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Trump defense collapses at Thursday’s Impeachment hearing

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Yesterday’s testimony from Fiona Hill and David Holmes was really the clincher for the case against Trump. Both witnesses gave their stories in prosaic, almost homely ways, compared to the equivocating sniveling of Sondland, who struck me as a rather sordid character.

But Hill and Holmes were anything but sordid. Holmes, who went first, told the tale of Trump’s criminal interference in Ukraine in a straight-forward way. The details were compelling, the narrative easy to follow, Trump’s crime impossible to overlook. Then came Hill, whose poise and articulateness—not to mention her public scolding of Republicans on the committee who, consciously or not, are peddling the Putin line—made her an ideal witness. Together, the two entirely confirmed what the other witnesses said—what we all know to be the facts: Trump, in an effort to hurt Joe Biden (who he thought was his likely, and most powerful, opponent in 2020), bribed, or attempted to bribe, Zelensky into announcing a fake investigation into the Bidens. In so doing, Trump not only broke the law, he entirely subverted longstanding American policy with respect to Ukraine, our ally, and endangered our national security.

That’s the story, pure and simple—and it was fun watching the Republicans on the committee and their lawyers squirm to rebut it. They tried to smear both witnesses as well as former witnesses (like Vinman). They tried to change the topic: Hillary, the Steel dossier, Sweden!!! They tried to protest the structure of the hearings, or the processes by which Democrats launched them, or the timelines. The peddled, again, the thoroughly discredited fable—manufactured by Russian security–that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in our 2016 election. They even descended to the absurdity of grilling Holmes about the distance between Sondland’s ear and his cell phone. They grabbed at any straw they could, to convince themselves and Trump’s base that the story of Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors could not possibly be true.

But of course it is. And everybody knows it.

I feel no sorrow for these Republicans. In attempting to defend the indefensible, they obviously have bitten off more than they can chew. But more than that, they have shown themselves before the Bar of History to be contemptible fools. At the very least, they have destroyed their own personal reputations. At the most, they have come dangerously close themselves to being part of a criminal conspiracy. And, as if all that isn’t bad enough, they’ve created a system of lies and truth-denying that threatens the very fabric of our society. That is Hitlerian.

Since there’s zero chance the traitors in the Republican Senate will vote to convict despite the mountain of evidence, it all comes down to the 2020 elections. It’s conventional wisdom to say that every election is the most important in our history, but in the case of 2020, I really believe it. I take heart in recent elections (Kentucky and Louisiana governerships, Virginia legislature) that went, improbably, for Democrats. But some polls (for instance, this one showing Trump winning in Wisconsin) give me pause. There is still a possibility, even after all we know about this unnatural inhabitant of the Oval Office, that enough people remain stupid enough, or credulous enough, or hateful enough, or stubborn enough–whatever–to cast a vote for the most stupendously incompetent man ever to be president. Add to that, we now know Russia—yes, the Russia with which Trump colluded in 2016–is working furiously on Trump’s behalf to do it again in 2020. Putin clearly has something on Trump; the two once again will conspire to subvert our election. If Trump is re-elected, America’s troubles will reach the boiling point.

Have a lovely weekend.


AN ENDORSEMENT: MAYOR PETE FOR PRESIDENT

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I’ve refrained from endorsing any of the Democratic candidates so far, although I did take The Pledge, at the very beginning of the race, to support whomever the eventual nominee is. And I stand by that promise. But I’m now prepared to endorse Pete Buttigieg for President in 2020.

My reasons are simple. For starters, I believe Mayor Pete can win. Perhaps any of the other Democrats can, since Trump is loathed by a majority of the American people. But Mayor Pete has that mysterious aura of “winner” shining over him.

Another reason Buttigieg has earned my support is his temperament. I like the cut of the man’s jib, as they say. His coolness, his blasé demeanor, his detached intellectualism testify to a first-rate intellect, which America is going to need as we recover from the catastrophic damage the Trump cult has inflicted upon us. At the same time, for all his welcome gravitas, Mayor Pete possesses an amused irony I find refreshing. In so many ways, he reminds me of John F. Kennedy. JFK, let’s remember, was another man whom the pundits said could never be elected. I remember the history well: Kennedy, it was said, couldn’t win because he was Catholic. Now, some people are saying Mayor Pete can’t win because he’s gay. JFK proved the skeptics wrong. I think Mayor Pete will, too.

Electability and temperament aside, I also like Mayor Pete’s positions on the issues, although I acknowledge they’re still evolving. That’s okay; he’s not going to arrive at final conclusions on issues until he’s analyzed them fully and figured out ways of achieving his goals, and I like that pragmatic approach to problem-solving. As for those issues on which he’s taken positions, I like his formula for “Medicare for all who want it.” This basically expands the Affordable Care Act to its maximum extent without replacing it with Warren-style universal healthcare. I don’t think the country is ready for a government-run healthcare program; polls prove that it frightens the middle class (they worry about not being able to choose their own providers). The devil is in the details, but “Medicare for all who want it” seems to strike the sweet spot in the debate over healthcare insurance.

His economic plan focuses on “working and middle class families.” It has all the standard Democratic talking points: lower housing and childcare costs, affordable college tuition, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, a $15 an hour minimum wage, comprehensive sick leave and family leave, higher teacher salaries, clean energy, protection for unions and so on. This is all a bit anodyne to be sure, but then, I haven’t seen a presidential candidate in my life whose campaign promises weren’t. (Candidates campaign in poetry, and govern in prose.) On the all-important matter of taxes, Buttigieg has three major proposals:

  1. Tax cuts for the middle class, and
  2. A capital gains tax on the top 1% of earners, and
  3. Eliminating the Trump tax cuts that benefited the rich and corporations.

Granted, this doesn’t go as far as the confiscatory taxes on billionaires that Warren and Sanders call for. But it also doesn’t raise the fear factor that a Buttigieg presidency will raise taxes on working people. This is preventive warfare on Mayor Pete’s part: Republicans will attack him with all the savagery of which they’re so capable, but accusations of “He’ll raise your taxes!” won’t carry water.

All this is to suggest that, in our over-simplified political parlance, Mayor Pete is a “moderate.” All the evidence suggests that the American people are not in a mood for radical changes; President Obama’s recent warning to the party to beware of “revolutionary Democrats” seems spot-on to me. The last two elected Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both were “moderates,” with Clinton proclaiming his “third way” and Obama attempting, without much success, to reach out to Republicans and work with them in a bipartisan manner. That Obama’s fair approach didn’t work wasn’t his fault, but the fault of an ideologically rigid, religion-crazed and intolerant bloc of Republicans, whose “my way or the highway” style culminated with the election of Trump.

I don’t mind having a conversation about “how far left is too far left?” over the next ten months. It’s a good conversation for Democrats to have. The party needs to rejigger its default settings if it hopes to regain the White House, and anyway, any Democratic policy is going to steer America in the right direction. Democrats broadly agree on most things; and I think most of us are smart enough to realize there aren’t quick fixes or silver bullets to solve anything, but only the slow, painstaking progress of incremental change. Pete Buttigieg appreciates this truth, and with his enormous intellectual capacity, he is fully capable of presiding over a period of reconstruction and progress.

There’s a final reason for my endorsement, beyond Mayor Pete’s awesome and inspirational resumé. He is a decent man. After the indecency of this current administration, I yearn for a well-behaved president, one with manners and politeness, free of rancor, open-hearted and open-minded, a man (or woman) of integrity and, yes, love. Donald J. Trump is the opposite of all these values. Mayor Peter embodies them. That is why, I believe, he’s soared to the top of the polls in Iowa; the good people of the Hawkeye State recognize a gentleman when they see one (which is one reason why they choose Barack Obama in their 2008 caucus).

Don’t we all miss President Obama? No scandals, a gentleman, a lovely family (compared to the nasty spawn of the current president), a man (and a First Lady) to admire and look up to, rather than be embarrassed by. Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, similarly are admirable people. They will re-moralize the White House and restore grace and dignity to the presidency.

For all these reasons, I endorse Pete Buttigieg for President of the United States of America.


Republicans lie, while children die

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Another day, another school massacre. And what were Congressional Republicans doing, virtually at the same moment students were dying?

Blocking another gun control measure.

Senate Democrats proposed yet another law authorizing background checks, but Moscow Mitch—or “Massacre Mitch,” as he’s now known—blocked it. McConnell, too, bends over for Wayne LaPierre.

What in God’s name is wrong with background checks? Why do Republicans resist keeping assault weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people, or domestic abusers? Could it be—gasp!—that Republicans actually want crazy people to have firearms because they (Republicans) believe that most crazy people are Republicans?

After this latest school shooting, which occurred in Santa Clarita, California, I saw my Governor, Gavin Newsom, at a presser in which he commented on it.

I’ve known the Governor for a long time, and I’ve never seen his face so sad and weary. I almost weeped. A longtime advocate of stricter gun control, he’s watched as Republicans oppose every single effort at anything resembling gun control, as child after child after child is slaughtered. I feel Gavin’s pain; there are many perks that go with being Governor, but the anguish of a school shooting must be unbearable.

Republicans just don’t care. Somebody has to say it: they just don’t give a damn. They don’t care how many school children’s torn and bleeding bodies are scattered in hallways and classrooms; they don’t care how much blood is shed; they don’t care how many lives are traumatized and ruined. They.Do.Not.Give.A.Shit. All they care about is taking the NRA’s murderous hatred up their Republican asses.

Harsh words? Yes, for sure. But true—and everybody knows it. It’s my damned blog. I’m angry. If you’re not, why the hell not?

Does any sane person seriously think that the Republicans don’t know what went down in this Ukraine scandal? They know precisely what happened. They know Trump didn’t give a damn about Ukraine, or about America, for that matter. All he cared about was getting dirt on the political candidate he thought posed the greatest threat to him: Joe Biden. He then extorted, or bribed, Zelensky: invent something dirty on the Bidens, or you get nothing from me: no weapons, no White House meeting. That this accords precisely with the Russian agenda is no coincidence. As Speaker Pelosi noted, “All roads with Trump lead back to Putin.”

We may never know what Putin has on Donald J. Trump, but I think I know: the pee tape. Putin can ruin Trump politically, financially, socially, through a simple act: releasing the pee tape to a third party—say, a Romanian or Lebanese newspaper, from which it would leak out (no pun intended) all around the world. The scandal would be enormous; with Trump’s face clearly visible, sitting on his Moscow hotel bed while a pair of gorgeous porn stars urinate on each other, Trump would be mortified: Melania might even leave him. Trump would lie, of course. “Fake video!” He’d try to drag Hillary into it, Obama, Liddle Adam Schiff, “the Democrat Party,” the lamestream media, the faiing New York Times…the usual suspects he attacks every time his crimes and misdemeanors are exposed. But would even the appearance of the pee tape matter?

This is, after all, the man who boasted he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and murder people and not lose a single supporter. If he can commit first degree murder of innocent people and not lose any support, why couldn’t he be revealed as a sexual pervert, and still retain the love of his rightwing base? I get the feeling Trump could rip his face off on national T.V., reveal a hideous alien with tentacles, dripping goo from fanged lips, and his people would still stand by him. “Better a Republican alien,” would be their reasoning, “than a libtard Demon-crat.”

Watch the impeachment hearings today and next week. The case is clear; the obstruction of justice by Trump also is clear.


Impeachment: 24 hours, and counting

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HERE WE GO into Impeachment Land. Don’t you get the feeling this whole thing is like a reality T.V. show? Republicans and Democrats each trying to banish the other from the island. Like any good serial program, one week one side is up; the next, the other; and every episode ends on a cliffhanger. Will the witnesses testify to any bombshells that haven’t already been made public? Will Republicans force Hunter Biden to appear? Will the pro-Impeachment and pro-Removal numbers rise, fall, or stay steady? Back in a moment—but first, this word from our sponsor.

It’s all very satirical, but we mustn’t lose sight of the underlying importance of this Impeachment, which is: we have in America an almost diabolical president, hostile to freedom, indifferent to human suffering, prejudiced in favor of his own billionaire class, a thug of unbelievable ferality and amorality, or at least devoid of anything that normal people would consider ethics. This thug leads a movement that is the most antithetical to democratic (small “d”) values that we have seen in our lifetimes, or even read about in the history books.

I was reading the other day an essay (I think in the N.Y. Times) by an op-ed writer, firmly Democratic in his beliefs. He was issuing a warning to Democrats: we could lose the 2020 election, thereby ensuring Trump’s reign from 2021-2025, which would be a catastrophe. What did this writer base his dire prediction upon? His sister, who lives in Eastern Washington State and, apparently being evangelical and poor, feels that coastal and urban elites turn their noses up at her and ridicule her for her beliefs. When the writer explained to his sister that Trump, if entirely successful, will take away her healthcare, and cause other damage to her and her class, she told him she didn’t care; she was voting her emotions, and Democrats and “liberals” have hurt her emotionally.

I have no way of doubting this cautionary tale. I’m sure that the writer’s sister will vote Republican even though, in every pragmatic sense, a Trump victory will cause her personal harm, especially if accompanied by Republicans retaking the House. Nor do I doubt that there are millions of American voters who feel the same way as the sister. They’re evangelical or fundamentalist (is there a difference? Not that I can see); they’re badly educated; they’re rural and poor; they do feel despised by people like me, who are in many respects their polar opposite: well-educated, not religious (and certainly not evangelical), urban, and middle class if not even higher on the economic totem pole. And the sister is right to this degree: I do despise these people. I always have. They’ve been out to get me–a gay man and a Jew, and as an intellectual who believes in science and reason–ever since I was born, and my reading of the news and of history teaches me that they’ve always been out to get my kind; and they’ve become even more demonic in this Age of Trump, which emboldens them.  So why would I not despise them?

At the same time, American history is replete with stories of opposing political sides compromising and accommodating each other. Indeed, that’s the spirit of our democracy, the premise upon which our political system rests. Admittedly, when it comes to the most basic political issues—abortion, gay rights, global warming, America’s role vis-à-vis the rest of the world, immigration and the border—it’s very hard to even theoretically imagine where compromise rests. Gay rights, for example: America either recognizes the full legitimacy of gay people (including the right to marry and adopt children) or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground that I can see. And the same is true for the other issues. Everything, it seems, that could ever be negotiated already has been; what remains behind is the non-negotiable stuff. I am not ready to compromise on whether or not America shall be a Christian country. The Mike Pences of our nation insist it be so; I insist not; where is the middle ground?

Still, I suppose I have to be bold enough to imagine that some sort of middle ground can be reached, because if it can’t, the result will be too drastic to contemplate. So let the Impeachment hearings begin, on television. Let all the T.V. stations, broadcast and cable, interrupt regular programming to televise them in their entirety. Let the independent media (which excludes Fox “News”) report on the hearings, which we’re assured will provide devastating evidence of Trump’s crimes and misdemeanors. Let the conversations roll forward, around kitchen tables and water coolers. Let the American people make up their own minds, and let them see through the veil of lies and smears issuing from Republican propaganda outlets like toxic gas from dismal swamps. Let the House Impeach, Impeach, Impeach—and let the chips fall where they may.


Impeachment: Where we’re at, and where we’re probably going

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It looks like this is where we’re at. The House will vote Articles of Impeachment, probably by the end of the year. These Articles will include obstruction of justice at the very least (concerning Trump’s illegal attempts to completely block the House from issuing subpoenas and doing its Constitutional duty to investigate).

The Senate then will be obligated to conduct a Trial. McConnell (may his name live in infamy) has already stated he will allow this to go forward. But Republicans say many things that they later retract, and McConnell in the end will do whatever his master, Trump, tells him to. And Trump may instruct him not to hold a Trial.

What does the Constitution say? The relevant clauses are in Article 1, Section 3:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

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.

That seems clear enough: The Senate “shall.” But we’ve already seen how Constitutionally-mandated “shalls” are routinely disregarded by this rogue administration and its Republican henchmen in Congress. U.S. law explicitly states that, upon request by a legitimate committee of the House of Representatives or the Senate, “The Secretary [of the Treasury] shall furnish such committee with any [tax] return or return information specified in such request…”.

That’s the law. But Trump commanded his craven Treasury Secretary, the chinless Mnuchin, not to hand over his [Trump’s] tax returns, in violation of the law. So much for “shall.” If Trump can nullify one law and get away with it, he feels he can nullify any law.

If McConnell does refuse to hold a Trial he, and Trump, and Republicans in general will come under enormous, withering condemnation. The media will howl—but Fox “News” will praise the effort, alleging that a “fake Impeachment” ought not to have been allowed in the first place…and it’s likely that the entire Republican base will support McConnell and Trump, as they have all along. Where will we be then?

Once again, in those uncharted waters of “a Constitutional crisis.” But we’ve there before, too, a dozen times, with this lawless, kleptomaniacal president in power. What can Democrats do, besides howl in indignation and await for the 2020 elections?

But let us take McConnell at his word; he has been, if not honorable, at least consistent in his fealty to Trump. He said he would allow a Trial, so let’s assume the Trial actually does occur.

Democrats will present their witnesses. An overwhelming case will be made (to the Senators and to the American people) that, yes, there was a quid pro quo. Trump threatened to withhold military aid and other favors from Ukraine, in exchange—not for anything in the national interest (which would be okay)—but in exchange for a personal “favor”: to invent dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. That’s against the law. That’s an abuse of power, at the very least. After all the evidence is in, then what?

Chances are that support for Removal from Office (now hovering at around 50%) will tick up a few points—say, to 54%. It can’t go much higher, because Trump still commands the support of about 40% of the American public (what pathetic fools they are!). Even at 54% favoring Removal, the Senate will never see twenty Republicans voting for Removal. It may see none, not even the hapless Susan Collins, who may make the political calculation that voting for the Constitution is more damaging to her re-election than trashing whatever’s left of her morals and standing by her man, Trump. So the Senate votes to acquit. What then?

Trump Unleashed! Trump Unchained! “Vindicated!!!” he will tweet. “First the phony Mueller Report and now the phony Ukraine deal!!! Dems threw everything they had at me and they lost!!! Bigtime!!!” And so it will go. Republicans, triumphant, will be energized. The right wing media will break both arms patting itself on the back. Democrats will just have to endure a period of painful defeat.

And then what? Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 looms ahead. Let us suppose all the above (with all the uncertainties) occurs by, say, May, 2020. The campaign is in full swing. The Democratic nominee already will have been a foregone conclusion, or close to becoming one. All other issues—the economy, foreign policy, immigration, abortion—are swept aside in the maelstrom of the recent Trial and its result. The country remains divided; all is balanced on the knife’s edge of Nov. 3.

And then? My prediction, made with increasing certainty in light of the 2018 election results (Blue Wave) and last Tuesday’s election results (Democratic victories in Kentucky and Virginia): Another Blue Wave. Democrats retake the Senate and keep the House. Trump is defeated, and not in a close contest: he will obtain no more than 190 electoral votes (out of 270 that are needed to win). The Democratic candidate wins. But then something unexpected happens:

Trump refuses to accept the election results. In a shitstorm of tweets and Rose Garden statements, at MAGA rallies and on Fox & Friends, he rages against the Fake Election; he charges foreign interference on behalf of the Democrats (Trump loves to accuse others of the very crimes he himself commits); he urges his supporters to Resist (he even co-opts the name of The Resistance to him!); he commands “his” police and “his” gun owners to “protect the Constitution” and fight against “foreign and domestic enemies.”

Trump knows how to do this stuff really good: rile up his base and spread consternation among his political enemies. When and if he takes this step, America really will be in the middle of a Constitutional Crisis.

Have a great weekend!


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