Daily Blog

Greenland

As Trump realized,  Greenland is a tremendously important piece of real estate. It should be under the most responsible stewardship possible. This principle rules out the United States as governed by Trump and his enablers as purchasers.

 

Stars No More

There was a time when every human being without impaired eyesight could look up on a cloudless moonless night and see thousands of stars, usually one or more brilliant planets, an occasional comet, sometimes a meteor, and the Milky Way stretching halfway across the sky. Years ago, on summer nights, I could see a faint fuzzy patch high up, the Andromeda Galaxy, our galaxy’s neighbor, 12 trillion trillion miles or so away.

These days, because of light pollution in more than sparsely populated areas, only a small and dwindling percentage of humans ever witness such a sight. Besides the numerous human-launched satellites presently passing overhead, we face the prospect of thousands more, which because of their low-level orbits will outnumber visible stars at night even in areas with minimal pollution. One of the most magnificent spectacles humans ever beheld, once universally available, will be lost to all.

India’s Tragedy

India, often referred to as the world’s largest democracy, has fallen under the rule of a friend of democracy in name only. Just as Trump has shown a great talent for attracting the support of white nationalists and supremacists, so, in India, recently reelected prime minister Narendra Modi has fueled his political engine by appealing to Hindu nationalists eager to change India from a multicultural country to one in which Hinduism reigns supreme.

Everyday Corruption

It’s been reported that Royal Dutch Shell will pay employees at overtime rates for attending a speech by Trump this week. Trump, learning that so many workers at Shell support him, will feel more warmly toward this company, causing him to treat Shell more favorably whenever the opportunity arises. This is how the brains of decision makers at Shell work. This is how Trump’s brain works. This is what goes on in this country every day: everyday corruption.

Democracy

In traditional democracies, like the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, and in countries like Hungary and Brazil, where democracy had become a generally accepted ideal, democracy has lately been strenuously assaulted and in some countries brutally suppressed. 

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum has recently written eloquently about heroic and imaginative protesters who have risked their lives and freedom in defiance of quintessentially corrupt and repressive regimes in Russia and China. Trump, an exponent of authoritarian rule, has no interest in their cause. Our cause is to work to end the death grip on our country of Trump and his enablers.

Three Cheers Ready for John Hickenlooper

The United States continues to be in an undeclared national emergency caused by support of Republicans for our sociopathic president. If American democracy is to survive, Democrats must win the presidential election in 2020. If America is to flourish, Democrats must win the senate.

      Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has commendably dropped out of the overcrowded field of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. As the politician with the best chance of ousting Colorado’s Trumpian supporter senator Cory Gardner in 2020, Hickenlooper has a patriotic duty to enter the senate race. 

I’m in readiness to give him three cheers if he does.

Moscow Mitch

Republican senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t like being called “Moscow Mitch.” Ordinarily, it would be demeaning, defamatory, undignified, unseemly, and contrary to long-established protocol to affix such a crass sobriquet to the most important and powerful senator in “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” But there is an exception, you see. There’s no problem at all with it once it’s revealed how McConnell intervened to lift sanctions on a Russian company after it had invested $200,000,000 in a new aluminum plant in his home state. In a just and fair society, being called “Moscow Mitch” would be the least of McConnell’s troubles.

The United States –– A Medical Report

I read that Trump’s approval rating with prospective voters is about 43%, and hasn’t varied much from that since he’s been in office. This isn’t a high approval rating, but it’s appallingly higher than it should be. That such a large percentage of the population is satisfied with Trump tells us that there is something gravely wrong with our country, as if it had fallen seriously ill and may never recover. Many smart and good people are trying to treat the patient with the best medicine they know of, but our country’s condition is what I believe doctors call “critical,” and the prognosis is “guarded.”

A Picture That Says It All

The image hangs in my mind: Trump and Melania in El Paso; Melania holding a baby whose mother and father were murdered by the shooter; Trump, grinning, giving a thumbs up, signifying that this photo-op is a success, showing how concerned he is for victims.

That powerful people who know better keep this horror of a man propped up is the American tragedy of our times.

Secessionists

I got a first-hand report that far north of the Mason-Dixon line many Trump supporters are displaying  the Confederate flag. Do they favor secession from the Union? 

Apparently so: Trumpians want not just the southern states, but the entire country, to secede from the Union, to abandon everything America has stood for. They’re eager to reconstitute our nation into a new confederacy, a proto-fascist state. So it would seem, though I doubt if their thinking has advanced that far. They are prisoners of their resentment. Displaying the confederate flag is their way of expressing it.

Hiatus July 31 – August 11

Sorry not to have noted this earlier. Daily Blog is on vacation until August 12th.

The March to Autocratic Rule

Dan Coats, a stalwart Republican but a decent man, is being  forced out as Director of National Intelligence. Trump has  appointed a partisan lackey named John Ratcliffe to replace him. If Ratcliffe is confirmed, intelligence unfavorable to Trump will be suppressed, and another step will have been taken in the march to autocratic rule. 

Summer Reading

The idea is to read something light and diverting, so you’ll stay relaxed at the beach and not get all wound up reading a book that’s serious and intellectually demanding, but boring is not relaxing, so you might consider instead a classic that gripped you when you read it a long time ago but remember hardly anything that was in it. Three in that category for me I’d like to read before Labor Day are Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, Morrison, Beloved, and Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude. 

Headline: In Brazil, Amazon Protections are Slashed and Forests Fall.

Like the United States, Brazil has fallen into the grip of a proto-fascist menace to his country and to all humanity. Whether legal or not, permissible is the new rule for Brazilian loggers, ranchers, and miners. The Amazon rain forest is critical to Earth’s ecological health. Efforts to save it have been abondoned. Human rapaciousness is uncontrolled.

Next Week’s Democratic Candidates Debates

The candidates should avoid attacking each other about issues that may be very important, yet are insignificant compared to the ruthless assault on American democracy being conducted by Trump, Republican politicians, and their allies in the media. Which candidate can best get across to voters what is at stake in the 2020 election: liberty, decency, honesty, and truth itself. That is the question.

Trump’s Campaign Strategy

Widespread public understanding of the degree of Trump’s venality and criminality would result in certain defeat for him in the 2020 elections. For that reason, as Anne Applebaum pointed out in her Washington Post column yesterday, the strategy of Trump and his enablers will be ”to make facts so suspect, and institutions so shaky, that nobody believes in anything.”

Russian Interference Threatens 2020 Election, Mueller Warns

Headline in last evening’s online Washington Post

Trump encourages it. Congressional Republican refuse to support measures to counter it. Their behavior evidences a massive moral failure and betrayal of our country on the part of almost every single one of them. If they remain in power after the 2020 election, America the beautiful, “the last best hope on earth,” will be reduced to a memory and a dream.

Mueller Testimony

Mueller testifies before Congressional committees today. Former Solicitor General Neal Kaytal points out that Trump has declared that the Mueller Report found “no collusion,” “no obstruction,” and “complete and total exoneration.”

Given the content of the Report, which, of course, only a tiny percentage of people have read, the answers Mueller gives will enlighten a few people to what all those who have been attentive already know, that as to these key propositions, Trump lied, lied, and lied.

Wild Times Ahead

Washington Post pundit Paul Waldman yesterday treated readers to a nightmarish description of how Trump and his enablers will conduct his reelection campaign. Lies, distortions, and diversions, magnified by propaganda-spewing media outlets, voter suppression, cyber attacks, more sophisticated and massive Russian interference, Twitter storms, stuff we haven’t imagined. Wild times lie ahead.

Headlline: Trump Campaign Selling 10 Plastic Straws for $15: “Liberal Paper Straws Don’t Work.”

Clever marketing, aimed at people who sneer at efforts to reduce environmental harm, the same people who are likely to admire Trump.

Trump’s Core Principles of Governing

Robert Reich has identified them:

distract,
divide and conquer,
lie and distort,
conjure up conspiracies,
accuse the accusers.

Friday’s Washington Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking

Friday’s Washington Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking shows Joe Biden still leading the pack; Kamala Harris, 2nd; Elizbeth Warren, 3rd; Pete Buttigieg, 4th; and Bernie Sanders, 5th.

Biden vs. Harris will be the featured attraction in the next debate, scheduled for July 30, and Warren vs. Sanders in the July 31 debate. Right now, it looks like one of the five front-runners will be the eventual nominee, but if a near deadlock for leadership occurs, a compromise consensus candidate might be chosen. Best bet for that, I think, is Senator Michael Bennett, of Colorado. 

Trump’s Role Model

The Man Without a Face –– The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen, is an inside look at Russian history over the past couple of decades and a revealing portrait of an unremarkable former KGB officer who gradually gained despotic control over his country. Vain, shallow, crude, vengeful, ruthless, brutish, and with insatiable greed for money and power, Putin is a natural role model for Trump.

The Surreal is the Real

I watched a clip of Trump at a rally, vilifying his critics, who in this case are members of Congress who happen to be women of color, inciting the crowd to chant, “Send them back!” Here, for all to see, is the master demagogue doing what he excells at, providing the world with another example of how he disgraces the office of president and degrades our country. Every day that Republicans continue to tolerate this monster, they disgrace and degrade themselves.

Another Sickening News Report in the Trump Era

Washington Post reports: “Six officials running nonprofit migrant child shelters earned more than $1 million in 2017. Southwest Key’s former CEO made $3.6 million that year. The company shelters a little more than a third of the minors held by Health and Human Services.” 

The Normalization of the Unacceptable

Christiane Amanpour warned against it when Trump was elected. We can’t pretend it hasn’t happened, most glaringly among Republicans in Congress who tolerate Trump no matter how much he debases and degrades the office of the presidency and damages our country. Two recent quotes capture the present circumstances:

Robert Reich: “{Trump} is a symptom of our eroding political system. He’s the product of years of stagnant wages and big money’s corruption of our democracy combined with a long legacy of racism and bigotry.”

E. J. Dionne: “Trump has so debased the standards of our politics that we stop noticing how low we have sunk.”

Trump Admires

Trump admires dictators and aspires to be one. He emulates them in his indifference to human rights and the rule of law. Stung by criticism, instead of trying to reform himself, he has created a commission to reform human rights, meaning to narrow them or obliterate them.

Dog Days

These are the dog days of summer. That’s what we used to call mid-July when I was a kid growing up on Long Island: In the heat and sultryness, you could sit in a sailboat for what seemed like hours waiting for the wind to come up. Once, sailing on Long Island Sound, the flat calm lasted so long, we dove off the boat to cool off. Moments later, the air stirred, and the boat began sailing away by itself. I swam hard and caught it before it got away. This story has no point except to give a dog days explanation of why there was no blog here for the last two days.

News Item: By more than two-to-one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees.

Conclusion: Most white evangelical Protestants aren’t Christian.

Gerrymandering

North Carolina has 13 Congressional Districts. In 2018, approximately 50% of voters voted for Republicans and 50% for Democrats. Ten Republican candidates were elected to Congress and three Democrats. This appalling imbalance resulted from Gerrymandering by the Republican-controlled legislature. Democratic-controlled legislatures have been guilty of this same offence. The Supreme Court recently ruled that Federal Courts are obliged to do nothing about it. Speaking for the four dissenters, Justice Elena Kagan correctly described the decision as one that “debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.” 

As the year wears on, American democracy slips into ever greater peril.

Iran / Republicans

At Trump’s direction, the U. S. withdrew from the nuclear treaty with Iran despite Iran’s being in compliance with it. Freed of the constraints of the treaty, Iran has exceeded the uranium enrichment limits set by it. Trump had no reason for his action other than to appear to be tough. The resulting dangerous crisis is entirely of his making. It’s a tragedy of our times that Republicans continue to tolerate him.

Headline: 40% of Americans still struggle to pay bills.

Rising income inequality, significantly exacerbated since Trump took office, is indicative of a degree of decadence historically associated with a nation’s, or an empire’s, decline and fall. 

Traveling. Will resume tomorrow.

Traveling. Will resume tomorrow.

Traveling. Will resume tomorrow.

Independence Day, 2019

The Fourth of July has never been celebrated with such fanfare as has been orchestrated for today by a president who is doing his best to restore tyrannical rule, from which, in 1776, America declared itself independent.

Trump’s Shows How a Dictator Would  Celebrate Independence Day –– tanks rumbling down the street; war planes flying overhead, etc.

Jennifer Rubin, in her Washington Post column“This is why a lying braggart and ignorant narcissist must go. He defiles and deforms everything he touches, putting our American creed and values in jeopardy.”

Treatment of Children at Border Detention Camps

Barbaric, cruel, and life-time damaging treatment of children at border detention camps continues. Republicans are complicit in this child abuse by failing to even criticize Trump much less fulfill their Constitutional duty to impeach and remove him from office for, among a long list of impeachable offenses, child abuse. They should all be voted out of office.

Mean-Spirited People

Avid (sometimes livid) Trump supporters and enablers are quick to attack any Democratic candidate who they fear might expose, to a much wider audience, that their avatar is a total fraud and charlatan. In view of her strong performance in the Democratic candidates debate, it was inevitable that Kamala Harris would become one of their prime targets. I read that she was castigated because she wasn’t black enough. Not only that, she wasn’t descended from American slaves. Her grandparents were Jamaican, apparently a worse fault even than Obama’s in having a father who was Kenyan. And, come to think of it, they say, Harris’s grandparents were Jamaican slave owners! And so on, and so on, and this is the sort of crude calumny we can expect a steady stream of between now and the election. The cardinal characteristic of Trump supporters, other than those who are woefully deluded, is that they are mean-spirited, just like the man to whom they’ve given their allegiance.

Traveling –– no blog today

Election Interference: The Grim Outlook

Trump and Putin met at the G-20 the other day, and someone took a video of them showing Trump, grinning, as he told Putin not to meddle in our elections. That was revealing, as commentators pointed out. Even more revealing was the self-satisfied smile on Putin’s face in reaction to being issued a stern warning by the president of the world’s greatest democracy and commander and chief of the most powerful military force on Earth. We can expect Putin to employ every artifice available, at whatever cost it takes, to bring about Trump’s reelection, and we can expect Trump to do everything he thinks he can get away with to encourage Putin in his efforts. We’ll be very fortunate if American democracy makes it through the Trump era intact.

Last Night’s Democratic Candidate Debate

Our country needs not only to rid itself of the sociopath we have as president; it needs a sea change in public attitude, a revolution of desires. I hope the Democrats nominate a candidate who is capable, authentic, vibrant, and inspiring. 

     Last night Kamala Harris stood out from the other candidates in persuasiveness, judgment, and authority. She is, at the moment, my first choice. Gillibrand showed some of the same stuff, but was narrower in her focus. Biden didn’t make any serious gaffes, but there’s nothing inspiring, in fact there’s something depressing, about him. Sanders was assertive, but imprecise, and I think he lacks broad appeal. He would be a very risky bet as a nominee. Buttigieg was solid, but not likely to inspire a big turnout among African American voters. Bennet was solid and sharp, though short on charisma. The other candidates seem to be good and capable people, but peripheral. Among candidates with any stature, Hickenlooper, in particular, seems out of his league. (He should be running for the senate.) It will be interesting to see how the polls are affected by the debates. 

Democratic Candidate Debates

Most of the candidates debating last night put forth policy proposals that are far superior to anything embraced by Republicans. For example, legislation proposed by Democrats would tend to reverse the trend toward greater income and wealth inequality. 

       But how would Democrats get remedial legislation passed in the likely event of continuing Republican control of the senate? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will surely continue to use his outsized power to prevent a Democratic Administration from accomplishing anything requiring senate approval. This is a problem for which no candidate could provide a solution. Democrats must take control of the senate. Otherwise, their excellent ideas will never spring to life from the paper they’re printed on.

Headline: U.S. returns 100 migrant children to overcrowded facility.

“Overcrowded” doesn’t come close to describing conditions

so abhorrent that public pressure forced the Administration to move the children elsewhere, which they started to do, but then realized they didn’t have any elsewhere, so they moved them back. What a failure, not just in absence of competent management, not just in the absence of compassion, not just in the absence of minimal standards of decency toward other human beings, but of imagination.

Donald Trump, Serial Child Abuser, Continued

It’s the hallmark of a sociopath that he has no conscience. As a color-blind person can’t tell one color from another, a sociopath can’t tell cruelty from a round of golf. 

In his latest Washington Post column, Eugene Robinson wrote: ”President Trump’s immigration policy has crossed the line from gratuitous cruelty to flat-out sadism. Perhaps he enjoys seeing innocent children warehoused in filth and squalor. Perhaps he thinks that’s what America is all about.”

Some day people will look back and ask, How could this have happened? Why was this destructive dishonest poseur allowed to remain in office?

Donald Trump, Serial Child Abuser

Trump is abusing migrant children by separating them from their families and keeping them in detention camps in disgusting, unsanitary, and cruel conditions. Just one instance: Visitors have described inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at a Texas border patrol station. One visitor described “a whole cell full of kids . . . who were forced to sleep on the floor.” 

Trump could stop this. He is responsible for its continuance.
It’s yet another reason –– there must be dozens by now –– that he should be impeached and removed from office. Republicans blocking such action are complicit in his abhorrent and criminal behavior. 

Big Money and Politics

The theory of democracy is one person equals one vote, but very rich people have such power that, as a practical matter, depending on the particular circumstances and the effectiveness on its use, a million dollars poured into political projects can equal perhaps 500 votes, and a billion dollars perhaps 500,000 votes. 

      The very rich overwhelming vote for, and financially support, politicians who promote the interests of the very rich. These very rich people had to reinvest only a tiny portion of the their windfall savings from the Trumpian tax cut primarily for the rich and especially for the very rich and even more so for the super very rich to ensure the continued subservience of targeted politicians.

     Maybe we can break through this. Maybe politicians who favor sane, pragmatic, fiscally responsible policies to reduce income inequality and provide greater opportunities for lower income people will be elected in sufficient numbers to gain control of legislative bodies. Maybe our country can be set on a better course.

Republican Senators Can’t See the Big Picture

Imagine that you are a Republican senator, for example Cory Gardner, of Colorado. You know Trump is a fraud, a blowhard, an ignoramus, and a pox upon the land, but you’re afraid that if you say so, Trumpians will wage a primary fight against you, and because Republican voters support Trump by a large margin, you will lose. 

     For this reason, you think it doesn’t make sense for you to oppose Trump except in occasional trivial instances you can brag about during the general election campaign.

     You think you’re being smart, but you’re not, because you’re not seeing the big picture: that Trump is degrading the country and dragging it down, month by month. increasing the likelihood of catastrophic consequences for the people of the United States, including the people of Colorado, including you, Cory Gardner. 

Biden

Joe Biden must know by now that he’s famous for making gaffes. It’s become evident that he has no ability to stop himself. The other day he reacted defensively after being called out for cluelessly reminiscing about how well he got along with two notorious, racist, ante bellum variety, now long-deceased senators, James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, from Mississippi and Georgia respectively. Shockingly revealing about this incident was that Biden bragged that Eastland called him “son,” and never called him “boy.” “Boy” is, of course the sneering epithet raists like Eastland directed at African American males. 

     Responding to criticism, Biden asserted that he hasn’t a racist bone in his body. I believe he doesn’t, but he does have some defective neurons in his body. If he becomes the Democratic nominee, I will unreservedly support him, but I hope he doesn’t.

Fiscal Responsibility and Political Sense

In a Washington Post column yesterday, Max Boot made a strong case that Elizabeth Warren’s array of bold proposals would blow up the deficit even more than the grossly irresponsible tax cut for the rich and especially the super rich enacted by Republicans a year and a half ago. Moreover, the centerpiece of her revenue-raising plans, a “wealth tax” on very rich people, is of doubtful Constitutionality (especially given the current composition of the Supreme Court) and in any event likely vulnerable to tax avoidance schemes of the sort rich people’s lawyers are so adept at inventing.

This country badly needs enactment of progressive reforms, but Democratic candidates must be rigorous in mapping out how they will be fiscally responsible, and Constitutionally acceptable. It makes political sense as well as fiscal sense to do so.

What’s Gone Wrong with Our Country?

Something has gone gravely wrong with our country. Otherwise, Trump would have been impeached and removed from office by now. I’ve seen that his approval rating recently was about 42%. That’s low by normal standards, but apparently his approval rating before he was elected was even lower. It’s horrifying that there is a serious risk that he might be reelected, and that if loses in anything but a landslide, he’ll likely attribute it to fraud and try to remain in office anyway!

     Truth is supposed to shine through. Somehow, Trump and his enablers have managed to squelch it, distort it, contradict it, and divert from it enough so that great numbers of people have been blocked from it. I wish I were confident that our country won’t be turned into a Trumpian state, but I’m not.

Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren

It seems almost miraculous –– the 37-year-old mayor of a not very large midwestern city may be the most articulate and have the soundest judgment and the most impressive grasp of the workings of business and government and the issues facing our country of any of the twenty candidates who will be on the debate stage Wednesday and Thursday the 25th and 26th of June. Polls indicate that Joe Biden would be most likely to beat Trump in the 2020 election. But that may change after a couple of rounds of debates. There are half a dozen others I think would perform more impressively as president, Buttigieg among them, though my present favorite is Warren. She is passionate, intellectually formidable, and her values are ones we all should share.

The Stark Horror of the Moral Descent of the Republican Party, Cont.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Trump called both the Washington Post and the New York Times “the Enemy of the People,” and he added: “The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again, and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”

The silence of Republican lawmakers in the face of such remarks, rather than condemning them and swiftly removing this abominable man from office, is but a scrap in a heap of evidence of their moral degradation.

The Stark Horror of the Moral Descent of the Republican Party, Cont.

In her column yesterday, Slate’s stellar legal analyst, Dahlia Lithwick, asked: “How is it possible that the president—whose chief occupations seem to be tweeting, lying, lying about what he tweeted, watching television, and committing crimes –– is not on the hook for anything?” This morning, in her New York Times column, Maureen Dowd commented on Trump’s “Nureyev leap into the absurd,” going from no collusion to pro-collusion.”

Constitutional government of “the world’s greatest democracy” is ablaze; yet Republicans, who have the power to control and remove this lawless and dangerous president and his sinister vassal, the nation’s chief law enforcement offer, are content to watch impassively, as if enchanted by the flames.

The Stark Horror of the Moral Descent of the Republican Party, Cont.

Each day, it seems, Trump supplies yet another ground for impeaching and removing him from office. He manifests lawlessness and lack of concern for anything but his personal aggrandizement with every utterance and tweet. The stench of corruption flows out of the White House, permeates the atmosphere, and spreads across the land. Yet Republicans band together to protect him and allow him to remain in office. What consequences will there be for their doing so?

The Stark Horror of the Moral Descent of the Republican Party

Jennifer Rubin shines a light on it with a single question in one of her Washington Post columns yesterday: “Why is there not a single Republican other than Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) who is willing to denounce such conduct {Trump’s invitation to foreign powers to help him in the 2020 election}, read the Mueller report’s findings on obstruction and seek to protect our democracy by removing a menace to our national security?

Good and Bad Members of Congress

There are many criteria to consider in determining whether a senator or representative is a good member of Congress or a bad member of Congress, but it is certain that a member of Congress is a bad member of Congress if he or she has either (a) not bothered to read the Mueller Report, or (b) has read the Mueller Report and has failed to repudiate Trump. 

The Race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination

Joe Biden leads in the polls, but despite his long experience in the senate and as a two-term vice-president, it’s become evident, I think, that Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg would be a superior chief executive of the United States. They each exceed Biden by a clear margin in intellect, judgment, industriousness, energy level, meticulousness, and character. 

Billionaires –– Good and Bad

Think what an enlightened U.S. government could do to transition energy production from fossil fuels to renewable energy! Instead, we have not just an unenlightened government, but an abhorrently irresponsible one, many of whose leaders are subsidized by fossil fuel promoters, like the Koch brothers. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend $500,000,000 in an effort to phase out coal-fired utilities. Michael Bloomberg is a good billionaire. The Koch brothers are bad billionaires. It’s as simple as that.

The Race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination

Despite his shortcomings and some outstanding people running against him, the latest polls indicate that Joe Biden has a commanding lead over other contenders. I suspect that’s not because he is so favored as a prospective president in comparison with Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, for example, but because of a perception that he is the candidate most likely to beat Trump. 

    There is no question that “electability” dwarfs all other considerations in selecting a candidate to run against Trump, but Biden is prone to missteps, and there’s a good chance that one or more of his opponents will distinctly outshine him in the debates, the first of which just 16 days away. If that happens, the calculus may radically change.

Republicans and Conservatives

In a letter to the Editor of The New York Times former solicitor general Charles Fried rightly criticized mainstream media for calling Republicans “conservatives.” It’s irresponsible to use the terms interchangeably. Almost without exception, Republicans in Congress have thrown conservative values and principles overboard. Journalists should call them “McConnellites,” “right-wingers,” “party loyalists,” “Trumpian toadies,” or some other accurate synonym of Republicans. Calling them “conservatives” won’t do.

A 2020 Congressional Campaign Kicks Off

In my somewhere-between-pink-and-red Congressional District, (Colorado 3rd C.D.), even though she lost decisively in 2018, Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush announced that she would once again challenge the Tea Party stalwart and Trump-enabling Republican incumbent, Scott Tipton, in next year’s Congressional election. 2018 was a strong year for Democrats in Congressional races, a year in which it seemed that Diane had a good chance to flip our district into the Democratic column; yet she lost decisively. She’ll need a new strategy if 2020 isn’t to be a repeat of 2018.

     Tipton’s operatives reacted to the news of Diane’s candidacy with derision. His strategy in 2018 is not likely to change. It’s to incessantly trumpet the Big Lie that Diane is a radical extreme left wing dangerous socialist. There is no basis in truth in this whatsoever, but that’s no deterrent to Tipton. Truth is inconsequential to him. He’s Trumpian through and through.

Impeachment Proceedings

It’s time to end the debate as to whether an impeachment inquiry should be initiated as a matter of principle or deferred because it could be politically counterproductive. The former course should be taken because of the overriding consideration that courts are more likely to enforce Congressional subpoenas if they are issued in conjunction with an impeachment hearing. The House of Representatives must assert its authority or, like the senate, be subservient to autocratic rule.

How a Narcissist Thinks:

Headline: “Trump is ‘making up’ for not serving in Vietnam with increased defense funding, he says.” 

In deciding whether defense funding should be increased, a rational leader would reflect on whether or not it is needed. This is not the way a narcissist approaches the question. A narcissist thinks that the decision should depend on him, in this case on how he has acted in the past. Thus, Trump concludes that defense funding should increase because he avoided serving in a war fifty years ago. If he had served in a war fifty years ago, increased defense funding would not be needed. It all makes sense in the narcissistic mind.

The Fight for the Senate

Even if the Democrats hold the House and win the presidency in 2020, American Democracy will still be on the ropes if the Dems don’t win control of the Senate. That’s because Republican senators, led by their proto-fascist leader, Mitch McConnell, will almost certainly block progressive legislation advanced by Democrats, block Supreme Court nominations, and stall lower court nominations. Republican strategy will be the same as it was during Obama’s second term: paralyze the government, find a suitably stirring populist to run for president in 2024, retake control of the government. and continue to stuff the judiciary with right-wing ideologues to ensure perpetual, unchecked, one-party rule. 

      The stakes are so high that three candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hickenlooper, of Colorado, Bullock, of Montana, and O’Rourke, of Texas, have a patriotic duty to defer their presidential ambitions and try to oust the incumbent Republican senator in their respective states. It’s tragic that chances of this happening are close to nil.

The Constitution at Bay, continued

Trump has committed multiple criminal and impeachable offenses. His daily conduct disgraces, demeans, and endangers our country. Yet all Republican senators and, with but one exception, all Republican members of the House of Representatives have chosen to ignore their duty to uphold the Constitution by removing him from office. By such conduct they turn America the Beautiful into America the Sordid. 

The Constitution at Bay

The Trump Administration defies lawful Congressional subpoenas as a matter of policy and, in clear violation of statutory federal law, has refused to release Trump’s tax returns to the appropriate committee of the House of Representatives. The Washington Post reported, “Federal prosecutors on Friday declined to make public transcripts of recorded conversations between Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States in December 2016, despite a judge’s order.” Acting in obeisance to the White House and contrary to its Constitutional duty, the Justice Department has defied the order of a federal court to turn over documents pertinent to a case before it. These acts bespeak an unabashed effort to convert our form of government from a Constitutional democracy to an autocracy. This unprecedented and tragic turn in the course of American history has been made possible by the Republicans controlling the senate, who continue to countenance Trump’s lawless behavior no matter how extreme it gets.

      It’s no longer tenable to argue that an impeachment inquiry should be deferred until more politically opportune time. Democrats have a duty to defend the Constitution, and that requires impeaching Trump and Barr. The gravity of the situation –– the enormity of the behavior of Trump and those allied with him –– must be vividly conveyed to the American people.  

Trumpian Travesty on Tour

Anne Applebaum, Washington Post European expert, reports that the U.K. will spend about 18 million pounds on security for Trump’s visit and that the U.S. will spend many multiples of that sum.

The U.K. is in a state of total malfunction and dysfunction, as is evidenced by its invitation to Trump for nothing resembling a useful purpose. Trump, however, has a purpose: to make himself look like he’s an important world leader. He is important, it’s true, in that he’s a terrifying menace to his country and to the entire world.

Democratic Race Update

With less than four weeks until the first  Democratic presidential candidates debates, Joe Biden retains a commanding lead in the Washington Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking. Kamala Harris is in second place, followed by Elizabeth Warren. It’s daring even to guess, much less predict, but I’ll guess anyway: I think the most probable ticket is Biden and Harris. Biden and Amy Klobuchar is also a strong possibility, because she is from Minnesota and has a strong record in attracting independent-minded voters in rural areas. There’s a lot to be said for including someone from the heartland on the ticket.

Impeachment

Congressional Democrats have been debating whether the House should impeach Trump. Every informed person of good will is aware that Trump should be impeached by the House, convicted by the Senate, and removed from office, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tamped down the impeachment movement. She advocates waiting until, in the course of further Congressional investigations, the case against Trump seeps more broadly into public consciousness. She and those persuaded by her thinking believe that impeaching Trump at this point could backfire politically. 

     Pelosi’s thinking is undoubtedly formed in part by opinion polls, which show that, although most voters disapprove of Trump, only a minority favor impeaching him at this time. I suspect that these polls may be misleading; that a substantial number of voters who favor holding off on impeachment are doing so not because they think impeachment isn’t warranted, but because they know that the Republican-controlled senate will not convict Trump, and fear, as Pelosi evidently does, that he will gain politically in the process. This view is understandable, but given the abundance of evidence of Trump’s multiple high crimes and misdemeanors, my view is that by not at least opening an impeachment inquiry, Democrats give the impression that there may not be sufficient grounds for impeachment, when in fact they are overwhelming.

Mueller

The statement Mueller’s delivered yesterday about the Mueller report provided no new information, and he said he doesn’t want to be questioned about it. In acting this way, he is being careful not to exceed the confines of his assignment as special counsel. He has solidified his reputation for being circumspect. 

     Mueller plans to resign from the Justice Department and resume life as a private citizen. He thinks his work is done. It’s not, because he is not any private citizen. He is one who possesses a great deal of information that is of the highest public interest, and he is in a unique position to inform a perplexed and divided citizenry of the true facts and the true stakes. The appropriate Congressional committees should subpoena him and grill him under oath in public session. We can count on him to be truthful. Only those wanting to cover up the truth have reason to object. Unless Mueller wants to be remembered more as an competent and dutiful robot than as a courageous and patriotic citizen, he has no reason to object either. 

Democratic Candidates Update

Yesterday’s Washington Post Pundit Power Poll showed that Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old former Rhodes Scholar gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has raced ahead to 4th place in the rankings. Buttigieg is impressive, and more and more people are mastering how to pronounce his name, which isn’t exactly an asset. In the first of a series of so-called debates to be televised in June, Buttigieg is likely to turn in a superior performance. Biden and Sanders are still numbers 1 and 2 on the list. I wish they would drop out –– they are too old and each has other significant liabilities as well.

Progressives Be Truthful

This morning, the Washington Post fact checker noted that 

Planned Parenthood had exaggerated the number of women who died annually from botched abortions prior to Roe v. Wade. Progressives have a special burden to be unwaveringly meticulous and absolutely truthful. The Washington Post fact checker has also noted that Trump has told more than 10,000 lies since he took office. When progressives cite that as one of the many reasons he is unfit to hold office, his propagandists should not be able to cite instances of lies or sloppy misstatements by progressives. Don’t let Trumpians draw false and cynical equations. Don’t let them cry, Everyone lies. So what else is new? 

Lies and Big Lies

Trump traffics in lies. Large numbers of his supporters admire how he gets away with it. It appears that the Republican senators and cabinet members who allow him to stay in office admire how he gets away with it.

     Despite the efforts of Trump and his enablers to becloud overwhelming evidence of his criminality and gross unfitness to hold office, truth has been filtering into public consciousness. When ordinary lies don’t suffice, aspiring despots resort to Big Lies. Trump and his enablers have fabricated a monstrous one: that the Mueller investigation was initiated and conducted as part of a treasonous attempt by Democrats to force a duly elected president out of office. To invest his Big Lie with an aura of authenticity, Trump has ordered the attorney general to investigate this fabricated scandal: those responsible for betraying their country should be prosecuted and locked up. 

    In his long history of fraudulent conduct, this may be the biggest and most outrageous con Trump has ever attempted. Republicans controlling the senate who encourage it or tolerate it deserve as much condemnation as Trump himself.

How Far We’ve Fallen

Posted by Robert Reich: 

”We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” 

– Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”  

– Donald Trump, Tweet, May 17, 2019

Democrats Candidate Race

Joe Biden retained the lead in Friday’s Washington Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking. Elizabeth Warren advanced from 4th to 2nd place. They were followed by Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg in that order. Fifteen others will qualify for the first debates, which will be held June 26th and 27th. Warren appears to be putting together the most progressive and constructive legislative agenda of any of the candidates, but even if she’s elected, none of it will get implemented unless Democrats gain control of the senate.

 My guess is that Biden and Harris would make the strongest ticket, but there’s a good chance I’ll change my mind after the first debates. Harris and Buttigieg would be an interesting combination and would have the added virtue of freaking out the bigots. 

American Democracy’s Prognosis

Our constitutional system of checks and balances may be the best in the world, but it’s no better than an old rag if key people in power choose to violate their oath of office to protect and defend it. There’s no evidence of such a commitment on the part of Trump, the attorney general, or any of the Republicans who collectively control the senate. As a result, the prognosis for American democracy is somewhere between fair and poor. If Trump is reelected, or otherwise manages to remain in office, it will be next to hopeless.

Where We Are

Each day that Trump continues to obstruct justice and display his contempt for the Constitution gives further evidence that his occupancy of the White House is dangerous in the extreme. That cabinet members and so many members of Congress continue to support and protect him is one of the saddest facts in our beleaguered world, sadder even than the existence of Trump himself.

Where We Are

Regarding the tragedy that so many members of Congress continue to support and protect Trump, E. J. Dionne noted in a Washington Post column Wednesday: 

There is one other thing {the framers of the Constitution} certainly didn’t have in mind: that extreme partisanship would so obliterate institutional patriotism that congressional Republicans would put the interests of a power-abusing president over the legitimate rights and prerogatives of the legislative branch of government. Democrats should not have to be fighting Trump’s imperiousness on their own.

Robert Reich: “Trump has threatened to direct Attorney               General William Barr to prosecute his political enemies. At a       rally in Pennsylvania he accused members of the FBI and         Democrats in Congress of “treason” for investigating him and his associates — which was immediately greeted by chants of ‘Lock them up!’

“We cannot become inured to this authoritarian behavior. Dictators and despots twist the rule of law to punish their enemies and suppress opposition. It is up to us to work as hard as we can to remove him — and his enablers — from office in the next election. Together, we must reclaim our democracy.”

We can expect Trump and his enablers to show no restraint in their efforts to convert our country from the world’s greatest democracy to an authoritarian state. It’s entirely likely that Trump would initiate war with Iran as a pretext for claiming emergency powers. Our sweet land of liberty is engaged in a fight for its life.

Dealing with Adversity –– the Trumpian Way

To help coal companies increase their profits the Administration loosened rules restricting pollution from coal-fired utilities. This had the effect of causing many more premature deaths among people in affected areas, which was disturbing to Trump and his enablers because it raised the danger of public pressure to reinstate anti-pollution regulations. The E.P.A. plans to handle this crisis by changing the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, thereby causing the risk of predicted deaths to be much lower. 

A Lone Voice in the Republican Wilderness

This past weekend Justin Amash, a Republican Congressman from Michigan tweeted that: “Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances. Few members of Congress have read the report.” 

He elaborated: “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment. In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.” 

Amash’s judgment is supported by more than 900 former federal prosecutors who signed onto a letter making this exact point. Amash’s statement is news only because every other Republican has acted as if there is nothing to condemn about Trump’s conduct, and many of them have lent support to Trump in his quest for an imperial presidency. That so many Republican legislators and others in positions of power have sunk to such moral depths has opened a deep crack in the foundations of American democracy.

The Rot Spreads into the Judiciary

With unfailing aid of nearly every Republican senator, Trump has been able to stuff the federal courts with an unprecedented number of unqualified and partisan judges who will all enjoy life appointments and play a key role in protecting Trump and contaminating the law in furtherence of his execrable agenda. Long after Trump is gone, this cadre of irresponsible jurists will endure like patches of wet sand clogging the wheels of justice. Diana Lithwick writes in Slate: “Senate Republicans’ assembly-line processing of unfit nominees brings Donald Trump closer and closer to the imperial presidency he so deeply craves.”

The Call of Duty

Senator Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, answered the call of duty, which was to defend his critical senate seat in Ohio instead of running for president. Governor Bullock, of Montana, former Governor Hickenlooper, of Colorado, and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, of Texas, are in each case the Democratic Party’s best hope to capture a vulnerable senate seat held by a Trump-enabling, Mitch McConnell-obeying Republican. They should answer the call of duty: They should withdraw from the presidential race and run for the senate.

A Democratic president can arrest the current trend toward authoritarianism, but Democrats must hold the House and retake control of the senate to have a chance of initiating legislative reforms and undoing the damage of the Trumpian years. Gaining Democratic control of the senate is almost as important as ridding the nation of Trump.

I doubt if any of these gentleman will answer the call of duty, too ego-bound are they to resist chasing the biggest prize.

The Race for the Nomination

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that Biden would win by 11 points (53 percent to 42 percent) in a hypothetical match-up against Trump, Bernie Sanders would win by 7 points, and Elizabeth Warren by 3. Pete Buttigieg and Kamala D. Harris would tie Trump. Beto O’Rourke would lose by 2.

It will be interesting to see the polls after the first candidate debates, six weeks from now. If Biden performs well, he may pull further ahead, as voters seek unity and certainty in the nomination process. 

Instructions for Turning a Democracy into an Autocracy

Use voter suppression, invite the help of a ruthless foreign power, and have a little luck to ensure that an aspiring despot gifted in the art of demagoguery becomes the chief executive.

Contrive to elect a majority of members of the upper legislative body who are willing to confirm the aspiring despot’s nominations of politically compliant judges and cabinet members, including, most importantly, the chief law enforcement officer.

Lie so often that the public gets used to it and treats it as normal.

Flout the law in every instance in which it’s useful to do so.

Create false domestic and foreign emergencies to divert public attention from your efforts to convert your country’s form of government into an autocracy.

The Art of Doing Nothing

I saw an ad for an app that features various scenes you can watch while doing nothing for thirty seconds, a practice it’s claimed is good to follow every day. It has a calming effect. I’ve been meditating, an ancient technique of doing nothing, for twenty minutes a day. The idea of being able to do nothing for only thirty seconds a day appeals to me. What a time saver. And I bet that if you get really good at it, you can cut down time spent doing nothing to ten or fifteen seconds a day. Imagine a grand master guru of this art, someone who manages to spend no time at all doing nothing. A bridge too far, in my opinion.

Autocrat School

Hungary’s strong-man ruler, Viktor Orban, visited the White House to tutor Trump in the art of converting a democracy into an autocracy. He praised Trump’s natural gift for demagoguery. Trump modestly said he had been inspired by Vladimir Putin, of course, but even more by Orban’s beautiful work in suppressing the free press in Hungary, banning a leading university, and making a lot of money on the side. Orban assured Trump that Trump was the greatest leader of modern times. What a coincidence! Kim Jong-un said exactly the same thing last time he and Trump met. 

Trump was buoyed by Orban’s visit and thrilled by Orban’s praise of him. Having your greatness recognized by a keen judge of character is the most satisfying thing in the world.  

Mass Atrocities

The New York Times has reported in detail on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assid’s torture prisons. It makes for sickening reading, and it’s sickening that the “civilized world” has allowed this monster to remain in power. After the dissolution of the Soviet empire, it appeared briefly that the community of liberal democracies, with whom it was hoped Russia would align itself, would preserve, adhere to, and spread enlightened norms, and that we would not again witness institutionalized mass atrocities like those that will endure forever as great ugly blots in 20th century history.  

The recent solidification of authoritarian regimes in various countries and the emergence of new ones in others give warning that humanity may be sliding toward barbarism. Soulless leaders of some major powers, including, most lamentably, the United States, are so lacking in decency and compassion that they view mass crimes against humanity with indifference. 

Trumpians

Those who allow themselves to be woven into Trump’s webs of fabrications, feed his beasts of corruption, hypocrisy, and cruelty, and affect outrage at members of Congress fulfilling their constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch, in their actions and in their silences, have been conveying our country ever closer to the maw of authoritarian rule. In so doing they expose their essential characters, whose etched ugliness let us hope becomes visible to more and more people in the weeks and months ahead and not just, as it surely will, in the light of history.

Democratic Candidates

Yesterday’s Washington Post 2020 Pundit Power Poll top seven ranking:

  • Biden
  • Sanders
  • Harris
  • Warren
  • Buttigieg
  • Booker and Klobuchar (tied) 

Biden has a big lead.  As for Sanders, as I have written before, it would be best if he would drop out, but there’s no chance of that before the primaries. Harris is consistently strong, and a Biden-Harris ticket might be an effective combination. Warren, with her energy, passion, and a whole slew of policy ideas, will invigorate the debate, and she has a shot at heading it. Buttigieg is impressive and no doubt has a great future, but I think his entry into the presidential race is premature.  If he could win a state-wide election in Indiana, he’d be strong contender to be on the Democratic ticket in the following presidential election. Klobuchar is an attractive candidate and on my short list for the ticket. Cory Booker is a good man, but doesn’t quite make it in my opinion. And I think O’Rourke needs more seasoning.  He would perform a greater service to the nation by withdrawing and running for the Senate against the Republican incumbent in Texas.

Trumpian Logic

The Trump / Barr / Republican Enablers position is that: 

A president cannot be indicted while he’s in office;

The attorney general’s decision to exonerate the president is not subject to question;

Congressional Committees have no right to examine critical potential evidence of presidential crimes;  

When the founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they had no interest in protecting the United States from falling under autocratic rule even though gaining freedom from it was the purpose of the American Revolution.

Mirabile Dictu

Chris Hayes: “Trump is the most successful con-artist of all time.”

We don’t live in the time of the greatest poet, the greatest composer, the greatest painter, the greatest philosopher, the greatest scientist, or the greatest statesman, but we do at least live in the time of, and are able to witness, the all-time greatest master of something.  

Barr’s Bad Faith Exposed

That more than 600 former federal prosecutors have signed a statement asserting that the facts set out in the special counsel’s report justify prosecuting Trump on multiple counts of obstructing justice after Barr had proclaimed the contrary to be the case exposes him for betraying his oath of office. In choosing to serve the aspiring autocrat in the White House instead of the people of the United States, Barr has revealed his true character: that of a thug equipped with glib tongue instead of a pistol.

The Gathering Storm

In a Washington Post column yesterday Karen Tumulty quoted Harvard Law School professor and Constitutional expert Lawrence Tribe’s reaction to Trump’s most recent imperialistic utterances:Tribe wrote, “This is as loud a warning as anyone could ask for: Trump has no intention of leaving his sinecure and exposing himself to jail time. . . If he plans to stage his own coup, I’d count on the judiciary, the military, and, ultimately, a popular uprising to stop him. Best = landslide.”

A Hopeful Thought

June 26 and 27 we will see the first two rounds of Democratic presidential candidate “debates.” Of the 20 qualifying candidates, 10 will stand behind podiums the first night and the other 10 the second night. Fair-minded undecided voters will scrutinize the performance of each candidate. This is a high quality field. I expect most of the candidates to perform ably, put forth sensible progressive policy proposals, and refrain from personally attacking other candidates. I think the overall effect will be to educate the public on various issues and sensible approaches to addressing them. I think most viewers will come away feeling positive toward one or more candidates and enlightened as to what a relief it would be to have any one of them president instead of Trump.

Civil War

No shots have been fired. None likely will be. But what is it but civil war when the president and attorney general are supported by a majority of senators and a substantial block of voters and propagandists in defying the law, ignoring the Constitution, spreading disinformation, and seemingly attempting to convert America into a proto-fascist state?

To cite but one example of Republican-supported assault on American democracy: Despite conclusive evidence of Russian interference in our electoral process, massively documented in the Mueller Report, last week Trump admitted he’d just had an hour-long phone talk with Putin in which the subject of Russian interference in our elections didn’t come up. 

Trump and his supporters have all but invited Russia to reprise its efforts to swing the election to Trump in 2020 and are putting the brakes our intelligence agencies attempts to uncover and thwart continuing Russian interference.

Even non-shooting civil wars can be ugly. That’s likely to be the character of the eighteen months between now and the election. And if Trump loses by a narrow margin, he will claim fraud and refuse to accept results, whereupon unpredictable, possibly horrific, consequences will ensue.

The Challenge

If our nation is to avoid slipping into fascist rule next year, the Democratic candidate for president must win, and he or she must win by more than a very tight margin or post-election-night chaos will likely ensue. 

The Proto-Fascists

William Barr was caught lying in testimony to a Congressional committee. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, called him out on it; she said that he had committed a crime. Under normal circumstances, this would have ended Barr’s career. Not just that: he would be prosecuted. The attorney general of the United States would see to that. Except Barr is the attorney general of the United States. He is also a proto-fascist, a loyal lieutenant of the proto-fascist who is president of the United States. It’s uncertain whether America will survive as a democracy. There are multiple factors that could tip the scales either way.

The Sociopathic Mentality

One might think that if you were a shady, smug, bullying, blustering big-time real estate developer with no aspirations other than to live a glitzy self-indulgent life and make money and be admired, but then somehow through a weirdly unlikely concatenation of events you became president of the United States, you might be awed by this opportunity and want to emulate past outstanding presidents and faithfully execute your duties and uphold the laws and work tirelessly to advance the interests of our country and all its people and give up your shady ways so you would be admired throughout the world and be remembered in history as someone who, thrust into a position of great power, met the challenge and rose to the task and worked to make the world a better place. One might think so, but if the individual we’re talking about is a sociopath, his mind doesn’t work that way. That’s because he has a brain aberration –– he is deprived of any conscience, any sense of duty to others, any sense of shame. He is incapable of changing his behavior.

Sociopaths attract other sociopaths, people, who though their personal styles may differ, share a pathological acquisitiveness unburdened by any sense of responsibility to others and are blind to anything other than raw opportunity for themselves.  Enter Attorney General William Barr into the Trump orbit.

Democratic Campaign Notes

Joe Biden has pulled significantly ahead of Bernie in the polls. Democrats want clarity and unity. At the moment, despite his age and flaws, Biden, who is, after all, by far the most experienced candidate and is universally acknowledged to be a decent warm-hearted guy, appears to be the best bet to be the Democratic nominee. Thankfully, Bernie has taken Indivisible pledge to wholeheartedly support the Democratic candidate. Warren has been gaining momentum –– she is probably the most capable and articulate of the lot. Harris is still very much in contention. Biden and Harris would be a formidable ticket. 

Factors for Rating Presidential Candidates; Note

Yesterday I posted ratings for three leading Democratic contenders and for Trump. I should have explained that I didn’t rate other leading candidates, such as Kamala Harris, who was in third place in the most recent Washington Post 2020 Power Pundit Poll, because I don’t feel I know enough about her. The same is true of William Weld, who is contending Trump for the Republican nomination.

Some might think that Trump’s survival as president despite being grossly unfit for office should earn him better than the “C” I gave him for political skill. I didn’t mark him higher because I don’t ascribe his endurance to his political skill, but to the immorality of those in powerful positions who have kept him propped in his pulpit.

Factors for Rating Presidential Candidates; Examples

Biden:

  • character                             B+
  • judgment                            B-
  • authenticity                         B+
  • intellectual intelligence        B-
  • moral intelligence                B
  • essential knowledge            A-
  • political skill                        B

Sanders

  • character                           B+
  • judgment                           B-
  • authenticity                        A-     
  • intellectual intelligence       B+
  • moral intelligence               A-
  • essential knowledge           B
  • political skill                       B

Warren:

  • character                             A
  • judgment                             B+
  • authenticity                          A
  • intellectual intelligence        A
  • moral intelligence                A
  • essential knowledge            A
  • political skill                        B

Trump:

  • character                            F                     
  • authenticity                         F
  • judgment                            F
  • intellectual intelligence       C
  • moral intelligence                F
  • essential knowledge           D
  • political skill                       C

Meditation

After decades of resisting taking up meditation, I’ve been practicing it for the past several weeks – 20 minutes a day, trying to concentrate on my breathing without interrupting the normal pattern and banishing extraneous thoughts that surface as soon as I become aware of them. I’m moderately disciplined at resisting fidgeting and refraining from scratching occasional itches that assert themselves. I’ll never become an accomplished meditator. Even so, practicing seems to have something of a calming effect. When my timer goes off –- a soft ching –– I feel as if I’ve been brought back from another world. 

Is it worth it – 20 minutes of doing nothing every day? Probably so. 

Democratic Contenders / Particularly Biden

Former Vice-President Joe Biden formally entered the race a couple of days ago and immediately jumped into the #1 spot in the Washington Post Power Pundit Poll. Biden is the most recognizable candidate and the one with the highest name recognition. The top five are now:

  • Joe Biden
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Kamala Harris
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Elizabeth Warren

I expect some slight repositioning, but these five will probably stay in the top ten. I’d like it if one of them, or someone lower on the list, emerges as a clear frontrunner, a candidate who has all it takes be president and then some, someone most people can get enthusiastic about, someone who doesn’t make me feel a little depressed at the thought of their being in the White House, like Joe Biden, for example, who a Washington Post article this morning headlined as the “master of not quite getting it.” The article was referring to how he had called Anita Hill to express “his regret for what she endured” in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing he conducted at the time of the Clarence Thomas confirmation. He didn’t quite get what should have been easy to get.

The best thing I can say about Biden is that he would be a better president than Trump by an astronomically wide margin. I’d like to be able to say more about the candidate the Democrats nominate.

Biden

Biden is only moderately intelligent, he’s uninspiring, he carries a considerable amount of political baggage, and he’s too old, but it may develop in the coming months that, among the twenty Democratic candidates, he is the one most likely to beat Trump. If that happens, he’s my man.

Presidential Campaign Developments

Most leading contenders for the Democratic nomination spoke at the She the People Forum in Houston yesterday. Watching excepts, I was particularly impressed with Elizabeth Warren. She is  passionate, authentic, and immensely capable. She remains at the top of my list of favorites. In my latest ranking, the top three are women U.S. Senators.

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Kamala Harris
  • Cory Booker
  • Pete Buttigieg

Beto O’Rourke dropped off my top five –- I think he lacks gravitas and needs more experience.  I would be happier if both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders dropped out. They won’t, of course. They are leading in the polls. 

Anxiety Report

I’m worried that the Democrats won’t put up the strongest possible candidate to oppose Trump. And I’m worried that some people will be so emotionally involved with their favored candidate that they won’t vote for the nominee if it’s someone else. There are indications that this is a serious danger in the case of Bernie supporters.

Of course, I’ll enthusiastically support the Democratic candidate even if he or she turns out to be my least favorite of those who vied for the nomination.

Here are my favorites –– the five best candidates for the Democrats to nominate. My ranking may –– in fact probably will –– change in the coming months:

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Kamala Harris   
  • Beto O’Rourke
  • Pete Buttigieg

Impeachment

Every member of the House of Representatives has a Constitutional duty to impeach Trump. Morally there is no question it’s the right thing to do; yet arguably it may be counterproductive politically and psychologically! What a dilemma! Best to initiate an investigation of whether there are grounds for impeachment even though we aleady know there are. Proceed deliberately, clinically, unwaveringly, and without missing a beat. 

Mueller Redux

it’s likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify in May before the House Judiciary Committee. There’s reason to hope that his honest answers to well-constructed questions will reduce the percentage of the population that views Trump favorably. The wheels of justice are grinding, though they grind exceedingly slow.

A Looming Menace

Even in the highly redacted form in which it was made public, the Special Counsel’s Report exposed Russia’s wide-ranging and massive interference in the 2016 presidential election. We’ll never know if that attack on our country was decisive in Trump’s election, but we can be certain that the Russians will try to tilt the 2020 elections the same way and that their efforts will likely be more strenuous and more sophisticated than in 2016. 

Combatting this looming menace should be one of the nation’s highest priorities; yet we can expect Trump and his enablers to be inert in the face of it, and, to the extent they think they can get away with it, to encourage it. No one can rest easy until Trump has been sent to prison, or, at the very least, returned to his towers and golf courses.

The Impeachment Question

The Special Counsel’s Report, even in its redacted from, is replete with evidence that Trump is criminally liable for attempting to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in United States elections. There is no question that Trump should be impeached, convicted, and removed from office. This is not happening only because few, if any, Republican senators would vote to convict Trump regardless of how culpable he is: they themselves are brigands and scoundrels who put personal desires ahead of Constitutional duties. That is the state of affairs in our country today. 

Democrats in Congress –– every one of them –– understands that Trump should be impeached, but they are divided as to whether to initiate proceedings, because they know that impeachment by the House would not lead to removal by the Senate, and many, including their leaders, think that the political and psychological effect of impeachment would be to increase chances that Trump would be reelected. Sadly, they are probably right.

Truth and Tragedy

The redacted version of Special Counsel Mueller’s Report lays out a 180-page roadmap for prosecution of Trump for obstruction of justice. It comes across clearly that Mueller would have sought to indict Trump were it not for Department of Justice guidelines proscribing indicting a sitting president. Trump toady Attorney General William Barr’s “finding” that Trump did not obstruct justice has been exposed as a fraud and a betrayal of Barr’s Constitutional responsibilities.

It’s a great tragedy of our times that so many legislators and officials in positions of power are content to participate in the conversion of the United States from a democracy to an autocracy for what they see as their personal gain, though it gravely damages their country and befouls their own lives.

Barr

Attorney General William Barr plans to give a press conference this morning, hours in advance of making the highly redacted Mueller Report public. Why not after people have had a chance to read it and question him on it? He’s wants to give the already truncated report a spin that will linger in people’s minds and he wants to avoid answering hard questions. In choosing to act as Trump’s publicist and defense lawyer, Barr has breached his Constitutional duty to the people of the United States. That’s the level he’s sunk to, joining legions of scoundrels who, at some point in life, for whatever reason, choose the low road. After Barr dies, he’ll live on in disgrace in history books.

Weld

Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld has launched a primary campaign against Trump. In so doing he is performing a noble public service. Other Republicans dissatisfied with Trump, like former Governor of Ohio John Kasich, have backed off, complaining that they can’t win a primary contest against Trump because a clear majority of Republicans support him.

That’s not a good enough reason to sit on the sidelines. The foremost responsibility of any politician is to help the nation rid itself of Trump. Trump will not likely be willing to debate Weld, but Weld can convince some who would otherwise vote for Trump in the general election not to do so. Weld should be relentless in exposing Trump’s depravity. Honorable Republicans should support Weld vocally and financially. Every Republican that Weld can persuade not to vote for Trump is a victory for Weld, regardless of whether he wins the nomination, and even more so a victory for our country.

Heroes and Villains

Last evening Rachel Maddow interviewed South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in an exhibition of civilized, literate, substantive, humanistic discussion of the sort that shines in sharp contrast to the cynical dissembling by characters in Trump orbit like Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. Life is dominated by heroes and villains. America’s future will turn on whether voters can tell which is which.

Surreal Land

Our country has become surreal land. It’s screamingly obvious that Trump is morally, temperamentally, and intellectually unfit for office; yet instead of acknowledging that one of their own is a monster and removing him from office, Republicans support him and encourage him. They accede to him. They become more like him. They act as if some hallucinatory mental disease has taken over their brains, and there’s no indication it will ever run its course.

Uplift

Rarely a day goes by that doesn’t brings news of fresh instances of execrable behavior on the part of Trump and his enablers and like-minded dark-souled characters around the world. It’s uplifting to read of exceptions, people who inspire us to reject cynicism and despair and work to bring about a better world: young leaders like New Zealand president Jacinda Ardern, who shone with goodness and strength after the Christ Church massacre, and Slovak President-elect Zuzana Caputova, who announced: “My three priorities are in the areas of rule of law and justice, social care, and protecting the environment.” 

The Race for the Democratic Nomination

Yesterday’s Washington Post 2019 Power Pundit Poll shows Senator Kamala Harris maintaining her first place lead. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, in second and third place respectively, have been scoring higher in various polls, but I guess the pundits ascribe a lot of that to their very high name recognition. Perhaps the pundits feel as I do that Harris will emerge as a stronger and more appealing candidate once they are all lined up on the debate stage before what is likely to be a very large TV audience. 

Or someone else. The times they are a changin’ you know that for sure when you note that a 37-year-old gay mayor of a small mid-western city, Pete Buttigieg, is in 4th place, and a black woman from Georgia, who hasn’t held an office higher than minority leader of a state assembly, Stacey Abrams, is in 9th place, up from 12th a week ago. 

Yes, the times are a changin’. Let’s hope for the better. We sure need it.

Notes from the Autocrat’s Handbook (Official 2019 U.S. Edition)

1.  Make sure you have enough senators who approve of your autocratic agenda to confirm your appointment of flunkies to key cabinet posts and judgeships.

2.   Make sure you can count on your flunky appointees to support you rather than get hung up on their Constitutional duties. Fire ones, like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who turn out to have a honorable streak.

3.  Tell your reliable flunky Attorney General –– in this case William Barr –– to deny Congress and the public access to any material in the Special Counsel’s Report that would reflect badly on you and to make up phony excuses for withholding it.

4.  Tell your reliable flunky Treasury Secretary –- in this case Steven Mnuchin –– to refuse to release your tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee as required by law and make up a phony excuses for withholding it.

Democratic Strategy

With a dozen or so potential candidates for their presidential  nomination, all of whom are superior to Trump by an astronomically wide margin, the Democratic Party should have a sure road to the White House in next year’s election, but it would be folly for Democrats to be complacent about their prospects. 

Major missteps could lead to the catastrophe of Trump’s reelection, and one seems to be in the making. Bernie Sanders has introduced his Medicare-for-All bill. Its aim is worthy, but, to tens of millions of people who are satisfied with their present coverage, it’s likely to be alarming. Even more alarming is that Sanders doesn’t say how much his plan would cost, and how it would be paid for. 

What’s more, because the plan is so generous, it would be enormously expensive. In its present form it’s irresponsible, foolish, and highly vulnerable to effective political attack by Republicans. Promoting it would allow the Republicans pivot from playing defensive to coming out swinging: Save America from Socialism! 

Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand have signed on as co-sponsors to Sanders’s plan. In doing so, they’ve done him a favor and themselves, the Democratic Party, and the country a disfavor. All policy proposals should include a realistic accounting of how they will be paid for. 

Barr

What a loathsome person is Attorney General William Barr, who while affecting to be following the law is doing everything he can to withhold critical portions of the Mueller report not only from the public, but from Congressional committees charged with oversight. Barr is a star performer in the cadre of Trump enablers attempting to transform the United States from a country subject to the rule of law to one subject to the rule of unprincipled men. All that’s needed for their success is a critical mass of strategically placed complicit elected officials and appointees.

Can America Regain Moral Leadership in the World?

The Trump effect has been to bring out the worst in our natures. Can the mindset of Americans ever be reset, be retuned to laudable values? Yesterday, Jennifer Rubin, talking about matters that should be central in political discourse leading up to next year’s elections, noted: “We certainly need to have a conversation about and a commitment to what we used to call civic virtue — respect, tolerance, humility, honesty, empathy and the rest.” 

Notes from the American Kleptocracy:

Courtesy of Robert Reich: “How much did some corporations benefit from Trump’s tax cuts? Well, the tax cuts boosted JPMorgan’s profits by $3.7 billion, helping the bank post record profits last year. The company has plowed most of the money — $55 billion over the past 5 years — into buying back shares of its own stock, which boosts payouts for executives and wealthy investors. Meanwhile, Trump and the Republicans’ $1.9 trillion in tax cuts have exploded the deficit and wages have continued to stagnate for American workers.”

Warren

All sixteen –- or is it more like twenty –– Democratic candidates would be a better president than Trump by an astronomically wide margin. The question is: who would be best to run against him. Some astute pundits think a moderate candidate would be best: Don’t scare swing voters who might be vulnerable to Republican propaganda that the Democratic candidate is a dangerous, extreme, radical, left-wing, socialist nut!

Maybe so, but I’m hoping that the candidate who becomes the Democratic nominee is inspiring. It’s almost a necessity, for what this country needs is not just an ordinary honorable and competent president; we need one who could change the national mood, someone who could precipitate a revolution of desires. More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Warren might do so.

The Race

Kamala Harris sprinted ahead of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden to take the lead in Friday’s Washington Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking. I was happy about that because I like Harris, and I think Sanders and Biden would both do the nation a service by dropping out. 

Astonishing Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held on in 4th position. In a WaPo column yesterday, Jennifer Rubin gave readers a good idea why such a thing could happen, as well as why Stacey Abrams, the black legislator from Georgia who was narrowly defeated in last November’s Georgia gubernatorial race (and would almost certainly have won had not voter suppression taken a toll at the polls) is in the ranking at all. Buttigieg and Abrams are both spectacularly smart, decent, dedicated, sensible, self-disciplined politicians.

The Psychopathology of William Barr

Why does Attorney General William Barr debase himself by shielding Trump from scrutiny? Trump, of all people. Barr has an authoritarian mind. He wants to be part of an authoritarian structure. He wants it so badly, it matters not how depraved the authority is. Indeed, serving a scoundrel of such eminence may be what Barr requires to achieve inner security, self assurance, and peace.

It’s a weird psychopathology, but a common one, pervading much of the Republican Party. Neuropsychologists would perform a great service to the world if they could unmask its workings. I’d advise them not to start with Barr, however, whose cognitive workings might present them with daunting complexities, but to first investigate Vice President Mike Pence, the archetypal simple-minded case.

Disqualifier

Yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee exercised the committee’s statutory authority by demanding that the Internal Revenue Service deliver to it the last six years tax returns of Trump and of a number of his business entities. Trump’s refusal to expose his tax returns to public scrutiny is a conspicuous marker of his turpitude, evidence of his unfitness to be president. 

Headline: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released more than a decade’s worth of her personal tax returns Monday afternoon. She joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) as well as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Why have other Democratic candidates stalled on releasing theirs? By failing to do so, they make Trump look less despicable. If you’re running for president, failing to release your tax returns should be a disqualifying factor. No excuses. No exceptions.

Unpredictability

Headline: “Trump takeover of the Republican Party almost complete.” A generation ago or less, few would have believed that a sociopath on the order of Trump could be elected president of the United States. Fewer would have believed that if such a thing happened, the Republican Party would care so little for the interests of the nation and the world that they would support such a man and enable him to remain in office. Across the Atlantic, who would have believed that Britain would enter into such destructive and self-destructive behavior as to produce the Brexit fiasco. Unpredictability rules. It’s a stunning fact. We can only hope that unpredictably good things will happen too.

Biden

Biden isn’t a sexual harasser, but his lately highlighted longterm practice of excessive touchy-feelyness is indicative of a lack of sensitivity, an area of built-in cluelessness, and so must be counted as a significant political deficit. He has too many of them.

The Fundraising Quandry

It takes a lot of money to make a serious run for the presidency. I read that Trump has over seventy million bucks in his campaign fund. If he’s half as rich as he says he is, he could shove in a hundred million of his own. His billionaire buddies will help. Meanwhile, Democrats have to raise a lot just to run against each other. Excellent candidates like Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris want to get big money out of politics, but have bowed to reality and are reportedly running around the country seeking big money. I understand that Elizabeth Warren is the only one who is eschewing super PACs and relying on small donations. I would like to send six or eight Democratic contenders I like best each $20, but I’m going to hold back until after I’ve seen how the candidates perform in the first debates, scheduled for June 26 and 27th. Democrats will have to have a lot of money left to beat Trump. 

An Enduring Image

In some ways my mind is like a file of photographs. From time to time a new one is added. Anytime I want, I can call one up and look at it. One sometimes appears of its own accord. 

A new enduring image was added last week: that of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff addressing Republican colleagues who had called for him to resign because of his support of the Mueller Investigation and his efforts to uncover facts about Russian interference in U.S. elections, probable complicity of Americans in such criminal activity, and other threats to U.S. national security. 

“You many think it’s okay,” Schiff said repeatedly, each time reciting incontrovertible perfidious acts on the part of Trump, those associated with him, and others either hostile to or indifferent to the interests of the United States, “but I don’t. I don’t think it’s okay.” The enduring image is not only of Schiff’s soft-spoken, devastating rebuke of his colleagues, but of the obvious discomfort of those at whom it was directed: Any of them who were honorable would have slunk away in shame. None were. None did.

My enduring image is a portrait of Schiff’s grace, courage, and intellectual acuity and of his Republican colleagues, every one of them shot through with rot. 

Character and Tax Returns

For Democrats to win the White House next year, there must be no blurring of the sharp moral distinction between the Democratic nominee and Trump. Among the myriad of indicia of Trump’s moral turpitude is his refusal to release his tax returns. His shameful example should not be taken as a license for Democratic presidential aspirants to emulate him. Any of them who equivocates about releasing tax returns or has not released them by the first debates in June should withdraw from the race. Politicians are not entitled to their privacy if they want to be president. 

I’ve read that the only Democratic candidate who has released tax returns so far is Kirsten Gillibrand. She may be a stronger candidate than I had thought. No excuses for failing to release your tax returns, candidates. Make them public or drop out.

Headline: “Trump demands that Schiff {Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee} resign from Congress.”

In a properly run dictatorship thugs would have dragged Schiff away long ago.  

Buttigieg

Last evening, I watched Chris Hayes interview Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and aspirant for the Democratic presidential nomination, and found him to be as impressive as I’d been led to believe he would be. He’ll likely elevate the level of discourse in the candidate debates. He’s gay, which presents a political hurdle to overcome, as does his lack of experience and what might be called excessive youth. He’s only 37, and what’s worse, he looks about 27, which is, thankfully, a problem he’ll surmount in the years ahead, and we can hope that intolerance of gays will continue to decline. It’s uplifting to see young politicians as honorable, astute, and capable at Pete Buttigieg coming to the scene.

The Communications Challenge

The case for voting Trump out of office in 2020 and replacing him with a highly qualified honorable and competent Democrat is overwhelming. For a good summary of it, see Jennifer Rubin’s March 25th Washington Post columns. The big challenge for Democrats will be to get their case across to the public in the face of relentless propagandizing by Republicans and their media allies, who we can expect to endlessly express faux righteous outrage at the detestable campaign Democrats have waged to undermine a Constitutionally elected president who is dedicated to making America great again, even going so far as to conduct a high-profile investigation of the president pursuant to their fake claim that they could prove “collusion,” and even though their investigation has been exposed as a total fraud, continuing to conduct their own multiple phony Congressional investigations in a desperate effort to distract the public from thinking about the fantastically great job President Trump has been doing in creating a booming economy, protecting our borders from terrorist gangs, destroying ISIS, and defusing the Obama-caused nuclear standoff with North Korea.

It’s too soon to tell whether truth will win out.

The Contenders

Here is how last Friday’s Washington Post Pundit Power Poll ranked candidates in the race to secure the Democratic presidential nomination:

  • Biden
  • Harris
  • Sanders
  • O’Rourke
  • Booker
  • Klobuchar
  • Warren
  • Buttigieg
  • Hickenlooper
  • Bennett

I’ve ruled out Biden and Sanders for age and other reasons, O’Rourke for inexperience and lack of self-discipline and rigor in his thinking, Buttigieg for inexperience, Hickenlooper primarily for lack of gravitas, and Bennett, at least temporarily, because of lack of clarity as to his positions. I downgraded Klobuchar because of her recently disclosed sub-optimum behavior as a prosecutor and in managing her staff. I’ve upgraded Harris because she has recently exhibited political acumen and articulated several sound and imaginative policy positions. The result is my own power poll ranking:

  • Harris
  • Warren
  • Booker
  • Klobuchar

My preferences may shift more than once in the months ahead.

Smiles and Body Language

One of my mother’s favorite observations was, “They say it was a smile that put Roosevelt in the White House.” That may have been an exaggeration, but there’s some truth to it. Amy Klobuchar and some other presidential candidates have nice smiles. Candidates with forced smiles, tight-lipped smiles, reflex smiles, and flashing smiles aren’t to be trusted. 

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks related an interesting anecdote the other day. Several people were asked to judge Michael Cohen’s latest statements after reading them. They all doubted his credibility. After watching a video of the same testimony, they all found him credible. Body language made the difference. There’s a good chance that it will make the difference in the candidates’s debates. 

Skipped my blog today. I’m excuseless.

Campaign Note

Headline: As a prosecutor, Amy Klobuchar declined to go after police involved in fatal encounters with black men

The above isn’t Fox News propaganda, but the headline to a responsible report in the Washington Post, which, along with reports of Klobachar’s ill-treatment of staff members, puts a damper on my enthusiasm for her. In 2016 Hillary was kept on the defensive during her campaign because of missteps such as her handling of email and her highly paid speeches at Goldman Sachs gatherings. 

At least a dozen highly capable people are running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Ones who will have to be constantly defending themselves against reasonable serious criticism should step aside. Democrats should choose as their nominee someone with unquestioned competence, integrity, and humanity. 

Campaign Websites –- Harris and Warren

Kamala Harris’s website, besides showing close-up pictures of her –– she’s glamorous-looking, and that probably counts for not nothing –– informs us that she is tough, principled, and fearless, and that she works for the people and always has.  I’m willing to believe it, but I think candidates’s websites should set forth policy positions. They should lay out the progressive, pragmatic, and fiscally responsible policies they will press for as president.  I’m impressed by Harris, but i’m more impressed by Warren, who as the ever astute Jennifer Rubin puts it, is “brimming with solutions to just about every problem you can imagine.”

Klobuchar and Warren

Klobuchar’s website abounds with generalities, yet as a senator and in interviews she has displayed a high level of competence, and she has staked out sound policy positions across the board. I like Klobachar and Warren best among the contenders.  Klobachar may have a political advantage in being from Minnesota –– she’s an elite, but not a coastal elite. Warren’s Oklahoma origins and family background may be somewhat helpful to her. 

Getting It Right –– The Antipode of Trump

Michael Moore is a national treasure. I’m always invigorated by his postings on Facebook. Last night’s is an example. Along with a striking picture of Jacinda Adern, he noted:  “What a true world leader looks like. The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, put on a hijab, said ‘They are us’, announced the gun laws were going to change, and called out white supremacists, haters, and Donald Trump. She’s 38. SHE.”

Campaign Websites –- Elizabeth Warren

For the rest of the month I’m taking a look at websites of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. I’m starting today with Elizabeth Warren. 

One of the worst problems in our society is the growth of inequality and the anti-democratic and dehumanizing effects of extreme wealth and the corrupting power that accompanies it. The 400 richest Americans — or the top 0.00025 percent of the population — now own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans. Warren’s proposals would begin to address this outrage, attempting to provide some measure of economic security and opportunity for all, invigorate our society, and arrest the appalling trend toward gilded decadence. Her plans include an ultra-millionaire tax on America’s 75,000 richest families to produce trillions that can be used to build an economy that works for everyone, including universal childcare, student loan debt relief, and down payments on a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and allow us to make a historic investments in housing that would bring down rents by 10% across America and create 1.5 million new jobs. Wrenchingly difficult to attain politically but pragmatically doable.  

Bold sweeping initiatives like this is the way to go, but it’s critical that they make sound economic sense and that they can be practicably implemented. I’m confident that Warren understands that. What a tonic a Warren presidency would be for America. 

Democratic Candidates

Like a lot of people, I haven’t decided which one to back. Some promising youngish candidates –– Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Andrew Yang –– strike me as lacking sufficient experience, and in O’Rourke’s case, maturity.  Biden and Sanders strike me as too old and in each case burdened with other problems. Of the two with experience as governors, Jay Inslee strikes me as too focused on a single issue (climate change) and John Hickenlooper as too unfocused generally. Senator Cory Booker is impressive, though vague on policy positions, as far as I have observed.  Of the four women senators running, I rule out Kirsten Gillibrand because she’s shown herself to be disturbingly opportunistic. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar have impressive strengths and, in each case, political vulnerabilities. 

Every one of these people would be a better president than Trump by an astronomically wide margin. It will be intensely interesting to see which one, if any, emerges as the strongest candidate.

How a Thug Thinks

Trump wants to remain in office indefinitely. He knows that if he were reduced to being an ordinary citizen, he’d be subject to prosecution and probable conviction and incarceration. Unlike some thugs, he thinks out loud: 

“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Most Republicans support him.

I’m traveling this week and am suspending this blog until Saturday March 16th.

Biden

Apparently Joe Biden is about to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s already leading the Washington PostPundit 2020 Power Ranking. Biden has the most impressive experience of any of the candidates, but I wish he’d drop out. He’s significantly older than Trump. For anyone with a strong sense of responsibility (which of course excludes Trump), being president of the United States is one of the most stressful and demanding jobs in the world; it’s not for someone who will be entering his eighties during his first term, and Biden has already endured extraordinary personal stress in his family, which may be the reason he’s shown himself to be ambivalent about running. He is known for gaffes, and it’s likely that he would make some gaffes during the campaign. If he does, it will be attributed by his foes to his advancing age. He sometimes shows poor judgment, for example recently in calling Pence “a decent man.” If Biden doesn’t know that Pence isn’t a decent man, there’s something wrong with him. If he does know, and said it anyway, there’s something wrong with him. If Biden becomes the Democratic nominee, I will strongly support him. He would be an infinitely better president than Trump.

Political Developments

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley have taken themselves out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Just as well. Though Brown was near the top of my list of favorites, the Dems have a deep bench, and Brown and Merkley can do a greater service to the country by protecting their seats in the senate. I wish that instead of entering the presidential race, former governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper had made a comparable decision, staying home to challenge Republican incumbent senator Cory Gardner, who is a Trumpian toady and should be sent packing.

Knaves and Fools

Congressional Republicans and their media allies are not only knaves in protecting Trump, they are fools, unable to see that their own self-interest would be better served by impeaching him and removing from office. Their short-term opportunistic political benefit in shielding Trump is far outweighed by impairment of their personal stakes in our country, which has been seriously damaged, undermined, and imperiled by Trump’s mendacity, incompetence, corruptness, narcissism, vanity, and meanness.

Hurrah for Michael Bloomberg

Many notable politicians are so ego-bound that it’s hard for them to imagine that they shouldn’t run for president even though they could serve their country much better in other ways. Seventy-seven-year-old former NYC mayor and super billionaire MIchael Bloomberg is not among them. Realizing that his chance of becoming the Democratic nominee was very slim and that running as an independent, like his fellow billionaire Howard Schultz, could have the horrifying result of Trump being reelected, Bloomberg plans to back Democrats in key races as he did in last year’s midterm elections. This is bad news for Trump and Trump enablers and good news for our country.

House Investigations Relating to Trump

Republicans are pointing to wide-ranging investigations by committees of the House of Representatives as evidence that Democrats are waging a political campaign to undermine Trump. It’s not the process of investigations that will undermine Trump, it’s the facts that they will bring to the light of day, stripping away all pretence that Trump is fit to remain in office.

The Democratic Presidential Debates

Time hurtles along. The first Democratic Presidential “debate” is only three months away, though some much-talked-about candidates, among them Joe Biden, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, have yet to announce that they are running. The debates will be held in two sessions with as many as ten candidates at each session, standing at their lecterns, making their pitches. Let’s hope most of them drop out before the end of the year.

My favorite to head the ticket is either Senator Amy Klobuchar or Senator Sherrod Brown, but I’m keeping an open mind. One consideration overwhelms all others: Who is most likely to beat Trump?

Headline: “Republicans rally around Trump as threats mount.”

Our political system would be healthiest if we had two strong honorable major parties. Alas, so fast that we could barely register it happening, the Republican Party descended into unplumed moral and intellectual depths. Jennifer Rubin nailed it: “Fidelity to the Constitution, ensuring the nation’s security, and even simple honesty are foreign to this gang. They have become apparatchiks in Trump’s authoritarian scheme.” 

Authoritarian rulers don’t ascend to power single-handedly; they rely on unprincipled, opportunistic, strategically positioned lieutenants to assist them in undermining and eventually destroying democratic institutions.

Our Constitutional system of checks and balances presumes that those who have a duty to check and to balance the president will do so. Occasional peeps and squeaks aside, Republicans have propped Trump up. Their moral depravity is a great tragedy of our times.

What Course Will History Take?

Trump assumed office with only a dim understanding of, and no respect for, our federal system and system of checks and balances. Belatedly he has learned how dangerous it was for him to become president. His hope now is that masses of dogged followers, media allies, corrupt cabinet members, a fawning vice-president, authoritarian-minded judges, and unprincipled Republican members of Congress will protect him from eventual prosecution, universal contempt and disgrace, a prospect that looks increasingly unlikely, but not certain, to be the course history takes.

A Call to Duty

It becomes ever more obvious that Trump should be impeached, removed from office, and prosecuted. Republicans in Congress have demeaned the G.O.P. and betrayed their country by protecting and enabling him. Given the moral bankruptcy and gross irresponsibility of the Republican Party, it’s critically important for Democrats to gain control of the presidency and the Senate and to retain control of the House in next year’s elections. 

In every state in which a Republican senate seat is vulnerable the strongest possible Democrat should oppose the incumbent Republican. Democrats need neither Colorado governor John Hickenlooper nor Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke to win the 2020 presidential election. Other candidates and prospective candidates for this office are as strong or stronger. Hickenlooper has a patriotic duty to forgo running for president and instead run against Senator Cory Gardner in Colorado, and O’Rourke has a patriotic duty to forgo running for president and instead run against Senator Jon Cornyn in Texas. I will not support either of them for the Democratic presidential nomination, principally because neither of them should be seeking it.

Klobuchar

The weight of the evidence seems to be that presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar has been abusive toward staff members to a degree that casts doubt on whether, despite the cheeriness and equanimity she displays in public, she lacks the temperament to be the best nominee the Democrats can put forward to run against Trump. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has suggested that Klobuchar should resolve, and promise publicly, to be more considerate in her interactions with people who work for her. This strikes me as a good idea. So few politicians ever admit errors, it would be refreshing for a leading contender do so. In other respects Klobuchar stands out as an exceptionally promising candidate. She would be wise not to barricade herself behind a wall of rationalizations of her behavior. 

No to Bernie Sanders as a Presidential Contender

There are plenty of highly qualified candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Those who have evidenced significant drawbacks should drop out, the sooner the better. I’ve already suggested that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders should stay out of the race because of their age and other issues. Yesterday I learned that Sanders has equivocated about making his tax returns public. That’s a disqualifying issue. Bernie, if you have reservations about releasing your tax returns, you should withdraw from the race.

Tax Policy

Inequality has been growing for several decades. It’s well past the obscene level. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt reports that, since 1980, average net income of the bottom 90% has grown only about one-fourth the rate of the GDP growth. For the top 2% to 9%, average income growth has roughly matched the rate of GDP growth. For the top .01% to 1%, average income growth has been about twice the rate of GDP growth. For the top .01%, average income growth has averaged about five times the rate of GDP growth. It was in this environment that Republicans enacted a tax overhaul designed primarily to benefit the rich and especially the superrich. This country needs, not just a “wealth tax” or a 70% marginal rate on incomes over a million dollars per year, but a tax system that’s revenue-neutral or positive and much more progressive across the board.

First Order of Business for the Next President

Democratic presidential contenders have put forth various policy proposals that they intend to implement if they are elected. In her Washington Post column yesterday Jennifer Rubin pointed out that the first order of business for the next president is to “repair the presidency”–– to institute policies and procedures to prevent the kinds of corruption, nepotism, and other affronts to decency and to our Constitutional system that have characterized Trump and his entourage. Rubin lists eleven measures that should be taken for starters. I hope every candidate agrees with her.

Klobuchar

New York Times article based on interviews with present and former members of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s staff gives the impression that she is too ungentle with people who work for her: she rebukes staff members too sharply and too often and is ferociously demanding. Tough to take, but a lot less tough than being in the Marines, and it’s valuable experience for those subjected to it. One interviewee complained that Klobuchar said, “I’d trade three of you for a bottle of water.” My reaction to this is that if they didn’t laugh instead of feeling humiliated they need desensitivity training.

The Race to Run against Trump.

Yesterday the Washington Post published its weekly “power ranking” of candidates vying to oppose Trump in 2020: Bernie Sanders, who last week announced that he’s running, sprinted into fourth place, just behind Joe Biden, who hasn’t yet said whether he’s gong to run. Among the ten leaders are four women, including one of the two African Americans in the race, and a gay guy, Indianapolis mayor Pete Buttigleg, who may be held back because he’s only 37 and his name is hard to pronounce. (It’s “Boot-edge-edge”).

  • Harris
  • Klobuchar
  • Biden
  • Sanders
  • Warren
  • Booker
  • Brown
  • O’Rourke
  • Gillibrand
  • Buttigieg

Polarization

By calling Vice-President Pence “vile,” am I displaying the kind of incivility and disrespect that is said to be tearing the country apart? Personal attacks tend to be unhelpful even when warranted, but glossing over shockingly egregious behavior is dangerous. Trump and his enablers are threatening American democracy to the core. Trump is a moral catastrophe of a human being. Pence, who appears to have dedicated his life to fawning on him, is an example of behavioral and spiritual degradation that is vile. Polarization may issues from caprice. In this case it issues but facts.

Bernie Sanders

It’s a little spooky how many people have entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders’s candidacy in 2016 was exciting. This time it’s not. Like so many politicians, Sanders is unrestrainedly ambitious. He can’t understand that he’s too old; that it’s time for a younger fresher person to head the ticket. 

For anyone who has high moral character –– and I have no doubt that Sanders qualifies in that respect –- being president of the United States is a tremendously demanding job. Sanders has tremendous energy, but I wonder if he could keep from running out of steam during a term lasting into his mid-eighties. A second term would seem out of the question for someone his age in 2024. I’m in general agreement with his progressive agenda, but, as was the case in 2016, it’s not adequately researched. I don’t think he adequately connects the fiscal and tax policy dots. I hope someone who is more pragmatic as well as progressive wins the nomination.

Editorial Note: The software program for this blog is pretty primitive. When the word count reaches a certain level, it both screws up the format and font size and stops working until I remove a lot of it. Trying to tame it, I’ve removed and archived all postings prior to Feb. 1, of this year. If I ever have time, I’ll clean up the font size and spacing as well.

Brown

Jennifer Rubin, whom I keep citing because she is such an exceptionally astute observer of the political scene, devoted a recent Washington Post column to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who is likely to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Brown has established himself as a pragmatic progressive. He espouses policies that are fiscally responsible, yet would go a long way toward reversing the trend toward the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many that has characterized our society for the past several decades and accelerated since Trump took office. Brown may turn out to be the best choice to lead Democratic ticket.

Pence

I call your attention to Roger Cohen’s current online New York Times column reporting on a conference in Europe at which Pence “inflicted on the audience an extraordinary exercise in obsequiousness, arrogance and mawkishness.” It’s worth reading it to appreciate how Pence is not just vile; he’s vile in an particularly repulsive idiosyncratic way. 

Democrats: Progressives and Centrists

A possible pitfall for Democrats during the months of political jockeying leading up to the Democratic nominating convention is clashes between progressives and centrists that undermine the common effort to depose Trump at the ballot box. Internecine warfare can and must be avoided.

Race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination.

 Every Friday the Washington Post releases its power ranking of candidates to run against Trump in the next presidential election. I liken this to a horse race. Some horses tend to be early leaders; others are stretch runners. There’s nothing close to a clear favorite in this one, and it has hardly begun. Old hands at the track know that the lead can change wildly during the course of the race like this. At the three-week mark, Kamala Harris is holding the lead. Amy Kobuchar is running second by a neck. Joe Biden, who hasn’t yet announced that he’s in the race, is nevertheless running third. Elizabeth Warren is edging up along the rail

There are four women among the ten leaders in the race.  I bet that one of them will be on the the Democratic ticket as either the presidential or vice-presidential nominee. 

Republican Challenges to Trump

It’s good news that a prominent Republican, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, intends to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination, though Weld says he’ll have to raise a considerable amount of money before undertaking an all-out campaign. Let’s hope other Republicans follow his example or run on an independent ticket, pledging to restore traditional conservative principles –– honesty, decency, competency, fiscal responsibility, and sound judgment –– to the White House.  Whether they think they can win the nomination or the election should have no bearing on their decision. The only question they need to ask is whether they can weaken Trump politically and increase the chance that he’ll lose in the general election. That is a noble goal in itself.

The Democratic Presidential Primary Debates

Upwards of 20 Democrats have either entered the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination or are expected to. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has announced how it will run the primary debates in a way that is fair, democratic, and doesn’t result in a ludicrous numbers of aspirants on the stage at once. There will be two heats –– two nights of debates. Lots will be drawn to determine which night and with which other candidates each candidate will debate. No more than 20 candidates will be allowed to debate; no more than 10 will be on stage at either of the two nights of debating. To make the cut a candidate must rank high enough in polling or have secured at least 65,000 “grass-roots” donations. The first debate will be held this June, sooner than I would have thought likely.

Tell the Truth

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has documented thousands of lies Trump has told since he took office. Trump is a pathological liar. His supporters resort to a time-proven method of dodging the ugly truth that Trump’s habitual lying is indefensible by from time to time catching a Democrat making a misstatement. Kamala Harris, who is one of the leading aspirants for the Democratic nomination, earned “4 Pinocchios” from Kessler by suggesting that, because, on average, tax refunds were down, tax liability had increased for middle class Americans.” This was not case. 

Harris had plenty of reasons to attack the Republican tax cut, which was designed primarily to benefit for the rich and especially the super rich, but she carelessly seized on a specious argument. Now we’ll be hearing endlessly from the right-wing media that Harris is a notorious liar and totally untrustworthy.

Democratic candidates have a special obligation to be scrupulous about being factually accurate. Our nation’s survival as a democracy is at stake. 

The Limit

By agreeing with Democrats on a compromise that would increase funds for border security but rebuff Trump in his demand for 5.7 billion dollars dedicated to his Wall, Senate Republicans displayed that there is, at last, a limit to how much damage they’re willing to inflict on the country to please the Trump and his deluded and cynical supporters. The result, Jennifer Rubin notes, is that “Trump is left with his cultlike followers, vague threats to ‘finish’ the wall regardless of Congress, his mindless chants and his sycophantic right-wing media.” It’s a hopeful development, but as long as Trump remains in office, our country remains in peril.

Traveling

I’m traveling and suspending this blog until Wednesday, Feb. 13th.

The Right Candidate to oppose Trump

Jennifer Rubin suggests that a good choice would be someone “youngish, knowledgeable, idealistic, empathetic, and high-energy,” to which could be added honorable, all qualities that Trump lacks. In the course of the campaign the contrast would become evident to all but the most deluded and cynical, which there’s reason to hope doesn’t comprise more than 40% of the population.

The Tragedy of Our Times

Headline: “The United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between Russia and the United States.”  As Katrina vanden Heuvel observed in a Washington Post column yesterday, it’s an act that initiates a new arms race. Consider Trump’s rationale for this decision, bestowed on the world last fall: “we have more money than anybody else by far. We’ll build it up until [China and Russia] come to their senses.” 

That, as I recently read, 88% of Republicans support Trump, is the tragedy of our times.

Trump Delivers a Devastating Attack on Himself

One of Jennifer Rubin’s columns in the online Washington Post yesterday had the effect of being a devastating attack on Trump. Rubin said very little. Most of the column consisted of a verbatim transcript of remarks Trump made in the course of being interviewed by Margaret Brennan of CBS. Trump’s own words –– a stunning display of appalling ignorance and incoherence –– were more revealing of his gross unfitness to hold office than anything any critic could say against him.

Universal Access to Basic Healthcare

Nearly every advanced democracy assures all its citizens access to basic health care.  Everyone in our country should have access to basic health care too. Opponents falsely claim that it would be too expensive.

The U.S. spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country. That’s not because people in the U.S. are getting better health care. It’s because our health care system is so inefficient. We would spend less on a well-planned, well-administered universal health care system than we spend under our present system. 

Prospective Democratic presidential candidates haven’t been getting that message across. Right-wing attackers have been shrieking that universal access to health care would bankrupt our country. As a result, some proponents of universal access to basic health care have gotten skittish and have been backing away from it. Instead, they should marshal credible and accurate studies and data showing what can be accomplished and what the savings would be and hammer it it in until most people realize that everyone in the U.S. can and should have access to basic healthcare too.

Klobuchar

Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, a former prosecutor, is experienced, smart, compassionate, tough-minded, pragmatic, honorable, competent, and likable. The Washington Post’s perceptive columnist, Jennifer Rubin, has commented on Klobuchar’s “emotional equipoise, a blend of relaxation and concentration, stamina leavened by cheerfulness.”

I can think of political drawbacks or personal deficiencies in the case of every one else I’ve seen mentioned, who is running or thought likely to run, but none in the case of Klobuchar. It’s too early to endorse a particular candidate, but there’s a good chance that a year from now I’ll be arguing that Amy Klobuchar should be the Democratic nominee.

The Early Line

Recently and unoriginally, I likened the competition among aspirants for the Democratic presidential nomination to a horse race. I predicted that Kamala Harris would be one of the front runners.  In the same vein, the Washington Post has begun rating people who are have already entered the race or appear likely to do so. The ratings reflect the consensus of Washington Post columnists. They are ranking candidates in order of strength, by which I think they mean likelihood to defeat Trump. Leading the field out of the gate are Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrold Brown, and Beto O’Rourke in that order.  Howard Schultz, running as an independent and who should have been scratched, is running 11th. Keep your eye on Amy Klobuchar, in 7th and moving up on the outside.

What Shultz Thinks

Howard Schultz thinks that if his personal platform is conservative enough, he’ll get a huge number of Republican votes because Republicans know in their hearts that he would be a much better president than Trump; that he’ll get practically every independent vote because he is a quintessential independent and is running on an independent ticket; and that he’ll get a lot of Democrats votes because he’s basically a liberal, has been “a life-long Democrat,” and because, as is well known, liberals like lattés.

Schutz is deluded. Most Republicans will dislike him for fracturing the Republican party by opposing Trump. Anti-Trump voters –– nearly all Democrats and most Independents –– will see him as a catalyst that would cause the horror of Trump’s reelection. Third party candidates don’t win presidential elections. Schultz has demonstrated that he’s politically naive. He is not going to be the exception. He’s an example of a man consummed by vanity.