Follow-Up On “That Thing”

In a post yesterday about former FBI Director James Comey’s statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I focused on one question I would have asked Comey. It had to do with the last conversation Comey ever had with Tr-mp, on April 11, in which Tr-mp said:

Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.

I wrote yesterday:

…my attention was directed at Comey’s lack of interest, or curiosity, in what Tr-mp meant by “that thing.” That lack of curiosity to find out what Tr-mp meant seems very odd to me, especially in the context of  Tr-mp’s “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal” preface. Comey says he “did not reply or ask him what he meant.” Why? Why wouldn’t the FBI Director, who clearly by the time of this call was worried about interference from Tr-mp, not want to know what “that thing” meant?

Now, I watched the hearing for two and a half hours and after all that time no one had yet bothered to ask him anything about what I considered a crucial matter. It was crucial because, as I put it,

It appears to me Tr-mp was directly suggesting that he had some “understanding” with Comey or that he had been trying to obtain some understanding or that he wanted Comey to think he would tell others he in fact had such an understanding. In other words, Tr-mp may have been purposely suggesting that Comey had been compromised by all of their discussions or that he saw it that way and might tell others about it. So, why wouldn’t Comey, knowing he would document this very important conversation, want to get Tr-mp on the record about such a crucial matter? It could have been impeachment-worthy information. Wasn’t obstruction of justice ever on Comey’s mind?

Lo and behold, just when I had given up hope, at the end of the hearing the question about “that thing” was finally asked. Unfortunately, it was asked by John McCain, whose previous questions were, well, to put it kindly, unworthy of your drunk uncle, not to mention a U.S. Senator. In any case, McCain did ask about “that thing” and here are the relevant parts of how that went:

MCCAIN: …when the president said to you — you talked about the April 11th phone call, and he said, quote, “Because I’ve been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know,” did that arouse your curiosity as what, quote, “that thing” was?

COMEY: Yes.

MCCAIN: Why didn’t you ask him?

COMEY: It didn’t seem to me to be important for the conversation we were having, to understand it. I took it to be some — an effort to — to communicate to me this — that there is a relationship between us where I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me.

MCCAIN: Yeah, but I — I think it would intensely arouse my curiosity if the president of the United States said “We had that thing, you know” — I’d like to know what the hell that thing is, particularly if I’m the director of the FBI.

COMEY: Yeah, I — I get that, Senator. Honestly, I’ll tell you what — this is speculation, but what I concluded at the time is, in his memory, he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner, and was preparing himself to say, “I offered loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me,” and all of a sudden his memory showed him that did not happen, and I think he pulled up short.

That’s just a guess, but I — I — a lot of conversations with humans over the years.

MCCAIN: I think I would have had some curiosity if it had been about me, to be honest with you.

Okay. So, we now know why Comey didn’t bother to ask Tr-mp what “that thing” meant. It was because Comey was sure he already knew what it meant. He knew what Tr-mp was getting at:

I took it to be some — an effort to — to communicate to me this — that there is a relationship between us where I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me.

In other words, Comey believed Tr-mp thought the then-FBI Director was somehow compromised by their exchanges, by their “relationship.” Now, given that, given what Comey said in response to McCain’s question, if I were a Republican trying to defend the indefensible Tr-mp, I would use this against Comey. Why? Because it was clear from yesterday’s fascinating and historic testimony, that Comey believes Tr-mp committed, or ineptly tried to commit, obstruction of justice. That is why Comey engineered, through leaking his memo to the press, the establishment of a special prosecutor. And if I were a Republican, trying to undermine (as almost all of them shamefully were) this obvious conclusion from Comey’s testimony, I would have drilled Comey along these lines. If I were a coherent John McCain I would followed up with this:

COHERENT JOHN MCCAIN: If, Mr. Comey, you thought “that thing” was Tr-mp’s way of trying to “communicate” to you that there was a “I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me” relationship between you, and if you believed that Tr-mp was at least flirting with obstruction of justice, then why didn’t you simply ask him directly what “that thing” meant? Why didn’t you get him on the record, so that you could memoralize his answer?

You went to a lot of trouble today, Mr. Comey, to make Tr-mp look guilty of something, especially obstruction of justice, and you had your chance, when he talked about “that thing” in the context of loyalty, to really nail him down on what he meant. Don’t you think, as the leader of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, as someone who was clearly troubled by Tr-mp’s behavior, that you should have used your investigative instincts to draw more from Tr-mp at that moment? The fact that you didn’t bother to do that leads me to believe that you really didn’t take all that seriously the idea that Tr-mp meant to commit obstruction of justice, isn’t that right?

Obviously there was no coherent John McCain present yesterday, and obviously, if there were, I don’t know how Comey would have responded to such reasoning and such a question. But I do think Comey missed a perfect opportunity on April 11 to get Tr-mp to fire the gun of obstruction of justice right in front of him, if he had not just assumed (and I think assumed correctly) that he knew what Tr-mp meant and that Tr-mp’s actions had already amounted to an attempt at obstruction. (Incidentally, the obstruction of justice Image result for heavyweight fighter versus lightweightgun was fired with a firing, when, on May 9, just short of a month after their last talk, Tr-mp dismissed Comey in an awkward and cowardly way.)

All in all, Comey’s appearance and testimony, whether they will admit it publicly or not, rattled Republicans in Congress, at least those who aren’t cultishly tied to Agent Orange. It was a devastating counterpunch from a heavyweight fighter against an intellectually and morally malnourished kid who has no business being in the ring of leadership of our fragile democracy. And the fact that Tr-mp and his lawyer are now furiously trying to trash the integrity of James Comey proves that beyond any doubt.

That Thing

Appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers embarrassed themselves. Now that’s not new for those who choose to associate or stay associated with Tr-mp, but it was at times cringeworthy. And kind of sad to watch.

There was one good thing about their ridiculous refusal to answer the questions of aggressive Democrats (including Angus King, who was great) about the report in The Washington Post that Tr-mp tried to get the two intelligence chiefs to interfere in the Russia investigations. That one good thing was that through their refusal to answer, rather than deny the essence of the story, they did confirm that the Post got it right. Tr-mp did try to interfere. And how Coats and Rogers felt about it, as Senator King made clear, had nothing to do with it. Either Tr-mp tried to interfere or he didn’t, and now we know, through inference, that he did.

That leads me to a quick take on former FBI Director James Comey’s “Statement for the Record” that he submitted to the same Senate committee we saw in action today, prior to his testimony tomorrow. Since the statement has been released, there has been plenty of analysis of it. It’s generally a fairly damning document (and its early release by the committee will give members time to obtain more details from Comey), in terms of how much interference, sometimes with a wink and a nod, Tr-mp tried to inflict on Comey. But I just want to look at one thing that hasn’t got much, if any, attention in the statement.

When I first read the document, I focused on something I found odd. It comes at the end, when Comey is describing the last time he talked with Tr-mp. Here is the relevant part:

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

Now, first, it is obvious “the cloud” Tr-mp is speaking of is Tr-mp himself. He is the cloud that gets in the way of his ability to do his job. He simply doesn’t have the ability. But, second, my attention was directed at Comey’s lack of interest, or curiosity, in what Tr-mp meant by “that thing.” That lack of curiosity to find out what Tr-mp meant seems very odd to me, especially in the context of  Tr-mp’s “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal” preface. Comey says he “did not reply or ask him what he meant.” Why? Why wouldn’t the FBI Director, who clearly by the time of this call was worried about interference from Tr-mp, not want to know what “that thing” meant?

It appears to me Tr-mp was directly suggesting that he had some “understanding” with Comey or that he had been trying to obtain some understanding or that he wanted Comey to think he would tell others he in fact had such an understanding. In other words, Tr-mp may have been purposely suggesting that Comey had been compromised by all of their discussions or that he saw it that way and might tell others about it. So, why wouldn’t Comey, knowing he would document this very important conversation, want to get Tr-mp on the record about such a crucial matter? It could have been impeachment-worthy information. Wasn’t obstruction of justice ever on Comey’s mind?

I don’t know the answer to that question. But if I were on that committee tomorrow, I would ask him. It’s strange behavior to me. But I suppose, given what got us in this Tr-mpian nightmare, much of Comey’s behavior has been rather strange.

Some Hope In The Midst Of Despair Over Tr-mp’s Climate Stupidity And Cynicism

Scientific American.com had an excellent article (“Tr-mp Pulls Out of Paris: How Much Carbon Will His Policies Add to the Air?” that went into some detail, some of it technical, as to what the U.S.’s abdication of its position as the world’s leader in the fight against climate change may mean for the future (all done just so Tr-mp could please the worst of his cult followers). You can read the article for yourself, but essentially what the failure of leadership means in terms of carbon reduction goals is pretty much unknowable right now, mainly because no one knows what other policies—for instance, the possible “rollback of vehicle efficiency standards” and the possible relaxation of “regulations for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry” that is managed by the EPA (which is under the control of a climate change denier)—the Tr-mp administration may pursue in the future.

Tr-mp has already axed Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the centerpiece of which, according to SciAm, was the ambitious Clean Power Plan, which is held up in court (naturally) and which was specifically targeted for elimination in Tr-mp’s budget proposal, but because of the process of formal rulemaking, Tr-mp had to issue an executive order for the EPA to “review” the plan. But, come on, we know where that is going.

The SciAm article ended with words from David Keith, a physics and public policy professor at Harvard, and Noelle Selin, MIT’s associate director of its Technology and Policy Program. Admittedly, they don’t know as much about this subject as Tr-mp does, but here’s the concluding paragraph of the article with their views of what may happen:

Keith and Selin stress that policy reversals by the administration could undermine global goals beyond the U.S.’s own emissions. “Emissions reductions depend on cooperation,” Keith explains. Right now, China and India—two of the top greenhouse gas emitters—appear set to overachieve their Paris goals, according to the new report, largely because they seem likely to decrease their coal use sooner than predicted. But as it becomes clear the U.S. is not pushing for more ambitious climate actions, Selin notes, that may lead to other nations not meeting their targets. “That’s the real impact,” she says.

So, we end up with a fairly depressing picture. We aren’t leading the climate change parade anymore. We have to depend on others to do so.

But I don’t want to leave it there. I want to add something that I found a little more hopeful. It comes from a Twitter thread written by Ben Wikler, affiliated with MoveOn.org, a man whom Howard Dean once called “one of the smartest people under 35 in the entire country.” I will put Wikler’s thread in easy-to-read form:

I spent years of my life fighting for a global climate deal. Yesterday was crushing. Here’s why—and how I found perspective this morning.

First, to level-set: here’s how bad it is that Tr-mp is going to rip the United States out of Paris. In 2001, in college, I was lucky to meet John Kenneth Galbraith, who served 4 presidents & shaped 20th century liberalism. He was 93. He said the two existential threats to humanity that kept him awake at night were nuclear war and climate change. Nukes and climate. Tr-mp, of course, spikes up the risks from both. 

The Paris accord wasn’t going to solve climate overnight. But its core contribution was vital: it aligned the world. Yes, Paris targets were voluntary. But by jumping together—making simultaneous promises—the world’s nations made compliance more likely. Pulling out—abdicating leadership—not only hurts us (green jobs, world standing) but gives excuses to those opposing action elsewhere.

All of this while more and more signs (see: the unraveling Arctic) suggest the climate crisis is accelerating faster than predicted. The likely-case climate scenarios are now profoundly disruptive. The worst-case scenarios are nightmarish. Paris is structured so that worsening forecasts and greater willpower translate into more stringent targets… if countries don’t quit. 

Meanwhile, more subtly, every tear in the fragile fabric of the aspirationally-described “international community” raises other risks. When the world’s nations are bound together by mutual commitments that generate mutual benefits—even if those bindings are easily torn—we create safeguards against the relentless centrifugal forces that pull the world apart and can lead to catastrophic wars. That insight was central to the (US-led) creation of the post-WWII order. The UN, the international financial institutions, even the EU. Per : “Democracy, borders that are peaceful rather than armed and bloody—none of these things are natural states of being” (read: ).

Tr-mp’s attack on Paris isn’t strictly about climate change. It’s also a middle finger to the idea of an international order. None of this is to say that the global order is perfect, or even acceptably just. It’s not. The present global system is riddled with gaping injustices & inequity. It’s unsustainable. But many alternatives are far, far worse. Withdrawing from Paris correctly causes every other country to wonder what else about the global system is at risk. The less confidence in a stable global system, the more states look for other ways to defend themselves. Result: nuclear proliferation. And as more countries get nuclear weapons, more countries can fatally misread each other. The risk of nuclear war rises exponentially. 

So, yes: Tr-mp pulling out of Paris is really, seriously bad. But here’s the thing. This catastrophe didn’t happen yesterday. It happened on November 8, 2016, the day the United States ingested poison. Everything that has happened since Tr-mp’s election, and all that is likely to happen, is the poison working its way through the body. We woke up on November 9 in a different world with a darker future than the world in which we’d lived before. It’s an act of constant will to revise our expectations down without losing hope. To strive for “depressive realism” without depression. 

Consider how George W. Bush’s presidency ended: global economic meltdown, a catastrophic war of choice, Katrina. Now consider that W was obviously far better equipped—morally, temperamentally, intellectually—for the presidency than Tr-mp. You have to *expect* things to deteriorate much worse much faster under Tr-mp than they did under W. Recession, war, disaster. If you hold that dark expectation, & fight like hell to avert damage and win back power, you can be saddened by tragedy—but not shocked. Tr-mp said over and over in 2016 that he’d pull out of Paris. It’s horrible. But it became the likeliest outcome the moment he won. 

If Tr-mp promised something, don’t be shocked when he actually tries to do it. Here are 282 of his promises. Many of his promises were clearly nonsense or beyond his control. But the worst actual things that he can do unilaterally? Expect them. Expecting the worst and fighting for better—hope—is a decision. Optimism of will. A moral posture [read Josh Marshall’s “Observations on the Day After”]. Every ugly promise Tr-mp keeps should merely confirm your expectations. Every one we thwart: a cause for celebration. 

The courts, so far, have stopped the Muslim ban. The , so far, has slowed the assault on health care. Iran deal? Holding. Senseless, brutal deportations are up, but a mass deportation force is not yet rounding up millions. We haven’t started a major new war. Structures resilient so far. Executive branch appears to be obeying court orders. Congress isn’t handing Tr-mp vast new powers. 

Tr-mp’s election was a track-jump. Vast array of terrible outcomes ahead. They’ve just begun. Don’t be shocked as we slam into them. Each tragedy, emergency, or disaster that unfolds under Tr-mp will cause sorrow and pain, but it shouldn’t cause surprise—or despair. If you decided, in the days after Tr-mp was elected, to stay and fight, then no consequences of Tr-mp’s election should deter you. Indeed, the very reason so many millions of us rose up after Tr-mp won was that we could sense that these awful things were coming. 

So as the future you foresaw comes to pass in bits and pieces and jagged shards, don’t give up. Remind yourself that you predicted this. Reset your expectations back down. Grit your teeth. And then go out and raise your voice again. No matter how bad it gets, it could get worse. And it could get better. And you will play a role in determining which comes to pass. Yesterday was awful. No sense in sugarcoating. But don’t succumb to climate fatalism, Tr-mp fatalism—any fatalism. Get back up. Fight. Eyes open. Find perspective. This is the moment we’ve been given. Bad things will happen. Our choices are all we control.

Climate Change, Harry Truman, And Why My Parents Were Humphrey Democrats

As I’ve mentioned a few times over the years, despite my regrettable love affair with radical conservatism, my mom and dad were Hubert Humphrey Democrats. If you don’t know what that means, I’ll get to that shortly.

In the meantime, I want to note an appearance on CNN on Wednesday evening by Jake Sullivan, who was a senior policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, a Deputy Assistant to President Obama, and Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser. During his appearance with Wolf Blitzer, Sullivan discussed, among other things, Tr-mp’s reported plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement that was negotiated by the U.S. under President Obama. (For the record, Missouri’s Republican senator, Roy Blunt, is one of 22 deplorable Republican senators who begged Tr-mp to withdraw from the agreement that, as important as it is, represents only a start to addressing the devastating problem of climate change; so much for the “conserve” in conservatism.)

Earlier in the day, Nancy Pelosi said that Tr-mp’s apparent we’re-getting-out decision “is a stunning abdication of American leadership and a grave threat to our planet’s future.” Well, I don’t know how stunning it is. After all, Tr-mp is no leader and he has nothing to gain by sticking with the agreement, and we all know he is all about what is in it for him (the revelation that he may hand back to the Russians two compounds that Obama closed as punishment for interfering in the election of 2016 is only one disturbing example). Tr-mp couldn’t give a damn about what will happen to anyone else because of his stinging stupidity. But Pelosi was certainly right that a withdraw from the climate agreement certainly would represent “a grave threat to our planet’s future.”

During the segment with Blitzer, Jake Sullivan explained how important the agreement was and what it would mean to back away from it. Here’s the part of his remarks that reminded me of something that relates to my parents faith in Hubert Humphrey and the Democratic Party:

When did we become the country that lets China and Europe and others take the lead against a threat to our planet and our way of our life? That’s not the America that I know. It’s not the America of Ronald Reagan; it’s not the America of Harry Truman.

Ahh. Harry Truman. He was born in Lamar, Mo., 45 minutes from where I live. That mention by Sullivan made me think of something Truman said in an old speech, parts of which many of you are familiar with. But not many of you are familiar with when and where and with whom he said it. Before you read the words below, let me set the scene.

It was October 13, 1948. Truman was running for president in the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” election, the one which he, against the odds, bested Thomas Dewey, the Republican governor of New York. At the time, Hubert Humphrey— nicknamed the “Happy Warrior”—was the mayor of Minneapolis. Truman was in neighboring St. Paul Image result for hubert humphrey wins in 1948campaigning both for himself and for Humphrey, who was running for a seat in the United States Senate—which he won. Humphrey went on to become Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President and ran against, and should have defeated, Richard Nixon in 1968 (that’s another story; Humphrey was partly corrupted by Johnson, which hurt him among some Democrats on the left). Humphrey returned to the Senate in 1971 and served the people there until he passed away in 1978, a victim of cancer. Since then, he has become, as Rick Perlstein, writing for The New York Times, put it, “America’s Forgotten Liberal.

Humphrey, despite some later compromises in the service of Lyndon Johnson, was a major reason the Democratic Party became the party of civil rights. At the 1948 Democratic Convention, the 37-year-old Humphrey stood against segregationist Southern Democrats who threatened to leave if they didn’t get their way. He gave what Perlstein noted was “one of the greatest speeches in American political history.” Humphrey faced down the racists in his party and shouted:

To those who say this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights. I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.

Humphrey won that convention fight and the racists walked out and nominated Strom Thurmond for president on the States’ Rights Democratic Party ticket (Thurmond’s “Dixiecrats” gave him four states and 39 electoral votes in the Deep South in that election). If Democrats had lost that ’48 election, Humphrey would have shouldered a lot of the blame. As it turned out, a Truman win and Humphrey’s determination changed the party. It began the process of pushing out more than a century of racism from the Democratic Party. (Truman himself ended segregation in the military by Executive Order after the Democrats’ 1948 convention.)

Oddly, it’s not the New Deal-friendly Humphrey’s words I want to quote here. It’s Truman’s words at that event in St. Paul in the fall of 1948. And that’s because I think Truman’s words—aimed like a cruise missile at the Republican Party—summarized what my parents and other Democrats thought of the GOP. And I think his words back then help us understand why the Republican Party of today, which now includes Donald J. Tr-mp, does things like push for a deadly reactionary domestic agenda and reject the role of world leader regarding an existential threat like climate change. And because this is the Internet, I include the entire speech because I think it is so relevant to the times we live in. I encourage you to read it all:

Mr. Mayor, and fellow Democrats of Minnesota:

Tonight, I pay tribute to the liberal spirit of the people of Minnesota—in the cities, on the farms, in the forests, and in the iron country of this great State.

In this center of practical liberalism, I am proud to salute a fighting liberal–the next Senator from Minnesota, Mayor Humphrey of Minneapolis. I am also glad to greet the next Governor of Minnesota, Charles Halsted.

Through them, I salute the liberal and progressive forces of this whole region–the forces which are once again on the march against special privilege.

Before I say anything else, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the splendid record which was established by labor and management in Minnesota throughout the war years, and nobody knows any more about that than I do, for I made an investigation of it.

Through those long dark months of war never once was a blast furnace kept a single minute, because of lack of ore. Men who mined the ore and those who manned the trains and the ore boats worked day and night, Sundays and holidays, and there was no work stoppage.

This was also true of the thousands of loyal men and women who labored in your mills and on your farms, and in your foundries and in your forests.

On behalf of the Nation, I congratulate the working people of Minnesota on their splendid wartime performance.

In view of that record, it is all the more strange to me that your senior Senator showed such fanatic zeal in helping to push the shameful Taft-Hartley law through the Congress.

I’m afraid the same thing happened to Joe Ball that happens to most Republicans with a streak of liberalism when they get down to Washington. That’s what I call the “Potomac fever.”

The Republican Party either corrupts its liberals or it expels them. It drove out Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. It drove out fighting Bob LaFollette of Wisconsin in 1924.

It was the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt, not the Republican Party, that held out the hand of welcome to Floyd B. Olson, and to that hero of progressive idealism—George Norris of Nebraska.

And those liberals who have not been driven out of the Republican Party have been changed, like Joe Ball, from fighters on the people’s side to champions of reaction.

True liberalism is more than a matter of words. It demands more than sound effects. It cannot hide behind the catch phrases of the Republican candidate for President—catch phrases like “unity” and “efficiency.” Unity for what cause? Efficiency for what Purpose, I wonder?

The American people, in this critical year, are entitled to a full and open discussion of the issues. They are not getting it from the Republican candidate for President.

It is no service to the country to refuse, in the name of unity, to discuss the issues. It is no service to democracy to conceal the difference between the major parties.

Unity in a democracy cannot be produced by mealy-mouthed political speeches.

Unity on great issues comes only when the voice of the people has been heard so clearly, so strongly, so unmistakably, that no one–not even the second guessers–can doubt what the people mean.

Thomas Jefferson did not seek unity by concealing the real issues between himself and Alexander Hamilton. He made the issues clear, so that the people could reach a decision. And their decision determined that democracy rather than autocracy should prevail in this great country of ours.

Andrew Jackson did not seek unity with the moneymakers in Philadelphia. He made the issues so clear that the people decided to place the control of the money in the Government of the United States, and not in a few private banks.

Abraham Lincoln did not seek unity with Stephen A. Douglas. He made it clear that this Nation could not continue to exist half slave and half free.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1933, did not seek unity with the economic royalists. He proposed the New Deal.

Image result for dewey defeats trumanAnd today, I do not seek unity by concealing the issues between me and the special privilege groups that control the Republican Party.

I never will seek that sort of unity.

Real unity is behind basic principles and concrete programs. Real unity cannot be achieved without a definition of the issues, and a decision by the American people.

Our foreign policy is an example of this.

I had hoped that foreign policy would not become an issue in this campaign. To that end, I have refrained from taking partisan credit in campaign speeches for the policies which were organized by a Democratic administration, and which others are now claiming credit for so loudly today.

But I serve notice here and now that I shall feel at liberty to correct distortions and keep the record straight.

And when I do that, I shall be glad to give full credit for the significant contributions which have been made by some farsighted Republicans.

We have a large measure of unity in foreign policy now. But it was not always that way. We achieved this degree of unity, only after world-shaking events had made it clear that the vast majority of the people of the United States would no longer tolerate isolationism.

Now, we had no unity in foreign policy in the first national election after World War I. The Democratic candidate for President in that year stood clearly for the League of Nations, and for Woodrow Wilson’s idea of international cooperation.

But the Republican candidate, although he misled the people into believing that he stood for unity, was actually opposed to the League of Nations.

So, when the election was over, the people found themselves with a Republican administration and a Republican Congress that were completely unified—but unified in favor of the wrong policies.

And so the world started down the road to World War II.

We did not have unity in foreign policy in 1940. Even then, with half the world in flames, the Republican leaders were mainly isolationists. They were against aid to the democracies, and they called Roosevelt a warmonger.

The man who is now the Republican candidate for President said that the idea of producing 50,000 airplanes a year was fantastic. And we got to produce 100,000.

Even in 1944, in the midst of a great war, we did not have unity in matters relating to, foreign policy. During the election campaign in that year, the Republican candidate, who is now running once more, charged again and again that it was the administration’s arbitrary desire to keep men in the Army after the war was over. You all remember that.

He had so little foresight about postwar problems that he felt we could completely demobilize our military strength the minute that hostilities ended.

Now, as a matter of hindsight, he says, “me, too” about building up our Armed Forces.

The unity we have achieved in foreign policy required leadership. It was achieved by men—Republicans as well as Democrats—who were willing to fight for principles before these principles became obvious to everyone.

It was not achieved by the people who copied the answers down neatly after the teacher had written them on the blackboard.

Here again, as in so many other cases, the American people should consider the risk of entrusting their destiny to recent converts who now come along and say, “Me, too, but I can do it better.”

In the meantime, there are other issues in this campaign—big issues. All those issues cannot be hidden or brushed away by pretending they don’t exist.

The issue in this election is not unity. It is not efficiency.

Efficiency alone is not enough in government. Maybe the Wall Street Republicans are efficient. We remember that there never was such a gang of efficiency engineers in Washington, as there was under Herbert Hoover. We remember Mr. Hoover self was a great efficiency expert.

We remember how he selected one of the richest men in America to be his Secretary of the Treasury. But efficiency wasn’t enough 20 years ago, and efficiency isn’t enough today.

There must be life and hope in government. We must achieve and pioneer in the
great frontier of human rights and social justice.

Hitler learned that efficiency without justice is a vain thing.

Democracy does not work that way. Democracy is a matter of faith—a faith in the soul of man—a faith in human rights. That is the kind of faith that moves mountains—that’s the kind of faith that hurled the Iron Range at the Axis and shook the world at Hiroshima.

Faith is much more than efficiency. Faith gives value to all things. Without faith, the people perish.

Today the forces of liberalism face a crisis. The people of the United States must make a choice between two ways of living—a decision, which will affect us the rest of our lives and our children and our grandchildren after us.

On the other side, there is the Wall Street way of life and politics. Trust the leader! Let big business take care of prices and profits! Measure all things by money! That is the philosophy of the masters of the Republican Party.

Well, I have been studying the Republican Party for over 12 years at close hand in the Capital of the United States. And by this time, I have discovered where the Republicans stand on most of the major issues.

Since they won’t tell you themselves, I am going to tell you.

They approve of the American farmer—but they are willing to help him go broke.

They stand four-square for the American home—but not for housing.

They are strong for labor—but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.

They favor a minimum wage—the smaller the minimum the better.

They indorse educational opportunity for all—but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.

They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine—for people who can afford them.

They approve of Social Security benefits—so much so that they took them away from almost a million people.

They believe in international trade—so much so that they crippled our reciprocal trade program, and killed our International Wheat Agreement.

They favor the admission of displaced persons—but only within shameful racial and religious limitations.

They consider electric power a great blessing—but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

They say TVA is wonderful—but we ought never to try it again.

They condemn “cruelly high prices”—but fight to the death every effort to bring them down.

They think the American standard of living is a fine thing—so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.

And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.

Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way—there is another way—the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party.

Of course, the Democratic Party is not perfect. Nobody ever said it was. But the Democratic Party believes in the people. It believes in freedom and progress, and it is fighting for its beliefs right now.

In the Democratic Party, you won’t find the kind of unity where everybody thinks what the boss tells him to think, and nothing else.

But you will find an overriding purpose to work for the good of mankind. And you will find a program—a concrete, realistic, and practical program that is worth believing in and fighting for.

Now, I call on all liberals and progressives to stand up and be counted for democracy in this great battle. I call on the old Farmer-Labor Party, the old Wisconsin Progressives, the Non-Partisan Leaguers, and the New Dealers to stand up and be counted in this fight.

This is one fight you must get in, and get in with every ounce of strength you have. After November 2nd, it will be too late. It will do no good to change your mind on November 3rd. The decision is right here and now.

Against us we have the best propaganda campaign that money can buy.

But we are bound to win—and we are going to win, because we are right! I am here to tell you that in this fight, the people are with us.

With a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, you will have the right kind of unity in this country.

We will be unified once more on the great program of social advance, which the Democratic Party pioneered in 1933.

We will be unified in support of farm cooperatives, rural electrification, and soil conservation.

We will be unified behind a housing program.

We will be unified on the question of the rights of labor and collective bargaining.

We will be unified for the expansion of Social Security, the improvement of our educational system, and the expansion of medical aid.

Moreover, we will be unified in our efforts to preserve our prosperity and to spread its benefits equally to all groups in the Nation.

Now, my friends, with such unity as this, we can secure the blessings of freedom for ourselves and our children.

With such unity as this, we can fulfill our God-given responsibility in leading the world to a lasting peace.

If you’ve read this far, now you know what I mean when I say my parents were Humphrey Democrats. Harry Truman articulated a Humphrey-ish vision of America in 1948 that sounds both familiar today and very distant. It is up to us to make sure it becomes both familiar and nearer to our children and grandchildren than Tr-mp’s Republican Party’s vision is in these crucial times.

No Peace, As Long As Tr-mp Remains

Anson Burlingame, former blogger and current contributor to the Joplin Globe’s editorial page (as a concerned conservative citizen), wrote a response to my post about Paul Ryan being “The Most Corrupt Man in America.” Here it is in full:

Duane,

I note that only a few, three actually, have commented on your last three blogs, all three just more rants of everything wrong with Trump. No reason for me as the lone conservative to comment as your only solutions offered are to impeach and remove from office Trump, “unpresident” Pence, and imply the same path must be taken with the third man in line for the Presidency, the “most corrupt man in America”. In other words clean house and restore government to single party power, your party. My column in Sunday’s Globe was my response to you and yours.

In the meantime I have now been introduced to three ideas that offer insight into American politics today. The first is McMaster’s book, Dereliction of Duty. What happened related to Vietnam after JFK’s death is still going on today, particularly during the Bush/Obama Years. Read the book to get my gist.

Second is the new Netflick movie, War Machine, a glimpse at the McCrystal months in Afganistan.

Finally is a new initiative called Poverty Inc., new to me at least. If one watches the video (PBS) and considers how our local Water Gardens program tries to help the poor (teach a man to fish, not just giving away free fish) you see a counter argument to the way the world tries to deal with, say, poverty in Africa, today.

The information provided on all three “things”, how we screwed up in Vietnam, big time, why McCrystal (and everyone else commanding our military (starting with two different Commanders in Chief) in that sad affair called Afghanistan) failed and why current efforts related to world poverty are failing are all ideas that need exploring, today, again.

In the meantime, all you contribute to those issues is wait 2-4 years, clean house and start again to screw it all up, again!!

My point is America will not make headway against complex issues as long was we try to govern with Hatfield’s and McCoy’s in charge, one or the other.

Anson

I haven’t had time lately to answer too many of the comments posted on this blog, but I quickly wrote the following response in reply to Anson, and I post it here because I think you all need to be reminded as to why I am so fixated on the damage Tr-mp is doing to the country and to our interests around the world. It’s not just a matter of Republicans versus Democrats, liberals versus conservatives; it’s not just a matter of me wanting my party, the Democratic Party, to rule:

Anson,

While I appreciate the fact that you are willing to explore what are new ideas for you, I don’t see what any of them have to do with our present dilemma. McMaster’s book on Vietnam is an elaborate detailing of what we already knew (I have written at least twice about Johnson’s colossal mistake of escalating that war for bullshit reasons). War Machine is a look at what anyone can see is a difficult problem in Afghanistan, considering the complications involved (how many times have we discussed that on this blog?). And the “Water Gardens” idea is not a new one, (I have written about it—quite critically—at least once or twice now and maybe more).

You continue, though, to ignore the dangerous situation Tr-mp’s “presidency” is putting us in, in terms of U.S. strength, both moral and political, in the world and what losing that strength can and probably will mean. As I recall, you were quite critical of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy (whatever that was supposed to mean) and other aspects of his international leadership or, in your case, his lack of it. Now, all of a sudden, world affairs and how the U.S.’s role in them is quickly diminishing—we are in fact becoming a laughingstock—is secondary to some new or newly expressed or newly valued notion of yours that we need to make peace between the Hatfields and McCoys.

Well. I will not make peace with people who think Tr-mp is the cure for whatever is making us sick. Why? Because Tr-mpism itself, which predates Tr-mp, is the disease. I have laid it out before: changing FCC rules on equal time led to Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio, which began the whole “fake news” bullshit. That led to Fox “News,” which televised the same bullshit. Drudge and Breitbart on the Internet was another form of the same destructive bullshit. And now, voilà, we have the bullshitter-in-chief. No surprise. He didn’t spring from a vacuum. He sprang from a shallow pool of know-nothings, people in the conservative media complex who figured out how to monetize the deprecation of real journalism in favor of a web of misinformation and lies.

So, no. I will not make peace with such people. We are surely in a slow-moving, non-shooting civil war in this country. Just as Lincoln figured out there was no peace-making with people who not only valued slavery as an institution, but valued it over their own goddamned country, so have I figured that out. Until Tr-mp and Pence are gone, and until Tr-mpism is pushed back (it will never die, as the Civil War and its aftermath has taught us), you will get no peace from me, in terms of a willingness to compromise with people who think Tr-mp and his behavior are good for the country—and, unfortunately, that includes most Republicans. And, quite unfortunately, that includes people like H.R. McMaster, who once enjoyed well-deserved sterling reputations, but now find themselves corrupted by Tr-mp.

Duane

Betraying America Versus The Agenda

Several hours ago, Tr-mp, who is destroying American credibility in the world faster than even I imagined he could, tweeted the following:

Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.

Obviously, Tr-mp is obsessed with the Russia scandal he and his cronies and his relatives are trapped in. But his obsession is not shared by all Republicans. In fact, it doesn’t appear to me that Republicans really give a damn about it. There are a few here and there who express some concern, but mostly the Republican attitude is what I heard this morning from the lips of a Republican strategist named Jason Osborne, who worked for both Ben Carson and Tr-mp. He said, “The Russia investigation is all a bunch of noise,” with the purpose of disrupting the Republican agenda in Congress. “There’s no story here, as far as I can tell,” Osborne said, “Nobody has said anything that there’s illegalities that have been committed.”

Well, since I’ve grown tired of saying it myself (7/27/2016, anyone?), I’ll allow David Corn, of Mother Jones, to say it: “We Already Know Tr-mp Betrayed America.” That piece details all the reasons why it doesn’t matter, in terms of what Americans should think about what happened, whether “explicit collusion” or Osborne’s “illegalities” are ever found in any of the Tr-mp-Russia investigations. As Corn says:

Tr-mp actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight.

You hear a lot of chatter on television about how much “smoke” there is around this whole Tr-mp-Russia thing, but it ain’t just smoke. Corn ends his piece with this:

This country needs a thorough and public investigation to sort out how the Russian operation worked, how US intelligence and the Obama administration responded, and how Tr-mp and his associates interacted with Russia and WikiLeaks. But whatever happened out of public view, the existing record is already conclusively shameful. Tr-mp and his crew were active enablers of Putin’s operation to subvert an American election. That is fire, not smoke. That is scandal enough.

Well, that should be scandal enough. But with an ethically bankrupt Republican Party in charge of Congress, the fact that Tr-mp and his team enabled the Russian plot to undermine our election isn’t scandal enough. All that matters is The Agenda. That nasty, cruel, deadly, billionaire-friendly policy agenda slowly making its way through Congress. Enacting into law that legislative mix of malice and selfishness and ideological insanity is the reason why the immoral or amoral nature of leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are on display for all to see, for all who want to see.

Just a while ago, Tr-mp, knowing how much The Agenda means to the twisted ideologues in the Republican Party, tweeted out the following:

The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!

“TAX CUTS.” Tr-mp, being an unprincipled person himself, understands enough about his fellow unprincipled Republicans in Congress to shout TAX CUTS to them. That’s the Image result for tax cutsgravy. Tr-mp knows that’s what Republicans believe is worth selling their thin souls for. TAX CUTS for their wealthy friends, their wealthy donors, the people they admire most in the world.

Tr-mp reveals a lot about himself in his tweets. And in this one, shouting TAX CUTS, he reveals what he knows about Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and most of the rest of the Republican Party: there is nothing more important to them than TAX CUTS. Not the Constitution. Not America’s standing in the world. Not Tr-mp and his family enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And certainly not Tr-mp’s open betrayal of America by his official or unofficial collusion with Vladmir Putin and his Russian friends. Nothing.

Nothing but TAX CUTS.

The Most Corrupt Man In America

Nope. It’s not him. It’s not Tr-mp. It’s this guy:

Image result for paul ryan

Paul Ryan is the most corrupt man in the country. And it’s not even close. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Tr-mp is corrupt, no doubt. Tr-mp is a con man. He is a bullshitter. He is a liar. He is a money-grubbing narcissist. And he is embarrassing the United States and threatening our national security and undermining our democratic institutions. All that is absolutely true. But Tr-mp embarrasses the nation, he threatens our security, he undermines our democracy because Paul Ryan makes it possible. Paul Ryan is normalizing Tr-mpism. And he is doing it all in service to his Ayn Randian vision for the country: the Gospel of Greed.

Controversial: Tuesday's New York Post coverPerhaps you remember a story from 2012 in which a freelance photographer for the New York Post snapped a photo of a subway rider who had been pushed onto the tracks by another man. The photographer, knowing the train was moments away from killing the unfortunate rider, did what he was paid to do. He took a picture. His instincts were not to help the man or even urge others to help him. His instincts, which revealed his character, were to aim and shoot. The man on the tracks was killed by the train. Police said the man was on the tracks for more than a minute before the train passed by. There was plenty of time for someone, anyone, to help him up. But no one did.

In our times, in our dangerous times as a democracy, Paul Ryan is the political equivalent of that photographer and the others there who refused to help save that “doomed” man that day.

Greg Gianforte, a rich Republican Tr-mpthug pretending to be a Good Christian Man, won his election last night in Montana. The money it took to win that House seat was staggering and, as Roll Call pointed out, almost 90% of the outside money spent was spent on behalf of the Tr-mpthug. Roll Call says:

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC backed by House GOP leadership, has been the biggest spender in this race, dropping about $2.7 million.

Think about that. House GOP leadership dropped almost 3 million bucks on behalf of the thug. And House GOP leadership is led by Paul Ryan. He couldn’t afford to lose even one seat as he searches for a way to bring to reality is Randian vision.

When Ryan was asked yesterday what he thought about Gianforte physically assaulting a journalist for asking a policy question, the Speaker of the House, who always plays the Boy Scout, said it “was wrong and should not have happened.” He then said,

Should the gentleman apologize? Yes. He should apologize.

Whoopee. The “gentleman” should say he’s sorry. Not go to jail. Not step aside. Just say, “Oops!” and all will be forgotten. And Ryan indicated he would have no problem seating the Tr-mpthug if he won the election.

Well, he did win, of course. There was really no doubt about whether he would. The Cult of Tr-mpism is very much alive in some parts of the country. And assaulting a “liberal” journalist only helped Gianforte among the faithful, including the faithful conservative media, which is why he waited to apologize until after he won. Charlie Sykes, once a right-wing radio guy who is anti-Tr-mp now (and an analyst on MSNBC), confessed in The New York Times last December:

The conservative media is broken and the conservative movement deeply compromised.

Sykes talked about how he thought he “had a relatively solid grasp on what conservatism stood for and where it was going.” He mentioned how he “helped advance the careers of conservatives like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan” and Reince Priebus. He said he thought “conservatives actually believed things about free trade, balanced budgets, character and respect for constitutional rights.” Then came Tr-mp. And as Sykes pointed out, “even Mr. Ryan” figured out that “neutrality was not acceptable; if you were not for Mr. Tr-mp, then you were for Mrs. Clinton.”

Read carefully the following passage written by Sykes—again, a conservative Republican and former radio guy who has not been corrupted by Tr-mpism:

How had we gotten here?

One staple of every radio talk show was, of course, the bias of the mainstream media. This was, indeed, a target-rich environment. But as we learned this year, we had succeeded in persuading our audiences to ignore and discount any information from the mainstream media. Over time, we’d succeeded in delegitimizing the media altogether — all the normal guideposts were down, the referees discredited.

That left a void that we conservatives failed to fill. For years, we ignored the birthers, the racists, the truthers and other conspiracy theorists who indulged fantasies of Mr. Obama’s secret Muslim plot to subvert Christendom, or who peddled baseless tales of Mrs. Clinton’s murder victims. Rather than confront the purveyors of such disinformation, we changed the channel because, after all, they were our allies, whose quirks could be allowed or at least ignored.

We destroyed our own immunity to fake news, while empowering the worst and most reckless voices on the right.

This was not mere naïveté. It was also a moral failure, one that now lies at the heart of the conservative movement even in its moment of apparent electoral triumph. Now that the election is over, don’t expect any profiles in courage from the Republican Party pushing back against those trends; the gravitational pull of our binary politics is too strong.

I’m only glad I’m not going to be a part of it anymore.

“A moral failure,” says Sykes. He’s not just talking about Tr-mp and his cultish followers, many of whom have publicly praised what the gazillionaire Gianforte did to that reporter in Montana. Sykes is also talking about conservative “leaders” like Paul Ryan, who, if he wanted to, could today take a stand against Tr-mpism. He could, if he cared to help save us from the damage Tr-mp is doing to our democracy, begin to end the madness that is Tr-mp’s illegitimate presidency. He could lead the move to impeach Agent Orange and pass the job of convicting him over to the Senate, where the second most corrupt man in America, Mitch McConnell, would have to take it up.

But he won’t. What he will do is continue pursuing his policy agenda, a corrupt agenda that will literally kill Americans with its budget- and tax-cutting cruelty. Paul Ryan’s campaign spokesman demonstrated as much early this morning by offering the victorious Tr-mpthug from Montana Ryan’s congratulations:

Elections are about choices and Montanans made their choice—selecting Greg Gianforte to represent them in Congress. Rep.-elect Gianforte is an outsider with real-world experience creating jobs in Montana. He will bring that experience to Congress, where he will be a valuable voice in the House Republican Conference.

That’s the way Ryan sees assholes like Greg Gianforte and Donald Tr-mp. They are “valuable” resources for the reactionary transformation of America into a selfish, Randian Republic, one in which the sick, the poor, the disabled, and the working class will suffer, so that the Gianfortes and Tr-mps can get tax cuts, so that the unprincipled can continue to prosper, so that the rich can continue to rule.

And that is why Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, is the most corrupt man in America.

Puzzle In A Box

Most of us have spent some time putting together jigsaw puzzles. We open the box and scramble the pieces all over the table and then proceed to figure out how they all fit together to make the picture on the box. Investigative reporters also put together puzzles—but without the picture on the box. They start in one place and often end up in a completely different place. They sometimes start with one picture in mind and when they are done a different picture emerges. The best reporters find and follow the facts, often supplied by leakers doing what they think is their patriotic duty.

Since Tr-mp was illegitimately elected in November, a lot of reporters have been busy, day after day, finding and following facts, trying to piece together a puzzle: How did we end up with Tr-mp in the White’s House? How significant was the role the Russians played to help him? How much direct collaboration (we know there was plenty of indirect collaboration) was there between Tr-mp, or people associated with his campaign, and the Russians? How are Tr-mp’s business dealings involved in all of it? Why did FBI Director James Comey very publicly criticize Hillary Clinton last summer and keep silent about an investigation into whether Tr-mp’s campaign colluded with Russia? And on and on. Pieces of that puzzle are being reported day after day. We are learning more and more with every leak, with every distressing and depressing fact being exposed. (The latest report, that James Comey may have been fooled by a phony document produced by the Russians is, well, Image result for trump jigsaw puzzlesickening.)

While it may be somewhat puzzling how Tr-mp ended up where he is, what is not puzzling is what he has done and is doing to the country. Many of us knew what Tr-mp’s America would look like once he got his hands on power. We had the picture on the puzzle box.

As you all know by now, a Republican candidate— a rich guy running to represent Montana in the United States House of Representatives for God’s sake grabbed a British journalist by the neck and body-slammed him on the eve of a special election. He then punched him while he was on the ground. The assault occurred after the reporter persisted in asking a question about the GOP millionaire’s position on the party’s “health care” bill that the CBO scored again yesterday. The candidate, Greg Gianforte, did not want to answer the question on the night before the election, and the reporter, doing his job, thought voters should know the candidate’s position before they voted, not after. Violence was Gianforte’s response and then his campaign lied about the incident, blaming it, predictably, on the “liberal” reporter being too aggressive by “asking badgering questions.”

The Tr-mp supporting millionaire, a phony Focus on the Family-type Christian warrior who thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, has a history of threatening reporters. In April, the Billings Gazette reported what Gianforte said “at a meeting hosted by a constitutional Christian group”:

…during questions at the end of his talk, Gianforte took one from a man who said: “Our biggest enemy is the news media. How can we rein in the news media?”

The man then looked at the Ravalli Republic reporter sitting next to him and raised his hands as if he would like to wring his neck.

Gianforte smiled and pointed at the reporter.

“We have someone right here,” the candidate said. “It seems like there is more of us than there is of him…

This stuff isn’t happening in a vacuum. Conservatives have attacked the “liberal media” as long as I can remember. I used to be one of those conservatives. I listened for years as Rush Limbaugh called the press the “drive-by media.” Right-wing talkers on the radio and television and on the Internet make a lucrative living demonizing legitimate journalism and replacing it with false or misleading stories. That’s part of the reason why we have Tr-mp. And we all know how Tr-mp, a rabid consumer of Fox “News,” has treated the press both during the campaign and after assuming office. In February he said: 

The FAKE NEWS media…is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! SICK!

Now you understand why that questioner in Montana, standing in front of Greg Gianforte in April, prefaced his question with, “Our biggest enemy is the news media.” This stuff is cultivated. It is done for a purpose. People like Rush Limbaugh do it for money. People like Tr-mp and Gianforte do it for power. Whatever the reason, it is dangerous. Because of it, America, values and all, is disintegrating before our eyes.

One final example of how Tr-mpism—which, oddly, pre-dates Tr-mp’s rise to power—is damaging our democracy, perhaps beyond repair:

A 27-year-old employee of the Democratic National Committee, Seth Rich, was shot and killed last July in Washington, D.C. The police are still trying to solve the crime. But many in the right-wing media, including Fox “News,” thought they had it figured out. Their various conspiracy theories involved the idea that Rich was the one who leaked to Wikileaks the infamous DNC emails that helped pollute the political campaign of Hillary Clinton and elect Tr-mp. The conspiracists posited that Rich was leaking in order to expose the corruption at the DNC and was murdered for doing so. And, of course, the conspiracists alleged that the D.C. police and the FBI acted to hide the fact that Rich was killed because he was the leaker and not the Russians, thus dissociating Tr-mp and his campaign from Putin’s efforts to muck up our democracy and saddle us with a big-mouthed buffoon who can’t keep quiet about the nation’s top secrets.

Of course, as Snopes points out in detail, the right-wing attempt to un-smear Tr-mp by smearing Seth Rich, the D.C. police, the FBI, and the entire Intelligence Community who asserted that the Russians did the dirty deed, is all fiction. Even Fox “News” had to retract the story, although its fading star, Sean Hannity, still promotes it, despite pleas from Rich’s family to stop. Hannity tweeted on Tuesday in true Tr-mp-speak:

Ok TO BE CLEAR, I am closer to the TRUTH than ever. Not only am I not stopping, I am working harder. Updates when available. Stay tuned!

Despite the fact that numerous fact-checkers and news outlets have debunked this nonsense, Hannity continues. But that’s what he does. That’s how he got wealthy and he isn’t going to stop until Fox executives stop him, after advertisers start abandoning him like they did Bill O’Reilly. But elected officials ought to know better. Elected officials ought to be better than a liar like Hannity. But many of them are not. Many right-wing Republicans in Congress repeat this type of trash in one way or another. That’s what happened yesterday morning on CNN, when a Texas congressman named Blake Farenthold alluded to the Rich conspiracy theory during an interview with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. Here’s CNN’s transcript of the exchange:

FARENTHOLD: “My fear is our constant focusing on the Russians is deflecting away for some other things that we need to be investigating. There’s still some question as farenthold on cnnto whether the intrusion of the DNC server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.”

BERMAN: “What evidence — I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The insider job, what are you referring to here? Because I hope it’s not this information that Fox News just refused to be reporting.”

FAHRENTHOLD: “Again, there’s stuff circulating on the internet.”

BERMAN: “What’s circulating on the internet that you think is worthy of a congressional investigation? Because the DC police are investigating this, and so far they haven’t said there’s any there there.”

FARENTHOLD: “Yet the DC police nor no federal investigator has ever had a look at the DNC computer. We’re relying only on the report that someone that the DNC contracted to examine their computer rather than having federal officials. To me, we need to let the feds look at it.”

I want to quote at length CNN’s Chris Cillizza on Farenthold’s appearance and what it means:

To believe what Farenthold is saying, you have to believe that Rich’s family is in on the “inside job” DNC hack. Which, on its face, is ridiculous.

As an aside, Farenthold also appears to equate his conspiracy theory spinning with the news media’s use of anonymous sources, despite the fact former CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday at a public congressional hearing that he’d seen evidence of contact between Russians and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“I think the same is true with what the media is doing with Trump,” Farenthold told CNN. “We’re basing allegations on anonymous sources.”

The problem with what Farenthold — and Hannity — are doing is that by acting as though this is some sort of grand conspiracy theory with real evidence supporting it gives cover and fodder to the Internet kook crowd who believe that the DNC is evil and of course they would murder a leaker in their ranks.

What that forgets is this: Two parents lost a son. Someone lost their brother. That’s hard enough. To watch his death transformed into a political football must be excruciating.

Yes. And it is excruciating to watch, day after day, American democracy, and the values once embedded in it, die a slow death at the hands of people who can’t find it within themselves to condemn crazy conspiracy theories or, when it matters, condemn what a Montana millionaire running for Congress did yesterday to a journalist merely doing his job. As I write this, not one Republican in Congress has bothered to say the obvious: that a candidate who beats up a reporter for asking him a question is unworthy to hold any office, much less sit in the People’s House. But in the age of Tr-mpism, the People’s House isn’t what it used to be. Some of what has happened to our country is puzzling, that’s for sure. But some of it is as predictable as a puzzle in a box.

Remarks And Asides, 5/18/2017

I just heard Tr-mp say, during a tiny press conference, that “We don’t have healthcare in this country.” Damn. We’re going down faster than even I thought we would. All the doctors and nurses have fled the country!

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Trump also said there was no collusion with the Russians, but that he could only speak for himself. Since he has a spotless record of speaking for himself so truthfully, why don’t we just drop the whole thing and move on? Tax cuts for the rich, anyone?

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Roger Ailes is dead. May he rest in fair and balanced peace, much like the fair and balanced journalism and sexual assault he oversaw at Fox. In other words, he’d better hope there is no hell.

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Now we finally have a special counsel appointed who will, hopefully, figure out how many Tr-mpers were involved, besides Tr-mp himself, with the Russians during last year’s election. Tr-mp, on cue, tweeted: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” During his short press conference today, he reiterated that claim. I never really thought about it in those terms, but it could be Tr-mp is a witch, since he cast a strange spell over 46% of the electorate and has given Republican Party leadership magical herbs and potions such that they don’t care how his dark arts are darkening our democracy. In any case, here’s to Robert Mueller exposing the Russian-friendly coven and the big, bad Orange Witch that leads it!

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Oh, for the record. The theme on cable news yesterday seemed to be that Democrats were “over their skis” on impeachment talk. Even many Democrats said there is not enough evidence yet to speculate about that. I continue to remind you that the Emoluments Clause is being violated every single day and Tr-mp should be impeached for that. I don’t know why Democrats refuse to talk about emoluments anymore, but then they are Democrats. They seem to only be able to juggle one ball at a time. But not me. Emoluments! (There is even a twist to the story; he may be violating “a different emoluments clause, one that specifically bars him from receiving money or gifts above and beyond his mandated salary from governments right here at home.”)

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Speaking of the coven, how ’bout this:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

If you remember, and it is hard to keep track, the folks at the White’s House denied there were any contacts at all with the Ruskies during the campaign, let alone 18 of them from April through November. Now, why would patriotic Americans like those associated with Tr-mp want to spend so much time talking to our nasty adversaries? Stay tuned. When the witches involved get tied to the special counsel’s stake, they may start talking.

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Image result for pillow fightOh, speaking of Michael Flynn, he is so far refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But don’t worry. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is all over this. He might seek a contempt of Congress vote against Flynn or he might hit him with a feather pillow. My money is on the pillow-slap.

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In case you missed it, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape (those damned tapes!) just a month before Agent Orange cast his final spell on the Republican electorate during the primary last year and clinched the nomination. McCarthy said:

There’s two people I think Putin pays. Rohrabacher and Tr-mp.

Dana Rohrabacher is a congressman from California who thinks his district extends all the way to Moscow. He’s a very Putin and Russia friendly guy. Tr-mp, of course, is the guy whose unseemly-shaped mouth is, according to at least one pundit, a holster for Putin’s pocket rocket. McCarthy didn’t say exactly why Putin would pay Tr-mp for such services, since, obviously, Tr-mp would gladly perform them for free.

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Image result for toby keithSpeaking of performing for free, the godawful Toby Keith will hook up with Tr-mp in Saudi Arabia and perform a men-only concert for those dangerous Muslims who abide by strict Islamic law. Apparently, the Tr-mp team doesn’t think American prestige around the world has suffered enough, so, since Ted Nugent was busy molesting a 13-year-old assault rifle, they got the next best act available that could embarrass the country abroad. No word in yet on whether the godawful Keith will do his great American classic, “I Like Girls That Drink Beer.” One thing we know for sure: there will be no pussy grabbing at that concert. Tr-mp will have to wait for the post-performance party.

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Speaking of people who embarrass the country, there is a report out there that we will see less of Sean Spicer. And just when he was getting the hang of lying and whining in a more friendly manner. Darn.

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Speaking of lying and whining, Tr-mp said yesterday to a group of Coast Guard graduates:

Image result for abraham lincoln shotLook at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.

Abraham Lincoln could not be reached for comment.

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In the I’m-just-trying-to-cheer-you-up category, I offer the musings of Tony Schwartz, who actually wrote The Art of the Deal and helped make Tr-mp infamous. Schwartz thinks Tr-mp is “in a pretty significant meltdown” right now and will not go through any impeachment process. “I surely believe that at some point over the next period of time he’s going to have to figure out a way to resign,” he said. Okay. Now back to the bad news.

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Joe Lieberman is, according to CNN, the “front-runner for FBI director.” Oh, my. The former Democratic senator from Connecticut (he had to run as an independent to keep his senate seat in 2006) once was the party’s nominee for Vice President way back in 2000, the year the Supreme Court was handing the presidency to another guy who lost the popular vote. Then Lieberman fell in love with John McCain and backed him against the Scary Negro in 2008. Then he helped ruin the construction of Obamacare. Then he retired to make a lot of money in the private sector. Now, he is back and, apparently, ready to keep the Orange Witch from being burned at the stake.

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Finally, there is “first I heard of it” Mike Pence. You may remember him. He was the white-haired guy running with the broad-shouldered guy for high office last year. Oh, and he lied a lot just like his running mate did. Well, those two “won.” And they hired a guy named Michael Flynn, who had been chanting “lock her up” at Tr-mp campaign rallies, to be our National Security Adviser. A real class act. Anyway, people keep saying Michael Flynn was eventually fired for “lying” to Pence about Flynn’s ties to Turkey and other sins. People keep saying that but those people don’t have any evidence for it other than Pence’s word that he knew nothing and that Flynn lied to him. But as head of Tr-mp’s transition team, Pence had to know something. Why assume Pence wasn’t lying when he vouched for Flynn?

Then there were the multiple lies Pence told about why Tr-mp fired FBI Director Comey. It was because of the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Pence said over and over and over. Then Tr-mp contradicted him and said he would have fired Comey no matter what anyone, even God, said about it. Uh-oh. I don’t think Pence has Image result for mike pence and trumpbeen seen since.

Now we find out that Michael Flynn told the Tr-mp transition team—more than two weeks before Tr-mp’s tiny inauguration—that he was under federal investigation for his duties as a lobbyist for Turkey, duties that paid him around $500,000 and which caused him to reject an anti-ISIS plan that was opposed by Turkey. The transition team made Flynn our National Security Adviser anyway, and now we are supposed to believe that Pence didn’t know anything about that federal investigation. So, we are forced to believe Pence is the dumbest guy this side of Tr-mp, or he is a liar.

In any case, it doesn’t much matter to me either way. Mike Pence is just as illegitimate as Tr-mp. And should Tr-mp get tossed out of office or quit and open up a “Brazilian wax” shop in Moscow, I will dedicate this blog to unpresidenting Pence. Nothing about this administration is legitimate and I won’t accept any of it as normal.

 

If It Were Only Chaos

Now we know why the Intelligence Community was so afraid of Agent Orange. And now we know why there have been so many leaks. These dedicated patriots, many of them conservatives by nature, are trying to save the country.

I’ve heard a lot of talk since yesterday about how much chaos surrounds the Tr-mp administration. Oh, if it were only that simple. Chaos can be fixed. Order can be restored. But there is nothing that can mend the mind of the man whom a minority of misguided Americans put in charge of the country. He is unfixable. There are no repairs available for what is wrong with Tr-mp. What is wrong with him was sold as a feature of his programming, not a bug.

I said last week that Tr-mp corrupts everything he touches. Up until yesterday, everyone who defended Tr-mp said Lt. General H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, was one man Tr-mp could not corrupt. He would act as a check against the excesses and unstable nature of a seriously flawed chief executive. It didn’t turn out that way.

McMaster came out yesterday, after it was reported by the Washington Post that Tr-mp gave away top secrets to his Russian friends, and essentially covered for Agent Orange by shooting down a straw man, by denying something the Post article had not alleged. But the point of McMaster’s quickly arranged appearance was to get this on the record: “I was in the room,” McMaster said, “It didnt’ happen.” Well, “it” did happen. Just this morning, Tr-mp admitted as much in a tweet that he has “the absolute right” to share with the RImage result for trump meets with russiansussians whatever he wants. Sorry, General McMaster. Tr-mp corrupts everything and everyone. You’re just the latest. And, no, I don’t know where you go to get back your reputation. I guess you should have known better to start with.

The meeting in which Tr-mp gave away this Top Secret information to the Russians was, as Tr-mp tweeted this morning, “an openly scheduled W.H. meeting.” Openly scheduled, yes. But the meeting was supposed to be with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. It turned out Putin had asked Tr-mp to also meet with the controversial Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, the man at the center of the many Russian collusion investigations. And of course Tr-mp met with Kislyak, a fact we would not have known if it were not for a Russian-controlled news agency releasing photographs of the jovial meeting. American journalists were not allowed in. Go figure.

Essentially, as we have all learned, whoever happens to hold the office of the President of the United States is above the law. He can do anything he wants, including risking the lives of intelligence operatives by blabbing secrets to our enemies. The Founders’ assumed, as they put together the Constitution, that the impeachment option, a political remedy not a legal one, would be enough to hold the president, particularly one without integrity, accountable. But the Founders, as brilliant as some of them were, did not and could not imagine the Republican Party as it is now constituted. It is a party whose leadership knows Tr-mp is dangerous but also knows it needs his disturbed cult followers in order to hold on to power and pass an agenda that a majority of Americans do not want. Tr-mp represents their only chance to turn that agenda—an agenda of, by, and for the wealthy—into the law of the land. And they appear more than willing to risk the integrity of the country to get it done.

We have seen Tr-mp’s obscene coddling of despotic thugs, Russian and otherwise. We have heard him beg the Russians to help him get elected. We have heard him threaten to jail his political opponent. We have seen evidence of his campaign’s collusion with the Russian effort to destroy Hillary Clinton. We have seen Tr-mp flirt with obstruction of justice by firing the FBI director, the man who was investigating possible criminal conduct by the Tr-mp campaign, and then threatening him with “tapes” that may or may not exist. Through all that and more we have heard pundits talk about how we are on the “verge” of a constitutional crisis. “We’re not there yet,” some of these pundits say. “But we’re close.”

Hooey.

We are in a constitutional crisis. And we have been since January 20 at 12:01pm. Tr-mp may be above the law when it comes to all the things he has done, including this latest dangerous loose talk to the Russians. But he is not above the political constraints found in the Constitution, if Republicans, who control the Congress, will respect that old, deteriorating document. There is little hope they will use the remedy of the 25th Amendment—the “our president is nuts” remedy—because that would be too much to admit: Republican leadership aided and abetted a sick man. But there is another, simpler way.

Since he took office—forgetting everything else—Tr-mp has violated the Emoluments Clause. There is no question about that. With all the chaos and confusion, it is easy to forget that simple fact. This vulgarian is openly crapping on the Constitution by making money off foreign governments. And now it is time to remember that simple fact. Now it is time for all of us to put pressure on the only entity that can stop Tr-mp and save the integrity of our democracy: the Republican Party. We have to force Republicans to impeach and then convict this man for violating the Emoluments Clause, even if all the other terrible things he has done are perfectly legal.

I know it is a long shot at this point. I know there isn’t much hope in that possibility. But it is all we have.

Again, here you go:

A directory listing all House phone numbers: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

A directory listing all Senate phone numbers:  https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

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