Saturday, June 29, 2019

Mister Taj (ca. 2008 ~ June 29, 2019)

We had spotted the large but scrawny looking grey tabby scutting along the top of the stone row at the foot of the back yard several times.  It was January 2009, a few weeks into coldest winter at the mountain retreat in many years.  Wind chills were below zero, but the coal stove was chuffing away when Kimba roused us from our sleep with a late-night yowl.  He was on the warm side of the downstairs slider, alerting us that the large but scrawny looking grey tabby was gazing in from the the Arctic side. 
Deborah slid a saucer with food and a bowl of water out the door.  The obviously malnourished tabby fled, but in the morning the saucer had been licked clean and what little remained of the water was frozen solid.  For the next few days, this routine was repeated several times a day, and then Deborah placed food and water in a Havahart trap. The tabby took the bait and we took the tabby, whom we named Mister Taj for reasons now obscure, straight to our veterinarian where he was treated for a serious case of worms, defleaed and snipped after scaling the curtains on an examination room window and trying to skywalk across a transom.  It turned out that he did not like going to the vet's. 
Mister Taj was a poster boy -- and, as you can see, an exceedingly handsome one -- for cats who are pathologically frightened of people, which was symptomatic of his likely maltreatment and the unforgettable horror of being dumped from a car into the snow and abandoned near our rural home.   
It took about a year before Mister Taj would venture outside and about five years before we could even touch him, and only then gently behind his magnificent ears.  Perhaps eight years on, he trusted us enough to be petted and then stroked, to which he would respond with a fulsome purr he had kept locked away all those years.   
But pick him up?  No way. He would panic in a flash.  
As Mister Taj's trauma slowly receded, a classy cat emerged.  And a helluva hunter.  After a few seasons on the prowl, the perennial problem of field mice coming into the house and gnawing on pet food, bird seed and such was eliminated. 
Mister Taj had a gentle dignity but loved cavorting with the dogs as they did with him. Our dogs love all our cats, but Mister Taj was their favorite.  He and Iggy (photo, above), whom we nicknamed Frankie and Johnny for their hijinks, loved to wrestle and Iggy had his back when he headed out to the woods beyond the stone row to hunt.  
Mister Taj had become increasingly frail in recent months.  The trauma of his winter sojourn may have shortened his time on the planet, but he was able to leave this mortal coil on his own terms, not on a cold steel examination table in the room where he skywalked lo those many years ago.  As he faded away over the last few days before finally leaving his body as the sun set and a gentle rain commenced on Saturday evening, he laid next to the slider that had been his window to a new life, smelling the outdoor smells through the screen door and listening to the birds and night creatures.  He was able to keep his dignity to the end.   
At the ripe oldish age of 11 or 12 (we really don't know), Mister Taj had become another kind of poster boy for another kind of cat, as well -- the kind that with plenty of patience and lots of love you can wean from the wild side into your heart.  And you into his.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Trump Can't Win Fair & Square, But He'll Certainly Try To Steal The 2020 Election

Donald Trump cannot win in 2020.  But that rather cavalier if justified prediction comes with a huge caveat: He cannot win fair-and-square, but certainly will try to steal the election just as he did in 2016. 
Trump had waffled over whether he would accept the 2016 result if he lost all the way through to Election Day.   Since then, he has punctuated his bombast and incessant braggadocio with jokes (ha, ha) about staying in office beyond the two terms the Constitution allows while making dark suggestions that while he would never lose in 2020, woe befall anyone who suggests otherwise 
Some supporters, including the execrable Jerry Falwell Jr., have suggested Trump should get two years tacked on to his first term as a payback for the Mueller investigation, while Michael Cohen, the president's longtime lawyer and fixer, has warned that "there will never be a peaceful transition of power" should Trump fail in his reelection bid.     
As I explained the other day, he is indeed likely to fail. 
While Trump's "base" is immovable and tribal politics are ascendant in America, there simply are not enough voters beyond that 36 percent or so of the MAGA/KAG hat-wearing electorate sufficiently in his thrall to close the gap between he and the Democratic nominee, while a majority of voters in every poll of consequence say they would not vote for Trump under any circumstances. 
It's pretty much as simple as that.  The math adds up to a loss for Trump, perhaps the resounding loss reflected in his own early internal polling numbers.  
Because of Trump's criminality, the stakes for him in 2020 are especially high.  
If he is defeated and the loss stands, Trump will lose his immunity from criminal prosecution the moment his successor is sworn in.  The Justice Department in a new Democratic administration would be hard-pressed not to bring charges against Trump for obstructing justice, using the evidence in Robert Mueller's final report -- as well as anything of significance the special counsel might add in his just-announced testimony before two House committees next month -- while federal prosecutors in New York have also been reviewing potential campaign finance violations. 
While the law of gravity has not been rescinded, given Trump's extraordinary record of cheating, dishonesty and downright criminality over a long career as a con man, shister and liar, traits that have been hallmarks of his presidency, as well, it is within the realm of possibilities that if he can't steal the 2020 election, the Supreme Court might do it for him. 
Indeed, barring a crushing defeat, Trump probably will challenge the result, setting up a probable appeal to the high court, which has tacked harder to the right with the addition of his nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. 
Constitutional law experts dismiss the fears of a repeat of the Gore-Bush debacle of 2000. They note there are too many forces working against a sitting president simply clinging to power -- including history, law and political pressure. 
Jonathan Turley, among the most highly regarded of the con law experts, says an incumbent who is trying to stay in power would simply become irrelevant once a new and duly elected president is sworn in. 
At that point, the defeated president is nothing more than a guest, "if not an interloper," in the White House, Turley tells Politico.  "The system would make fast work on any president who attempted to deny the results of the election." 
An additional complication is that Trump probably would have to contest the results of the election in more than one state, as opposed to Gore contesting only the Florida result. Election litigation expert Bradley Shrager says this would be "a massive undertaking . . . Given the time frames to launch recounts and election contests, you’d have to be preparing months in advance to be able to do that." 
But then it's unlikely that Turley, Shrager and their peers could have foreseen that the profoundly unqualified reality TV star and faux billionaire would back into the Oval Office in 2016 because of his basket of deplorables, Hillary Clinton's tepid popularity and an archaic and deeply unfair system in which Clinton won the popular vote but was defeated in the Electoral College because of the upstart's razor-thin wins in three key states that were propelled by a Russian cyber disinformation blitz adroitly coordinated with Trump's campaign. 
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly stoked fears among his supporters that the election would be "rigged" and categorically refused to state during his final debate with Clinton that he'd concede if she won. 
On Election Day, Trump falsely tweeted that there were "voting machine problems across entire country."   And even after being declared the winner, he has continued to state without evidence that "millions" of people voted illegally. 
Shit happened in 2016.  And could happen again.  
If Donald Trump has a secret weapon as we slouch toward 2020, it may well be the shoulder-shrugging numbness with which his outrages are greeted. 
Yes, it's bad enough that migrant children are being housed under unspeakable conditions in border "concentration camps."  But when advice columnist and author E. Jean Carroll leveled a credible and vivid allegation of rape at our serially misogynist president last Friday, it sunk like a stone even in the liberal rags and the Sunday talk shows didn't touch it.  Which is all the more outrageous after the recent media frenzy about Joe Biden touching women's shoulders. 
Carroll is the 22nd woman, by one count, to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, and her account of him forcing himself on her after pulling down her tights in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in Manhattan in the mid-1990s is bolstered by the sheer number of allegations, as well as his boast about assaulting women -- grabbing them, as he said during a 2005 conversation on an "Access Hollywood" bus, "by the pussy."   
Trump's response was familiar. 
"No. 1, she’s not my type.  No. 2, it never happened.  It never happened, O.K.?"  His further denial that he had never met Carroll was undercut by a photo of them together in New York magazine. 
The New York Times, among other major papers, downplayed the story despite it being a slow news weekend.  The story appeared in The Times' digital edition on Friday and was not promoted until late Saturday after readers complained.  The story was not published in the print edition until Sunday.  
"We are hit so often with claims of Trump's misconduct -- and liberals, at least, have such low expectations of him -- that horrifying allegations lose their shock value and slide off," opined the Columbia Journalism Review.  In USA Today, Melinda Henneberger suggests that we're bored with all three -- Trump scandals, rape scandals, and Trump rape scandals.  "Maybe if he had been accused of swiping a sweater from Bergdorf's, that would be new and different?" 
To his credit, Times executive editor Dean Baquet acknowledged that the Gray Lady was "overly cautious." 
If you weren't outraged anew, what's your excuse?    

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Democrats Continue To Make A Huge Hash Of Getting Rid Of President Amok

Hope Hicks is getting her beauty sleep tonight, comfy in her silk jammies.   
That is not unusual except that she should be wearing an orange jumpsuit and moldering in a federal lockup after being charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about her firsthand knowledge of collusion between Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Vladimir Putin's cyberwarriors on orders of the White House in the course of a seven-hour appearance House Judiciary Committee appearance this week.  Behind closed doors.   
It is a sad spectacle. 
The Nancy Pelosi-led Democratic leadership is making a huge hash of getting rid of President Trump while hoping that the courts somehow do the job they should be doing in fulfilling their constitutional mandate to be a check on a rogue president.  Despite being newly empowered in the 2018 midterms, the Dems have all but conceded that the rules don't apply to Trump and minions like Hicks, Donald McGahn and William Barr, among others, because they won't enforce those rules. 
Beyond Hopey's "testimony" on Thursday, the best evidence that the Democrats aren't really serious came on Wednesday when House Speaker Pelosi refused to even allow a vote to censure Trump, a kind of Impeachment Lite that spares the president the pitfalls of televised hearings while giving him fresh ammo to portray the Democrats and not his own sorry self as vindictive and traitorous. 
It is beyond dispute that Trump's disregard of -- no, make that his attack -- on the rule of law and constitutional order is unprecedented.  And barring some lapse in the 19th century of which I am unaware, never has Congress so completely bailed on its constitutional duties in a time of national emergency.   
As I argued the other day, democracy is not going to save itself from Trump, and the Democrats' ongoing self extraction of the teeth that Blue Wave voters gave them has settled into a comfy routine of denials and excuse making:
They're going to air out the case against Trump by educating the public about his high crimes and misdemeanors but instead hold closed-door hearings like the Hicks pillow fight.  
They're going to hold accountable a key player like Barr, but instead Pelosi engages in an inane fight with the attorney general over who in the House should be given a minimally redacted copy of the Mueller report.  
They're going to get Trump's tax returns, but instead Richard Neal, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, has retreating on the issue in return for Republican help in advancing his pet legislation.    
And so on and so forth. 
The chance of ridding America of Trump before the 2020 election is as thin as a rake handle, as an old farmer friend of mine liked to say of the long odds one can encounter in life.  But the Democrats aren't really trying, their "efforts" are increasingly farcical and there is no way that they can hold the president accountable when they are averse to making themselves accountable.   
At least Hopey is getting her beauty sleep.
Barring a presidential pardon, which remains highly problematic, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be spending the rest of his sorry life in prison.  Yet the impression grows that he did a pretty fair job of diddling Robert Mueller and his prosecutorial team. 
Manafort, in addition to communicating with Trump's lawyers through a back channel lubricated by his own lawyer during the period he was ostensibly cooperating with Mueller, exchanged hundreds of text messages with Fox News host Sean Hannity after he was charged in the special counsel's probe, according to court documents released Friday. 
"The media is trying to split me with DT and family by lies and untruths," Manafort wrote to Hannity in August 2017.  "It is such a dirty game."
In another, Manafort says: "I have new lawyers who are junk yard dogs and will undo a lot of this injustice. But it is going to be a painful and expensive fight for me."  
Hannity, who for all intents and purposes is a member of Trump's Cabinet, offered Manafort consoling words and an open invitation to his show. 
"I pray that God give you grace and peace in this difficult moment," Hannity wrote.  "If you ever just want to talk, grab dinner, vent, strategize -- whatever, I am here.  I know this is very hard.  Stand tall and strong." 
Meanwhile, in yet another example of the endemic corruption in Trump's Justice Department, Manafort, already sentenced to 7-plus years in prison on charges brought by Mueller, is awaiting trial on New York state charges not in the notorious hellhole known as the Rikers Island state penitentiary, where any other prisoner in his position would be, but in a far more commodious federal pen after Jeffrey Rosen, Barr's deputy attorney general, pulled strings. 
The move is unprecedented, although certainly not surprising.   

Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations.                  

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Shocks, Real Shocks & Consequential Shocks: Why Trump's 2020 Bid Is Doomed

Donald Trump will not be re-elected in 2020. 
There, I said it.  I said it despite the whupping that I and other prognosticators suffered in 2016 when the deeply corrupt and profoundly unqualified reality TV star and faux billionaire backed into the Oval Office because of his basket of deplorables, Hillary Clinton's tepid popularity and an archaic and deeply unfair system in which Clinton won the popular vote but was defeated in the Electoral College because of the upstart's razor-thin wins in three key states that were propelled by a Russian cyber disinformation blitz adroitly coordinated with Trump's campaign. 
When Trump kicked off his re-election bid on Tuesday night at a cacophonous Orlando, Florida rally, it seemed like old times as he raged against "fake news," stoked fear against immigrants, repeatedly bashed Clinton and recycled his many personal grievances, notably the Russia "witch hunt."  But it is 2019 and not 2015, when he descended an escalator from his gilded Fifth Avenue penthouse to proclaim his maiden voyage, and that is why he will not merely be a one-term president, but hands down the worst in history. 
The reasons Trump's re-election is doomed are manifold, but one predominates:
The 2020 election will resoundingly answer the question of whether Trump's 2016 "victory" was a fluke or a true reflection of what America has become, and whether he can pull off the seemingly impossible twice. 
Trump cannot win twice because he did not make America, America made him, and while his "base" is immovable and tribal politics are ascendant, there are not enough voters beyond that 36 percent or so of the electorate sufficiently enamored of him to close the gap between he and the Democratic nominee.
Not to split decimal points, but pollsters were off by a mere 1 percent nationally in 2016.   
Where they got it wrong -- and not by much -- was in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, although they did detect a late surge for Trump and warned that the presence of two minor party candidates made the results there harder to predict. 
Thanks in large part to that Russian disinformation blitz, hacking of Clinton emails and those minor-party candidates, Clinton lost by an infinitesimal combined 77,744 votes out of 13.9 million cast in those three states.  Clinton would have won the Electoral College by a 275-248 electoral vote margin if 5,353 Trump voters had gone for her instead in Michigan, 11,375 voters in Wisconsin and 22,147 voters in Pennsylvania.  
Yes, it was that close.   
"These are shocks, real shocks, consequential shocks," as Josh Marshall notes at Talking Points Memo.  "I don’t mean to discount them or argue them away.  But they are more limited than people remember.  And they've led to a pervasive species of denial and magical thinking that shadows all discussion of the 2020 election." 
Magical thinking -- that Trump has superpowers and his base is unbeatable -- is a creation of his most diehard supporters and pretty much the only thing propelling the president's campaign. 
Yes, the election is nearly a year and a half away and the Democrats could nominate a clunker, but Trump's own internal polling reveals he is in deep trouble in all of the states he needs to win and is barely leading in reliably red Texas.  
The numbers would be even worse if the campaign wasn't using something called an "informed ballot" in which poll respondents are screened based on their answers to loaded questions.  Trump's response to the polling was to first deny it and then, after it was leaked, fire his pollsters.   
Meanwhile, the latest Trump-friendly Fox News poll finds the president not only trailing the Democrat in each of the possible 2020 head-to-head matchups, he never gets above 41 percent support.  And most telling, polls are consistently showing that a majority of voters -- as many as 57 percent in one poll -- say they will definitely not vote to reelect Trump. 
The other reasons Trump will not be re-elected include:
The built-in advantages of being the incumbent being undercut by the widespread perception that Trump is an incompetent and a crook. 
Even with a robust economy, Trump is the only president in the history of polling who has never once earned the support of a majority of Americans. 
While most voters feel optimistic about the economy, few give Trump credit because they know his policies favor the rich and not themselves.    
Trump's support has not expanded beyond his base because he has never tried to win converts, instead intensely focusing on coddling that base. 
Because of a shift in demographics, blue-collar whites will decline as a share of the vote as minorities and college-educated whites edge upward. 
Vows by Trump and Republicans to destroy Obamacare and replace it with a plan no one can articulate because there is no plan are backfiring.
The drip-drip-drip of negative publicity as Trump continues to defy Congress at every turn in the face on all the ongoing House investigations. 
The probability there will be  distracting criminal trials involving longtime Trump associates, even family members, in the heat of the campaign. 
Despite Mitch McConnell's seeming stranglehold on the Senate, bipartisan support to enact legislation to crack down on foreign meddling. 
While Trump has been adept at making himself the story during his first term, policy and politics and not populism and personality will prevail even in these overtly tribal times. 
Trump has pathetically few accomplishments to show. 
Trumponomics -- blatant nationalism writ large -- isn't working, while Obama era environmental rollbacks are deeply unpopular.   In fact, there are signs that Trump's proclivity for starting trade wars is beginning to hurt the economy while already being deeply injurious to farmers and failing to stanch the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas. His Orlando re-election rally was notable for a lack of anything that could be charitably called a governing vision, just more aggrievement and demonization. 
You may have noticed the absence here of another big factor -- impeachment. 
This is because I reluctantly conclude, even as a vociferous supporter of the House initiating impeachment proceedings, that impeaching Trump will have little impact one way or the other in the run-up to November 2020. 
A substantial majority of voters, having had four years to take Trump's measure, already have concluded that he not only has done nothing for them, he is destroying America.  

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Yo Nancy Pelosi, Stop Kicking The Can: Democracy Is Not Going To Save Itself

The president of the United States made an extraordinary declaration the other day: He'd welcome help from Russia in a New York minute if it would like to sabotage his opponent in the 2020 election as it did with Lock Her Up Hillary in 2016.   This was a double-edged acknowledgment that Donald Trump will do anything to get re-elected and that likely won't happen without the Kremlin again helping. 
"I like the truth. I'm actually a very honest guy," Trump told an incredulous George Stephanopoulos in interview excerpts aired last Wednesday.  That, of course, was, a lie.   
But what was so extraordinary about his admission to ABC News's chief political correspondent is that
It is the most outrageous example to date of a particularly pernicious phenomenon -- when Trump actually tells the truth it can be even more disturbing than when he lies. 
Trump's declaration that he would again welcome those Ruskies with open arms quickly sank like a stone without a trace into the bubbling cauldron of shit that is his presidency. 
This disappearing act occurred with a gut-wrenching inevitability after only a couple of news cycles of obligatory finger wagging among the liberal punditocracy, canned Democratic outrage and unusually, some Republican tut-tutting.  Then there was Trump's inevitable walk back on Thursday, which coincided with a report that Russia is up to its old tricks and had conducted a textbook disinformation campaign before European Union elections last month to suppress voter turnout.   
Nothing to see here folks, it was just a practice run for 2020.
In the meantime, Trump has pretty much exhausted us, and his truth-telling about welcoming Russian help should have been a signal moment for the Resistance to rise up -- you know, our friends and neighbors who propelled the Blue Wave election victories that flipped the House and saved Obamacare by packing town hall meetings -- was instead an exercise in weary head shaking and wonderment over what awful thing he'll do to America next.   
Next arrived on Friday when the White House announced it was planning to detain 1,400 migrant children separated from their parents -- some still babies -- at an Oklahoma military installation once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.   
On Saturday, as The New York Times reported that Trump had not been briefed in any detail about a stepped-up U.S. cyber campaign to place software code that can be used for surveillance or attack inside the Russian power grid because he is a security risk who might discuss the operations with foreign officials or countermand them, nationwide demonstrations demanding that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership move on impeachment bombed.  The crowds were embarrassingly minuscule, like the dozen or so people and one chihuahua that showed up in one Southern California city. 
Then on Sunday Trump tweeted the possibility of staying in office longer than two terms, suggesting that his supporters might "demand that I stay longer." 
The blame for this dire state of affairs also is double edged.   
There is Trump's incompetence, deceit and criminality.   But there is also the refusal of Pelosi and her minions to stop dithering -- that is, continuing to gather evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors ad nauseam when there already is more than enough evidence -- to initiating impeachment proceedings at a time when America is on its collective knees and more vulnerable than that Russian power grid. 
Trump is running scared.  You can see the fear in his weird body language and hear it in his voice.  It's why he keeps accusing Biden of being a mental and physical cripple.  ("I have to tell you, he's a different guy.  He looks different than he used to, he acts different than he used to, he is even slower than he used to be.  So I don't know.") 
Although there are a number of reasons for Trump to be panicky, two predominate and they are perversely interconnected.  You'd expect nothing less of anything having to do with the Deviant in Chief:
Trump knows that if he doesn't win re-election, he will be indicted in connection with one or more of the staggering 29 investigations targeting he, his family and business.  White House to jail house. 
Although it's early in the game, Trump's own internal poll numbers show that he is lagging behind Joe Biden in key states such as Pennsylvania (16 points), Wisconsin (10) and Florida (7).
The polling numbers had been disputed by Trump for weeks.  In fact, he blithely told Stephanopoulos when he brought up the lousy numbers, "No, my polls show that I'm winning everywhere." 
That lie was undercut when someone in the campaign -- although the long knife brigade in the West Wing can't be ruled out -- leaked the poll to ABC News.  It revealed that the president is in deep trouble in all of the states he needs to win and is barely leading in reliably red Texas.  The numbers would be even worse if the campaign wasn't using something called an "informed ballot" in which poll respondents are screened based on their answers to loaded questions. 
You get the idea.  
Trump's state of mind, never mind the polling numbers, should be yet another wakeup call for Pelosi, who has kicked the can down the road so many times that those satin pumps she is so fond of wearing must need new toes. 
Pelosi, as we know all too well, is convinced impeachment would be "divisive," besides which the Republican-led Senate would never convict Trump, who smells her weakness "like a beagle can smell a treat in your pocket," as Andrew Sullivan put it. 
Pelosi's can kicking may make some kind of political sense, but putting that over her constitutional duty is, in its own way, just as bad as congressional Republicans' appeasement of Trump.    
No, it's worse.   
Like the headline says, democracy is not going to save itself from Donald Trump.  

Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations.  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Trump Welcomes Russian Interference In 2020; McConnell Could Make It Happen

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse in Washington, they just did with the force of a neutron bomb. 
Donald Trump has declared that he'd gladly accept help from Russia or another foreign power if it wants to sabotage the 2020 election and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has virtually assured that such an effort would succeed by doubling down on refusing to allow the Senate to proceed on election security bills.  Such legislation might mitigate the impact of the very kind of meddling that in 2016 improbably propelled a profoundly incompetent crook to the presidency, reinforcing the reality that these so-called men would do anything -- anything, America -- to assure Trump is re-elected. 
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on Wednesday, Trump yet again telegraphed his inherent vileness when asked how he'd greet another interference effort like the cyberattacks on Hillary Clinton mounted by Vladimir Putin's hackers with the help of his own campaign. 
"Let's put yourself in a position -- you're a congressman," Trump replied in his best mobsterish tone of voice.  "Somebody comes up and says, 'Hey, I have information on your opponent.'  Do you call the FBI?  I'll tell you what, I've seen a lot of things over my life.  I don't think in my whole life I've ever called the FBI.  In my whole life.  You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.  Oh, give me a break – life doesn't work that way." 
When Stephanopoulos pointed out that Trump's own FBI director, Christopher Wray, has called for exactly that, Trump said: "The FBI director is wrong."  As surely was Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose report on the Russia scandal was a clarion call to be on guard against the future foreign influence Trump endorses.   
Defending his latest outrage on Thursday in the face of widespread shock and condemnation, including a rebuke from presidential poodle Lindsey Graham, an unrepentant Trump indignantly conflated his willingness to accept campaign help from America's arch enemy or other foreign governments with the diplomatic meetings he holds with the most friendly of world leaders as the nation's chief executive.  
"I meet and talk to 'foreign governments' every day," he tweeted.  "I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Whales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland.  We talked about 'Everything!'" he added, later correcting the title of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.
There are multiple bills pending with bipartisan support that would begin to address election interference by a foreign power.  
These bills include a Democratic measure that would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks and require that states spend federal funds only on federally certified election infrastructure vendors.  
A bipartisan measure in both Senate and House would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads, while a bipartisan Senate measure would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.  
But all of these measures, even with some Republican support, are effectively dead on arrival.   
This is because of McConnell, comfortable in his yellow traitor's coat, has less than no interest in Trump defending America and plenty of interest in him continuing to undermine it.  No interest in defending one of America's most sacred institutions, but all out for defending that southern border against hordes of political refugees seeking a better life in a once great country.   
I would argue that McConnell, by virtue of flagrant violation of an oath of office he has taken six times and perpetual exploitation of his leadership role for power and profit, has done more to undermine our norms than even Trump.  But who's keeping score at this point?  
In September 2016, McConnell, Paul Ryan, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were invited to the Oval Office where Barack Obama pleaded with them to forge a bipartisan alliance to fight back against ongoing Russian election interference and work with state and local election officials to thwart Election Day threats.  McConnell refused, telling the president that he was trying to politicize the matter and, if he went public with the interference, he would use it as a political hammer on Hillary Clinton, whose campaign at that very moment was being sabotaged by his Kremlin pals.  
Trump's endorsement of foreign sabotage, McConnell's smirking approval and their joint betrayal of American values is extraordinary. 
But these two men and their Republican helpmates have so debased the notion of what is extraordinary when those values have come under such regular and relentless attack that Democrats' efforts to push back -- indeed even the question of whether to impeach a president who deserves that and much worse -- verge on the comical because they are further empowering him.  
Representative Brenda Lawrence was one Democrat who got it right. 
"It is past sad," she said.  "It is past frustration.  This is criminal.  It is criminal.  And we need to hold this president accountable." 
Tell that to Nancy Pelosi, who believes impeachment would be "divisive."  Compared to what?  Allowing Trump to steal another election because the only way he can win is with Russia's help? 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and delated developments. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sublime Becomes Ridiculous As Dithering Dems Spin Their Wheels Over Trump

Shush!  Listen closely.  That sound you hear, no matter how distant you are from Washington, is the sound of congressional Democrats spinning their wheels as they dither over how to rid America of Donald Trump.  Or indeed whether they should even try. 
Yes, even in the face of a veritable Himalaya of evidence that Trump is a criminal of staggering proportions who is profoundly unfit for office, even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller all but shouted that the Dems must do their constitutional duty by picking up the ball and running with it, the party leadership is betwixt and between -- like deer caught in the headlights of a getaway car with the president at the wheel -- about what to do. 
The options are these:
* Continue investigating him on multiple fronts. 
* Begin impeachment proceedings against him. 
* Leave it to voters to deny him a second term. 
* Denied that second term, indict his sorry ass.
Trump has had some success playing the Democrats, frequently through manufactured crises that inevitably collapse under the weight of their own emptiness, most recently an "agreement" with Mexico to avoid tariffs that actually is months old.   
But at this point the Dems are playing themselves, and small victories like an agreement reached Monday between Attorney General William Barr and the House Judiciary Committee on releasing "key evidence" from the Mueller report on whether Trump obstructed justice is illusory.  This is because the outlines of such information are already pretty much known despite Barr's redactions and White House is not budging on the biggie -- forbidding Donald McGahn and other former administration officials to honor subpoenas to testify, which short of an unlikely appearance by Mueller himself is the Dems' best hope of blowing Trump's criminality wide open. 
Hours after the agreement was announced, committee chairman Jerrold Nadler gaveled in the first of a series of hearings scrutinizing 10 incidents of possible obstruction of justice identified by Mueller, but it was something less than must-see TV with Watergate figure John Dean, who dutifully compared Trump to Richard Nixon, and two former federal prosecutors who are MSNBC contributors, weighing in. 
Several Republicans openly mocked the proceedings, which were pre-empted on cable news networks by a helicopter crash in Manhattan.   
Meanwhile, the clock is tick-ticking down with the July 4 recess fast approaching, the House taking August off and then the Democratic presidential race further heating up in September and calls inexorably growing for letting voters, not Congress, decide Trump's fate. 
The premature attention being paid the 23 (count 'em) Democratic presidential candidates is a huge and especially vexsome distraction since they're essentially a circular firing squad armed with Wiffle Ball bats, few of whom are laying so much as a glove on Trump.  Has O'Rourke burned out?  Can de Blasio find anyone to vote for him?  Who's ahead in Iowa?  Is Biden the new Hillary?     
The haplessness -- or perhaps it is hopelessness -- of congressional Dems was inadvertently captured in a recent Washington Post hankie-wringer of an article headlined
 For Democrats, Trump Impeachment Question 
Is a Personal Struggle Transcending Politics
in which congressfolk caught in the "searing debate over whether to impeach President Trump" contemplate the future their grandkids might face if they don't act.   
It's amazing that when the going gets tough, politicians default to fingering their worry beads over their daughters (but seldom their sons) and their grandkids.  
I don't mean to denigrate these Democrats.   
They face an historic and in some ways unprecedented choice, historic because impeachment is such a rarely used option, the Clinton impeachment circus notwithstanding, and unprecedented because there never has been a chief executive as remotely as awful as Trump who has undermined American democracy so thoroughly, jeopardizing the very future of a once great country.  So yeah, the grandkids do matter. 
The impeachment debate, as the WaPo notes, is testing long-standing friendships and alliances, and many Democrats feel caught between party leaders (who may or may not include the enigmatic Nancy Pelosi) fearful that impeachment will provoke a political backlash, lubricating a Trump victory in 2020, and a growing sense that history will judge harshly those who chose not to act in the face of a president who has repeatedly and brazenly abused his power and broken the law. 
I myself, sick to death of the whole debate, have come up with a catchy, if intentionally ambiguous, slogan to move this beast of an impasse forward.  The slogan is easily adaptable as a bumper sticker, billboard or stump speech tag line that should seize the day: 
So there.