He Is Above The Law. For Now.

The Founders, despite examples of individual and collective brilliance, gave us Tr-mp. And the Founders won’t let us get rid of him until January 20, 2021. It’s that simple. I’m sorry to keep saying it. But it is true.

I know people who closely follow every development in the Mueller investigation. I follow news about it fairly closely myself. But I also know people who think Mueller will, or at least could, bring Tr-mp down. I’m not one of those people. It’s not gonna happen no matter what Mueller finds. I hope to Allah I’m wrong, but I don’t see how I am.

Like most people who have read his history and followed his rise to Republican royalty, I have a strong suspicion that Tr-mp has committed some number of serious crimes, both before he ran for office and after he conned just barely enough people to get him an Electoral College victory. But I don’t just suspect Tr-mp has, and continues to, obstruct justice. I’ve seen it and heard it with my own eyes and ears. There simply isn’t any doubt about it. We’ve all seen it unfold in real time, starting with firing the FBI director, then confessing to NBC News that he fired him because of the Russia investigation, then onto a more democracy-threatening strategy of discrediting the Justice Department, the FBI, any news organization that dares print or broadcast facts about what is happening, and, of course, Bob Mueller and his investigation. That Tr-mp obstructed justice is a no-brainer.

But so what? So what if Tr-mp obstructed justice? And so what if he committed any other crimes? He has just said, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He went there. He said it. Think about that. Think about how emboldened he must feel to even express such a thought. That he believes he can publicly express such an anti-democratic, un-American idea really, though, tells us more about the state of the Republican Party than it does about the state of Tr-mp’s mind.

But does he have such a right? Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure, thanks to another oversight by the Founders. But even if he doesn’t have the constitutional right, even if the Supreme Court says he doesn’t have the right to pardon PARDON himself, who will stop him if he does? You tell me, please. Who—WHO—will stop him? And even if—I have heard this theory advanced more than once today—Tr-mp stepped down temporarily under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and had Mike Pence pardon him before Tr-mp then reclaimed power, who would stop that or make the duo pay a price for such unprecedented and unpresidential behavior? Please tell me.

We now know that Tr-mp’s grotesque TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, thinks Tr-mp could have literally shot the FBI director instead of merely metaphorically shooting him with a firing—and “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani claimed. The darkly comedic lawyer then offered that the only constitutional option was “impeachment.” Now, whether Giuliani is wrong about a subpoena or an indictment (apparently he is wrong, but who really knows how it will play out at this strange point in our history?), he is right regarding his overall point: impeachment is the only instrument, short of an election, that will rid us of the Founder’s biggest presidential blunder. And that’s the problem.

There will be no impeachment, so long as Republicans control the House. And even if Democrats wrestle control from Republicans in November and vote next year to impeach Tr-mp, there will be no conviction in the Senate. And our nasty nightmare will continue. If you have evidence to dispute this, please share it with me. If you have evidence that there are enough Republican votes in the Senate to convict Tr-mp of anything, please show me and the rest of the country just what that evidence is.

Because even if Tr-mp shot James Comey in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York or here in Joplin on Range Line Road, I promise you that immediately there would begin a TRMP AND COMEYmassive disinformation campaign that would blame the murder on the Deep State, or, perhaps, claim that Comey is still alive somewhere waiting to assume dictatorial power after Tr-mp is dethroned by the Deep State. And that disinformation campaign, whatever its conspiratorial theme, would convince enough Republican voters that Tr-mp is the victim. And those Republican voters would convince enough Republicans in Congress to save Tr-mp’s hide. And if you can even remotely imagine this happening after a public murder, imagine how likely it is to happen for something less. Again, if you have evidence to undermine my claims here, please share.

The sad and depressing truth is that Tr-mp is above the law, so long as voters keep Republicans in office.

 

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Deep In The Woods On Whether Any POTUS Should Be Subject To Criminal Indictment

“Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

—The Constitution, Article 1, Section 3

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If you’re like me, you probably don’t really know why it is that, effectively, nothing can be done to Tr-mp, in terms of trying him in court, for committing any type of federal crime like obstructing justice, should the Special Counsel point in that direction some sweet day. Well, we’re in luck. Bob Bauer, courtesy of the Lawfare blog, has come to help dissipate our ignorance and offer us the faintest bit of hope that something can be done. I warn you, though, it is a very faint hope and this is not a short exercise.

But before I get to Bauer’s post, allow me to quote something, something that perhaps we’ve all grown too comfortable with, that should absolutely stun us. The quote is from an article by Jonathan Rauch (“Impeaching Tr-mp is a Heavy Lift“), a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who argues that so long as Tr-mp remains popular among Republicans, there isn’t much hope of an impeachment:

Might some decisive event—Tr-mp’s own version of the smoking-gun tape—kick the Republican props out from under Tr-mp? Maybe. But Tr-mp’s strategy is antithetical to Nixon’s. Nixon maintained a façade of probity and normalcy. Trump doesn’t bother. He has publicly asked the Russians to tamper with U.S. elections, publicly helped cover for their having done so, and then publicly acknowledged firing the FBI director for investigating the matter. His weaponization of flagrance, as I have argued elsewhere, draws his supporters into complicity. Given that his Republican approval has stayed in the eighties, the GOP base appears to have priced in, so to speak, his deviant and erratic behavior.

We all need to take time to let that sink in. Especially what Rauch said about Tr-mp not bothering to maintain even a facade of honesty or normalcy:

He has publicly asked the Russians to tamper with U.S. elections, publicly helped cover for their having done so, and then publicly acknowledged firing the FBI director for investigating the matter.

That triad of wrongdoing in and of itself ought to be enough to rid us of Tr-mp. But politics makes that almost impossible, so long as Democrats a) don’t have a majority in the House (necessary for initiating an impeachment proceeding) and b) don’t control two-thirds of the Senate (necessary for a conviction). So, with impeachment a distant possibility at this point in time, we turn back to the law and to Bob Bauer’s post on Lawfare.

Bauer, who was the White House Counsel when we had a real president named Obama, titled his piece, “A Disabled Executive: The Special Counsel Investigation and Presidential Immunities.” He discussed the famous United States v. Nixon, the case from 1974 in which the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 shellacking, told Nixon to fork over his secretly recorded tapes and other material. That decision effectively put some serious restrictions on any president’s power to claim “executive privilege” and withhold subpoenaed evidence relevant to a judicial proceeding. In other words, the Court found that the president can’t hide behind a claim of privilege to shield himself or others from their accountability to the law. This is the idea, we all have heard, that “the president is not above the law.”

Well, he is. Sort of. But Bob Bauer has a fix in mind.

Bauer sets the contemporary scene regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation and its obvious negative effects on the current Executive Branch, and asks a couple of questions that demand answers:

The investigation is beginning to consume the Trump Administration. Most notably, the president seems to have little capacity for managing these pressures. As suggested by his inability to stay off Twitter, he is evidently not one to “compartmentalize” sufficiently to push the inquiry to one side while carrying on regular business. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is barely into his task and so one might ask: what happens when the investigation begins to accelerate and, worse, if indictment becomes a possibility?

It is at this point that the long-standing constitutional question, so far unaddressed by any court, is again raised: do the strains on a presidency under investigation require the conclusion that the president cannot be indicted while in office?

It’s important to emphasize the fact Bauer pointed out: the idea that POTUS cannot be indicted while he’s still in office has never been tested in the courts. Never. In the Nixon case, the Watergate grand jury, while indicting other White House officials for their part in the burglary that began it all, did not indict Nixon himself. He was, famously, labeled an “unindicted co-conspirator,” so as to avoid that “long-standing constitutional question” Bauer referenced. And, as we all know, Nixon boot-scooted out of the White House soon after the Supreme Court took his executive privilege away. So, the can-POTUS-be-indicted question is still open.

And Bauer helpfully points us to two crucially influential opinions on the matter issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The first opinion, issued in 1973, took the position that a sitting president cannot be indicted. And the other, issued in 2000, affirmed that original OLC conclusion. It is important to keep in mind that these opinions, as influential as they are, were written by Justice Department lawyers, not judges in a court case. Bauer summarized the reasoning supporting the OLC conclusion:

OLC has taken the position that while the Constitution does not explicitly provide for immunity from indictment or prosecution, and the record on the Founders’ views of the question is inconclusive, the constitutional role of the president requires that he or she be afforded temporary immunity. Indictment and prosecution would have a “dramatically destabilizing effect” on the president’s capacity to discharge his or her duties. The executive’s energies would be diverted into the “substantial preparation” needed for his legal defense. The mere stigma and opprobrium of indictment, and possibly conviction, would result in “undermining the president’s leadership and efficacy both home and abroad.”

The 2000 opinion landed hard on conclusion that “given the potentially momentous political consequences for the Nation at stake, there is a fundamental, structural incompatibility between the ordinary application of the criminal process and the Office of the President.” Of course, delay in either indictment or trial until a term ended would be costly to the administration of justice: but “while significant, [they] are not controlling. In the case of clear and serious criminal wrongdoing, Congress can act to impeach, and this outcome is more consistent with democratic values than “shifting an awesome power to unelected persons lacking an explicit constitutional role vis-à-vis the President.”

Bauer attacks the “weakness” of this position by pointing out how little difference, in terms of disruption, there is—in Tr-mp’s case—between what may be the late stages of the process and the current investigatory stage:

From the beginning it was unclear how the OLC’s reasoning distinguished between indictments and prosecutions, on the one hand, and investigations, on the other. The institution of a serious investigation into presidential wrongdoing has been sufficient to lead to” mass hysteria” in the West Wing. It has clearly and heavily burdened the president—one need only read his tweets—and disrupted normal business and the recruitment of personnel for key positions. So, while few doubt that the president is subject to investigation, it is hard to see how these disruptions can be easily distinguished from those associated with indictment. The difference is one of degree, not of kind, and as the Nixon experience established, those differences are indeed fine.

The “distractions will worsen,” Bauer says, as the “current investigation continues.” There will be interviews, document requests, lawyers upon lawyers hired by witnesses, and inevitable “leaks.” Bauer argues:

The more serious and far-reaching the investigation becomes, the greater will be disruption. By the time of his resignation, President Nixon had not been indicted, but his capacity for governance had been all but extinguished.

Here Bauer, for the sake of argument, entertains a dubious idea related to the claim that there is a meaningful distinction, in terms of disruption in the Executive Branch, between indictments and investigations:

It is possible, of course, to believe that for just these reasons OLC did not go far enough, and that it should have clearly extended temporary immunity to the investigative stage.

Now, think about that. The OLC could have extended “temporary immunity” to a president that covered an investigation of wrongdoing. Merely investigating whether a crime was committed would then have to wait until POTUS was out of office. And the logic of the OLC reasoning, as Bauer points out, leads in that direction. Fortunately, the authors of those two OLC opinions were not imprisoned by their own logic:

The drafters in 1973 and 2000 declined to take this next step. Doubtless they were constrained by a powerful democratic norm, reflected in the Supreme Court’s pointed rejection in United States v. Nixon of any suggestion that the president, as the head of a unitary executive branch, is somehow “above the law.”

Image result for justice scalesThat “democratic norm,” that POTUS is, like the rest of us, subject to the law, has “only gained force” since the 1973 OLC opinion and that famous and suddenly relevant 1974 Court decision, Bauer says. Even though there is still a judicially unanswered constitutional question lingering around about whether a sitting president can be indicted, tried, and possibly convicted, we still have in force the minimalist norm that a president can at least be investigated. But Bauer is not content to leave it there. He still has serious problems with the OLC logic that indictments and trials and prosecutions—but not investigations—would have a “’dramatically destabilizing effect’ on the president’s capacity to discharge his or her duties.” Bauer focused on that 2000 OLC opinion:

It tried gamely, but more or less in passing, to show that investigations can be managed without undue disruption. In a footnote, it noted that a grand jury could still “collect” and “preserve” evidence, available for use once the president has left office. The picture it presented is that of the grand jury working quietly in the background. More realistic is what we had in the Nixon era and may be seeing develop today: a full-fledged investigation from within the executive branch, by special counsel dedicated to this purpose. It is not a question of a grand jury collecting and preserving but of the Special Counsel investigating. The process is active, not passive….

A major inquiry at full boil is most often an indication of the seriousness of the potential charges, and yet it is here—where the public interest in a presidency accountable to law is keenest—that the OLC’s concern with disruption is most obviously triggered. By a strange twist of constitutional logic, the president under investigation for the most serious wrongdoing would then have the most compelling claim to immunity.

Bauer then criticizes the OLC for not seriously engaging “the question of how temporary immunity from indictment or prosecution can be reconciled with the due administration of justice.” He writes:

For example, it included the president’s exposure to the stigma of a criminal charge among the “dramatically destabilizing effects” of an indictment. Of course, unresolved questions of criminal misconduct also cast shadows on a presidency, as the Nixon saga showed. The opinion did not explain how the president’s credibility is enhanced by charges left hanging and defended only by a claim of immunity. It might be just as persuasively argued that the president who engages with the criminal justice process does more honor to the office and invites closer consideration of the merits of his self-defense. “I did no wrong, and here is why” has a more presidential ring and better serves the rule of law than “You can’t get me.”

We can all see, by his behavior, that Tr-mp isn’t interested in any high-minded notion like “honor to the office.” And we can all imagine, at some future time, him shamelessly utilizing the “You can’t get me” defense. Tr-mp isn’t concerned with anything fundamentally essential to a stable democracy like the concept of “the due administration of justice.” But Bauer is. He criticized the OLC opinion for falling back,

on a comforting image of a grand jury operating silently and (somehow) mostly out of sight and out of the way.

But that is not how it goes with high-profile, high-stakes investigations. We have them or we don’t: there is no quiet, non-disruptive version. And if we have them, accepting the disruptions they entail, then it is difficult to argue that they cannot be brought to one possible conclusion, if justified by the evidence: indictment. If a president can be investigated, then, it seems, a president can be indicted; if not in the second case, then not in either case, because it cannot be said that the government in the throes of a major investigation is measurably or reliably safer from severe “disruption” and massive loss of presidential credibility. The better, more internally consistent view in line with democratic “rule of law” norms is that the president is subject to investigation and, if the evidence supports it, indictment.

Bauer discusses the truth that “the president could use his executive authority to thwart an investigation,” through dismissing successive prosecutors until he finds an individual with Marco Rubio’s or Ted Cruz’s compromised blood running through his or her veins. But Bauer has faith, too much in my opinion, that in such a case “Congress would intervene via the impeachment process to restoring the ‘rule of law.'” He says, with way too much confidence given what we have seen from Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders:

It is in constitutional theory only that a president may order an end to an investigation directed against him. In practice, he will fail.

I have a feeling we will find out if Bauer is right. In the mean time, Bauer offers us a novel solution (at least it was to me) to the problem of what to do, should his theory prevail some day that there is no difference, in terms of disruption, between indictments and investigations:

If a president is not, then, immune from investigation or indictment, the “dramatically destabilizing effects” on government may be addressed in one of three ways. The president could resign. Congress could move to impeachment. Also available  is the 25th Amendment, which permits a president to temporarily vacate the office while fighting the indictment and standing trial—perhaps, in the thick of an investigation, while fending off indictment.

The 2000 opinion was equivocal in its treatment of the 25th Amendment, particularly as an answer to the possible incarceration of a president following conviction. But it also conceded that “the amendment’s terms ‘unable’ and ‘inability’ were not . . . narrowly defined, apparently out of a recognition that situations of inability might take various forms not neatly falling into categories of physical or mental illness.”

I find that a rather stunning argument. The president should be subject to investigation, indictment, and possible prosecution, and if the process proves so disruptive that he can’t adequately perform his duties, there is a 25th Amendment remedy. Bauer’s conclusion:

In a case where, as of now, neither impeachment nor resignation is probable, the 25thAmendment supplies more of an answer than OLC would credit to the problem of an incapacitated presidency. It is also more convincing than temporary immunity from indictment or prosecution that is grounded in dubious reasoning about the implications of the “constitutional structure” and that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would also insulate a president from investigation into serious criminal wrongdoing.

In other words, as it stands right now, using only the reasoning of Justice Department lawyers from long ago, Tr-mp is essentially beyond the reach of the law and we have little hope of a House impeachment and little hope of a Senate conviction. And the truth is, although Bauer’s idea is solid and soundly reasoned, we also have little hope that anyone who matters will pay the slightest bit of attention to it.

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

republican flip flops.jpg

The Huffington Post’s Bad Headline, Entitlement “Reform,” And A Theory Of Trump’s Potential Impeachment

Every now and then, contrary to the 140-character Zeitgeist, I like to go into the weeds. So, let’s start with the headline itself:

Reince Priebus: Donald Trump Won’t ‘Meddle’ With Social Security And Medicare

The story, written by Daniel Marans, began this way:

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared to confirm that President-elect Donald Trump would stand by his campaign promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Notice that word “appeared.” It wasn’t in the headline, which clearly claimed that Priebus said Trump “won’t” meddle with Social Security and Medicare. But Priebus didn’t say that, as the lead clarifies. Also notice that word “confirm” in the lead. Priebus “appeared to confirm Trump’s campaign “promise.” Think about that one. We are asked to believe that Priebus, one of Trump’s many obfuscators, not only appeared to confirm” Trump’s promise, but that Priebus actually possesses the ability to confirm it. We know, though, that no one, including Priebus, actually can confirm anything Trump has said or will say. We know that because Trump is both a pathological liar and a pathological denier, and the trump-ss-cardword “promise” has no real applicability to him. Trump can’t even confirm something he himself said. What he promised yesterday, what he promises today, Trump can, and will, deny tomorrow. And his surrogates will follow suit.

That’s why journalists and headline writers have to be careful. They have to stop playing by the old journalistic rules, which no longer apply. Social media-obsessed people, as we all know, skim headlines as a shortcut to understanding what’s going on in the news. And that HuffPo headline—an outlet that ought to know better—is particularly harmful to the public’s understanding of what is going on, or, more to the point, what might happen in the months to come, in terms of Social Security and Medicare and, before it’s over, Medicaid.

Let’s look at the transcript of what Priebus said on CBS’s Face the Nation:

JOHN DICKERSON: Quick question on replace. Donald Trump has campaigned on the idea of not touching Medicare. That’ll be his position still?

REINCE PRIEBUS: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think President-elect Trump wants to meddle with Medicare or Social Security. He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn’t want to do. But what he wants to do is grow the economy, help shore up Medicare and Social Security for future generations. And if we can get three to five, 6% growth, we’ll do that. And we’ll explode the economy, and bring jobs back, and make trade more fair across the world, lower rates for everyone, and I think hopefully get businesses going again so people can put more money in their pocket.

Notice a couple of things. First, why is John Dickerson only asking a “quick question” about “touching Medicare”? Doesn’t the possibility of Trump joining Paul Ryan and the reactionaries in his party, in their effort to destroy Medicare as we know it, deserve more than a quick question? Of course it does. But apparently TV journalism has its priorities, and understanding whether Trump intends on preserving Social Security and Medicare doesn’t happen to be one of them. So, because Dickerson did not follow up on Priebus’ assertions, we will at least examine his words ourselves:

1. Note that Dickerson did not specifically ask Priebus about Social Security (even though he should have). Priebus brought up Social Security on his own. Why? We can guess it’s because Priebus knows “entitlement reform” is a big deal to Paul Ryan and his Houseful of reactionaries, and that Ryan’s so-called reform includes mucking with Social Security in ways that will screw needy beneficiaries, many of whom voted for Trump. Thus, the “Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance” program—which is what we rubes know as Social Security— was on his mind.

2. Priebus said “I don’t think” Trump “wants to meddle with Medicare and Social Security.” He didn’t say “I am certain.” He didn’t say “I am absolutely confident.” He merely said he didn’t think Trump would renege. He was speculating not asserting. He was, purposely, leaving room for future betrayal. Because, as noted, no one can confidently assert anything regarding any statement Trump has made—or will make.

3. Priebus’ weak speculation that Trump won’t bother Social Security and Medicare is based on certain assumptions, like Trump bringing us explosive economic growth, bringing back manufacturing jobs, negotiating and renegotiating trade deals, and lowering tax rates, which “hopefully get businesses going again so people can put more money in their pocket.” The problem is that businesses are already going again, people have more money in their pockets, and there aren’t many economists this side of Sean Hannity who believe in all that standard Reagan-era voodoo magic. Thus, the premise for suggesting that Trump will not mess with entitlements is based on art-of-the-deal and supply-side fantasies.

4. Now look at these two sentences: “He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn’t want to do. But what he wants to do is grow the economy, help shore up Medicare and Social Security for future generations.” Priebus said that Trump’s messing with the two big entitlement programs “was something that he didn’t want to do,” like having to spank an unruly child. The way that sentence is constructed leaves a lot of room for meddling, especially when coupled with the second sentence. One can imagine a future appearance on Face the Nation in which Priebus will say Trump didn’t want to sign Social Security and Medicare “reform” bills, but it was necessary to “shore up” the programs because economic growth lagged behind projections due to Democratic Party interference. “Things were much worse than he imagined during the campaign, and Democrats have conspired to make them worse in order to hurt Trump,” this future Priebus can say about Trump’s broken promise. Or Priebus—feel free to substitute your surrogate of choice—can point to something Trump said to the AARP:

If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP that we had as a result of the Kennedy and Reagan tax reforms, we will be able to secure Social Security for the future. As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations. Our goal is to keep the promises made to  Americans through our Social Security program.”

There is a giant “if” in that statement: “If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP that we had as a result of the Kennedy and Reagan tax reform.”  I hate to till over-farmed ground, but people need to be reminded of the facts. First, Kennedy did reduce the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%. But today’s highest rate is just less than 40%. Any effect of lowering taxes for people in the highest bracket today will not have much, if any, salutary economic effect. Second, Kennedy targeted earners who would spend their tax breaks and thus stimulate the economy. There isn’t a GOP plan out there today anything like that. Most of the proposed tax cuts would go to top-bracket people who will simply bank the money, not go out and buy a new Chevy Cruze made—by union workers—in Lordstown, Ohio.

As for Reagan, the myth lives on. The truth is that although he reduced marginal income tax rates, he raised other taxes and closed large loopholes. The net effect wasn’t significant, except in terms of normalizing large budget deficits because of his increase in military spending (which deficits, weirdly, have been blamed on Democrats ever since). Thus, Trump’s “if” statement—which I am sure is the product of some nutty supply-side economist and not his own creation—will not bear the burden of protecting Social Security, or Medicare, or any entitlement, in the future.

Then there is, “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations.” The political ambiguity in that phrase, again the product of someone other than Trump—who wouldn’t know anything about “demography” unless it was a dues-paying member of Mar-a-Lago—is wide enough to drive an Ayn Rand tractor-trailer through. A Ryan-friendly Trump, if it came to it, could easily cite demographic changes that his “prudent administration” could use to make “necessary” reformsall in the name of “future generations.” That’s right out of the Paul Ryan-Pete Peterson playbook.

In any case, there is one thing we know with absolute certainty: Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, is determined to implement his once-in-a-lifetime, one-party-rule offense according to his ideological playbook. He is hellbent on privatizing Medicare and reducing Social Security benefits. If you don’t believe me, try Forbes or, uh, Forbes. And there are only two things, right now, that stand between Ryan and his goal. One is the Senate Democratic Caucus, which features several wobbly-kneed Democrats from red states—and keep in mind that Senate Democrats only have power if the filibuster remains, not exactly a certainty in these strange times. The other obstacle for Ryan is Trump. And Ryan will soon have some important leverage over the Orange Grifter: the threat of impeachment.
impeachRyan’s dream of destroying—or failing that, weakening—New Deal ideology can obviously only come to pass if Trump signs onto the effort and openly defends it. Ryan dare not advance his Randian agenda without the backing of Trumpers, who have proven they will follow Trump no matter what he does. And it is my rather wild theory that Ryan may use the threat of impeachment—which has to originate in the House—to get Trump to sign on and defend his assent. This impeachment threat would not, at first, be advanced openly. As time passes, it would be—if it hasn’t been already—quietly passed on to Trump associates, like Reince Priebus, who will inform Trump that insurance against impeachment will come at the price of “meddling” with entitlements (something that Priebus, as a political and personal friend of Ryan, is inclined to do anyway). Such a quiet threat could have its intended effect without an open display of hostility toward Trump on the part of House Republicans.

I won’t pretend this is a likely scenario. The ultimate manifestation of the developing dynamics of the next administration’s relationship with a Republican Congress is anyone’s guess. But since impeachment will be part of the general conversation the minute Trump takes office (see: Emoluments Clause, for instance), and will continue to dog him throughout his presidency, it is not entirely nuts to think something like my scenario could happen. With Trump, just the hint that he could go down in history as an impeached president may itself be enough to find enough room in his AARP statement, “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations,” to accommodate substantial changes in entitlement programs.

After all, Trump has never given a damn about working-class people except as a means to his narcissistic ends, and why should he stick his presidential neck out for them, especially when he has a legion of spinners who can sell his treachery to his followers?

All this is just something to keep in mind, as we slowly descend into the abyss of the Trump presidency. Stay tuned.

Breitbart: “Impeachment Goes Mainstream”—Yes!

It’s official: Charlie Krauthammer, the ringmaster of reactionary columnists, has blessed impeachment. Alas, my strategy is working!

After last week’s election, I published a piece (“Get Out Your Matches, Mr. President, And Start A Circus”) in which I urged President Obama to go ahead and incite incitable Republicans with his promised executive action, including de-prioritizing deportation of certain classes of undocumented immigrants (“deferred action”), such as those who have been here for some time and those who have families here. His action would not be unprecedented (even Republican presidents have done it), nor would it be outside of his authority as chief executive of the country, which, after all, does give him discretion on how to use the limited resources available for prosecution of any crimes (the Feds, for instance, aren’t prosecuting marijuana munchers in Colorado).

After Fox “News” and The New York Times reported that Obama may in fact throw his executive authority on the side of immigration reform next week, the circus clowns began putting on their creepy makeup and the sideshow artists began honing their acts—rumor has it that a sword-swallowing Sean Hannity will attempt to deep-throat Rush Limbaugh’s sweaty sword. Anything for the team!

It was one thing when Sarah Palin, who knows more than a little about not completing terms in office, called for impeachment this past summer:

…we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.

The many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored. If after all this he’s not impeachable, then no one is. 

Or when right-wing legisnutters like Joe Barton of Texas floated the idea last week:

…impeachment would be a consideration, yes sir.

breitbart on impeachmentBut when Ringmaster Krauthammer says that action by Obama on immigration reform “is an impeachable offense,” then, God bless P.T. Barnum, it’s time to set up the big tents!

Just yesterday I heard a smug John Boehner say, “All of the options are on the table,” when it comes to depriving the President of his executive powers. He also claimed that he wanted to stop Obama “from violating his own oath of office and violating the Constitution.” Now, if he really means that, it’s impeachment, baby!

But then, dammit, The Washington Post came out last night with a report that suggested the House would only consider a lawsuit as a response:

The idea to use the courts as an initial means of dissent, should the president move forward in the coming weeks to protect millions from deportation, moved to the front of the House GOP’s playbook after the leadership reviewed it. Boehner reportedly wants to respond forcefully and quickly should the president act and believes a lawsuit would do that, as well as signal to conservatives in his conference that he shares their frustrations about the president’s use of executive power.

Darn, darn, darn! Maybe the clowns and Sean The Sword-Swallower will have to wait on the lawyers. But the sue-Obama-for-doing-his-job lawyers are sort of hard to find:

Boehner first announced plans to initiate a federal suit against Obama in late June, when he called the president’s executive orders an unconstitutional power grab by one branch of government.

But the suit has wallowed ever since as GOP lawmakers have struggled to find a D.C. area law firm willing to take up their legal fight.

The good news is that if the House is serious about finally bringing a lawsuit against the President, as opposed to bringing up articles of impeachment, that means Obama can go even further on immigration reform than he might now be contemplating. And that would be good not only for the immigrants involved, but good for the country.

And going even further would, Allah willing, bring us Ringmaster Krauthammer and The Greatest Show On Earth. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, get ready!

Real Grounds For Impeachment

When asked a question yesterday about the “untested and unapproved drug” that was given to those two unfortunate American missionaries who were infected with Ebola, President Obama offered up what is certainly, to the goodly and godly number of science-haters in the Tea Party-controlled House, real grounds for his impeachment. He answered:

I think we’ve got to let the science guide us.

How dare he say something so ridiculous, so secular, so anti-God. Let the science guide us? Please. Why would we do that when we have Donald Trump, former front-running Republican presidential candidate, to lead the way? Last week Trump tweeted—with the confidence he always possesses, especially when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—the following:

The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!

Take that, you Jesus-loving do-gooders!

Despite Trump’s insistence that Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol stay in West Africa, they didn’t. They’re here, as everyone now knows. And the experimental drug they were given seems to be working, although no one can be sure that their improving health is due to the drug or due to something else, like, say, prayer. Dr. Brantly’s wife released a statement on July 31st that included the following:

Thank you to our good friends and thousands more who have been in constant prayer and fasting for Kent’s deliverance from this disease.

Franklin Graham, who runs Samaritan’s Purse, the missionary group for whom Dr. Brantly was working, said this:

Please keep praying and thank God for all He is doing.

So, was it that science-birthed, government-funded experimental drug that improved the situation, or was it prayer and fasting? Here is an excerpt from a CNN article:

Within an hour of receiving the medication, Brantly’s condition dramatically improved. He began breathing easier; the rash over his trunk faded away. One of his doctors described the events as “miraculous.”

By the next morning, Brantly was able to take a shower on his own before getting on a specially designed Gulfstream air ambulance jet to be evacuated to the United States.

Writebol also received a vial of the medication. Her response was not as remarkable, according to sources familiar with the treatment. However, doctors on Sunday administered Writebol a second dose of the medication, which resulted in significant improvement.

She was stable enough to be evacuated back to the United States.

By that account, it appears it was science that came to the rescue in these cases. Unless, of course, God decided to act at the same time the drug was administered. No one, not even the greatest atheist-scientist in the world, can actually rule out that possibility. It could very well be the case that God, for whatever divine reason, purposely waited to do something for his two servants until that experimental drug could be delivered to them. It’s possible.

But it ain’t likely.

In fact, it is a good bet, an overwhelmingly good bet, that if the government hadn’t forked over some cash to fund scientific research into Ebola treatments (the private sector finding no profit in it and, thus, no real interest), then Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol would likely be dead. And they would likely be dead even if all 7 billion of us fasted and beseeched God, Allah, or Donald Trump to do something about it. The little “t” truth is, as far as enhancing our personal and collective well-being goes, science is really all we have. We can profess our faith in God and beat his door down in prayer, but when it comes down to it, when we are in need, like those two missionaries were in need, our faith in science is what matters most. And, as President Obama said, it should be our guide, even if saying so might get him impeached.

And speaking of impeachment, maybe it is time to impeach (read: “call to account”) God himself.

I want to share with you an article written by Greta Christina for AlterNet (also published on Salon.com). Her piece (“Why You Can’t Reconcile God and Evolution”) is not an attack on “extreme, fundamentalist, science-rejecting” believers. Anyone with an eighth-grade education and a slightly open mind can dope-slap those folks. Instead, Christina addresses “progressive and moderate religious believers” who say, “Of course I believe in evolution. And I believe in God, too. I believe that evolution is how God created life.”

She presents four big reasons why that position is “untenable,” why it “is rife with both internal contradictions and denial of the evidence.” I will leave it to you to read her entire argument, which functions as articles of impeachment against the Almighty, but I did want to offer you here an excerpt from the piece, a part of it that comes from what science, our only real way of knowing things, has discovered. She is arguing that there is “a whole lot of evidence against” the idea that God is the designer of the life we know and then off she goes with a list of design flaws:

Sinuses. Blind spots. External testicles. Backs and knees and feet shoddily warped into service for bipedal animals. Human birth canals barely wide enough to let the baby’s skull pass — and human babies born essentially premature, because if they stayed in utero any longer they’d kill their mothers coming out (which they sometimes do anyway). Wind pipes and food pipes in close proximity, leading to a great risk of choking to death when we eat. Impacted wisdom teeth, because our jaws are too small for all our teeth. Eyes wired backwards and upside-down. The vagus nerve, wandering all over hell and gone before it gets where it’s going. The vas deferens, ditto. Brains wired with imprecise language, flawed memory, fragile mental health, shoddy cost-benefit analysis, poor understanding of probability, and a strong tendency to prioritize immediate satisfaction over long-term gain. Birth defects. 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies ending in miscarriage (and that’s just confirmed pegnancies — about 30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and as many as 75% of all conceptions miscarry).

And that’s just humans. Outside the human race, you’ve got giraffes with a vagus nerve traveling ten to fifteen feet out of its way to get where it’s going. You’ve got sea mammals with lungs but no gills. You’ve got male spiders depositing their sperm into a web, siphoning it up with a different appendage, and only then inseminating their mates — because their inseminating appendage isn’t connected to their sperm factory. (To wrap your mind around this: Imagine that humans had penises on their foreheads, and to reproduce they squirted semen from their testes onto a table, picked up the semen with their head-penises, and then had sex.) You’ve got kangaroo molars, which wear out and get replaced — but only four times, after which the animals starve to death. You’ve got digger wasps laying their eggs in the living bodies of caterpillars — and stinging said caterpillars to paralyze them but not kill them, so the caterpillars die a slow death and can nourish the wasps’ larvae with their living bodies.

You’re going to look at all this, and tell me it was engineered this way on purpose?

That’s a fair question. And it is also a fair question to ask why God—to whom millions earnestly prayed in hopes that he would deliver Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol from the ravages of Ebola—engineered, or allowed to come into existence, such a nasty and deadly virus in the first place.

“A Murderer Is Less To Fear” Or How Barack Obama Is Driving Right-Wingers Crazy

We’ve all seen it since 2008. They hate this man. They hate the President of the United States. And there is no sign that the hate will abate. In fact, it may be getting worse.

I received today an email from a group called TheTeaParty.net. The subject line shouted:

You are going to WANT to listen to this!

“This” was an interview of Rep. Pete Olson from, where else, Texas. He is lately famous for introducing “articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder for high crimes and misdemeanors,” as his official government website proudly boasts. Texas Pete’s resolution has 22 co-sponsors, including Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert. So, you sort of get the idea. These Obama-haters can’t yet impeach President Obama, so they are trying to impeach his pigmented friend at the Justice Department.

I visited the website of TheTeaParty.net, which brags about having “well over 3 million members and a huge national social media presence.” Yeah, well, I don’t know about all that, but I did find this tweet, which was posted just yesterday:

obama the traitor

Sure, we’ve seen this stuff before. Obama is a traitor, blah, blah, blah. But this one seems particularly vicious. “He rots the soul of a nation and works secretly to undermine the pillars of the city…” Really? Just whose soul is rotting here? And just who is working, not so secretly, to undermine the pillars of our civilization? Huh? In any case, you know what is left out of that Cicero quote? This:

A murderer is less to fear.

That’s right. The next line in that Cicero citation is “A murderer is less to fear.” Why did they leave that line out? Is it even too much for these Tea Party folks to say the President of the United States is worse than a murderer? Well, let’s see.

If you go to TheTeaParty.net website, you will find the usual nutjob fare: a “DEFUND Obamacare NOW” petition, a “Demand Full Benghazi Investigation” petition, and, yes, an “Impeach Obama & Remove Him From Office” petition (“President Obama is the most corrupt president in U.S. history”). These things are all designed to entice the haters among us and, more important, to separate the haters from their money. Conveniently you can donate to the cause.

But there was one petition that is more disturbing than the rest, even by the pitifully low standards of Tea Party groups out to make a buck. It’s called:

Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!

Now, again, we’ve all seen this sort of thing before. It’s the everyday kind of stuff on, say, the Rush Limbaugh Show. But this one goes a little deeper. While the Obama-is-a-traitor tweet left out the “A murderer is less to fear” line, this petition begins:

Untouchable. That is what President Obama believes that he is. If you’ve seen the movie “The Untouchables” that chronicles the days of Al Capone in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, then you will totally get this. Capone broke every law in the book, yet still viewed himself as untouchable. After all, he had law enforcement agents, attorneys, even judges bought and paid for. They towed the line and Capone beat the rap over and over again for crime after crime. Until, that is, a certain tax agent named Elliot Ness entered the picture. He was relentless in his pursuit of Capone and, when one of his men was murdered, the killer scrawled the word “Touchable” in blood on the wall.

Forget for a moment the fact that it was not Al Capone who was considered “untouchable.” It was the small group of feds trying to bring him down who were called the Untouchables. How could these Tea Party nuts muck that up? And forget for a moment the irony of having an anti-big-government Tea Party group extol the virtues of “a certain tax agent named Elliot [sic] Ness.” Ness wasn’t just a tax agent, he was first an agent for the Bureau of Prohibition, and if there ever was an intrusive government agency, it was that one. Besides that, the hero of this Tea Party story never did get Al Capone. It was really the IRS that brought him down. And Eliot Ness, according to one source, had a heart attack at age 54 and died “depressed, disillusioned and deeply in debt.” Oh, yeah, Al Capone allegedly found Jesus in prison. Yikes.

Anyway, forget all that. Look at the Tea Party image created so far: President Obama is a gangster who will not only kill his enemies, but taunt them with blood-scrawled writing on the wall. To these Tea Party-crazed people, “a murderer is less to fear” than our president.

Here’s a little detail from the petition:

The self perceived ‘untouchable’ Obama Regime has blood on their hands. They have the blood of the four men, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, on their hands since they sat back and did nothing while the torturous massacre at Benghazi occurred. They have the blood of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the hundreds of Mexican citizens killed by individuals wielding guns from the botched gun running Operation Fast and Furious on their hands. They have the blood of all those who were killed during the shooting initiated by the Muslim serviceman Nidal Malik Hasan who is still not prosecuted under Eric Holder’s Department of (In) Justice. The fact that the Obama Regime refuses to answer questions surrounding these avoidable, tragic situations is an insult to the American people and those victims who died in these incidents…

Add in his thuggish threatening of journalists Bob Woodward, Lanny Davis, and a reporter with the National Journal and we have a presidency ripe for the investigation of a special prosecutor!

You can see now why Attorney General Eric Holder is under attack by at least 23 Republicans in the House and, if the impeachment resolution ever came to a vote, likely many more. If you read the press release introducing the articles of impeachment drawn up by Texas congressman Pete Olson, you will find some of the same references as in the Obama-is-Capone petition:

During his tenure, Mr. Holder refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious and the resulting death of a Border Patrol agent, refused to prosecute IRS officials who unlawfully disclosed private tax records to third party groups, and misled Congress about his involvement in the investigation of a journalist…

At least Rep. Olson had the decency to leave out not only the “A murderer is less to fear” quote, but also the Al Capone reference. I guess these days that’s saying something. But there is no mistaking one thing. These teapartiers are full of hate for this president and most everyone around him. Congressman Olson and his House friends, Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert and the others who co-sponsored that Eric Holder impeachment resolution, may have dressed it up in slightly kinder legislative language, but at its base it is still “Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!”

And do it all in the name of Cicero and, uh, Elliot [sic] Ness.

Orgasmic Conservatives Spew Impeachment Talk

Over the last 30 years, our country has been governed by Democratic presidents about one-third of the time.  Clinton served eight years and Obama is in the middle of his second year.

From the beginning of Clinton’s term as president, the right-wing had it out for him.  The worst of the lot, including the Reverend [sic] Jerry Falwell, claimed Clinton was a cocaine smuggler and a killer.

The best of the lot impeached him, essentially for trying to hide his unfaithfulness to his wife.*

Now, comes the inevitable and hysterical talk of impeachment of President Obama. It seems that this ideologially-sick generation of conservatives has never met a Democratic president they couldn’t impeach.

Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California and a frequent visitor to the brothel at Fox “News” Channel, had intercourse with Sean Hannity last night over the allegation that someone at the White House offered Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) a government job in exchange for not challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

Now, you know you’re in for a treat when Sean starts reading from the United States Code to make a point and uses the old line, “what did the president know and when did he know it.”  It is a little like foreplay for these folks.  So, naturally, given such titillation, threats of impeachment were soon ejaculated during Hannity’s interaction with Issa. 

The congressman is seeking a special prosecutor—that, of course, is how the Clinton impeachment fiasco began—to determine if any laws were broken.

Meanwhile, the rest of the sane world, including George F. Will, realizes that some government jobs have always been a sort of currency in the world of politics.  Heck, Roy Blunt once offered me a job as Ambassador to the Joplin Spook Light, if I would stop writing bad things about Jack Abramoff.  I was too scared to take it, though.

On ABC’s This Week, this brief conversation between Jake Tapper and George Will just about says it all regarding the seriousness of Issa’s and Hannity’s talk of impeachment over the “Sestak Affair“:

TAPPER: So, first of all, let me ask you a question, George. This — this — the Republicans are trying to make hay over this alleged deal that the White House made to Sestak. If you don’t run against Specter, we’ll give you this other job. A big deal or not a big deal?

WILL: Not a big deal. It’s — politics is a transactional business. They offered him a transaction — if they did, and I don’t see a thing wrong with it.

TAPPER: They are trying to make a big thing out of it, though.

WILL: I don’t care what they’re trying to do. It’s a small thing.

UPDATE:

During Obama’s long-awaited press conference today—which understandably was dominated by the BP oil disaster—none other than Major Garrett of Fox “News” thought he would earn his Fox “News” bonus this week for asking the president about the  allegations surrounding Joe Sestak. 

Obama said “nothing improper took place,” and that an official response would be forthcoming, and soon, too.  That answer should keep Sean Hannity busy tonight on his show.

___________________________

*Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House at the time and cheerleader for Clinton’s impeachment, admitted he was having an adulterous affair while he publicly ridiculed Clinton and urged his colleagues and the country to condemn him.  See here Jake Tapper’s piece on Gingrich’s interview with James Dobson, an evangelical promoter of family values conservatives like the thrice-married Gingrich.
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