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Trump Republicans just can’t be civil

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Speaker Pelosi gave the loveliest acceptance speech yesterday. It was filled with love, hope, and genuine reaching across the aisle to achieve true bipartisanship with her Republican colleagues.

And yet, as soon as the swearing-in was over, MSNBC interviewed Republican congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA) to ask his reaction to Pelosi’s speech. Did he respond in a reciprocal spirit of friendship? No. “I just hope Speaker Pelosi doesn’t go back to Hawaii” was his snarky, entirely needless and inappropriate barb.

He referred, of course, to the fact that Nancy Pelosi and her family went to Hawaii for a few days of vacation while the Congress was out of session. What could possibly be objectionable about that, especially since the current president, whom Carter worships, spends more time playing golf than any president in history?

Yet Rep. Carter just couldn’t help himself. Does the House Republican leadership give them these talking points? Did Kevin McCarthy instruct Carter that, if he were interviewed about Pelosi, to begin with a snarky jab?

Carter is a standard-issue rightwinger. He’s strongly pro-NRA, anti-abortion, and in favor of repealing Obamacare. He thinks “the Supreme Court got it wrong” when it legalized same-sex marriage.

And, like his president, Trump, he’s in favor of “The Wall” and blames Democrats for not funding it.

You’d think that, on Day One of the new Democratic-controlled House, after Pelosi’s gracious speech—during which she was surrounded on the podium by children, Republican and Democratic alike—these Republicans would wait for a day or so before attacking.

But that’s not the Republican way. Rep. Carter, in fact, gave the nation a preview of what to expect from Republicans in the 116th Congress. More of the same old crap: Gay-bashing. Covering up Trump’s crimes and misdemeanors. Lies about “violent gangs” flooding across the southern border. Vengeful, empty threats about ending Obamacare and taking health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans.  Continued attacks against our allies overseas. More deaths by gunfire in America because the NRA won’t permit sensible gun control. And more insults, innuendos and smears of Democrats.

As for the current standoff about the wall, I’ve been emailing my California Congressional representatives—Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris—a simple message: NOT ONE RED CENT! So I was pleased when Pelosi gave Samantha Guthrie, on NBC, a one-word answer when Guthrie asked if Democrats would vote to fund the wall, even a little bit. “No,” Madame Speaker said.

That’s the only language Trump understands. He’s going to be hearing “No” a lot from the House of Representatives. He’s also going to be watching a lot of investigations on his television set. He’d better stock up on the Adderall.

Happy New Year to all of you! And thanks for reading my blog.


Pelosi’s Big Day! And my early take on 2020

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This is the day we’ve been waiting for, when Trump is held to account. Here’s the gavel, Speaker Pelosi!

Under her leadership, these five Democratic House chairs are going to be the heroes of 2019:

Jerry Nadler, Judiciary Committee

Adam Schiff, Intelligence Committee

Elijah Cummings, Oversight Committee

Richard Neal, Ways and Means Committee

Maxine Waters, Financial Services Committee

The first three, Nadler, Schiff and Cummings, have been real attack dogs over the last two years, increasingly critical of Trump as he breaks laws and violates American values. Neal has been largely silent; representing south-central Massachusetts, a working-class district, he’s stayed off the MSNBC/CNN talk shows. But he’s the one tasked with unearthing Trump’s tax returns. As for Maxine Waters, well! Trump loathes her as much as she loathes him. He called her “a low IQ person,” which is in line with his usual smears of women and people of color. She, for her part, hasn’t hesitated to express extreme umbrage in every interview; her ever-sharp tongue is a good match to Trump’s insults. How fitting that a person whom Trump has disparaged—a black woman–now will get to sit in judgment of him!

So the worm has turned. I don’t know if Trump will run for re-election in 2020 because, honestly, we don’t know if he’ll still be in office. He might quit, especially if Mueller—armed with a vast armada of proof of his lies and crimes, including the pee tape—makes a deal with him: in exchange for not prosecuting him or his family or the Trump Organization, Trump resigns and promises never to engage in elective office again. He might be impeached, although as we all know, conviction in this Republican-dominated Senate is a near impossibility. With his high blood pressure, he might even drop dead of a heart attack or stroke.

And, with an eye toward 2020, I look to primary season, already unfolding, with a certain unease. I sense another internecine battle within the Democratic Party between the far left (Sanders, Warren) and the more moderate center, what might be called the Hillary wing. This split cost us the election in 2016; Sanders, especially, persuaded enough Democrats to abandon the ticket to hand the presidency over to Trump. Although he’ll never acknowledge his role, he was indeed The Spoiler.

In my judgment, Sanders and Warren ought not to run. Both are out of step with mainstream America, and even with the Democratic Party; both are unelectable. Warren in particular rubs people the wrong way. Whether or not that’s her fault is beside the point; she’s not likeable, and likeability plays a huge role in a politician’s success. Sanders is likeable—he’s got the Uncle Bernie persona. But he’s tainted by that Spoiler role he played two years ago, and a lot of Hillary supporters (including me) will never forgive him.

Beto is looking good, isn’t he? Handsome, charming, athletic, poised, a great speaker, inspirational, a family man, and he has a proven track record of fund-raising. That’s on the plus side. But is he the new JFK or Barack Obama? Democrats, it’s said, fall in love; Republicans fall in line. We’re all in love with Beto now, but, as I’ve pointed out before, the DNC had better do an outstanding job researching every second of his life, because if there’s a single skeleton in the closet—sexual, financial, plagiarism, anything at all for Republicans to seize on—he’s toast. The lesson of Tom Eagleton ought to haunt Democrats.

I’m looking also at Sherrod Brown. I’m not big on Kamala Harris—not yet, anyway. Maybe next time around. Amy Klobuchar is an interesting choice. She checks a lot of boxes: Woman. Important swing state. Great personality. Not too liberal for those suburbanites, but liberal enough for most Democrats. And, this one is out of right field: Gavin Newsom. Not for the top spot, but for veep. By summer, 2020, he will have been Governor of California for 1-1/2 years, and will have established a national profile. But in the end, I keep coming back to one name: Joe Biden. He’s got pretty much everything: the track record, the chops, a certain telegenic quality despite his age, a winning personality, the best smile in politics, a solid liberal track record over the decades. Moreover, there’s nothing lurking in the closet: Biden’s been vetted more than all the others put together. He’s got a good tongue, too—any crap Trump (or any other Republican) throws at him, he’ll turn around, jiu-jitsu style, right back in the thrower’s face, and he’ll do it flashing those pearly whites. Biden’s negative, if you can call it that, is his age: he’ll be just short of 78 on Election Day 2020. But if he’s healthy, he could do it—especially if he picks the right veep.

And who might that be?

Biden-Beto: The B&B Boys. The pro and the rookie. Classic combo. Plus Beto puts Texas into play.

Biden-Newsom: Risky, and might be too coastal. But Newsom would attract immense attention, and the environmentalists love him (so do the gays, but they’ll vote Democratic anyway).

Biden-Klobuchar: Nice. The sweet spot. Mixes up the genders, plus gets the heartland to balance out Biden’s eastern cred.

Biden-Booker: Longshot, and it would be an all-East Coast ticket. But African-Americans are Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and they deserve representation. Plus, Booker is trusted by the left.

Biden-Sherrod Brown: Like Klobuchar, Brown brings an important swing, heartland state, Ohio. He’s super-telegenic, smart and able to defend himself against the Republican smear machine. And he’s progressive enough for the Sanders-Warren wing.

Of course, whomever the Democratic nominee is, I will support her or him with all my heart.

So there you have it: My early take on 2020.


Trump is about to enter his post-halcyon period

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“After Mussolini’s advent to power his qualities—mental agility, shrewdness, ruthless opportunism, and histrionic and rhetorical talent—kept him afloat in a flabby world, in which for a time he was not subjected to much competition, and people were prepared to accept him at his own valuation. But during this halcyon period his defects were rotting the fabric he had created and, when he came to be severely tested, his jealousy, lack of courage, vanity, egotism, ignorance, and superficiality led him into policies which were the logical consequence of his own errors and inexorably plunged his country into servitude and disaster.”

I revert to the Mussolini analogy again, as I did yesterday, because the comparisons are just too precise. The above description, by Ivone Kirkpatrick in Mussolini: A Study in Power, could almost without change be used for Trump. His “halcyon period” is these first two years; his qualities (such as they are) have “kept him afloat,” although Trump has had much more trouble with internal critics than did Mussolini, who was able to establish a dictatorship quickly. As for those “severe tests,” they’re already coming at him—and will soon become infinitely more severe.

I’m struck by Kirkpatrick’s use of the term “flabby world.” By it, he means that in the early period of Mussolini’s rise to power, no authoritative group within Italy (the Church and Papacy, the monarchy, the military) was able to identify his obvious flaws, largely because they did not wish to perceive them. And in the wider European community, the Great Powers (France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia) likewise failed to appreciate the threat Mussolini posed to them; although the French came closest, they chose not to oppose him.

What is the “flabby world” within which Trump has so far stayed afloat? Clearly, it is the Republican Party. Corrupt, contradictory, mired in scandal, it consistently elevates politicians of weak intellect, who place personal gain ahead of service to country. You need look no further than (for instance) the House Freedom Caucus or the Republicans in the U.S. Senate: a collection of non-entities of dubious mental prowess, driven by religious belief, afraid of crossing their boss, prone to making catastrophic decisions, or non-decisions, as in the case of climate change.

But now, with the dawn of 2019 and a Democratic House of Representatives, Trump enters his post-halcyon era. Everybody, including him, knows it will be ugly. Trump tweets, in his New Year’s message, that this will be “A FANTASTIC YEAR” [the caps are his], but he knows that it will not be. It will in fact be a year of disastrous turns for him, of crimes proven, of more lies and more incalculable damage to America, and one moreover of extreme danger to his family. What he calls (humorously, given the “Obama Derangement Syndrome” of 2009-2017) “TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME” is just getting started. No one is about to “CALM DOWN”; perhaps that is Trump’s way of telling himself to take a deep breath amidst the turmoil closing in on him.

Someone on Breitbart tried to insult me (an impossible task, since I don’t take their nonsense personally) by writing that I’ve let Trump into my head, which, in their opinion, is proof of his historical greatness. Trump certainly is the most dominating president of my lifetime, in the sense that every news cycle begins and ends with him, and his name is on every lip. But—also from Kirkpatrick, speaking of Mussolini—“Surely…he is likely to enjoy fame, but…he can lay no claim to real greatness.” Trump is immensely famous. But his fame is based on his callousness, vulgarity and divisiveness. These are not qualities destined to burnish his name in the history books alongside those of truly great presidents. We do not, in fact, quite know how history will treat him, because in the long span of American politics there has never been anyone quite like him. Yet I’m confident that a special place in the annals will be reserved for him, a place of vileness, regret and shame.


More on the Trump-Mussolini connections

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Last week I wrote about how it’s more apt to compare Trump with Mussolini than with Hitler. Here are some quotes from Ivone Kirkpatrick’s authoritative 1964 biography, “Mussolini: A Study in Power.” Can you see the similarities between the two men, one a dictator, the other a would-be dictator?

“In public…he relied on his considerable ability as an actor to create the image of an iron, indomitable Duce, who knew exactly what he wanted and where he was going.

“In order to retain his hold on the masses he relied to a great extent on the influence of a servile press.”

“As an orator he was a master of every trick with which the demagogue binds his audience.”

“He could, when required, dramatize himself, using a raucous voice and ample gestures to pour scorn on his adversaries and whip up the enthusiasm of the crowd.”

“In public relations he was a master and excelled as no politician has ever done in the art of self-advertisement.”

“He believed that he was a modern Messiah, who would create a new order in Italy.”

“He was a man without a program, who relied on faith, will power and intuition rather than on intellect.”

“His instability and superficiality, although useful in so far as they gave him room for elastic maneuver, rendered him unfit to be the sole ruler of a nation.”

“Speech was only of value in his eyes in so far as it fulfilled his purpose, and he was not concerned with the truth of his words.”

“Although he kept long hours, he did little genuine hard administrative work. He scrutinized the newspapers..with a professional eye, and articles which were critical of…himself excited his wrath…”.

“Any report of an ill-considered comment by an individual would cause the author to be entered into his bad books, for he took a personal view of policies.”

“Mussolini knew very little about the machinery of government or economics or foreign countries.”

“In his conduct of foreign affairs…he was torn in every direction by ingrained prejudice, ignorance, passing predilections, ambition, and above all by fear.”

“Basically he was a xenophobe.”

“He was apt to dislike any organization concerned with international cooperation.”

“If he had had greater experience and a less volatile character, or if he had relied on good advice

[in foreign affairs]

, he might have steered a straighter, safer course. But…he was more and more inclined to rely on intuition.”

“[As the war worsened for Italy] Mussolini became more and more isolated, more remote from events…more inclined to accept the views of the last plausible man he had seen.”

“There can have been few public men…who uttered more nonsense, or whose predictions were more often falsified by events.”

“From the days of his childhood he had always been a singularly friendless creature.”

“[His home] was a substantial house of vulgar neoclassical design.”

“His dislike of society was accentuated by his uneasiness in the presence of educated and intelligent men.”

“There was diffidence also as well as jealousy and suspicion in his relations with his ministers and the [Fascist] party leaders.”

“His cabinet colleagues rarely saw him and most transactions were done on paper, but they were terrified of him for they knew that he was unpredictable and that at any moment he could dismiss them.”

“If Mussolini treated his ministers with a mixture of tyranny and moral cowardice, their attitude toward him, which was compounded of fear, dislike and veiled disloyalty, was equally discreditable.”

“Mussolini’s lack of generosity and ruthlessness were so notorious that no associate could trust him. Time and time again, a man who had served his purpose was dropped in the gutter like a squeezed lemon.”

“With a profound contempt for mankind and wide experience of human frailty, he enjoyed exercising his talent to degrade men and bring out their worst qualities. He was a great corrupter.”

“He could never act as a member of a team, disliked being crossed, and was only happy when he was in a position to impose his will.”

“His conception of government was personal rule…he summarily rejected advice designed to keep him within the bounds of prudence.”

“Sometimes he appeared to be right, but these apparently capricious decisions were often taken suddenly without knowledge of the facts.”

“In one respect…he was self-indulgent to a degree which…eventually coarsened the fabric of his character. It was not a matter which he ever discussed with any…but from his youth he had never been able to resist the attraction of women.”

“As he moved from place to place he left behind him a chain of more or less disconsolate mistresses; and his cohabitation with [his wife] Rachele did nothing to diminish his promiscuous ardor.”

“Mussolini’s treatment of his women was Eastern in its callousness…Like a pasha he was apt to summon them suddenly when they were required and to dismiss them equally abruptly.”

“The driving force of his life was ambition and lust for power for power’s sake. To this end he was happy to betray his associates, to compromise with truth and justice.”

“Ambition was sustained by vanity and egotism. He had always believed that he was in a special category and his early sense of grievance against society arose from its refusal to recognize this self-evident fact. Consequently he was above the law [and] was moved by one consideration only, the promotion of his own interests.”

I could include many more quotes, but you get the idea. The main difference between Mussolini’s and Trump’s political careers was that Mussolini’s supporters eventually rose up and deposed and murdered him. Trump’s, so far, have not.


Impeachment is getting very popular in America

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The biggest political question in Washington is: Will the Democrats impeach Trump now that they rule the House of Representatives?

The question of impeachment, which is inevitable given the last two years, is said to be driven by “the Democratic base.” The theory is that Democratic politicians are as dominated by, and afraid of, the extreme of their base, as are Republicans, whose base consists of the knuckle draggers at Breitbart and “Christians” like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, neither of whom seem very Christian to me.

I define myself as a member of that Democratic base that wishes to see Trump impeached. To hear Breitbart tell it, I’m a freakish outlier, a minority of a minority; the majority of Americans, according to rightwing media outlets, wish Trump well, and do not want to see him “harassed,” as he puts it.

Well, that’s just another Republican lie. Every poll we see shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans want Trump either impeached or censured, and that number is on the way up. Why would they not? Two years of indecency, lies and divisiveness, bringing America to the brink of civil war. Two years of ranting insanity, two years of mounting evidence of massive fraud and corruption, two years of fact after fact coming out of Russian collusion, two years of undermining our international relationships, two years of attacks on our own military and intelligence services, two years of using his power to enrich himself and his klepto family, two years of…

Well, you get it. No wonder the People are tired of this baloney. They fully comprehend that getting rid of Trump will merely result in Pence getting in, and they know that Pence has his own severe limitations: a Bible-thumper who is fiercely homophobic and intensely irrational, with a crazy belief that the world is less than 6,000 years old, that Adam and Eve and little Cain and Abel played with cute dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, and that the Rapture is just around the corner (a very troubling thought for a person with his finger on the nuclear trigger). Yes, the voters fully understand that—and still, they’re willing to take Pence in exchange for Trump.

I believe Democrats would prefer Pence, if we have to have a Republican president for the next two years. As idiotic as Pence is, he’s no Trump when it comes to manipulating the media. And Pence will be securely kept on a tight leash by Nancy Pelosi’s House. So I’m not afraid of a Pence regime. As soon as Trump is out and Pence is sworn in, we’ll go to work on him; his reputation will be easy to taint once the American people realize his intellectual failures.

What continues to be puzzling is the 35%-40% of Americans that continue to support Trump. But you know what? I’ve stopped caring about why. It doesn’t matter. What matters, simply, is beating them. Sixty percent–the number of Americans who want Trump impeached or censured–is a lot higher than 40%. It’s sad that the Truth has no impact on these stubborn, credulous Trumpites. It’s pathetic that these so-called “Christians” tolerate the most immoral, adulterous sexual predator ever to come close to occupying the White House. I’m not sure whether this utterly discredits Christianity as a whole, or only its rightwing branches (Mormons, evangelicals, pentacostals, Catholics) who populate Trump’s base. It’s good, in retrospect, that these people have revealed their true stripes. No longer can they pretend to be moral, no longer do their professions of Christly love matter, no longer does anything they say contain the slightest credibility. That’s the silver lining behind Trump’s support: for years to come, we’ll be able to hit these Pharisees with their own indecency and hypocrisy every time they open their mouth.

Among my heroes on the left are Gov. Dean and Michael Moore. Neither minces his words. Both have the courage and insight to call out Republicans for what they are. I’m glad that mealy-mouthed compromisers like Claire McCaskill are gone. We really didn’t need her. McCaskill’s unseemly attack last week on Ocasio-Cortez was really sad. What lay behind it? Is McCaskill angling for some cushy job in a Republican-allied defense company or think tank?

I’m not yet prepared to support anyone for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Let a thousand flowers bloom! I’m tending, intellectually, towards someone younger, and Beto certainly is an attractive candidate, but I worry that there may be things in his past that will come out to haunt him, Eagleton-style, and destroy his candidacy. I worry, too, about Kamala Harris’s chances. I’ve watched her career from the very beginning here in the San Francisco Bay Area. There’s a bit of the opportunist there. Barack was an opportunist, too—you have to be, to be a Presidential contender. But Barack’s polish was impeccable, and he had about him the aura of History, not to mention the speechifying skills, that I don’t yet perceive in Kamala. Biden is probably the most qualified, but he’s really old, and as for Bernie Sanders, I’m still resentful for what he did to Hillary in 2016, which appears to be what he’s going to do this time, with respect to whomever the candidate is. Bernie ought to be happy with his past accomplishments, not run again, and promise to support anyone who gets the nomination.

Happy New Year! May 2019 bring about the end of Trump and Trumpism and the renewal of sanity and decency in America!


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