Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Responding Passively



Dana Bash interviewed Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin on Sunday's edition of CNN's State of the Union.  Conceding "the White House response to this nothingburger has been slow-footed and dull," Charlie Pierce remarks

Into this manufactured melee have come some of the president's fellow Democrats. From the AP:

Biden should be “embarrassed by the situation,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, adding that the president had ceded the moral high ground on an issue that has already entangled former President Donald Trump. Special counsels appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland are investigating both cases. “Well, of course. Let’s be honest about it. When that information is found, it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it because it’s not supposed to happen. ... The elected official bears ultimate responsibility,” Durbin said.

"Ceded the moral high ground" implies that El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago now occupies a piece of that "moral high ground." The former president* hasn't been within an area code of any "moral high ground" since he took his first breath of air. Lord, why did you make Democrats so dim?

Truth be told, the Senator never stated (full transcript of segment below) that President Biden has "ceded the moral high ground." Bash asked him asked him whether the President "has kind of lost the high ground" and Durbin responded

Well, of course. Let's be honest about it. When that information is found, it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it, because it's not supposed to happen. Whether it was the fault of a staffer or attorney, it makes no difference. The elected official bears ultimate responsibility. And we have to worry, since this new group that has taken over control of the House of Representatives has promised us endless investigations, confrontations, impeachments and chaos, what is going to happen.

Still, Durbin did generally agree with the thrust of Bash's question and maintained "it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it." Durbin did get around to contrasting the responses of Donald Trump and of Joe Biden to discovery of documents, noting 

what happened and followed from it is significantly different. Donald Trump defied those who knew the documents were in place and ultimately led to, involuntarily, a court order and a search of his Mar-a-Lago hotel resort to find out how many documents were there.

Contrast that with Joe Biden. Embarrassed by the situation, as he should have been, he invited the government agencies in to carefully look through all the boxes he had accumulated. It's a much different approach.



That's not good enough. American voters aren't going to be impressed with Joe Biden cooperating with a Department of Justice and an FBI it no longer holds up in such high respect (in part due to Trumpy attacks).  It's a mere legal matter- except insofar as there was a motive for the former President to obstruct an investigation in contrast to the cooperation thus far demonstrated by the current President and former Vice President Pence, who has now reported the existence of documents in his Indianapolis home.

Since the Biden difficulties emerged, there has been no discussion and virtually no speculation about the reasons either possessed classified documents in insecure locations. That is the major distinction between Biden and Trump. No one suspects that Joe Biden squirreled away documents to barter with the Saudis, the Russians, or the North Koreans. But Donald Trump may have done so. No one suspects that Joe Biden is possessing them so that if he is indicted, he has collateral in negotiations with the Justice Department, state or city authorities. But Donald Trump may have done so.

Nonetheless, now the American people think that the only difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden played nice with the federal government. They believe this because Durbin and other Democrats have encouraged them to believe that. Democrats refuse to suggest nefarious motives on the part of Donald Trump, which virtually every Democrat and most independents believe characterize the former President.

And another thing- please stop with this "embarrassed" thing. In a fair and just world, this would account for something. Americans would appreciate their leaders recognizing their wrongdoing and feeling guilty about it. However, not only do people realize this is not a fair and just world, most voters of the left or the right, whatever their reasons, no longer believe this even of the USA. Not only does an admission of embarrassment come off as weak, it is a virtual   admission of guilt.

We have here a classic example of Democrats believing the press is their friend. Dana Bash plays a video clip of Durbin labeling the hoarding of documents at Mar-a-Lago "an outrage, a literal outrage," asks if Biden's behavior "was also an outrage," and the Senate's second leading Democrat replies "and its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump."  If media personalities suggest Joe Biden=Donald Trump, the question should be turned back on them.

The response of the two men been dramatically different, but the track record and  motives very likely are, also.  Some Democrats such as Dick Durbin much prefer to play defense rather than offense, to admit guilt, error, or embarrassment rather than focusing on their opponents. It's a defeatist media strategy and losing one.

 

 

 

And, Senator, I just should say sorry in advance if I have to interrupt you to go to that press conference. But we will go back.

And, while we are waiting, I want to turn to the new classified documents that the FBI found at the president's house in Delaware. It was a 13-hour search. That happened on Friday. It's just the latest revelation of the president having classified items that he shouldn't have.

You have been in Congress for 40 years. You have handled classified material for a lot of those years, probably most of them. How concerned are you about this?

DURBIN: Well, I'm concerned.

There's a standard that we follow when it comes to members of Congress and classified information. The door to my office is closed. The person who presents the document to me takes it out of a locked briefcase, hands it to me and watches as I read it, when I finish reading it, and he takes it back and puts it in the briefcase and leaves the scene.

I mean, that's how carefully we review these documents. To think that any of them ended up in boxes in storage one place or the other is just unacceptable.

But, having said that, let me make this point clear. Joe Biden has said from the start: We are going to be totally transparent about this. Let the chips fall where they may. I'm going to open my home voluntarily to a search, not the first search, I'm sure, of his offices and home.

He has shown total cooperation in this effort. That is a sharp contrast to President Trump.

BASH: Well, I want to -- speaking of former President Trump, I want to play something that you said last year about the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DURBIN: It's an outrage. It's a literal outrage. For the president to take this important information down to his home in Florida, and then store it in a closet with traffic, people back and forth in his resort and golf course, is an outrage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Is it also an outrage for the current president to have what appears to be multiple classified documents in multiple locations?

DURBIN: At its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

But what happened and followed from it is significantly different. Donald Trump defied those who knew the documents were in place and ultimately led to, involuntarily, a court order and a search of his Mar-a-Lago hotel resort to find out how many documents were there.

Contrast that with Joe Biden. Embarrassed by the situation, as he should have been, he invited the government agencies in to carefully look through all the boxes he had accumulated. It's a much different approach.

It is outrageous that either occurred. But the reaction by the former president and the current president could not be in sharper contrast.

BASH: They are. They're very different, no question about that.

Having said that, you are a politician. You have been around for a while, and you understand how these things play out. Do you fear that, because of that, the current president has kind of lost the high ground on this notion of classified information being where it shouldn't be?

DURBIN: Well, of course. Let's be honest about it.

When that information is found, it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it, because it's not supposed to happen. Whether it was the fault of a staffer or attorney, it makes no difference.

The elected official bears ultimate responsibility. And we have to worry, since this new group that has taken over control of the House of Representatives has promised us endless investigations, confrontations, impeachments and chaos, what is going to happen.

[09:15:00]

I only have one word for those who are dubious as to whether that will happen, and the word is Benghazi. How long did we spend going through Benghazi hearings in the Republican-controlled House in the past? Now imagine the MAGA Republicans and what they're setting out to do. I'm sure that they are going to have investigations to our heart's delight.

BASH: I want to turn to the debt ceiling, sir.

The White House insists they are not going to negotiate with Republicans who are demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit, so America doesn't default on its debt. Do you think the president should negotiate?

DURBIN: No, absolutely not.

Let's get to the bottom line here. Those who are posing for holy pictures as budget balances, the MAGA Republicans, should note one important fact. Almost 25 percent of all of the national debt accumulated over the history of the United States, 230 years, was accumulated during the four years of Donald Trump.

So, the notion that there is some partisan holy position that they're taking and that they're going to fight this battle of the matter of principle, when they enacted tax cuts for the wealthiest people of America during the Trump administration, they added dramatically to the national debt which we are now facing.

Having done that, they need to face the responsibility of paying for it. That is what the debt limit is about. And if we play games with this, if we delay this, if we have short-term extensions of the national debt, we run the very risk of a recession in this economy, millions of Americans out of work and interest rates going even higher, denying people an opportunity to buy a home or a car. And this economy will be stalled.

We shouldn't play games with the national debt.

BASH: When Joe Biden was vice president, I'm sure you remember, back in 2011, he was the lead negotiator on negotiations for spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

But you think -- you're saying you think it's different because of what happened during the Trump years?

DURBIN: I think it's different, not just because of the Trump years being the origin of much of this debt, but by the new House of Representatives, 15 ballots, Dana. You were there. You saw it, or at least witnessed it on television, 15 ballots to choose the speaker.

And he gave the authority to each member of the House to initiate a vote of no confidence on a daily basis. I mean, this is a House of Representatives which is under control of the MAGA Republicans at this point. And I'm fearful that very few constructive things will emerge.

BASH: Before I let you go. I have to ask about the Supreme Court. You are, of course, Senate Judiciary chairman.

You saw what happened at the court. They announced this week that they were unable to determine who leaked the draft decision overturning Roe vs. Wade last year. Clerks had -- and employees had to sign a sworn affidavit saying that they didn't leak the draft opinion.

The justices -- neither the justices nor their spouses actually had to sign affidavits. So, do you believe that that was a mistake? Should they have to do so to figure out where the leak comes -- came from?

DURBIN: Listen, the universe of people who are suspects in this leak of an opinion of the Supreme Court is really a small universe.

It includes the justices and their families, if they had access to this opinion, which I assume some of them did. They should have gone into the -- at least a position of assertions by each one of the justices as to what they did or did not do when it came to these opinions.

But I find it hard to imagine, with the small group of people who had access to this opinion, they couldn't come up with more information.

BASH: Are you going to try, in your capacity as Judiciary chair?

DURBIN: No, I don't think this is an area where we can go in with any kind of force and make for a changed result at this point.

BASH: OK. OK.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, thank you so much, and, I should say, the Senate whip. Thank you so much for joining me this morning. Appreciate it.

DURBIN: Thanks, Dana.




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