis.  Or it would if Pareene is wrong and it actually is interested in the personal finances and business dealings, likely impeachable, of this President.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Now Or Never

As The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and David Farenthold report, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has issued a statement reading

Secretary Mnuchin came to me last year with a proposal to move the Secret Service to the Treasury Department. As part of that effort, I proposed that the cost of presidential travel be included for greater transparency, accountability and oversight associated with protection during travel of presidents and their families.

Feinstein meant a mere few months after Congress would approve the transfer. The Treasury Secretary, however, had a different timetable in mind and

in a Dec. 23 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mnuchin said he was strongly opposed to that earlier reporting requirement. Instead, he is seeking an annual report that begins in fiscal year 2021, releasing information in December 2020 at the earliest.

If you noticed that December 2020 is the month following the presidential election, you win the grand prize.  It's only a guess but Mnuchin's determination not to release the information till then might because

Since taking office, however, Trump has made more than 50 visits to his properties outside the Washington area, according to a tally kept by The Washington Post.

The government spent about $96 million on travel by Obama over eight years, according to documents obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. A report by the Government Accountability Office, which serves as the congressional watchdog on federal spending, estimated that Trump’s travel cost $13.6 million in just one month in early 2017. That total included the costs of travel for Secret Service and Defense Department personnel, and the costs of renting space and operating equipment such as boats and planes. If spending continued at that pace, Trump would have exceeded Obama’s total expenses before the end of his first year in office.

The extensive international business travel and vacations of his grown children, with Secret Service agents in tow, as well as the expense the Secret Service incurs to secure numerous Trump properties, have added to the agency’s financial strain, according to its budget requests.

Since their father was elected, Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. have made business trips to overseas locales including Ireland, Scotland, Dubai, Uruguay and India. In 2017, Eric Trump’s visit to a Trump building under construction in Uruguay cost taxpayers $97,000....

The White House has also declined to share information with the GAO about how much it spends to coordinate Trump’s travel.

It may be tempting for Senate Democrats to reach what they can sell to their members as a compromise, requiring the President of the United States of America to release full information beginning in 2021.  However, that temptation must be rigorously resisted.

Obviously, the public deserves, and needs to know, this information before voting takes place next fall and not only because if it does, the odds of defeating Donald Trump increase. 

If a Democrat is elected in November, 2020, all material required by law will be released.President Trump, however, would not permit the release of any but the most superficial and innocuous data. Although the Secret Service has not filed all required reports and delayed submitting subsequent reports, placing it under Mnuchin's control would eliminate almost any possibility a re-elected President Trump would allow any relevant reports to be released.

One clue is that Mnuchin wants the added responsibility and work, which is in part in order to protect the President who can fire him on a whim.

Additionally, if and when Donald Trump is re-elected, it's ballgame over.  In late November of 2016, he tweeted "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." That was a brazen lie, an easily refutable claim, in addition to his contention two months later "I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan." That was accurate, aside from the elections of 1988, 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. (Thank goodness for Bush the Younger!)

This is a fellow who will claim a mandate even if he again loses the popular vote and this time barely wins in the Electoral College. He and his supporters will boast that the President didn't release the information his enemies wanted him to do before the election, that it was clear he would never do so, and re-election affirms the voters' appreciation for that refusal.

Moreover, he is "the chosen one."  They will argue that Jesus Christ was denied, derided, and crucified for speaking the truth and doing as he knew was best, that God foreordained the election outcome, and that everything Trump does meets God's favor.

Of course, this line of illogic will apply not only to the administration's refusal to release financial information, whether required by law or not.  But Democrats should "just say no." If Donald J. Trump is re-elected, the information isn't coming out, and Democrats should boldly declare that if Republicans want to stonewall the American public, Steve Mnuchin can go pound sand.

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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...