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These Things Didn’t Hurt Them Much

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi apparently still believes starting an impeachment inquiry would hurt the Democrats in the 2020 election. It’s hard to understand why, since publicizing the president’s clear unfitness in televised hearings and forcing Republicans to endorse his behavior, if they chose to, would almost certainly hurt the Republicans.

David Roberts, who writes for Vox, cites an article that says impeaching Bill Clinton didn’t really hurt the Republicans (even though Clinton’s misbehavior was infinitesimal compared to this president’s). Mr. Roberts is angry and has a question:

Impeaching Clinton didn’t hurt Republicans much; stealing the 2000 election didn’t hurt them much; launching a disastrous war based on lies didn’t hurt them much; walking the US blindly to a global recession didn’t hurt them much.

Running a series of fraudulent investigations into fake Obama scandals didn’t hurt them much; gerrymandering didn’t hurt them much; abusing the filibuster didn’t hurt them much; stealing a Supreme Court seat didn’t hurt them much.

Working with hostile foreign power to elect a criminal didn’t hurt them much; running multiple concurrent state-based schemes to suppress or deny minority votes didn’t hurt them much; running concentration camps for children on the border didn’t hurt them much.

Building a whole parallel media apparatus devoted to propaganda didn’t hurt them much. Lying — relentlessly, endlessly, about climate change, about crime, about immigrants, about taxes, about EVERYTHING — didn’t hurt them much.

The U.S. right’s accelerating evolution into a party of lawless minority white rule, which has involved shitting all over truth, decency, and every democratic norm still standing, has not hurt them much. A really good question to ask is: why?

Well, one reason is that there are plenty of Americans who relish Republican bad behavior. Concentration camps for children? Hey, their parents shouldn’t have brought them here. The president is using his position to rake in the cash? That shows he knows how to play the game. All politicians are crooked anyway.

Another reason is that having “a whole media apparatus devoted to propaganda” helps a lot. The right has a national television network (Fox Television) and cable channel (Fox News) that both push right-wing propaganda while claiming to be more accurate than their middle-of-the-road competition. Talk radio shows all over the country push the same propaganda. The internet offers a steady stream of the same nonsense. These outlets feed off each other, creating a vast echo chamber. As a result, it’s easy for Americans who lean right to absorb Republican Party bullshit 24 hours a day. They can avoid the networks and newspapers that practice traditional journalism and, if they hear something troubling anyway, they can reject it as “fake news” from the “liberal media” since it’s not what they heard on Fox and Friends.

Thus, when Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican congressman, declared that the president should be impeached, one of his constituents was curious:

Cathy Garnaat, a Republican who supported Amash and the president said she was upset about Amash’s position but wanted to hear his reasoning. She said that she will definitely support Trump in 2020 but that Tuesday night was the first time she had heard that the Mueller report didn’t completely exonerate the president.

“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before,” she said. “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report, and President Trump has been exonerated.”

Millions of our fellow citizens don’t know what the hell is going on, either because they aren’t paying attention or because they’re immersed in “news” and commentary that’s seriously misleading. Throw in voter suppression, gerrymandering, the absurd Electoral College system, the over-representation of lightly-populated rural states in the Senate, outrageous hardball politics, journalists who fear being criticized by the right, feckless Democratic politicians and some fortuitous circumstances (James Comey’s big mouth, for example) and it’s easy to understand why the Republican Party isn’t hurting at all.

It doesn’t look like Bloomberg, Soros, Gates or Bezos are going to buy Fox and clean house, so how can we fight the Fox infestation? One thing we could do is find a way to make Fox TV and Fox News less profitable for the Murdoch family. Elizabeth Warren declined to be interviewed on Fox because she didn’t want to make it look like a legitimate news operation. If more politicians, actors and other notables refused to appear on Fox, if Fox’s corporate sponsors were pressured to take their business elsewhere, if Fox was subject to a national boycott, maybe the Murdochs would change direction. We need to do something, because, as a famous Republican once said, back when it was honorable to be a Republican, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

P.S. — If you want a taste of what they’re seeing, take a look at this random selection.

Shooting Down One Argument

A Democratic congressman from Massachusetts offered this argument against impeachment hearings:

It would be disastrous — and Speaker Pelosi has hit on this — if we proceed with impeachment and we fail in the Senate just as people are going to the polls. That will be a vindication of Trump and it will help him in the final election,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said.

Rep. Lynch apparently thinks the televised presentation of loads of evidence for impeachment, and the news coverage that will generate, won’t do much. He must think we won’t come to a decision about the president’s unfitness all on our own. Instead, we’ll wait to see the results of a trial in the Senate, as if we believe the senators will all act like disinterested jurors making a reasonable, impartial decision. Perhaps Rep. Lynch doesn’t remember the O. J. Simpson trial. It received massive publicity and convinced most of America that Simpson was guilty, despite the jury, which wasn’t even made up of politicians, acquitting him. And who knows, a majority of senators might actually do the right thing and vote for his removal (even though the required two-thirds of them probably won’t).

Adam Jentleson, who used to work for Senator Harry Reid, gave an expert’s response to Rep. Lynch:

This answer from [Rep. Lynch] contains multitudes of learned helplessness and miscalculation.

First, on what planet is it bad for [Republican senator] Susan Collins to vote to protect an impeached [DT] right before the election? Remember, [the nomination of] Kavanaugh [to the Supreme Court] was a much bigger driver for Democrats than Republicans in 2018.

The idea that Trump will be “exonerated” in the public eye by a Senate vote to keep him in office reflects a massive degree of learned helplessness. Democrats have a huge stack of evidence and bipartisan voices attesting to his crimes. If we can’t win that argument, we should hang it up.

There’s a lot of angst about how Senate Republicans still evade accountability for being Trump lackeys. But you counldn’t invent a better way to tie every single Senate Republican to Trump than having them vote to let him off the hook for high crimes. This isn’t brain surgery!

Imagine [senators] Collins or Gardner on camera, being pressed on which of Trump’s many crimes they think should be permissible for a president.

It’s not a good thing to have to explain why you are letting a criminal off the hook. Again, if we can’t win that debate, we should hang it up.

And yes, Collins and Gardner will almost certainly vote to protect Trump. If they don’t, their base will abandon them overnight. In 2018, Dean Heller never recovered from mildly criticizing Trump over health care. Ditto Joe Heck in 2016 over the Access Hollywood tapes.

Meanwhile, we’ll have a presidential nominee. Ask yourself: if you ran for president, would you like your opponent to be on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors? If you answered yes, the good news is, you’re right! The bad news is you’re now disqualified from being a Democratic consultant.

What this boils down to is that people like [Rep. Lynch] are engaged in an exercise of unparalleled groupthink. It’s stunning to witness intelligent people convince themselves that *actually* it is good for a president to get impeached. It’s really quite something.

The group thinkers have also convinced themselves that the pro-impeachment side hasn’t thought through the endgame, when in reality it’s the reverse.

There is no endgame for non-impeachment. It will be a year of Democrats looking like deer in the headlights trying to explain why [DT] did impeachable crimes, but doesn’t deserve to be impeached. Everyone knows Democrats think he should be impeached. They look ridiculous trying to punt.

The endgame for impeachment is impeachment, then a Senate trial where Democrats can win the debate if and when the Senate votes to protect Trump. Then we run in 2020 on the validated idea that the ballot is the only way to remove him, against Senate Republicans who fell in line to protect him.

As the man said, this isn’t brain surgery.

“Stop Asking Us To Wait”

Thirty progressive groups have sent an open letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: 

We write to express deep disappointment and concern over your refusal to use the full scope of your constitutional power to hold [the president] accountable. We urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and immediately open an impeachment inquiry.

Voters gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives because they wanted aggressive oversight of the … administration. Yet, your leadership is resulting in dangerous inaction that enables this racist and xenophobic president. Our families, friends, communities, country and planet deserve a party that chooses people over politics – and that starts with your willingness to take bold, moral leadership.

As Speaker of the House, you have the power to ensure Congress exercises its constitutional obligation to hold this president accountable, but instead of using your power, you are giving us political excuses for why you shouldn’t. Instead of leading, you and your colleagues have asked us to wait – wait for the Mueller report, wait for the unredacted Mueller report, wait for Mueller’s testimony about the Mueller report, wait for more investigations, wait for bipartisan consensus, wait for impeachment to poll better, wait for the 2020 election.

With 10 distinct episodes of obstruction of justice already clear from the Mueller report, violations of the emoluments clause happening on an almost daily basis, and [the] administration now defying subpoenas for both documents and testimony, waiting is a privilege. But it is not a privilege available to the families separated by his deportation force or his Muslim ban, the asylum seekers languishing in Mexico, the people threatened by his embrace of white supremacy, the LGBTQ people whose rights he is taking away, the women whose bodies he is trying to control or the communities threatened by his denial of the climate crisis.

The American people deserve a leader who is willing to bravely use power to rein in the Trump administration and defend our communities. You have stated that we are facing a constitutional crisis. But the remedy for such a constitutional crisis is not traditional congressional oversight – particularly when confronted with a president who has nothing but contempt for such oversight and obstinately refuses to comply with legitimate congressional demands and requests. The framers placed the impeachment power in the Constitution precisely for the purpose of confronting a lawless president like [him].

There’s still a chance to turn things around…. Your strong leadership can help move the public narrative, not only on impeachment, but on the dangers [his] presidency poses for all Americans. Your leadership can position the House of Representatives as the body that exposes the corruption and moral abhorrence of [this] White House, proves that no president is above the law, and persuades most Americans that this president must be removed from office. <Note: I’d say “should be”> You can help expose his defenders and enablers, including those in the Senate, as craven partisans willing to destroy our democracy and defend a criminal president in order to protect tax breaks for their billionaire benefactors and stack the federal courts to defend their white, male privilege.

In the very near future, the Trump era will be one that evokes the question – what did you do? We urge you to use your power to lead and to stop asking us to wait.

Inching Toward Impeachment

One week ago, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-highest-ranking Democrat in the House, indicated he wasn’t ready to impeach the president:

We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out-of-control executive branch. But we will not overreach. We will not overinvestigate. We will not overpoliticize that responsibility. We will proceed as Speaker Pelosi has laid out, methodically yet aggressively to get to the truth.

He said that politics shouldn’t determine whether to impeach or not impeach.

Then Congress took a week off to allow everyone to travel back home and celebrate Memorial Day. After speaking with constituents in Brooklyn and Queens, it sounds like Rep. Jeffries is inching closer to impeachment:

The Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, should have hearings on three things: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and the culture of corruption that appears to exist at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I’m of the view that those hearings should commence immediately. And we need to present the information to the American people. What you call those hearings — that is a decision that will ultimately be made by [Judiciary Committee] Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi.

In that regard, the Judiciary Committee will commence hearings on the Mueller report next Monday, with “testimony from former U.S. attorneys and legal experts, including John Dean, a Trump critic and former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon”. But there is still no word on Robert Mueller testifying. 

In case the committee has trouble coming up with things to investigate, Washington Post columnist Max Boot offers “seven reasons [the president] should be impeached”, expressed as formal articles of impeachment:

Article 1. … in violation of his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, [he] has obstructed the administration of justice….

Article II. … failed to defend America from foreign election interference…. 

Article III. … attempted to investigate and prosecute his political opponents…. 

Article IV. [and] failed to produce papers and testimony as duly directed by Congress.

Article V. … in violation of federal campaign finance laws, [he] conspired with his attorney Michael Cohen in order to conceal alleged relationships with [Stormy Daniels and Karen MacDougal] before the 2016 election.

Article VI. … in violation of his oath to uphold Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution (“No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law”), [he] attempted to misuse his emergency powers to spend funds on a border wall that Congress did not appropriate.

Article VII. … in violation of his oath to uphold the emoluments clauses (which forbid the president from accepting benefits from foreign and state governments without the permission of Congress) [he] retains ownership of a global business empire which allows him to benefit from dealings with foreign and state governments.

No doubt there are other “high crimes and misdemeanors” Mr. Boot didn’t get to.

He concludes: 

[The president] has committed more criminal and unconstitutional conduct than any previous president in U.S. history. If they refuse to impeach him, members of Congress will violate their own oaths to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

In case you’d like to deliver a message to your representative, you can begin by entering your zip code at the House’s handy Find Your Representative page. Then you click on their name. (They’re waiting to hear from you.)

This Is Past Ridiculous, So We Need To Speak Up

The New York Times is trying to find out which Democrats in the House of Representatives support an impeachment inquiry. So far, 54 of them do; 56 of them gave wishy-washy answers (probably in deference to Nancy Pelosi); and 125 haven’t responded. My congressman, Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) does.

If yours doesn’t, you should consider getting in touch (they all have their own websites). You might even quote these two gentlemen.

Charles Blow of The Times asks:

What the hell is it going to take, Democrats?!

What evidence and impetus would compel you to do the job the Constitution, patriotism and morality dictate?

What is it going to take to make you initiate an impeachment inquiry?

Your slow walking of this issue and your specious arguments about political calculations are pushing you dangerously close to a tragic, historic dereliction of duty, one that could do irreparable damage to the country and the Congress….

Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept takes five minutes to explain why the arguments against impeaching the president are b.s. (I apologize for displaying the disturbing image.)

The situation is only going to get worse. If she feels enough pressure, Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) will eventually admit it’s time to act.

Mad King Donald?

Simon Rosenberg of NDN and the New Policy Institute writes:

One of the great animating principles which drove the founding of America and the design of our government was the quest to curtail the power of a single person to determine the fate of the nation without reasonable deliberation and what we call checks and balances.  There is perhaps no more quintessentially American idea than this – that the President is not a sovereign, but a partner in governing the nation with Congress and the Judiciary; that he or she serves the people, not themselves; that we are a nation of laws, not men and women.

After more than two years of his Presidency, it just isn’t clear that [the President] agrees with this timeworn American belief that the power of an executive in a democracy must be limited and checked.  At the core of Bob Mueller’s report to the American people are profound questions about [the President’s] willingness to trample democratic norms and laws, even openly working with a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election.  The President showers authoritarian strongmen like Putin, Kim, and Orban with praise, and denigrates our democratic allies.  In case after case – the unrelenting lying about everything, the refusal to divest from his businesses, the unilateral deployment of the military on US soil, the years of obstruction documented by Mueller and the unprecedented disregard for the oversight responsibilities of Congress, the many times the President’s policies have been stopped by US courts, the granting of security clearances over the objections of professional staff and the intelligence community, the wanton lawlessness of his Cabinet and staff, and the persistent invocation of emergency powers when no emergency exists (either the US economy is the best ever or we are in a national emergency, can’t be both) – the President has refused to abide by the laws and norms essential to making our democracy, or any democracy, work.  In many ways he has become the type of American leader our Founding Fathers tried so hard to prevent from ever occupying the White House. 

It is in this light that we must see, and ultimately challenge, the President’s use of tariffs with Mexico, China, and other nations in the world.  The way he is using them, without consulting Congress and by whimsically announcing and enacting them without public debate or deliberation, is simply outside any reasonable understanding of how our nation should be governed.  They are the actions of a tyrant, or a Mad King, not an American President.  They also, perhaps even more importantly, violate the entire theory of how the post WWII order, designed and built by the United States, was supposed to work.  Whimsical use of tariffs has been essentially outlawed or highly constrained in our global system, in ways similar to how we’ve approached chemical and nuclear weapons. Their escalating use in the pre-war period led to world war, and leaders from around the world came together and designed a system which sought to eliminate their existence entirely.  The President’s repeated deployment of tariffs to achieve not just economic but political objectives is a clear break from the norms and laws of the modern world. 

…. Congress has a profound duty to step in now and stop this dangerous abuse of Presidential authority before more harm is done to the United States and the world.  It can begin by advancing a bicameral, bipartisan bill already introduced into Congress that is designed to reign in the President’s abuse of his tariff authorities. 

…. Congress has an additional remedy it is considering now – impeachment and removal.  It is my own belief that if Congress does begin the process of removing the President, among the more persuasive arguments which will need to be made is [his] historic abandonment of the democratic principles which have inspired the world and made America great.  Refusal to embrace those principles, flirting and encouraging autocratic whimsy rather than democratic deliberation, is perhaps the greatest crime an American President can commit, for it is a betrayal of our nation’s most important contribution to human kind – that it is the people who are sovereign, not Mad Kings and tyrants.  There is perhaps no greater rationale for the removal of a President than failure to maintain fidelity to our democratic system itself. 

Memorial Days

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s one of three holidays we have for the military. Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in the armed forces. Veterans Day celebrates everyone who has served, including those serving now. Armed Forces Day, which hardly anyone knows about, only honors those currently serving. 

Two songs from an earlier time: 

More recently, the Vice President addressed the graduating class at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy:

It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life.  You will lead soldiers in combat.  It will happen.

Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.

Somehow, he left out Africa, where we already have troops in combat, the polar regions and the Moon, but give them time. There’s no chance we’ll run out of men and women to honor on future Memorial Days.