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Which yellow-dog Republicans should be indicted in Trump-RussiaGate?

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If you’re a Republican these days, your job is to stand by your man. You know that Trump is bad news: repugnant, morally irredeemable, pugnacious and personally repulsive—an old man you wouldn’t let get near your daughter. But none of that matters if you’re a Republican. You have a grim job to do, and that is to protect him.

There used to be a term, “Yellow Dog Democrat,’ meaning someone who would vote for anyone, or anything, as long as the candidate was a Democrat. Nobody knows the phrase’s origin, but no less a personage than Abraham Lincoln used it. It was 1848; Lincoln, in his second term in the U.S. Congress, was campaigning for the Whig presidential candidate, Zachary Taylor, whose opponent was the Democrat, Lewis Cass. Lincoln used his customary wit to chide Cass:

“A fellow once advertised that he had made a discovery by which he could make a new man out of an old one, and have enough of the stuff left to make a little yellow dog. Just such a discovery has Gen. [Andrew] Jackson’s popularity been to you [Democrats]. You not only twice made President of him out of it, but you have had enough of the stuff left to make Presidents of several comparatively small men since; and it is your chief reliance now to make still another.”

Lincoln’s implication was that Democratic voters would support “small men” simply because they were Democrats. (Taylor ended up winning, largely because he’d been a hero in the Mexican Wars, but his presidency was a failure, one of a string of do-nothing, one-term presidencies leading up to the Civil War.)

Well, maybe Democrats used to prefer yellow dogs to human Republicans, but nowadays it’s Republicans who are supporting the yellow dog, whose name is Donald J. Trump. Much wonderment has been expressed by observers as to why so-called Christians are lining up behind a bad man, and what it will take for them to come to their senses and break with him. Trump is playing them like a fiddle: in all his 71 years nobody ever accused him of having a religious bone in his body. But his embrace of evangelicals (the 700 Club interview, the laying on of hands)—patently phony as both were—apparently were enough to bamboozle these credulous people into thinking he’s one of them.

Here are the groups and individuals that are complicit in Donald J. Trump’s crimes of election fraud, collusion with enemies, perjury, obstruction of justice, misprision of treason and, possibly, treason itself:

-The Trump family and members of his inner circle, including the communications people

-Conservative Christians

-The Republican Party, which has become a Mafia of organized crime

-Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the House and Senate leadership, whose support for Trump is exactly analogous to the support of the Nuremberg defendants for Hitler

If there is justice left in America—and I think there is—Robert Mueller will slam these criminals and criminal enterprises, bringing indictments as needed. The Republican Party will, I expect, be hurt for its sufferance of Trump’s ill-doings. As for conservative Christians, we mere mortals are in no position to judge them. We will leave that to their deity. But we can shame them, and isolate them until they have shrunk to small cultish enclaves, scattered among the churches and trailer parks of Deep Red states. Like those fanatical Japanese soldiers on Pacific atolls who fought World War II for decades after the war actually ended, these yellow dog Republicans—dead-enders—will never give up, but will froth and snarl as long as they have breath. As life drains from their bodies, they will wheeze out a final “Benghazi!” Eventually, they will die out, becoming only a pathetic, dark stain on American history.


My political values and how I got them

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My earliest political values were shaped, naturally enough, by my parents.

I don’t recall either of them ever talking to me about politics, or why they were Democrats; but the Democratic Party pervaded my childhood, like the aroma of corned beef which frequently wafted through our Bronx neighborhood, and of all Democrats, one name stood above the rest: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

He was a god to my parents and, particularly, to my mother, whose roots traced back to pioneering, liberal Oklahomans, back before Oklahoma was a red state. I was too young to remember FDR—he died before I was born—but a younger, second Democratic hero was shortly to invade my childhood consciousness: Adlai Stevenson, the Illinois governor who ran for President twice, both times unsuccessfully, against Dwight Eisenhower. My mother absolutely adored him.

By the time I was thirteen, John F. Kennedy was running for President, and he became my first childhood hero. I actually met him once. Well, maybe “met” is too strong a word. I heard he was campaigning at a hotel a few blocks from my house, so I “borrowed” one of my mother’s brooms, sawed off the stick, bought some posterboard, scribbled it with “JFK” in black magic marker, stapled it to the broomstick, and made my way to the hotel, where fewer than a dozen people were waiting for the Senator to arrive. His limo pulled up; he got out, straightened his tie, glanced at me and my sign, gave a slight grin and nod of the head, and disappeared into the hotel.

Still, had you asked me why I considered myself a Democrat, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I knew that Democrats were the “good” party, just as I knew that Republicans were the “bad” party. As worshipped as the names “Roosevelt” and “Stevenson” were in the Heimoff household, the names “Dewey” and “Nixon” were loathed. Then, before you knew it, the Sixties had arrived, and my generation began, for the first time, to think seriously about politics, values, morality and the difference between “right” and “wrong.”

To me, raised with traditional Jewish values, the “right” values were tolerance, love, justice, fairness and scientific progress, tinged, perhaps, with a little socialism. These are the values I associated with the Democratic Party. Republicans always seemed mean to me: angry, petulant old white men with a hunger for money, and an intense dislike for people who were different from them, which included me. As I grew older, I learned that Republicans didn’t necessarily have horns and forked tails, but they might as well have, since there was something diabolical about them.

I’d say my true political awakening occurred during the Clinton years. Although I’d been a strong supporter of Jimmy Carter, I still hadn’t thought through my attitudes, and I was largely sidelined from politics during the Reagan years, when I—like many other Boomers—was preoccupied with my career. But I liked Bill Clinton a lot: I still have a letter from him, dated 1988, when he was Governor of Arkansas, thanking me for a fan letter I’d sent him (my first and only such, ever), after seeing him interviewed on C-SPAN by Brian Lamb. Such a smart man, I thought. I liked the complexity and subtlety of his mind, the liberality of his thinking. I thought he’d make a great President; told him so, and, lo, it came to be.

So that, when the Republican attack machine went after him and Hillary with a vengeance, I realized that we Democrats were at war. I marched in San Francisco to protest impeachment. I saw, clearly for the first time, how vengeful the Republican Party had become. How crazy, too, with their strange-bedfellows embrace of evangelicals, who, by the late 1970s, I’d realized were ignorant, hateful and—to the extent they possessed political power—dangerous. My views about Republicans have only strengthened since then, as they’ve gone further off the rails.

I was loosely for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004: not the most exciting Democrats, but broadly representative of my party and values. In 2008, I was strongly for Hillary, but as soon as Obama won the nomination, I switched my allegiance to him, and on the night of his election, when he and his beautiful family stepped out onto that Chicago stage, I stood in front of my T.V. and wept.

Obama represented everything I love about the Democratic Party: thoughtfulness, inclusiveness, a willingness to tackle tough problems in a rational way, rather than in an emotional, ideological or religious way; a nice, decent, humble, smart man. Yes, he might have been more “leftish,” but he was a practical politician, and reasonable people can disagree about things like that.

I also like the Democratic Party’s redistributionist philosophy: I’ve known an awful lot of billionaires and others with “only” hundreds of millions, and there is absolutely no reason not to raise their taxes. I like the Democratic Party’s sympathy for the LGBTQ community; although it took Barack (and Hillary) a while to come around and support gay marriage, they eventually did so, while the Republicans doubled down on homophobia. I admire the Democratic Party’s recognition that environmental issues, including climate change, are priorities, and I respect that Democrats use science and real facts to resolve complicated issues, like global warming, rather than retreating into superstition and ignorance. I admire the Democratic Party’s concern for the poor and for working-class Americans. I admire their sense of social justice.

I voted for a Republican once: George H.W. Bush, in 1988. Dukakis seemed hapless, and, whatever else you could say about Bush, he wasn’t one of the crazies. But I figure everyone’s entitled to make one big political mistake in his lifetime; Bush was mine. The Republicans might actually have held my interest had they not made the historically tragic decision to lay down with the religious crazies and become a party of plutocrats and theocrats. I hate and fear religion in government; my anti-Republicanism is another reason to vote for a secular Democratic Party.

To this day I consider myself more of a Democrat than ever. I see a younger generation moving away from the Democratic Party (and the Republican Party too), towards alternatives: green, or libertarian, or independent, or—sadly—towards nothing at all but an individualistic nihilism. But I have hope that they will eventually come around to the great Democratic Party. Hope: that’s another thing I learned from my parents. It’s what makes Democrats tick.


The investigations: A Rashomon ending?

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The defense of Trump, his family and surrogates, is that they were so inexperienced and, frankly, so incompetent that they didn’t know the right way to handle things, like that controversial offer of dirt on Hillary.

If we’re to accept this argument, nobody in the campaign understood what was right and what was wrong, or where the dividing line was. This is why Donald Jr. took that meeting with the Russian lawyer; also why Jared and Manafort tagged along. “We didn’t know it was bad,” is what they’re saying in essence. “We didn’t mean any harm.”

When I was a kid there was a saying: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Which made sense: after all, if ignorance were an excuse, then anyone who broke the law could get off scott-free by simply claiming not to have known the behavior was illegal. That would make a shambles of our justice system.

But what does “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” really mean? For one thing, it’s based on a simple premise: that “the law,” whatever it is, has to have been “promulgated,” meaning that the public at large must have heard of it. If laws are passed in secret, then obviously a person who’s never heard of it can’t be charged with breaking it.

Problem is, there are so many laws in America—“No one knows how many laws there are…apparently, no one can count that high,says this study—that it would be patently impossible for any human being to know them all, or even a fraction thereof. This is the heart of the Trump defense, and it does have some legal standing. “The rule that ‘ignorance is no excuse’ does not work…for crimes…that are crimes only because they are prohibited by statute,” which apparently are the sorts of “crimes” Trump Jr. may have committed. In order for him (and Jared, and Manafort) to be guilty, they would have to have known “what the statute requires or, at a minimum, [what they] could have discovered…with a reasonable amount of effort,” according to the Heritage Foundation. By this reasoning, it does seem reasonable to me that Junior (or “Fredo,” as some call him) is so stupid and inept that he did mind-bogglingly dumb things without bothering to wonder if maybe he shouldn’t. This may be true of Jared, as well, and perhaps even of Manafort. And this is where the Mueller (and congressional) investigations may get bogged down.

I can foresee Mueller’s report stating, in essence, “These gentlemen did things that were ethically challenged, stupid, and unforgivably risky, but in the end, they broke no laws.” That would give Democrats a moral victory: they could go into the 2018 elections arguing against Republican, Trumpian incompetence and disregard for norms, which has always been Trump’s Achilles heel, even for many conservatives. But Republicans too would cheer such an inconclusive finding. I can see Trump’s tweets: EXONERATED! Dems tried their best to take me down and FAILED!!! They are #LOSERS!!! That crie de triomphe would be taken up by his supporters on the right, who would cudgel Democrats, reinforcing the tea party’s allegation that “libtards” are simply sore loser snowflakes.

Rashomon was, of course, the 1950 Kurosawa film whose name was immortalized in the “Rashomon Effect,” where the same event is given contradictory interpretations by different individuals involved” depending on their point of view. We have three different investigations into RussiaGate going on: the House and Senate Intelligence committees’, and Mueller’s. It seems possible to me that there will not be a clear-cut conclusion to all three; even one alone might hedge its bets. That would leave the country unable to find closure. That’s bad news. The good news, should it come to this, is that Trump will have completely lost all legitimacy—not that he had much to begin with.


Talk about strange bedfellows: the Tea Party’s love affair with Russia

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The funniest thing I’ve ever seen in a lifetime of watching politics is far-right Republicans telling us how much they love Russia. In May, for example, pro-Trump white supremacists (their description, not mine) marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Russia is our friend” and “blood and soil,” a slogan the Nazis used during Hitler’s time. Even as recently as a year ago, I suspect if you’d asked any of the white dudes in that parade what he thought about Russia, he would have muttered something about “godless commies.” After all, Russia is the home of communism, and ever since the end of World War II, when the Cold War started, the Republican Party has specialized in demonizing it (and the former Soviet Union). After all, who invented the term “evil empire” anyhow?

Remnants of the GOP’s 70-year anti-communist crusade exist to this day, a generation after the fall of the Soviet Union: tea party Republicans, bought and paid for by dark corporate money, still rile up the base by accusing Democrats of preaching “socialism” (as the extraordinarily virulent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher routinely does). Over in the other house, the demented Sen. Ted Cruz can still rant that Obama is a disaster because he’s an unmitigated socialist [and] what he believes is profoundly dangerous.”

But a strange thing happened to Republican hatred of all-things Russia and socialism, with the election of Donald J. Trump. Suddenly, Republicans discovered a new and most unlikely hero in the form of Vladimir Putin. As the Washington Post reported, For decades, anti-communism united conservatives behind the Republican Party,” but now, with Donald Trump “lavishing praise on…Putin…GOP attitudes toward Russia began improving dramatically [and] a growing number of American conservatives are receptive to Trump’s Russian rapprochement.”

Weird. It’s like Black people joining the KKK. I’ve commented a few times on Breitbart, asking them how all those tea party conservatives can possibly “love Russia” after spending a lifetime hating it. They never reply to my question; instead, they call me “snowflake” or “libtard” or some similar insult, or they change the topic to nonsense about the Clinton Foundation, or Chelsea, or, of course, their idée fixe, Hillary’s emails.

Well, so much for ideology; on the far right, it seems, power counts for more than political consistency. The way I see it, the white supremacists in the Republican Party like authoritarianism, caucasianism, conservative Christianity and a corporate state. So too do the white supremacists in Russia (except, maybe, for the Christianity). The link between them is, of course, Donald J. Trump, who aspires to be a Putin-esque strongman (although I doubt he’ll get the chance). As the New School for Social Research reports, The rise of white nationalism in the Republican Party…has also been producing a Republican reevaluation of American relations with Russia. The Alt-Right has led the way on this front…”. History buffs will recognize the natural affinity that an authoritarian Russia has long had with Western fascist groupings. After all, Hitler and Stalin signed the Non-Aggression Pact, with both sides conveniently forgetting their former antipathy because they stood to gain more by being friends than enemies.

What do the alt.right and Donald Trump have to gain with their new bromance with Putin and Russia? To simply say “white supremacy” is not helpful, although racism clearly is an underlying motive among Aryan Russians and Americans. The alt.right knows perfectly well they’re not going to do away with American multi-culturalism; they can read the demographic trends that show the U.S. well on the way to being a minority-white country. (California already is a minority-white state.) I think this buddying up to Russia just allows the alt.right to swagger, Storm Trooper-style, and glory in the reflected light of their new leader, Donald Trump. Like little kids playing soldier, they invent a make-believe world, and then pretend to live in it. The danger is that, when enough people believe in a pretend world, we can reach a tipping point where societal instability can crack the old, real world, replacing it with—what? We don’t yet know, but history suggests that such cracking leads to mayhem, destruction and the death of many people. Which, IMHO, makes impeaching Trump more important than ever.


Trump on Obama vs. Truman on Hoover

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Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States (1929-1933), a Republican, had the distinct disadvantage of serving when the Great Depression struck the nation. That economic catastrophe “brought Hoover into public disrepute,” forever tarring his reputation, and led to his defeat by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president.

However, the 33rd president, Harry Truman, a Democrat, had a different view of his predecessor. “[H]e was actually a president who tried hard and did the best he possibly could,” Truman wrote his in blunt memoir, “Where the Buck Stops.” He added, “We had very different viewpoints…but…we were always friendly, and I was always very fond of him. I think he was an honorable, straightforward person [who] had no thought or interest other than the welfare of the people…”.

Now, here are selected quotes from the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, like Hoover a Republican, on the 44th, Barack Obama, a Democrat. (Quotes here and here and here and here.)

Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud,”

“He’s a threat to our country.”

“He may be the worst thing to every happen to Israel.”

“He’s the worst president maybe in the history of our country.”

“He’s the founder of ISIS.”

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped.’”

“While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart.”

“Do [the] country a favor and FIRE HIM!”

“They [Obama and family] love to spend on the taxpayer’s dime.”

I heard he was a terrible student, terrible.”

How far we’ve come from the high road into the gutter, or, I should say, how we’ve allowed Donald J. Trump to pull us into the muck and slime. Once upon a time American presidents were gentlemen. Yes, they fought and argued; there was no love lost between Truman and Eisenhower, for example. But by and large, U.S. presidents have understood that being Chief Executive meant they had to display honorable conduct, and speak in honorable ways, in order to lift the country and inspire honorable behavior in the people.

Obama maintained that honor and dignity. He was and remains a gentleman, in the classic sense of the word: fair-minded, polite even to his political opponents, dignified in public, an example of how most moms and dads would want their sons and daughters to be when they grow up.

All that changed when Donald J. Trump was elected, and his public insulting and disparaging of Obama is the most salient proof. (Can you even conceive of Trump calling Obama “honorable”?) Now, Trump and his family—his wife, his older sons, his daughter—routinely complain about how unfair the media and Democrats treat him, and yes, that is frequently true, both here and abroad: Trump and his family are being given a rough time. But does the family ever acknowledge who started this spat? Do they ever wonder why so many people are so disgusted by Donald J. Trump? Do they even know of his smears, lies and incitements against the 44th president (and so many others)? Do they excuse it by simply saying, “Oh, that’s just The Donald”?

I think we know the answers to these questions. Trump has lowered the American presidency to its coarsest, most vulgar level ever, into a place of darkness, meanness, spitefulness, mendacity and vengefulness. It is very, very ugly. Quite frankly, if you’re not missing Obama now, poignantly, there’s something wrong with you.

 

 

 


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