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.

Remarks On The Shooting In Virginia

Published on June 15, 2017

Okay. This shouldn’t have to be said. But here we go again.

♦ Mentally ill people, people with histories of violence and lawbreaking, whether they be right-wing nutjobs or left-wing nutjobs, shouldn’t have an easy, lawful pathway toward the purchase and possession of guns. Period. Will that stop all the shootings? Hell no. But it might stop some of them.

♦ There are major differences between the two big political parties on the issue above. One party wants to make it harder to obtain weapons, the other wants to make it much, much easier. Therefore, one party is much, much more to blame for the ridiculous amount of gun violence we see in the United States. That is indisputable. Don’t even bother trying.

♦ It’s not okay for Americans to settle political differences with violence. It should be obvious that even right-wing reactionaries like Steve Scalise deserve to live their lives without the slightest fear of getting murdered because of their political views. (Here’s to his full recovery, by the way, as well as all those who were shot.)

♦ One party nominated and then helped “elect” a guy who has, very publicly, said he would “pay the legal fees” of people who took his advice “to knock the crap” out of potential tomato-tossers at his rallies. That’s unacceptable. Or at least it should be.

♦ One party nominated and then helped “elect” a guy who has, very publicly, embraced and praised thuggish autocrats around the world (he even begged one of them for help during the election) who use violence to control their noisy citizens or, as in the case of the Turkish Thug, use violence to silence protesters—on American soil, for God’s sake. That’s unacceptable. Or at least it should be.

♦ It is true that we ought to be able to fight—metaphorically—over policies, priorities for the country, and what our future should look like without demonizing each other. It’s also true we ought to respect each other as we engage in these fights. But until Republicans stop supporting Tr-mp they will not, speaking only for myself, get my respect. Nope. No respect until they throw out of office the guy who enthusiastically supports thuggish behavior. No respect until they reject the guy who begged a thuggish Russian for election assistance. No respect until they turn away from the guy who patted the Turkish Thug on the back—after he fraudulently manipulated a referendum that essentially massacred democracy in Turkey. No respect until they impeach the guy who is using his office for financial gain and who, just this morning, said the following about those public servants who are, apparently, investigating him for obstruction of justice regarding the Russia probe:

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

To Tr-mp, all who oppose him, or have a job to do to make sure he’s not breaking any laws or violating the Constitution, are “bad” people. Bad. And that tweet came a day after the shooting of a congressman and others in Virginia, a day after Tr-mp said the following regarding that shooting:

We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.

Tr-mp, of course, didn’t mean that. He read what someone wrote for him. He stuck to the script. The next day, likely the next hour, he was back in “some very bad” people mode, referring to those people serving “in our nation’s capital.”

I will say this again: Tr-mp didn’t start all this stuff. He merely represents what years of Republican tolerance (and some amount of encouragement) of lies and distortions by Rush Limbaugh and Fox “News” and the Drudge Report—and now including Breitbart and Infowars, explicitly embraced by Tr-mp himself—has produced. Such dishonorable tolerance has almost destroyed our democratic immune system. And until Republican Party leaders—now wholly responsible for Tr-mp and Tr-mpism—call out the standard-lowering, truth-killing demagogues in its tent, they will get no respect from me, even if, as an American, they will always have my pledge of peaceful resistance.

♦ Finally, there is a rather noble idea going around today regarding the annual Congressional Baseball Game between D’s and R’s, for which Scalise and other R’s were practicing when the shooting began. Huffpo’s Ed Mazza put it this way:

Instead of having the two parties play each other, as tradition holds, many people would like to see the teams mix rosters to show they’re all really on the same side: America.

Now, I confess I also thought of that idea when news of the tragic shooting first started unfolding yesterday. But something about the notion, as well-meaning as it sounds and is meant to be, didn’t quite sit right with me. I wasn’t quite sure why until I read one of the suggestions, posted by Noah Gittell on Twitter, in Mazza’s piece:

If Congress really wanted to make a meaningful gesture, they’d get rid of this Dem vs. Rep crap and mix the two teams.

I understand the emotion behind that suggestion. I really do. But the suggestion itself doesn’t make sense. The annual baseball game between political rivals is suppose to be a metaphor for the idea that people with very important political differences can still come together—as who they are—and compete under the rules of an old, old game. They can, as partisans, fight like hell to win and not, when it’s all over, take a bat to the heads of Image result for congressional baseball gametheir opponents. Mixing the two teams would send exactly the wrong message. We can’t “get rid of this Dem vs. Rep crap” any more than we can get rid of any important differences between us. What we can do is—and, again, this is what the game tonight is suppose to celebrate—learn to live with those differences, learn to fight with each other over those differences, but do so under certain rules of engagement, rules that both parties respect and follow, rules that insure a peaceful future for an always-divided America.

Political parties, as messy and unsatisfying as they often are, do represent something important in our democracy. They are consolidations of ideas about what America should look like, what it should be. Thus, they are institutions with often conflicting visions for our national future. And one of our parties, one of those institutions, has gone completely off the rails, forgetting all the old rules and conventions of the game that both sides accepted and honored, and making new ones up to advance their—and only their—agenda.

They support a democracy-disabling man named Tr-mp. They intentionally sabotaged Obamacare and now pass important life-and-death bills without hearings (the House) and in secret (the Senate). They purposely blocked judicial nominees President Obama was entitled to have confirmed, and are now attempting to fill those same positions with Tr-mp people, complete with all the bigotry that goes with him. Republicans have done all this and much, much more. And we, as Democrats or as independents, can’t help them get back to playing the game the right way until we are willing to hold them—peacefully—accountable for their politically deviant behavior.

And no disturbed man with a gun—a gun he shouldn’t have had—should stop us from doing that.

Remarks And Asides, June 12, 2017

The Hill reported:

Secret Service: We don’t have any Trump White House tapes

Lordy, I was looking forward to more locker room talk. Dammit. Now the Tr-mp-Comey War amounts to the word of a pathological liar versus the word of a Boy Scout. And, predictably, Republicans once again are siding with pathology.

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Speaking of pathology, it wasn’t enough that NBC gave us Donald Tr-mp through something called “The Apprentice.” Now they have to give us both Megyn Kelly and Alex Jones on the same damn night! Well, not me. No thanks. I never watched a minute of Tr-mp’s TV show and I won’t watch a minute of this one, as Jones auditions for some kind of gig on NBC (wouldn’t be any worse than the network promoting Tr-mp, who promotes Jones, who promotes Tr-mp). As for Megyn, some smart person on Twitter said, “You can take the Kelly out of Fox, but you can’t take the Fox out of Kelly,” or something like that.

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What I will watch is the progress of an important lawsuit involving emoluments. The District of Columbia and the state of Maryland have filed suit against Tr-mp for violating “two critical, closely related anti-corruption provisions” of our Constitution, “the Foreign Emoluments Clause” and “the Domestic Emoluments Clause.” From the formal complaint:

Together, these provisions help ensure that the President serves with undivided loyalty to the American people, and the American people only. Our republican form of government demands no less….President Tr-mp’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system.

Amen. And good luck. As most of you know, my position from the beginning has been that Tr-mp should be immediately impeached and convicted for violating these provisions of the Constitution. If he isn’t, then we should give these two provisions, if not the Constitution itself, a decent burial somewhere. Perhaps in Paul Ryan’s back yard.

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As far as lawsuits, perhaps one day someone will file a suit over Tr-mp blocking people from his infamous Twitter account. Columbia University’s “Knight First Amendment Institute” sent Tr-mp a letter stating,

We write on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from your most-followed Twitter account…because they disagreed with, criticized, or mocked you or your actions as President [sic]. This Twitter account operates as a “designated public forum” for First Amendment purposes, and accordingly the viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional. We ask that you unblock them and any others who have been blocked for similar reasons.

I, for one, don’t find this a frivolous matter. In fact, it may demonstrate more clearly Tr-mp’s disdain for democracy than just about anything else he has done. If he wants to take advantage of the opportunities to publicly embarrass himself that Twitter affords him, he is obligated to give the rest of us the opportunity to embarrass him too.

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That millionaire Montana congressman-elect who body-slammed a journalist had his day in court. Naturally, he escaped the hoosegow, paid a fine, and will pick up trash along the Interstate, or some such thing. Now this Jeezussy Republican is free to go to Washington and body-slam the American people.

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Speaking of body-slamming:

Riot police descended on thousands of anti-Kremlin protests across Russia on Monday, kicking, shoving and beating demonstrators.

Tr-mp, of course, had something to say about this on Twitter:

My daughter, Ivanka, will be on tomorrow morning. Enjoy!

I sure hope those bruised or bloodied protesters were able to catch the show!

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Speaking of Fox & Friends and its daily dose of dementia-inducing drivel, the show recently “reported” that, “A New York City play appears to depict President Trump being brutally stabbed to death by women and minorities.” God. That sounds awful. Who would write such a thing? Shakespeare, you say? Julius Caesar, you say? But, but, but, “his wife is depicted with a ‘Slavic accent’ and he is being stabbed by women and minorities” and stuff. That has to mean that this particular production of the classic play is meant to send the message that Tr-mp should be stabbed to death by patriots, right? Wrong.

The artistic director who presented this interpretation of Julius Caesar, Oskar Eustis, reminded everyone about the point of the original play: that fighting “the tyrant does not mean imitating him.” And a review in the New York Times pointed out the basics:

Even a cursory reading of the play, the kind that many American teenagers give it in high school, is enough to show that it does not advocate assassination. Shakespeare portrays the killing of Caesar by seven of his fellow senators as an unmitigated disaster for Rome, no matter how patriotic the intentions.

It turns out it is fairly common to portray American presidents as Julius Caesar. Even Barack Obama was so portrayed, although I don’t remember Fox & Friends worrying on the air about that or about any potential assassination of our first African-American president. What Fox & Friends should worry about is how many IQs that show murders, not just on the Ides of March, but each and every day.

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Speaking of tyrants, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refused to take a phone call from Julius Tr-mp and ratted him out to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Twenty-two hours later, I was fired,” said Bharara. It took Tr-mp 18 days and a Washington Post story to fire Russia-friendly Michael Flynn, after it was clear Flynn was a liar and a threat to national security. It took Tr-mp less than a day to fire a prominent public servant who dissed him. Now, that is unpresidented and that is why we all should continue the noble work of unpresidenting Tr-mp, not with knives or guns, but with the one thing that bothers him the most: denying him the respect he thinks he deserves.

What If The Tr-mp Were On The Other Foot?

Posted June 12, 2017

I was recently asked a question that I have thought about many times since Tr-mp stunned us with his Russian-supplied “victory” last November. The question is essentially this:

What if Tr-mp were a liberal?

I can only speak for myself: I would attack Tr-mp even more fiercely if he were a liberal than I do now, if you can believe that. I’ll explain why in a minute.

I know that if the situation were reversed, there would be some people on the left who would invent some of the same excuses for Tr-mp as, say, Paul Ryan has disingenuously invented: he’s “new” to governing and all that utter nonsense. It’s nonsense because it is not his inexperience with government but his inexperience with ethics and truth and mental health that is the problem with Tr-mp. Most Americans can see that by now, as polls show.

Surely others on the left would invent similarly ridiculous arguments as part of their willingness to defend the indefensible and rationalize the irrational, although I don’t think you would find anywhere near the willingness to defend a liberal Tr-mp as you do a reactionary Tr-mp. There simply isn’t the left-leaning equivalent of the conservative media complex, what uber-journalist Claire Wardle believes is part of a disinformation ecosystem.”

I have been writing about Tr-mp at least since 2010 and there is no ideological switch he could make, no policy proposal he could embrace, no change of heart he could undergo, that would make me defend him in any way. Why? Well, one reason is that nothing about him is real—except his narcissism. He couldn’t be trusted to do what he said he would do, or that he was genuinely committed to any world view, except one he believed would serve his own interests.

But the most important reason a liberal Tr-mp would be indefensible is because of what we have seen happen to conservatism and the Republican Party within which that conservatism lives. Ideological conservatism has been corrupted for a long time now, as I have chronicled over the years. And Tr-mp didn’t start that corruption process. He represents (hopefully) the end of it. Conservatism is now thoroughly and, I believe, irredeemably corrupt. Conservatism is Tr-mpism and Tr-mpism is conservatism. The two are one and the same. And what we used to think of as principled conservatism is unlikely to ever recover from this moment, so long as the things that made Tr-mpism triumph—talk radio, Fox “News,” Drudge, Infowars, etc.—are with us, and so long as so many leaders of the Republican Party are afraid to take them on.

I wouldn’t want that same thing to happen to liberalism or the Democratic Party. I wouldn’t want Tr-mp to be the face of an ideological posture that I think the country needs, and needs desperately, to embrace. I wouldn’t want a liberal form of Tr-mpism, or a Tr-mpian form of liberalism—with all the attending corruption and chaos—to flourish, even if it meant getting a single-payer health system or realizing any other liberal dream. Why? Because the integrity of our political system, the integrity of democracy itself, is more important to maintain than any one or two or ten policy goals. It’s that simple for me.

I am as fond of President Obama as one distant voter should be. But if he, a highly intelligent man with impeccable ethics, were a conservative Republican, I might pay grudging respect to his intelligence and his ethics, but I would abhor his ideology and resulting policies. The policies do matter a great deal to me. But not as much as the underlying system of government and political institutions through which they can be applied. If that system and those institutions were to tolerate the level of disorder and corruption that even a liberal Tr-mp would present, it wouldn’t serve any of us, including liberals, in the long run. A liberal Tr-mp would still mean there is something seriously wrong with our democratic system and the institutions that support it. Even if a liberal Tr-mp championed progressive policy goals that would make Bernie Sanders blush, a sad and disturbing fact would remain: a sick and disordered man, a demagogue without a trace of ethics, had managed to con a Image result for pee in the poollot of people and debauch the system, severely threatening our experimental democracy.

To put it rather crudely, we all swim in the same democratic pool. And whether it is our political friends or our political enemies who pee in that pool, it doesn’t matter. The result is a piss bath.

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.

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.

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