Sunday, June 30, 2019

How and why Kamala Harris won her debate - America is ready for Madame President in 2020

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Surely it’s not riskier to back the women who won the debates than the men who lost them. - Michelle Goldberg.

Goldberg elaborates in her opinion piece at the NY Times, The Women Who Won the Debates Are the Democrats’ Best Hope, arguing that “We need to get past the trauma of Hillary Clinton’s defeat.”

There’s a bleak paradox here. Feminists, myself included, are probably more likely than others to believe that sexism played a profound role in Clinton’s loss. Looking back, the 2016 campaign seems to me like a slow-motion symbolic femicide — the “Lock her up!” chants, the “Trump that Bitch” T-shirts, the proliferation of medusa imagery. But the more you think that misogyny undermined Clinton, the less inclined you might be to support another female challenger, given the hellish prospect of four more years of an authoritarian goon — who has now been credibly accused of rape — defiling the White House.

… the last two debates have made it clear that the two strongest Democratic candidates are women. Warren has the most well-developed ideas and the clearest vision for what she wants to accomplish as president. Like Sanders, her platform isn’t an accessory to her campaign, but her entire reason for running. Harris is fierce with an ineffable charisma; she’s often warm and joyful, but you could imagine her vivisecting Trump onstage.

… every candidate will have something to overcome. Sanders would have to deal with widespread fear of socialism. Biden demonstrated again on Thursday that he’s ill-equipped to justify much of his long record in public life. Sexism is a disadvantage but it’s not the only one.

… most women don’t want Trump to be president, and the 2018 midterms showed a widespread eagerness to put women in office. This week should give us confidence that a woman can lead the fight against this grotesque president. Surely it’s not riskier to back the women who won the debates than the men who lost them.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. If you stay at home, out of the hurly-burly of this election, because you don’t believe a woman can beat Trump, you are living a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let me take Kamala Harris as an example of a woman who I think can win in 2020.

Jelani Cobb, writing in the New Yorker, observes that Kamala Harris Exposed the Biden Weaknesses That Trump Will Exploit.

For most of the evening, the author Marianne Williamson spoke at the periphery of the issues, but she was right about one thing: the coalition of voters needed to remove Trump from office will be drawn to the candidate who reminds them least of who we are at this moment and most of who we aspire to be. On Thursday, that was not Joe Biden. Kamala Harris’s unsparing sharpness and unsentimental willingness to flay Biden onstage only served to highlight that fact.

Also in the New Yorker, John Cassidy takes note of how Joe Biden’s Faltering Debate Performance Raises Big Doubts About His Campaign.

… Biden may have been able to salvage something from the night if he had provided a more arresting vision of a Biden Presidency. His description of his health-care plan was vague. He talked about restoring America’s soul, but didn’t say very much about rebuilding its infrastructure and industrial base, two issues that he has previously emphasized. In response to a question about what he would do about guns, he gave a fairly strong answer, only to step on it at the end by remarking, “Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the N.R.A., the gun manufacturers”—as if the two pillars of the gun lobby could be separated.

The immediate question is this: Just how much damage did the second Democratic debate do to the campaign of the front-runner, Joe Biden? Only opinion polls conducted in the next few weeks will provide a definitive answer. Since entering the primary, in April, Biden has said a number of things that provoked outrage in progressive circles and shrugs from more moderate Democratic voters. We’ll have to wait and see if Biden’s heated exchange about race and busing with Kamala Harris provokes a different response. But one thing cannot be contested. Considering the debate over all, Biden’s performance raised fresh doubts about his preparation, age, grasp of the environment in which he is operating, and basic political skills.

Kamala’s attack on Biden was months in the making She and her advisers assiduously plotted the attack — and how to capitalize on it afterward. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

Harris’ surprise cross-examination of frontrunner Joe Biden produced the third-biggest fundraising bonanza since her launch. The Democratic senator is working to capitalize ahead of a crucial second quarter fundraising deadline: She blanketed news shows with nearly a dozen TV appearances, and her digital team is pumping out clips and other reminders of her interrogating Biden, hoping that Democratic voters will envision her doing the same thing to Donald Trump.

Harris had been in search of a breakout moment to match her tough questioning of Attorney General William Barr in May, and her pummeling of Trump cabinet officials since she arrived in the Senate in 2017. She proved she can translate that same type of performance to a campaign setting, said Brian Fallon, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

“That goes a long way to helping voters envision her prosecuting the case against Trump on a debate stage next fall,” he said, “which is exactly the impression she wants to leave with Democrats who are prioritizing vague notions of electability.”

Her cross-examination of Biden aside, much of Harris’ appeal as a candidate rests on her story-telling says Katy Waldman in the New Yorker: Kamala Harris Is the Best Storyteller on the Democratic Stage.

We’ll remember the busing moment, but Kamala Harris dominated the debate from the start. She is fervent but deploys her anger precisely, like a flashlight. As Eric Swalwell and Joe Biden tussled over whether the elder statesmen of American politics should “pass the torch” to millennials, Harris calmly waited for her moment. Then she said, “Americans don’t want a food fight. They want to know how they’re going to put food on their table.” There was silence, and then applause, including from several of the other candidates—a recognition that, however the generational scuffle might shake out, an adult had spoken. Onstage, Harris, the former prosecutor, distinguishes herself as a storyteller, who conjures up images as well as arguments in ways the other contenders do not. Answering a question about health care, she spoke of parents looking through the glass door of the hospital as they calculated the costs of treating their sick child. Answering a question about detainment camps for undocumented immigrants, she hypothesized about a mother enlisting the services of a coyote, desperate to secure a better chance for her kid. “We need to think about this situation in terms of real people,” Harris insisted. She certainly demonstrated her ability to do so—to imagine policy as embodied in actual American lives. That narrative instinct framed the most powerful moment of the debate. Criticizing Biden for his past lack of support for busing, Harris began telling another story. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

And that is (at least partly) why Benjamin Wallace-Wells believes that Kamala Harris Won the Night.

Harris, long presumed to be a front-runner, was not at her best during the first months of the Presidential campaign, when the candidates began to introduce policy proposals. Hers had a slightly speculative feel: early on, she came out in favor of abolishing private health insurance, though she did little to explain why. But now we are beginning the next phase, perhaps a full year of regular debates, and Harris, a former prosecutor, and the most vigorous interrogator on the Judiciary Committee, stands out. Her language, more than any of the others’, is direct; she has an oppositional energy. What would Harris do on her first day in office? “Release children from cages,” she said. …

I can imagine how that would play with Trump on the stage. Would he respond with “Keep children in cages”? Harris would shred him. Unlike what Hillary Clinton did not do as she was stalked by Trump, I imagine that Harris would order him back to his corner and keep him there. Imagine the exchange: “Mr. President would you keep children in cages? Yes or no.”

Jeet Heer, in The Nation, concludes that Kamala Harris Won the Debate With Prosecutorial Zeal, saying that Her forensic destruction of Joe Biden may prove to be a game changer.

A debate featuring 10 candidates is an absurd event, one where it’s virtually impossible to have rational discussion or for any single candidate to get their message across. But on Thursday night, Senator Kamala Harris achieved the nearly unimaginable and broke through. She entered the debate as a second-tier candidate, polling well behind not just the front-runner, Joe Biden, but also Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. After tonight, Harris has to be regarded as belonging to the top rank.

Harris broke through the din and confusion of a chaotic debate by foregrounding her talents as a prosecutor (she served as attorney general for California from 2010 to 2016). A good prosecutor knows how to hold a jury’s attention by dramatizing an argument, using his or her voice to underscore the seriousness of the stakes. Quickly summing up a polemical thrust is also a key skill. Harris must have been a superb prosecutor, because she had all those talents in full command.

… In her closing statement, Harris said that “We need a nominee who has the ability to prosecute the case against four more years of Donald Trump, and I will do that.”

Friday, June 28, 2019

Winners and losers in two nights of Democratic debates

If you are strapped for time this morning, I’ll make it short: In my opinion Warren and Castro took the first one and Harris ran away with the second one.

Winners and losers: First Democratic presidential debate

In Scriber’s view, Elizabeth Warren was a clear winner of the first debate and with Julian Castro scoring points in second place.

Frank Bruni (NY TImes) also believes that Elizabeth Warren Aced the First Democratic Debate.

Nicholas Kristof (also at NY Times) recants: Why I Was Wrong About Elizabeth Warren. And her growing popularity suggests others are coming around, too. (h/t Phil Nicolay)

Contributors to Blog for Arizona weighed in: BfAZ Authors React to the First Democratic Debate.

Comments by Michael Bryan: If you ask me, the debate accomplished a few things:

It moved forward the debate on immigration and refugees. Julian Castro dragged the rest of the field to the idea of repealing section 1325, thereby decriminalizing simple crossing of the border without authorization. In a single blow that would take away the legal basis for detaining immigrants and refugees until their status hearings.

Elizabeth Warren made a brilliant case for Medicare for All. Made the others, except DeBlasio, look like nervous nellies with limited policy imaginations. She came out of the debate appearing to well-deserved her place in the polls at the moment. She dominated the time, the message, and the medium.

Julian Castro made a great impression. He was articulate and charming, prepared and sharp. Unfortunately, he’s also tiny. Exact same size as Warren. Can such a diminutive man be President in this image-obsessed age?

It knocked the gilding off golden boy Beto O’Roarke. Between his being constantly talked over and singled out for criticism, he looked out of his depth and unprepared. His charisma can only carry him so far.

Comments by Larry Bodine:

I agree with the New York Times that Elizabeth Warren Aced the First Democratic Debate. She came across as a real fighter who will be an intimidating candidate against Donald Trump. I can see her shredding him alive in a one-to-one debate. She was smart to stay out of the various bickering. I just wish she were on the second debate to see her with Bernie and Biden.

It’s clear why Warren is the progressive’s choice, with statements like:

  • “Who is this economy really working for?” Ms. Warren said, “It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”
  • “Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country, and we need to treat it like that.”
  • It has been far too long that the monopolies have been making the campaign contributions, have been funding the super PACs, have been out there making sure that their influence is heard and felt in every single decision that gets made in Washington.
  • So we’ve had an industrial policy in the United States for decades now, and it’s basically been let giant corporations do whatever they want to do.”
  • “Health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights.”
  • “The insurance companies last year alone sucked $23 billion in profits out of the health care system, $23 billion. And that doesn’t count the money that was paid to executives, the money that was spent lobbying Washington.”

Julián Castro came in second. To me, he scored big points for:

  • “I would do several things, starting with something we should have done a long time ago, which is to pass the Equal Rights Amendment finally in this country.”
  • “I don’t believe only in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice.”
  • “If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, the remain-in-Mexico policy, and the metering policy.”
  • “We need a Marshall Plan for Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador.”
  • “My plan also includes getting rid of Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to go back to the way we used to treat this when somebody comes across the border, not to criminalize desperation, to treat that as a civil violation.”
  • “I am the dad of a 10-year-old girl, Carina, who’s here tonight. And the worst thing is knowing that your child might be worried about what could happen at school, a place that’s supposed to be safe. The answer to your question is no. We don’t have to accept that.”
  • “When I was mayor of San Antonio, we moved our local public utility, we began to shift it from coal-fired plants to solar and other renewables, and also created more than 800 jobs doing that. … And if I’m elected president, the first thing that I would do is sign an executive order recommitting us to the Paris Climate Accord.”

Pamela Powers Hannley saw the debate a bit differently: “My overall impression of the first night is: There were some good Vice Presidential picks and cabinet members on stage.” Scriber has the same sense about the second debate as well.

Michael Bryan wrapped it up: “Surprisingly, no one seemed to take swipes much at current front-runners Warren, Sanders, and Biden. Everyone seemed pretty focused on policy and introducing themselves to the people. It was a good, civilized debate.”

But, Scriber thinks, not so for the second debate we watched last night.

Winners and losers: Second Democratic presidential debate

Lisa Lerer at the NY Times comes across as seeing Kamala Harris as the dominant force on that stage, Debate Night 2: The ‘On Politics’ Breakdown.

Hi, and welcome to a special post-debate edition of On Politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Sometimes in presidential races, a moment is all it takes. Rick Perry’s “oops.” Howard Dean’s scream. Chris Christie calling Marco Rubio a “robot.”

Last night, former Vice President Joe Biden had a moment. And it wasn’t pretty.

It started when Senator Kamala Harris interjected into a conversation about racism with a request: “As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.”

She then laced into comments Mr. Biden made at a fund-raiser earlier this month where he fondly recalled his working relationships with segregationists in the Senate, as well as his active opposition to busing in the 1970s.

“It’s personal,” she said. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

She continued: “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Mr. Biden, an experienced debater, looked defensive and a bit offended, and he struggled to respond. He noted he’d worked as a public defender in 1968, unlike Ms. Harris, who was a prosecutor. And then, he seemed to simply give up: “Anyway,” he said, “my time is up.”

It did not get any better for Biden. It did not do Sanders any good either. Harris, in Scriber’s opinion, captured the second debate. Lerer continues:

[Harris’] remarks were personal and political, and they highlighted two of the biggest questions around Mr. Biden’s candidacy: his age, and the durability of his support among voters of color. In the spin room afterward, even rival campaigns gloated that Mr. Biden, who’s been leading the polls, had been dealt a blow.

Democrats want to see a candidate who will take it to President Trump. And they’re worried, still stewing in their 2016 loss, that a female candidate or a candidate of color will face a tougher path to the White House. Ms. Harris is both, and part of what she needed to do on Thursday was prove that she could go on the attack. Going after Mr. Biden was a substitute for going after Mr. Trump.

Whether this will provide the boost Ms. Harris needs remains to be seen. In recent weeks, Senator Elizabeth Warren has stolen much of the early excitement surrounding Ms. Harris’s entry in to the race. Her numbers have remained fairly stagnant, and she has struggled to settle on a message.

NY Times authors react to the second debate in What We Learned From Night 2 of the Democratic Debates, concluding that “Kamala Harris stood out from the 10-person crowd several times during the NBC debate. Her exchange with Joe Biden, who is leading in the polls, put him on the defensive.”

It was a two-hour debate with 10 candidates. But there was only one defining moment: Senator Kamala Harris of California invoking her personal history about being bused to school as she directly challenged Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, over his record on race and the use of busing to integrate schools.

“I do not believe you are a racist,” Ms. Harris began the emotional exchange with Mr. Biden on Thursday night.

It only intensified from there.

Here are the 6 standout moments from the second Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC:

  • Biden’s opponents have been swinging at him for weeks. On Thursday, some landed blows.
  • Harris stole the show — and the night. In her closing statement, Ms. Harris touted herself as the candidate to “prosecute the case” against Mr. Trump. Of course, by then she had already showcased those skills against Mr. Biden.
  • Sanders’s ideas dominate, but he does not. Mr. Sanders entered the debate as a top candidate in the polls and fund-raising, and there were big expectations he would use his stature to push his message of revolution and aggressively go after Mr. Biden. But though many of the progressive policy ideas he has helped popularize dominated the night — most notably, universal health care — he at times got lost on stage, overshadowed in particular by Ms. Harris.
  • Buttigieg almost survives the South Bend police question.
  • It may be no country for moderate men.
  • Who spoke the most? In descending order, Biden, Harris, Buttigieg, Sanders, Bennet, Gillibrand,

Here is a reminder of who was on the stage last night: Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell.

Scriber’s opinions about the other candidates (not mentioned above) range from ho-hum to negative. For instance, I don’t think Gillibrand did herself any good with her interruptions.

Bernie was Bernie. On that point I wonder what the Berniecrats will do when faced with a choice between Harris, Warren, and Sanders. Would they vote against women of color, substance, accomplishments, and a collective ability to advance Sanders’ ideas more palatably than Sanders himself can do?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Trump should be sued for libel

Steve Benen (MSNBC/Maddowblog) reports that, Struggling under pressure, Trump falsely accuses Mueller of a crime.

Last night, the Democratic chairs of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees announced a subpoena that will bring former Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Capitol Hill. On July 17, for the first time, Americans will see and hear Mueller answer questions about his investigation and its findings.

It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump did another phone interview with Fox Business this morning, and if the president’s demeanor was any indication, he’s not handling the developments especially well.

President Trump lashed out at the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Wednesday, dredging up false accusations about the conduct of investigators after House Democrats announced that Mr. Mueller would testify publicly next month.

The president offered no evidence as he repeated earlier accusations that Mr. Mueller destroyed text messages between two former F.B.I. officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who worked on the Russia investigation. “They’re gone and that is illegal,” Mr. Trump said of the texts in an interview with Fox Business Network. “That’s a crime.”

Mr. Trump was referring to a December Justice Department inspector general report that noted 19,000 text messages were lost because of technical problems, not intentionally deleted by Mr. Mueller or anyone.

There’s literally nothing to suggest Mueller committed a crime, and it continues to be ridiculous that a sitting president routinely throws around false accusations of criminal activity, as if they were legitimate criticisms of his perceived foes.

But under the circumstances, the latest “Trump peddles weird lie on Fox” story is less interesting than the broader evolution of the president’s antics.

It may seem like ages ago, but as recently as March, Trump was asked whether Mueller acted honorably in his investigation of the Russia scandal. “Yes, he did,” the president replied.

Two days later, Trump added, “The Mueller report was great,” referring to a document he has not read. “It could not have been better.” This was soon followed by near-constant talk from the White House about the president having been “exonerated.”

By mid-April, however, the president’s confidence was gone. Once a redacted version of the Mueller report was released, and many started to realize just how damning it was for Trump, the Republican unraveled, lashing out at the document he’d earlier praised, calling the investigation itself “illegal,” and accusing unnamed foes of “treason.”

By mid-May, Trump intensified his attacks against Mueller personally, raising all kinds of odd claims about the special counsel’s non-existent “conflicts,” and a purported “picture file” the president said proved that Mueller “is in love with James Comey.”

In early June, Trump was eagerly touting a quote from a conservative media ally condemning the Mueller report – the one the president earlier said “totally exonerated” him – as “pure, political garbage.”

All of which set the stage for this morning’s unhinged tirade, which included Trump falsely insisting that Mueller committed “a crime.”

What happened to the guy who confidently argued that Mueller acted “honorably” and produced a report that “could not have been better”? He apparently saw some people on television who actually read the Mueller report.

One person who commented on this report shares my feeling and that is that Trump should be sued for libel. The DOJ might not take criminal action against a sitting president but I know of nothing that would stop a class action civil suit against this defaming liar.

A wildness in the land - 'People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one of the political parties was rooting them on'

Jennifer Rubin, in the Washington Post, observes that Americans in the age of Trump: Less tolerant. Here is some of the evidence she cites.

In a disturbing new poll, the Public Religion Research Institute finds that “while at least two thirds of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse products or services to minority groups based on their religious beliefs, a small but increasing proportion of Americans think it should be permissible to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or race.”

As one might expect, the big uptick in those willing to refuse service comes among Republicans, but Democrats aren’t immune from the trend to declare that one’s religion permits discrimination against others. …

[But] the difference between the parties is stark:

Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to support religiously based refusals to serve gay or lesbian people (47% vs. 18%), transgender people (44% vs. 19%), atheists (37% vs. 17%), and Muslims (32% vs. 14%).

And now 19 percent (up from 12 percent) say it is fine to deny service to Jews, and 15 percent (up from 10 percent) say it is acceptable to deny service to African Americans.

Let’s be clear: President Trump and his evangelical fan base have never been interested in religious freedom, but rather in domination of their own religious beliefs. …

This PRRI poll is not the only troubling sign that Trump’s xenophobic, nationalistic and racist rhetoric has had an impact on popular opinion. In April, the Anti-Defamation League released its survey. “The U.S. Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, including a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults and the single deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history,” …

Pursuing a similar theme, Sahil Chinoy, a graphics editor for The New York Times Opinion section, asks What Happened to America’s Political Center of Gravity? The answer is a bit shocking.

The Republican Party leans much farther right than most traditional conservative parties in Western Europe and Canada, according to an analysis of their election manifestos. It is more extreme than Britain’s Independence Party and France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), which some consider far-right populist parties. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is positioned closer to mainstream liberal parties.

"That’s the tragedy of the American two-party system,” [said Mr. Thomas Greven, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin who has studied right-wing populism.] In a multiparty government, white working-class populists might have been shunted into a smaller faction, and the Republicans might have continued as a “big tent” conservative party. Instead, the Republican Party has allowed its more extreme elements to dominate. “Nowhere in Europe do you have that phenomenon,” he said.

The Republican Party’s position among the European far right is especially striking because of the United States’ two-party system, which leaves less room for fringe groups. As a result, parties are “forced to deal in platitudes, usually in competing for the center,” said Richard Bensel, a professor of political science at Cornell.

But, he added, there’s “something very strange happening in recent American politics”: Theory says that two-party systems generate “moderate, unprincipled parties,” but the Republicans and Democrats have grown more distinct.

“Democracy doesn’t work with that kind of polarization,” he said.

So where might all this be headed? Charles Pierce says “something is building in our politics”, a “wildness”, and a president “more than willing to give that wildness a purpose and a focus.”

Thanks to Sherry Moreau for the tip on the next article by Pierce reprinted from Esquire by Reader Supported News (and now reprinted in full here, with block-quoting suppressed).

The Insanity in Oregon Is a Glimpse of Our Very Dark Future

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

25 June 2019

People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one political party cheer them on.

In these times, everything looks like an ill omen. The capitol is crowded with crows. But it is not an exaggeration to say that if you’re not following the ongoing insanity in Oregon, you are missing a look into a very dark future. It begins with a not-at-all-unusual squabble between the Republicans in the Oregon legislature and the Democratic Governor, Kate Brown. At issue is a huge bill aimed at dealing with the climate crisis. On Thursday, every Republican member of the Oregon state senate took a powder, denying Brown and the Democrats a quorum and effectively killing the bill.

Now this is not an unusual tactic. Not long ago, Democratic lawmakers in Texas and in Wisconsin blew town for the same purpose—to throw sand in the gears of a legislative act of which they did not approve and could not stop by conventional means. In Wisconsin, it was to slow down an anti-union measure. In Texas, it was about a redistricting map that gerrymandered the Texas legislature into a farce. The legislative lamsters all had a good time, taking goofy videos in what appeared to be Holiday Inn lobbies while Republicans back home fumed. (The Texans, it should be noted, won a temporary victory.) What makes Oregon different is what the fugitive Republican senators did.

The Republican senators—with the full support of the Oregon Republican Party—made common cause with armed domestic terror groups. (Calling them a militia is a misnomer, regardless of what they may think of themselves.) When a Republican state senator named Brian Boquist heard that Brown was sending the Oregon state police after them, he told a local television station:

Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.

Almost immediately, the local domestic terror groups sprang to Boquist’s defense. From ThinkProgress:

A member of the Oregon 3 Percenters — a militia group whose members have vowed to combat what they perceive as constitutional infringement — said they would act as the senators’ de-facto bodyguards against the state police. “We have vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need,” they wrote in a Facebook post. “We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe.”

In Idaho, where some of the lawmakers have supposedly fled, the state’s 3 Percenters group was similarly willing to defend the Republicans as well, posting threatening memes on its Facebook page. “This is what the start of a civil war looks like,” the group wrote in one post. “Elected officials seeking asylum in a friendly jurisdiction.” Speaking to ThinkProgress, Eric Parker, president of the group Real 3 Percenters Idaho, said the group was currently networking to figure out if Brown had asked for any “out of state resources” — such as help from the FBI or Idaho State Patrol — and were willing to assist the the Republican senators in any way necessary.

And you could find a way to wave this off as well, except for what happened on Saturday. From the Oregonian/OregonLive:

A spokeswoman for the Senate President confirmed late Friday that the “Oregon State Police has recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat.”

An “Occupy The Senate” rally on Sunday, sponsored by the local and state GOP, seems to have fizzled. (Jason Wilson on the electric Twitter machine is your go-to on this, and he has pictures, including one of a chainsaw the size of a Saturn V.) That doesn’t calm me down at all. There has been a wildness in the land for a while now and, at this moment, at the top of the government, we have a president* who’s more than willing to give that wildness a purpose and a focus.

People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one of the political parties was rooting them on, and one session of a state legislature was cancelled because of it. Roll that around in your head for a while and see where you end up. Something is building in our politics and now I wish I hadn’t watched that series about Chernobyl. We may be exceeding the tolerances of all our systems.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A reason for replacing Trump in two words

I have my two words in mind. What are yours?

Detention center
McCallen Texas detention center

“The Salt Lake City Tribune published an editorial opinion on Sunday which should be reprinted in the editorial pages of every newspaper in the country” writes the AZ Blue Meanie (Blog for Arizona). He cited evidence from that editorial, The Salt Lake City Tribune: ‘Yes, we do have concentration camps’.

They are not work camps. They are not death camps. At least, not on purpose. Our government is not building massive gas chambers and industrial crematoria. It is not conducting sick medical experiments on members of an unfavored class.

But that does not mean that the places into which we are herding tens of thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are not properly called concentration camps. Because that is precisely what they are.

The New YorkTimes’ Charles M. Blow concurs and writes about Trump’s ‘Concentration Camps’, saying that The cruelty of immigrant family separations must not be tolerated.

… last week, an attorney for the Trump administration argued before an incredulous panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit that toothbrushes, soap and appropriate sleeping arrangements were not necessary for the government to meet its requirement to keep migrant children in “safe and sanitary” conditions.

As one of the judges asked the attorney:

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you do something other than what I described: Cold all night long. Lights on all night long. Sleep on the concrete floor and you get an aluminum blanket?”

Stop and think about that. Not only do these children in question not have beds, they are not even turning off the lights so that they can go to sleep. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, plain and simple.

It gets worse. For example:

An Associated Press report last week discussed the descriptions by lawyers of “inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens” at a Texas border patrol station.

Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.”

“A 14-year-old girl from Guatemala said she had been holding two little girls in her lap. ‘I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too,’ she said.”

Anyone whose heart doesn’t break upon reading that is a monster. And yet, too many Americans seem perfectly O.K. with these conditions. Last year, Fox News’s Laura Ingraham compared child detention centers to “summer camps.” These are not summer camps. They are closer to what Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called them: concentration camps.

She received quite a bit of blowback for that description, her critics complaining that the term was too closely tied to the ghastly horrors of the Holocaust.

Folks, we can use any form of fuzzy language we want, but the United States under Donald Trump is currently engaged in an unconscionable act. He promised to crack down on immigrants and yet under him immigrants seeking asylum have surged. And he is meeting the surge with indescribable cruelty.

Donald Trump is running concentration camps at the border. The question remains: what are we going to do about it?

The Times reports on a partial answer as Hundreds of Migrant Children Are Moved Out of an Overcrowded Border Station.

Hundreds of migrant children have been transferred out of a filthy Border Patrol station in Texas where they had been detained for weeks without access to soap, clean clothes or adequate food, the authorities confirmed on Monday, suggesting that worsening conditions and overcrowding inside federal border facilities may have reached a breaking point.

The move came days after a group of lawyers was given access to the station in Clint, Tex., about 20 miles southeast of El Paso, and said they saw children as young as 8 caring for infants, toddlers with no diapers, and children who said they were waking up at night because they were hungry.

Though the station had held a relatively small population of migrants, compared to the tens of thousands who have been crossing the border each month, the lawyers’ accounts offered a rare view into a system that has largely been hidden from public view.

So one thing we can do is to shine light on the horrors promoted by Donald Trump.

The lawyers who visited the facility, first interviewed by The Associated Press and later by The New York Times, said that children lacked access to private bathrooms, soap, toothbrushes or toothpaste. Many were wearing the same dirty clothes that they had crossed the border in weeks earlier.

And those practices would have continued had there been no visit by those lawyers.

And that is why I nominate “concentration camps” as my two-word reason for replacing Trump and ridding ourselves of Trumpism.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Mournday Mourning redux

Playing a round of gulf
Playing a round of Gulf

Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources report overhearing a conversation between Trump and Bolton:
Bolton: Mike and I have everything under control, Mr. President. Why don’t you play a round of golf?
Trump: Golf? I thought he said play around with Gulf!

Also reported was a top secret conversation between some mullahs in Iran:
Mullah #1: How are we going to get Trump off our case?
Mullah #4: I know! I know! We send him a beautiful letter!

Here are the rest of themes, schemes, memes, and falemes in this edition of the Illustrated Gnus (aka cartoons from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona).

  • The Scribers were on vacation for 2 weeks. Coming back home was like Rip Van Winkle awaking to a world unchanged. Read on!
  • Quiz: Where is Trump taking America? (A) Into a pile of poo. (B) Into Dante’s inferno. (C) Into a rerun of 2016.
  • Recent appointees to the Committee to Re-elect the President - CREEP 2020: MBS, Vlad, Kim.
  • In a bid for credibility with Trump, the FBI renames itself “Foreign Bureau of Investigation.”
  • Speaking of renaming: The Environmental Pollution Agency is creating more jobs - for undertakers and morticians!
  • A parting thought about reparations from one of Scriber’s Native American acquaintances: “I don’t want reparations, give me the land.”
  • Another parting thought about Moscow’s view of American infrastructure.
Our infrastructure under attack?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Should we consider electability as a criterion for choosing a candidate

Leading up to the 2018 election I was a member of a committee tasked with recommending candidates for endorsement. We worried about how to factor “electability” into our deliberations. Indeed, there was discussion about even whether to do so. The same concern is now playing out on the national stage. Should we consider electability as we individually and collectively weigh the chances of the 20-odd Democratic candidates for president? So this “bullet point” from Nate Silver at 538.com caught my attention. He asks Is Electability A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

I’d describe myself as “anti-anti-electability.” Electability is a problematic concept in several respects, and it can serve as an invitation to promote white men over women and minorities even though it’s not really clear that white men have any sort of electoral advantage. Nonetheless, Democrats care a lot about who can beat President Trump. If, hypothetically, one candidate had a 70 percent chance of beating Trump and another one had a 40 percent chance, both voters and the media would be right to give that lots of consideration.

The problem is there’s no way to estimate electability that precisely. There’s some empirical basis for some claims about electability, such as that more moderate candidates are more electable, but even those are fuzzy.

And at times, concerns about electability can be self-fulfilling prophecies. A recent Avalanche Strategy poll found Joe Biden in the lead, but when voters were asked to “imagine that they have a magic wand and can make any of the candidates president,” Elizabeth Warren narrowly became the top choice …

See accompanying graph here

Being a woman was the biggest barrier to electability, based on Avalanche’s analysis of the results, and women were more likely to cite gender as a factor than men. So there are a lot of women who might not vote for a woman because they’re worried that other voters won’t vote for her. But if everyone just voted for who they actually wanted to be president, the woman would win!

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying. Voters could avoid a woman in the primary because they’re worried about her chances in a general election. Still, it’s important to keep these feedback loops in mind. If voters start to see other voters supporting Warren (in polls and eventually in primaries), their concerns about her electability may lessen.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Orlando Sentinel says 'Not Donald Trump. We can do better. We have to do better.'

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board takes a scathing stand: Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump | Editorial. Here is the full text.

Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign. [Tuesday, June 18th]

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.

So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.

Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.

It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career.

Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018 he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019 he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).

According to a Washington Post database, the president has tallied more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.

Trump insults political opponents and national heroes alike with middle-school taunts. He demonstrates no capacity for empathy or remorse. He misuses his office to punish opponents, as when he recently called for a boycott of AT&T to get even with his least favorite media outlet, CNN. He tears down institutions, once airily suggesting the U.S. should try having a leader for life as China now allows. He seems incapable of learning a lesson, telling an ABC interviewer last week — just two months after Robert Mueller’s report on election interference was released — that he would accept dirt on an opponent from Russia or China.

Trump has diminished our standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embraces enemies.

This nation must never forget that humiliating public moment in Helsinki in 2018 when the president of the United States chose to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election over the unanimous assessment of the American intelligence community.

Such a betrayal by a U.S. president would have been the unforgivable political sin in normal times. As if that’s not enough, Trump declares his love for North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a genuine villain who starves and enslaves his people and executes his enemies with antiaircraft guns and flamethrowers.

But he wrote the president a “beautiful letter.” Flattery will get you everywhere with this president, and that’s dangerous.

Domestically, the president’s signature issue — immigration — has moved in fits and starts. Happily, he abandoned pursuing an outright — and unconstitutional — ban on Muslims entering the U.S., opting instead to restrict travel for people from a handful of nations, most of them majority Muslim.

He’s tried separating families, sending troops to the border and declaring a national emergency. For all of that, illegal border crossings are, as the president himself calls it, at crisis levels.

He blames House Democrats because casting blame is Trump’s forte. But Republicans controlled the House and the Senate for two full years. That seemed like an ideal time to fix what the president believes ails our immigration laws.

Even with Democrats now controlling the House, where is Trump’s much-touted deal-making mojo, an attribute he campaigned on?

“But the economy!”

Yes, the market has done well since Trump’s election.

The S&P 500 was up about 21% between Trump’s inauguration and May 31 of his third year in office. Under President Obama, it was up about 56% in that same period.

Unemployment is headed down, as it was during seven straight years under Obama.

Wages are up, and that’s a welcome change. But GDP increases so far are no better than some periods under Obama. Deficit spending under Obama was far too high, in part because of the stimulus needed to dig out of the Great Recession. Under Trump, it’s still headed in the wrong direction, once again pushing $1 trillion even though the economy is healthy.

Trump seems to care nothing about the deficit and the national debt, which once breathed life into the Tea Party.

Through all of this, Trump’s base remains loyal. Sadly, the truest words Trump might ever have spoken was when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters.

This non-endorsement isn’t defaulting to whomever the Democrats choose. This newspaper has a history of presidential appointments favoring Republicans starting in the mid–20th century. Except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Sentinel backed Republican presidential nominees from 1952 through 2004, when we recommended John Kerry over another four years of George W. Bush.

As recently as 2012 we recommended Republican Mitt Romney because of what seemed at the time to be Obama’s failure to adequately manage the nation’s finances.

If — however unlikely — a Republican like Romney, now a senator from Utah, or former Ohio Gov. John Kasich successfully primaried the president, we would eagerly give them a look. Same if an independent candidate mounted a legitimate campaign.

We’d even consider backing Trump if, say, he found the proverbial cure for cancer or — about as likely — changed the essence of who he is (he won’t).

The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that.

We can do better. We have to do better.

The Crucifixion of Donald Trump ...

… and his 2020 resurrection?

The Trump Show, Season 2, Begins writes Michelle Cottle, a member of the NY Times editorial board. To hear the president tell it, the battle for the apocalypse has been joined.

Trump Crucified
Trump Crucified

Trump revels in playing the role of a martyr with all the fervor of an iconic leader of a religious cult. All the visuals, all the hype, are meant to portray to his masses that he is the victim and without him the country will be headed straight to socialistic hell.

[In his Orlando kickoff] the president was in his element and visibly relieved to have wrested the spotlight from Democrats for one glorious evening. Every so often, he’d pause in his remarks to wander about the stage, basking in the adulation. Whenever the crowd erupted in one of the chants that have become a staple of his rallies — “Build the Wall!” “CNN sucks!” “Lock her up!” — the president glowed. If nothing else, Mr. Trump made clear that he has no interest in expanding his appeal this cycle. He is digging in and doubling down with his base, for whom he can do no wrong.

… In the kickoff of his insurgency four years ago, Mr. Trump drifted down the escalator of Trump Tower to the thumping strains of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and sold himself as the antidote to politics as usual. Dismissing America’s political leaders as “losers,” he declared the American dream dead and pitched himself as the only candidate who could bring it back “bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” He was going to solve the nation’s toughest problems, and it was all going to be so easy.

In Orlando, Mr. Trump reprised that theme. “The fact is the American dream is back,” he crowed. “It is bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” Two and a half years into his presidency, however, many of the miracles he vowed to perform have not come to pass. He has not repealed and replaced Obamacare with something better, nor stopped manufacturing jobs from flowing overseas. He has not rebuilt America’s infrastructure, brought Iran to heel or tamed the national debt.

It is a tricky line that Mr. Trump will attempt to toe over the next 18 months. As the sitting president, he needs voters to feel good about the job he has done — good enough to turn out and give him another four years. The animating force of his political success, however, has always been cultural grievance. He is the master of stoking voters’ most primal anxieties and resentments. Tuesday’s speech suggests that going forward, the president’s struggle to reconcile these conflicting imperatives will not be pretty — or good for the country.

If his message in 2016 was that the political establishment and cultural elitists were exploiting, ignoring and sneering at regular Americans, his message this time is that the opposition despises and is aggressively plotting to destroy MAGA country. “Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” he declared.

As Mr. Trump tells it, this hatred for “hard-working patriots” is at the root of any and all attacks on his leadership. It’s not that Democrats are out to get him; they are out to get his people. “They went after my family, my business, my finances, my employees, almost everyone I have ever known or worked with, but they are really going after you,” he told the Orlando crowd. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about us. It’s about you. They tried to erase your votes, and erase your legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of our country.”

Despite this unprecedented assault, Mr. Trump said, he — and by extension, his people — have prevailed. “We accomplished more than any other president has in the first two and a half years of a presidency,” he said. “And under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before. We took on a political machine that tried to take away your voice and your vote. They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny. But we will never let them do that.”

So, even as Mr. Trump brags of having made America great again, he does it in a way that fuels voters’ anger and fear. Democrats are “driven by hatred, prejudice and rage,” he warned. “Just imagine what this angry, left-wing mob would do if they were in charge of this country.”

Mr. Trump stressed to the crowd the importance of next year’s vote: “This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who tried to undermine our great democracy and undermine you.”

In that, at last, he spoke the raw truth.

Amen to that.

But now let’s leave Trump channeling Elmer Gantry and look at his chances in 2020.

For one thing “Somebody seems to miss Hillary Clinton”, Gail Collins notes in Trump’s Running Again. Still.:

He’s in desperate need of new material. Trump spent a good part of his big kickoff rally attacking Hillary Clinton (“33,000 emails deleted! Think of it!”). His speech was pretty much the same one he’s been making to his fans for the last four years.

But they don’t notice - or perhaps, just as when it comes to his 10,000 lies, they just don’t care.

So what are the chances that Trump can parlay his self-pronounced crucifixion into a 2020 resurrection? John Cassidy (New Yorker) considers the question What Are the Chances of Trump Being Reëlected?. The short answer is: “Early polls suggest that Donald Trump will face challenges in winning votes from independents and in some key battleground states.”

On Tuesday night, in Orlando, Donald Trump formally launched his 2020 reëlection effort with another big rally. After what happened in 2016, it behooves political analysts and commentators to approach the upcoming campaign with caution. So, I will put it no more strongly than this: with sixteen and a half months to go, the President and his campaign staff have reasons to be concerned.

The good news for Trump is that he retains a solid base of support, and the demographic to which he has the strongest appeal—white Americans who don’t have a college degree—still represents a very big chunk of the electorate. Plus, the unemployment rate is just 3.5 per cent, and most Americans are optimistic about the economy. The bad news for the Trump campaign is that other demographic groups seem to have turned even more heavily against him, and a strong economy has failed to lift his approval ratings. Moreover, recent polls suggest that he is in trouble in a number of battleground states, including the three that were key to his victory last time: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

You probably don’t need reminding that, thanks to the vagaries of the American political system, Trump won with just 46.1 per cent of the national vote, and a favorability rating that was considerably lower. On November 7, 2016, the day before the election, 37.5 per cent of American voters had a favorable opinion of him, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average, which suggests that either the polls were wrong or large numbers of people voted for him despite not particularly liking him. After his victory, his favorability rating rose to the low forties during the transition, where it has largely stayed. The latest R.C.P. poll average showed him with a favorability rating of 43.8 per cent, which is pretty close to his latest job-approval rating—44.3 per cent on Wednesday. It doesn’t seem to matter what he does or says: these numbers don’t change much.

Among whites without a college degree, according to the network exit poll, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than two to one—sixty-six per cent to twenty-nine per cent. This slice of the electorate represents Trump’s heartland, and according to the exit poll it accounted for about a third of all voters in 2016. (Thirty-four per cent to be precise.) However, some political experts believe that estimate is too low. In a 2017 study that drew on actual voter files, national-opinion surveys, and their own post-election polling, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira, of the Center for American Progress, and Rob Griffin, a political scientist at George Washington University, concluded that forty-five per cent of the voters in 2016 were whites without a college degree—eleven percentage points more than the figure from the exit poll.

The more there are of this type of voter, the better Trump’s chances. So what about 2020? Ongoing demographic changes are steadily making the country more diverse. But, in a 2018 analysis, Griffin, Teixeira, and William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, estimated that next year whites without college degrees will make up forty-four per cent of the electorate—just slightly more than in 2016. If this analysis is correct, non-college whites will still be the biggest single voting bloc on the basis of race and education. Plus, they are spread out across the country. The “concentration of Democratic support in metropolitan areas diffuses over-all demographic advantages and increases the chances that large turnout and support from Trump’s base, primarily white noncollege-educated voters in more rural and working class states, can once again lead to a narrow victory” in the Electoral College, Halpin and Teixeira noted.

Now on the brighter side …

But if Trump has a potential pathway back to the White House, he also has some very big obstacles in his way, beginning with the fact that, even if white non-college voters did make up forty-four per cent of the 2020 electorate, and he got two-thirds of their support again, it would leave him at roughly thirty per cent of the over-all vote. To win, he also has to attract the support of other groups, such as whites with college degrees, independents, and Latinos. But the message of the 2018 midterms, and of recent opinion polls, is that many people in these groups have had their fill of him and want him gone. Outside of his base, he’s just not popular. And that is putting it mildly.

Interestingly, the (correct) belief that Trump’s policies are targeted at helping the well-to-do is widespread among his core demographic. Thirty-two per cent of whites without a college degree said that his policies benefit everyone; forty-four per cent said they benefited people with more money. On the basis of these polls, it seems like Trump’s tax bill didn’t even fool his base.

The other challenge facing Trump is the electoral map. At this early stage, he is lagging behind the Democratic frontrunners in some of the states he could not win without, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Public polls have been showing this trend for months, and last week it emerged that the Trump campaign’s own polls have found the same thing. According to ABC News, internal polls showed Joe Biden leading the President by fifty-five per cent to thirty-nine per cent in Pennsylvania, and by fifty-one per cent to forty-one per cent in Wisconsin.

Over the weekend, the Trump campaign dismissed these polls, which were taken in March, as out of date, and fired several of its pollsters. “The president’s new polling is extraordinary and his numbers have never been better,” Brad Parscale, the campaign chairman, said in a statement. Trump also weighed in. “Our polls show us leading in all 17 Swing States,” he said on Twitter. And yet, hours after he posted this tweet, the Quinnipiac poll of Florida showed that, in head-to-head matches, he would trail Joe Biden by nine points, trail Bernie Sanders by six points, and trail Elizabeth Warren by four points.

A degree of skepticism is in order. Historically, head-to-head polls taken this early haven’t had much, if any, predictive value in Presidential elections, an analysis at Five-Thirty-Eight pointed out. It certainly seems likely that Trump’s numbers in the battleground states will improve as we get closer to the election: practically nobody in the political world expects a Democrat to carry Florida by nine percentage points. But how much movement will there be? With opinions about Trump already so firmly set on all sides, it isn’t certain that prior experience will provide much of a guide to this election.

Indeed, nothing is certain, except that there is a very long way to go, and that the election will be bitterly fought. Buckle up.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Taxes, tariffs, and trouble for Trump's economy

Trump’s economy? You bet it is. He owns this one. Most of the stimulating effects of the tax break went to the upper class of investors and large corporations; the average worker saw little of that, and what they did get was in the form of one-off bonuses. That piddling amount is going to be more than eliminated by the higher prices due to the tariffs already in place (and more to come). Around 97% of the tax breaks went to the wealthy and the remaining 2–3% went to workers.

Arizona stands to be the 6th hardest hit state in the country by proposed tariffs. (This story appeared on the front page of the Daily Star as “US Chamber: Trump tariffs on Mexico would hurt Ariz.”) But not according to Gov. Doug Ducey. Dismissing the concerns of the Chamber of Commerce, and particularly those of the AZ Chamber’s head, Glenn Hamer, Ducey said “There are no tariffs.” Here is an excerpt that captures that rift.

Arizona stands to be the sixth-hardest-hit state in the country by President Trump’s plan to impose a 5% tariff on goods from Mexico, increasing costs to the state’s consumers by about $452 million, an analysis from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows.

The chamber also said if the levy goes to 25% in October, as the president has threatened, that would translate to an additional nearly $2.3 billion paid by Arizonans.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, however, was unimpressed, taking a swat of sorts Monday at businesses concerned about the effects of the president’s threatened tariffs on the state and national economy.

But it isn’t just the concerns of the national chamber that Ducey is minimizing. There also are the comments of Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who late last week said the president’s announcement of an escalating system of tariffs against Mexico is “baffling and, if carried out, will be terribly damaging.”

“This will only inflict harm on the U.S. consumer,” Hamer told Capitol Media Services. And Hamer pointed out that tariffs are not paid by the foreign country or even the foreign company that is exporting the goods, but are added on to the costs for customers here.

Ducey on Monday brushed aside that threat of tariffs to the state’s Arizona financial situation.

“Our economy is roaring right now,” the governor said. “Our economy is doing terrific. Our economy is going to continue doing terrific.”

And what of the fact that tariffs are paid not by the host country but by U.S. consumers in the form of higher prices?

“There are no tariffs,” the governor said as he got into his vehicle and left.

That’s reminiscent of Mad Magazine’s Alfred Newman - “What Me Worry”. The “roaring” Ducey boasts about could quickly turn into a whimper because of Trump’s tariffs. Here is an analysis from the NY Times, Trump’s Tariffs Could Nullify Tax Cut, Clouding Economic Picture.

President Trump’s tax cuts provided a temporary jolt to the United States economy by putting more money into taxpayers’ pockets. The tariffs that Mr. Trump has grown so fond of may have the opposite effect.

Two new analyses show that the tariffs Mr. Trump is using to punish China, Mexico, Europe and other governments would more than wipe out any gains from his $1.5 trillion tax cut for low- and middle-income earners, leaving them with less money to spend into a consumer-driven economy. Higher earners would fare only slightly better, with their tax gains significantly eroded but not entirely washed away.

The potential for Mr. Trump’s tariffs to nullify his signature tax cut shows how the president’s trade war could undermine his biggest selling point going into his 2020 re-election campaign: a strong economy.

Investors, bond markets and Wall Street analysts appear increasingly alarmed by the potential slowdown in growth that could result from Mr. Trump’s trade escalations, including his plan to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on Mexican goods and to tax everything that China imports into the United States. He is also mulling tariffs on imported automobiles from Europe and Japan.

AZBlueMeanie has a broad summary of how and why the Trump tax break bill was not the economic “rocket fuel” claimed by Trump: The Trump tax cut bill was as bad as everyone predicted it would be.

Last week the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report that makes it official: the “Trump tax cut bill,” the only legislative achievement of the previous Republican Congress, has not generated any meaningful new economic growth that was not already underway. And the crooks who passed it are laughing all the way to their bank.

Here are some snippets.

From Think Progress: “Large corporations with shiny accounting departments ended up being the largest beneficiaries of the tax bill’s largesse, with the rate of tax they actually pay dropping by half in 2018, according to the CRS analysis. ” “Annual growth hit 2.9% … right in line with what the CBO had predicted the economy would have done without Trump’s corporate-tax munificence.”

From Philip Bump at the Washington Post: “Although the economy did grow, the cuts came nowhere close to paying for themselves … 95 percent of the increase in the deficit wasn’t offset at all.” “Although the repatriation and cuts occurred, “relatively little” went to the worker bonuses that Trump celebrated after the cuts were signed into law. “One organization that tracks these bonuses has reported a total of $4.4 billion,” the report states. “With US employment of 157 million, this amount is $28 per worker. This amount is 2% to 3% of the corporate tax cut, and a smaller share of repatriated funds.” ”Put directly, the CRS report finds no justification for Trump’s dubious claims that the tax cuts served as a significant boost to the economy, much less played a central role in “America’s revival.”"

Now, adding in the negative effects of higher consumer prices, that $28 evaporates quickly.

If you really wanted to stimulate the economy try inverting those percentages: 97% to workers and 3% to corporations. AZBlueMeanie wraps it up.

Republican faith based supply-side “trickle-down” tax policy is and always has been a lie — George H.W. Bush was right when he called it “voodoo economics” — and yet too many Americans keep falling for it, time and again, to their own financial detriment. I guess it’s true that you can’t fix stupid.

And adding insult to injury, as only Trump can do, AZBlueMeanie reports this:

In an insult to economic science and all that is good and holy, Trump is Giving a Medal Of Freedom To ‘Trickle Down’ Economist, ‘Trumponomics’ Co-Author Arthur Laffer, the “father of supply-side economics” and “trickle-down” tax fraud, and the notorious “Laffer Curve.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

Scribers on vacation

The Scribers will be on vacation for the next couple of weeks. Our access to the internet will be spotty in places and when we do get on, I’m likely to post more about what we are doing (hiking) and where (Peruvian Andes, Amazon river) than about politics.

Meanwhile back at the ranch ...

Every so often it’s worth taking a break from the fog of national politics and check in on happenings here at home in Arizona. The Arizona Corporation Commission (which I think of as the Arizona Corruption Commission) is back in the news. Gov. Ducey elevated one of the commissioners, Andy Tobin, to a department directorship with a big bump in pay: $79,500 to $195,000. And who will replace him? Ducey named to the Commission Lea Marquez Peterson who has received campaign contributions from a power company regulated by the Commission. Suppress your gag reflex and read on.

The Arizona Capitol Times (to which I subscribe) reports that Governor Doug Ducey’s choice for agency head shuffles Corp Comm.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday tapped former Republican congressional contender Lea Marquez Peterson to the agency that decides how much utilities can charge their customers.

The announcement came just moments after Ducey announced that Andy Tobin, currently serving on the Arizona Corporation Commission, will leave that agency to become the head of the state Department of Administration. That is the agency that handles internal matters for the state, like payroll and managing office space.

Tobin, a former speaker of the House, was … named to the commission by Ducey in 2015. He won election to a four-year term the following year in a campaign in which APS openly spent $4 million to ensure the commission remained an all-Republican affair.

Marquez Peterson, who formerly was president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will fill out the balance of Tobin’s term, which runs through 2020.

The announcement comes at a particularly critical time at the commission, which is looking at whether Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, is earning too much, particularly after the regulators gave the go ahead in 2017 for the company to collect another $95 million from customers.

… Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of APS, reported profits in the first three months of 2019 of $17.9 million, versus $3.2 million for the same period a year ago.

Hmmm. Ya gotta wonder how they spent that increase. Read on.

Pinnacle West gave Marquez Peterson $2,500 in the Republican primary last year. Marquez Peterson’s congressional campaign also was the beneficiary of $5,000 from David Hutchens, chief executive of Tucson Electric Power, and $350 from TEP lobbyist Steve Eddy.

But she told Capitol Media Services those donations are different than the money that APS funneled into commission races in 2014 and 2016 to help elect regulators of their choice.

Remember the old Texas saying: Ya gotta dance with them that brung ya.

“That was an entirely different race, a different position, representing a district in southern Arizona,” Marquez Peterson said. “So I consider that completely separate from a role at the Arizona Corporation Commission.”

And by inference she has no biases regarding important issues like renewable energy?

The Tucson Hispanic Chamber, under her leadership, took a position last year against an initiative that would have required utilities like APS and TEP to generate half of their electricity from renewable sources. But Marquez Peterson, noting other business groups also opposed the measure, said that does not necessarily align her with the interests of the utilities.

The AZ Blue Meanie had a lot to say about how Gov. Ducey replaces one ‘Kochtopus’ crony with another on the Arizona Corporation Commission. Quoting from the AZ Daily Star on-line:

APS has been embroiled in controversy for several years after suspected political spending in the 2014 commission election and political activity it acknowledged in more recent elections. The utility recently acknowledged it spent $3.2 million to elect favored regulators in 2014 and gave an accounting of its later political spending, including $4.1 million to influence its regulators’ 2016 election and nearly $40 million to defeat a citizens’ initiative last year that would have required that it get much more of its power from solar and other renewable sources.

Former Democratic commissioner Bill Mundell said Marquez Peterson “is deep in the pockets” of APS as a recipient of campaign money and a supporter of APS positions while at the chamber.

“Of all the unbiased and qualified people in Arizona that Ducey could have appointed, he picked an APS lobbyist that I’m concerned will do the bidding of APS when she gets to the commission,” Mundell said.

Marquez Peterson will fill out Tobin’s term and is expected run for election in 2020. Mundell, a really qualified candidate, is also running for election to the Commission in 2020.

I was going to lead with an audio version of the Illustrated Gnus. But then Mueller went silent.

  • When it comes to Mueller, we just have to figure out the code.
Mueller breaks silence
Silence is worth a thousand words.
Mueller breaks silence
Mueller chooses his words carefully

Here are the rest of themes, schemes, memes, and falemes in this edition of the Mournday Mourning Gnus (aka cartoons from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona).

  • The difference between Barr and Mueller is the color of their magic markers. One obscures and the other highlights.
  • What Mueller said: If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so. What Trump tweeted: The President clearly did not commit a crime. What Pelosi admits: “If we had confidence”
  • Kim: “Trump and I deal with staff differently. He says ”You’re fired.“ I say ”open fire." That opens up two versions of the perennial question: If Trump shot an outgoing staffer on the White House lawn, (a) would that be enough for the House Dems to move impeachment? (b) would that be enough for the Republican Senate to convict?
  • U. S. Navy admits to pressure to hide USS John S. McCain while Trump is in Japan. I wonder if the Japanese press renamed the ship USS Bone Spurs.
  • Harriet Tubman knocked off the $20 bill - Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources say she will be replaced by Steve Bannon.
  • Trump announces his key issues for his 2020 run: health care, immigration, deficits, trade, infrastructure, climate change. Democrats rejoice.
  • 20-odd states are banning reproductive freedom. Think positively. Think of economic opportunity. Open a chain of burqa shops.
  • When it comes to McConnell filling SCOTUS seats, here’s an analogy for you. 2016 : No :: 2020 : Yes.
  • When it comes to Cynthia May, there is no “May” be, just BRExit.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Why Democrats may lose Roe v. Wade.

In the Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference for May 23rd. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the House’s capabilities to walking and chewing gum. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope [the President] can, too.” She cited legislation and various investigations in support of that claim.

So here is a quiz. Which of these activities does not belong?

(A) legislate
(B) investigate
(C) confirmate

If you’ve been tracking the back-and-forth between Pelosi and Trump, you will know that Pelosi was referring to the House legislating and investigating at the same time. I thought I had invented (C) but only to find out that it is the “first-person plural present active imperative of cōnfirmō”, a Latin word present in the Wiktionary.

The Senate has the constitutional responsibility to confirmate judicial nominees (or not). Why are the Republicans racking up more and more hits for conservative judges and SCOTUS justices? Why cannot Dems in Congress do all three of those things at once?

Jeffery Toobin writing in the New Yorker has the answer: Why Mitch McConnell Outmaneuvers Democrats at Filling the Supreme Court. To be sure “… the main reason that McConnell might push through a Republican nominee to the Court while blocking a Democratic choice is simple: because he can.”

There’s another, less obvious reason that McConnell can game the Supreme Court confirmation process with impunity. The Republican Party has been far more invested in the future of the Supreme Court, and of the judiciary generally, than the Democratic Party has. Judicial appointments, especially to the Supreme Court, are a central pillar of the Republican agenda, and Republican voters will forgive any number of other transgressions if the Party delivers on the courts.

Donald Trump understood this. … That’s why, during the 2016 campaign, he released a short list of possible nominees to the Court. The list was largely compiled by Leonard Leo, the executive vice-president of the Federalist Society, and the names on it demonstrated to the Republican base that Trump was serious about following its agenda—starting with overruling Roe v. Wade. Trump’s nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and of dozens of other conservatives to the lower courts, have been crucial to the President’s preservation of his stratospheric level of support from that base. Conservatives forgive Trump his louche personal life and his casual dishonesty because they know that they are getting the judges and the Justices they want.

Democrats are different. Consider what happened after McConnell blocked the Garland nomination. After a few days of perfunctory outrage, most Democratic politicians dropped the issue. …

Four years later, this pattern is recurring. Consider, for example, the Web sites of three leading contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Each site has thousands of words outlining the candidates’ positions on the issues—and none of them mentions Supreme Court nominations, much less nominations for lower-court judges. …

It’s difficult to pinpoint why Republicans are so much more motivated by the Supreme Court than Democrats are. Complacency could be part of the reason. Despite a preponderance of Republicans on the Court for the past couple of generations, the Justices have expanded gay rights, including the right to marriage, and preserved abortion rights, by reaffirming Roe. But, thanks largely to McConnell, and, of course, to Trump, those days are likely over. Trump rallied his supporters by promising to appoint Justices who will vote to overturn Roe, and the day of that vote may soon be upon us. By the time Democrats wake up to the importance of the Court, it may be too late.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Required viewing - over 1,000 ex-prosecutors from both parties make a 'damning case' for obstruction of justice by Trump

Please, please don’t take a pass on this one. It’s a powerful video produced by Republicans for the Rule of Law and Protect Democracy. It features officials from three Republican administrations, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. (h/t AZBlueMeanie)

Here is the YouTube link: Former Republican Federal Prosecutors Speak Out Against President Trump’s Obstruction of Justice. It ends with them calling out fellow Republicans for not taking a principled, truly conservative stand against obstruction of justice and for the rule of law. The stakes are nothing short of the fundmental basis of our democracy.

Let’s move forward on a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry. And let’s put a representative bipartisan sample of those 1,000 plus prosecutors on the witness stand with their testimony for Americans all to see.

Justice Department refuses to obey court order

Only in these dark times for America would you see such a headline.

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show we learned that Justice Department prosecutors in the Flynn case refused to obey Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court order to hand over additional transcripts of conversations with Russians (notably the Russian ambassador) and to un-redact portions of the Mueller report dealing with Flynn.

The first thing that came to (my) mind was whether this is another example of stone-walling by Trump’s Justice Department. Note that just now I did not say “our” Justice Department - I meant “his” Justice Department. IMO, increasingly, now referencing other posts on this blog this morning, the Justice Department is being used by Trump for his own corrupt purposes.

If you don’t want to spend the several minutes viewing the Maddow video, check out the AZ Blue Meanie’s summary, DOJ lawyers defy Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order in Michael Flynn case.

Trump plans Stalinesque show trials to jail political opponents

Last week Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast (subscription required) made a stunning, if not surprising, prediction: You Think It’s Bad Now? Wait for Next Year’s Show Trials. Koestler and Orwell and Kundera described the hall-of-mirrors horror of totalitarian states. Trump’s gang is getting away with it in a democracy._ (h/t AZ Blue Meanie)

I’ve been trying to tell people, with varying degrees of success, that next year’s campaign is going to be—by far—the most ruthless and dishonest campaign that any living American has seen. Some people take me seriously. But most say something along the lines that it can hardly get any worse.

Oh yes it can. It can get a lot worse. And if you want to see how, watch this clip of Corey Lewandowski on Fox News Thursday night, via Josh Marshall’s Twitter feed:

Here’s the transcript, although you really have to study his face and eyes and hear his voice to get the full Weimar effect: “They should be fearful, and I’ll tell you why. The person who has gotten a pass on this so far is Joe Biden. Because I believe that the investigation which was launched came from somewhere inside the White House to greenlight Clapper, Comey, and Brennan to start this investigation into Donald Trump for no valid reason. We now know the State Department, we’ve seen the contemporaneous emails that were put into place after Victoria Nuland did a meeting with Christopher Steele, then notified the FBI this person had no credibility. But it continued. Because it came from the highest levels of the government.

“And Joe Biden has not answered what he knew and when he knew it of how this investigation began. And when Attorney General Barr and Mr. Horowitz release that report in approximately a month I think we’re gonna see additional criminal referrals, with McCabe getting another referral, Comey a referral, Strzok and Page, James Baker, possibly Bruce Orr, and other people we haven’t even meant [sic] as household names yet—but criminal referrals. And I think what we’re gonna see, Gregg, is in March or April of next year, Jamey Comey, Andy McCabe, Strzok and Page will be on trial for the crimes they have committed against the Fourth Amendment Reich, against this president Fuhrer, and we can’t wait.” [Strikes and adds from your Scriber.]

“Gregg” was Gregg Jarrett, sitting in for Lou Dobbs; he added helpfully as Lewandowski was winding down that John Brennan and James Clapper were due for their time in the barrel as well.

You can’t ask for more than that. Lewandowski laid out the whole strategy. First, pin the Steele dossier on Biden. Did Lewandowski have even a feather’s weight of evidence before going on national television to suggest that the man who happens to be leading Donald Trump in almost every poll right now was the brains behind the Steele Dossier? If he did, he didn’t produce it. “Because I believe…” “Joe Biden has not answered…”

Because he believes based on what? And of course Joe Biden has not answered. He’s not answered because no one has asked, because what in blazes would Biden have had to do with the Steele dossier? Hillary Clinton didn’t start paying for Steele’s work until April 2016, by which time the nomination was basically hers and Biden was understood to be heading off to the retirement village.

For years, the Steele dossier has done the work of allowing the right to accuse Clinton of secretly working with the Russians to destroy Trump. But now she’s old news, finally, so they’re just going to sub in Biden. And as long as they do it on Fox, they will not be challenged, as indeed Lewandowski was not Thursday night. And the rest of the media will note soberly that there’s no evidence that Biden had any connection etc. etc., but by that time, the liars will have won: They’ll win every time “Biden” and “Steele dossier” are mentioned in the same sentence on television.

But the second part of the rant was even more chilling. The plan here is to wait for the report from the Justice Department inspector general (that’s Horowitz) to hit next month, pry whatever passages they can out of that report to go on Pravda TV, and stitch together the appearance of a vast, deep state conspiracy to take Trump down.

Then wait again, this time for Attorney General Bill Barr to do his part. Trump’s announcement Thursday that Barr would be in charge of releasing the intel on the Trump campaign probe is a staggering development, something we’ve never seen the likes of. Barr, who already demonstrated he’ll cherry pick evidence on Trump’s behalf, can pluck out whatever evidence he wants and leave buried whatever evidence he wants to leave buried.

Tomasky points us at tweets by Evan McMullin:

“This is truly a dangerous abuse of power. Barr will selectively release sensitive information, as he did with Mueller’s report, to shape a favorable narrative for Trump and impede the intelligence community’s ability to collect intel on foreign threats that assist the president.”

“Attorney General Barr has no business knowing what assets CIA has in Russia. It’s absurd and inappropriate for him to even ask. Only in a world in which he’s empowered beyond his official capacity by the president would he have the audacity to pursue this information.”

But with everything filtered through a state television network and no Republicans in Congress willing to utter a syllable of protest, there will be no accountability.

And then, next spring (what a coincidence, election year!), Barr’s Justice Department can bring indictments against James Comey, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page for—well, they’ll come up with something. And maybe John Brennan and James Clapper too.

Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.

Justice has been miscarried in this country in a hundred different ways a thousand different times, usually with poor people, black people, or political radicals getting the short end of the stick. That’s not defensible, but it’s old hat, and it happens everywhere, not just in America.

What we have not seen in America, not even during the McCarthy era, is an orchestrated effort of this sort with the goal, if Lewandowski is to be believed, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be, of sending political opponents to jail.

This is not Stalin’s Russia. They may not be able to pull it off. They may get an unlucky draw on the judge. A jury of Peter Strzok’s peers may determine he did nothing wrong.

But it won’t be for lack of trying. And if all goes to plan, the trials will stretch into the summer, into the fall, close to November. You can’t miss the point of that.

So take this seriously. On Friday, Trump accused Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page of “treason.” For investigating a presidential campaign. Treason is aiding an enemy during wartime. And is punishable by death. Trump used the word specifically to signal to his attack dogs that anything is fair game.

So yes, next year’s campaign will be a nightmare beyond the imagination of any novelist who has yet tried to capture and describe totalitarian, hall-of-mirrors horror, from Koestler to Orwell to Kundera or anyone else. They were all describing how a regime gets away with it in a totalitarian state. But these people will be getting away with it in a democracy.

This is the weekend we honor the men and women who’ve laid down their lives to keep that democracy breathing. Today, it is in serious danger of being suffocated. What would we say today to the men who stormed Omaha Beach; if they could speak to us and wanted to be reassured that the sacrifice they knew they were charging into was worth it, how would we tell them that the government they died to protect is now in the hands of at least some people who might well have fought on the other side? Contemplating that is the necessary patriotic gesture of this Memorial Day.

Joseph Welch to Donald Trump - You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency.

We always can learn from history - if we have a mind to - and a mind that can. Here is some history of the Army-McCarthy hearings from the U. S. Senate.

Wisconsin Republican senator Joseph R. McCarthy rocketed to public attention in 1950 with his allegations that hundreds of Communists had infiltrated the State Department and other federal agencies. These charges struck a particularly responsive note at a time of deepening national anxiety about the spread of world communism.

In the spring of 1954, McCarthy picked a fight with the U.S. Army, charging lax security at a top-secret army facility. The army responded that the senator had sought preferential treatment for a recently drafted subcommittee aide. Amidst this controversy, McCarthy temporarily stepped down as chairman for the duration of the three-month nationally televised spectacle known to history as the Army-McCarthy hearings.

The army hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to make its case. At a session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

Those were the most famous words spoken by Welch, but there were more, even more cutting, words directed at McCarthy that resulted in overwhelming applause from the audience. See this YouTube video.

Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.

Imagine that the hearings were never televised, McCarthy’s base remained uninformed and thus unshaken, and that Welch’s damning question was never heard by America. Some might regard such hearings and the conveying media as a “circus.” But as this history makes clear, the circus can serve a useful purpose.

Special Counsel Mueller is said to not want to participate in House hearings that could, or would, degenerate into a media circus. Read on.

The Jim Jordans and Mark Meadows’s are licking their GOP chops at the thought of “grilling” Mueller - should Mueller ever appear before the House Judiciary Committee. Team Trump Now Wants Mueller to Testify Before Congress in Hopes of a Grilling. The president has said he doesn’t want the special counsel to talk on the Hill. But after Mueller’s statement Wednesday, Trump’s team is itching for it. But there is another side to such an appearance.

Robert Mueller Just Told Congress to Do Its Damn Job explains Joan Walsh at he Nation.
Mueller came as close as possible to saying that he would have indicted Trump for obstruction of justice, if Justice Department policy allowed him to do so.

… “Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider,” he said. But then he delivered the most important information in his 10-minute statement: “If we had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not.”

Respected intelligence analyst Marcy Wheeler tweeted immediately: “Shorter Mueller: That was an impeachment referral, damnit, now act on it.” Presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren both used the same “impeachment referral” language. May all the 2020 Democrats join in, and soon.

Significantly, while Mueller made it clear he’d rather not testify before Congress, he did not say he would refuse to do so, if asked. “Any testimony would not go beyond our report. The work speaks for itself. I would not provide any information that is not in the report.”

While that might sound disappointing, it isn’t. Having Mueller delve into the details of a 445-page report (plus its footnotes) would be must-see TV. Just imagine Mueller being asked by the House Judiciary Committee to narrate the more shocking details of his investigation.

Here’s an example: Let Mueller run down his attempts to confirm whether and how President Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, and then to cover up the fact that he ordered McGahn to fire Mueller. …

Mueller closed by making two very powerful points. For one, he thanked the lawyers and FBI agents who worked on his investigation, praising them for being “fair and independent” and for acting with “the highest integrity.” At a time when Attorney General William Barr—whom Mueller took pains not to criticize—wants to investigate these investigators, Mueller made a strong stand on behalf of their professionalism and decency.

Second, Mueller chose to end his statement with the finding the president apparently will not accept: “There were multiple, systematic attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.” He clearly doesn’t believe American leaders are taking that seriously enough, and I agree with him.

This is a bad day for Donald Trump. But it’s also a tough day for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and any other Democratic leader who is trying to slow-walk an impeachment inquiry. In the long relay of justice, Robert Mueller just handed you the baton. Run with it. Today.

If you do not, then answer Eugene Robinson’s question in the Washington Post: If Trump doesn’t warrant impeachment, who does?

What would a president have to do, hypothetically, to get this Congress to impeach him?

Obstruct a Justice Department investigation, perhaps? No, apparently that’s not enough. What about playing footsie with a hostile foreign power? Abusing his office to settle personal grievances? Using instruments of the state, including the justice system, to attack his perceived political opponents? Aligning the nation with murderous foreign dictators while forsaking democracy and human rights? Violating campaign-finance laws with disguised hush-money payments to alleged paramours? Giving aid and comfort to neo-Nazis and white supremacists? Defying requests and subpoenas from congressional committees charged with oversight? Refusing to protect our electoral system from malign foreign interference? Cruelly ripping young children away from their asylum-seeking parents? Lying constantly and shamelessly to the American people, to the point where not a single word he says or writes can be believed?

President Trump has done all of this and more. If he doesn’t warrant the opening of an impeachment inquiry, what president ever would?

I’ve been back and forth on the wisdom of taking that step [impeachment], but there’s one question that nags me: If the impeachment clause of the Constitution wasn’t written for a president like Trump, then why is it there?

… Trump’s going to claim “no collusion, no obstruction” anyway, and he’ll say if Democrats really thought he had committed a crime, they would have the guts to impeach him.

And that’s a way for Dems to lose - to fail to fight for the soul of our country.

The Trump era will end someday, and we’ll all have to account for what we did, or failed to do, to fight for our nation’s soul. Mueller gave our elected representatives in Congress a clear road map for holding Trump accountable. Ten years from now, even one year from now, I wonder what we’ll think of those who decided not to take even the first step.

So, as the AZ Blue Meanie put it, Dear Nancy Pelosi: Duty Calls.