Archive for the ‘impeachment’ category

Do You Hear The Whistle Blowing?

December 7, 2019

The train is leaving the station.  Do you hear the whistle blowing?

President Donald Trump, who I am confident, will be rated by historians as the worst President in modern times, if not for the entire life of the United States, is about to be impeached.  In all likelihood the impeachment as well as the Senate trial will follow party lines.  Impeachment under these circumstances, implies  two outcomes, (1) that President Trump will not be convicted in the Senate, and (2) that should the tables be turned (Democrat President and Republican controlled House), the majority party will return the favor and impeach the President of the other party.  Of course, unless there is a majority of 2/3rds in the Senate, any impeachment will simply be a political act with little or no consequence.

Many are worried about what type of precedent impeaching President Trump will established? What will follow?   But  then again, hasn’t that precedent already been set?  

The impeachment of Bill Clinton is a case in point.  The impeachment was strictly political payback by ideologically Republicans.  Clinton had mislead Americans as well as the Special Prosecutor on the nature of his relations with Monica Lewinsky. But weren’t these transgressions personal and not connected to malfeasance in office?

“He lied under oath”, however, claimed the Republicans.  “He darkened the good name of the Presidency” other Republicans carried on.  Despite public opinion decidedly being against impeachment, Republicans went forward.  (Hmmm, all the while the leading voice, House leader Newt Gingrich, was conducting a secretive affair with another woman after asking his wife for an “open marriage”.  So much for living a saintly life)

One might do well also recalling the stonewalling of Merritt Garland’s nomination for the Supreme Court by Republicans for over one year.  No advise and consent for a Democrat nomination.  

So arguably the country is already engaged in divisive political behavior and “getting even” is regrettably a political way of life.  

Republicans may whine about the process (and they will).  Attempted bribery and seeking foreign involvement in the 2020 election represent an abuse of Presidential power and behavior that is inconsistent with the Constitution and commonsense.   Impeachment, even without conviction will send a message to all Americans describing Presidential behavior which should not be repeated. 

Unfortunately, like the train whistle, once the train has passed out of view, the whistle can no longer be heard.  I wonder how this tit for tat can be broken? 

My Tribe?

December 1, 2019

President Trump has inadvertently got himself in a teaching moment.  The President’s plight, of course, has nothing to do with a bad break or a totally unexpected consequence but instead is the product of “business as usual”.  President Trump has at every turn in the road demonstrated the notion that rules apply to others but not him.  Any student of the founding fathers intentions knows that rules must apply to everyone.  Hmmm.

Trump is an entertainer at heart and a “bullshitter” by nature.  The President wants to please others and in return receive adulation from his listeners.  Trump does not just “want”, he actively seeks positive feedback as a thirsty person does a glass of water.  As a “bullshitter”, the President is blind to the veracity of what he says.  Unlike a “lier”, President Trump never see the need for what he says to be correct.

What is astonishing, however, is that most of the President’s base act as if, on balance, the President represents more good than his flaws may mean.  “The President is the leader of my tribe”, is the message supporters exude.  Implied is the notion that future President ought to be like Donald Trump.  Does this make sense?

In the impeachment hearings held the past few weeks, clear testimonies confirmed for all to hear what the “whistleblower” wrote and more amazingly the readout of the telephone call with President Zelensky reported, President Trump sought to extort a foreign government in exchange for their efforts to smear a opposition candidate. 

The President put an administrative hold on Congress approved military aid funds, pressured the Ukrainian Government, using several middlemen plus his own phone call, to open investigations into internal US politics, and specifically asked that the Ukraine investigate President Trump’s Democrat challenger – former Vice President Joe Biden.  There is no ambiguity on these facts. 

So why are the President’s supporters (his tribe) tossing out all sorts of mitigating thoughts, like “the military aid was delivered”, there was no “quid pro quo”, or the phone call was inappropriate but there was nothing impeachable about the President’s call?

Using the acid test, what if this had happened during President Obama’s Administration, would Republicans have held the same opinion?  Probably, and maybe certainly, not.

The tribe takes care of their own.  If one is a Republican or a supporter of Trump, many see themselves as accused.  This enables each individual to see the impeachment charges as a referendum on their tribe.  

This behavior is the mark of a crowd, of the common folk, of the mass electorate.  There are many other types of tribes, such as fans of a sports team, or a pop singing star, or a social media influencer.  IMO the phenomena we are seeing with Trump supporters’ adamant denial of President Trump did nothing wrong is mostly sincere and gut driven.

Members of this tribe, however, are not asking the simplest questions, like why did the founding fathers put an impeachment clause in the Constitution in the first place?  Or, why should the President put his gains ahead of national security policies?  Or, is this Ukrainian incident a “one off” and not representative of Trumps behavior through out his life? 

The accent Greeks coined the term “Tyrant” to designate someone the Greek citizens had given essentially unlimited powers to rule (presumably to lead the country through periods of crisis).  Regrettably, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Our 250 year old Democracy has been stressed many times before.  Somehow Americans have rallied and put national interests above local parochial ones.  Look around, strong authoritarian leaders do not lead their citizens to better places.  President Trump is no exception and the 2020 ballot box is the place for Americans to put the ship of state back on the right tracks.

Impeachment, however, is about something else.  President Trump has acted in a way inconsistent with our historic democratic traditions and in a way which corrupts the basic governance promises Americans expect of their leader.  Impeachment says clearly “no one can act this way and remain President”.

It is generally believed that President Trump will be impeached by the House and not convicted by the Senate (baring any new information).  The impeachment, if based upon the already established Ukrainian facts, will stand as a guide post for future Presidential behavior.  The ballot box, on the other hand, will signify whether Americans can learn from the “Greeks tyrant example” or whether they would like to try another four years of it.

Hmmm.

Impeachment Dysfunction

November 2, 2019

The Democrat controlled House of Representatives  has voted to proceed with formal hearings whose subject is the impeachment of Donald J Trump.  This is a day most Democrats (but not all) had hoped to avoid.  The risks are obvious,

  • (1) Republican payback when they next control the House and there is a Democrat President, and
  • (2) the concern of what a wounded (but not convicted) President Trump might do next. 

Republicans seem less worried about “2”, and seem resolved to exercise payback when the time comes.  Who is worrying about underpinnings of our 250 year old democracy?

Money, specifically the exorbitant amounts routinely spent upon elections, seems to be driving a mass disregard for ethics, character, and decency.  Elected officials owe such huge sums for their election and must immediately begin stockpiling money for the next campaign.  Otherwise, the Congress member is toast if he/she does not keep on the rolling log.

Money plays several corrosive roles.  

  • Makes Congress Member obligated to special interests
  • Detracts from the time available to actual perform legislative work
  • Begins the self consuming practice of hiring additional staff to handle research and policy development as opposed to just handling constituent matters.  (It may come as a surprise that most members of Congress do not know the subjects the speak about but in fact are simply reciting policies and rationales that their staff, often with the help of special interests, have prepared.  No extra staff, not so good a performance on national TV.

Drunk with stench of special interest money, the Republican’s President Trump defense appears a head scratcher.  The GOP initially provided full throated denial that President Trump had attempted to extort the Ukraine unless the Ukraine announced the initiation of an investigation of Vice President Biden.  This tactic did not gain traction (that dog won’t hunt), probably because the White House had released a partial telephone call summary which clearly showed the President had sought a “favor”. The GOP next choreographed move was to claim the House process was unprecedented, unconstitutional, and illegal.  Hmmm.

But truth is not the GOP statement’s written or spoken words. rather,

  • (1) Republican Congressional members are more concerned about preserving their own chances for reelection, and
  • (2) preparing a rationale for the GOP controlled Senate to acquit the President when he is impeached despite the articles of impeachment and supporting evidence.

With national polling indicating a 49% favorable for impeachment (and removal from office) and a 47% opposed, the national vote is obviously close. At this point in time, President Trump looks destine to be impeached but not convicted by the Senate, and whether the President should be turned out of office will fall to voters who will decide in November 2020.

Hmmm.

Breaking Into Impeachment

October 5, 2019

Republican talking heads have been scrambling the past few days to explain away the “whistleblower” report and the declassified “readout” of President Trump’s telephone conversation with the Ukrainian President.  Despite both reports written in English, Congressional Republicans read one thing and everyone else reads something else.  Same words, two different take aways.  Hmmm.

In live televised interviews, President Trump has now erased any doubts about what the whistleblower or the “readout” meant.  The President confirmed (as indicated in the Whistleblowers report and the Readout) that he wanted the Ukraine to open an investigation into previous Ukrainian activities by Hunter Biden and former Vice President Biden.  The President then gratuitously included China as another foreign country that should search for dirt in the Bidens.  Really, what does Trump not understand about publicly besmirching a likely opponent and by asking a foreign government to “intervene” in the US electoral process?  

IMO, President Trump knows exactly what he is doing.  Trailing in the polls, the President believes that nothing worse can happen to him.  Trump reasons he can sell to enough Americans that the US President, as head of the executive branch, is only discharging his duties when as President, he seeks to flesh out corruption around the world. Sadly, many Trump supporters will swallow that assertion hook, line, and sinker.  “Trumpers” will not think about the similarity this tactic has with third world dictators, flies in the face of Constitutional intentions, and is plain and simply unethical if not outrightly illegal.

So, acting as the chief executive and this assumed “get out of jail card”, President Trump has not chosen to attack his Presidential opponents in traditional ways (like criticizing opponent’s policies) and instead has chosen to put on his sheriff’s hat and call out his opponents in public with unproven charges.  Heroic?

President Trump represents a real and present danger to all Americans.  Trump’s “all decisions come from the President”, disdain for institutions, and flaunting of all ethical bounds if doing so advantages the Trump family put the President in such a compromised position.   The country is running on auto-pilot and at risk should any adverse world development present danger.

President Trump’s antic makes impeachment impossible to avoid even though there is little chance of conviction.

Once impeached, President Trump is likely to rampage through 2020 irrationally lashing out at any and all perceived enemies.  With the economy beginning to teeter and the prospect of job growth ending, more than just the agricultural sector may think they have had enough of President Trump.

The only questions remaining is how many Republican Congress members will distance themselves from the Donald Trump Republican party?  What should be clear is that President Trump’s way is wrong for America regardless if one is a Republican or a Democrat.

Is Impeachment Off The Table

February 22, 2019

Rumors are mounting that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation is coming to a close and the long anticipated report may be delivered in the next few days.  Will there be a smoking gun demanding Impeachment hearings?  Let’s consider.

The idea that Donald Trump, or only members of his campaign staff, colluded with Russians to influence American voters has been the public’s Holy Grail target of the investigation.  Unfortunately, the reality is alleged Russian interference is beside the point. 

Right wing groups routinely publish fake news on social media with as much sophistication as any reported Russian endeavors.  Left wing groups have been know to “stretch” the truth frequently too.  “Dirty tricks” are a staple of American politics and have been for years.  So technically, “colluding” is illegal but what irreparable harm was done?  Enough, do you think, for a Republican controlled Senate to convict an impeached President?  Not likely.

So, how about the “hush payments” Trump arranged through his lawyer to silence two women involved in Trump liaisons.  Once again, these may have been campaign finance violations but they occurred long before Trump became President.  Again, it is unlikely Congress could agree on showing Donald Trump the door.

How about “obstruction of justice”?  The Trump argument that he was authorized to fire FBI Director James Comey may be true but what about Trump’s other statements, like “go easy on Flynn”, “investigation is witch hunt”, “Session should never have recurved himself” as examples.  Once again a Republican controlled Senate is not likely to uphold an impeachment.

In the world of speculation, partially supported by already published rumors, there could be descriptions of money laundering involving members of the Trump family.  With revelations that the Trump organization were in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into 2018 and the tendency of Trump Organization to grease palms creates a wide range of possible violations of US law.  Add these incidents similar ones involving “pay for influence” tied to the “Inauguration Ball” and the “Washington DC Trump Hotel”, a case detailing tax fraud, influence peddling, and violations of the “emoluments clause” begins to shape up.  The question is whether a report outlining this would ever see daylight?

Impeachment and removal from office is very unlikely with what is known today.  Impeachment, no conviction, and no reelection is more probable.  No impeachment and defeat in 2020 is the most probable but not a certainty.  

For Trump to be a one term President, however, the Democrat candidate must run a winning campaign. For Democrats to run a winning campaign, Dems must select a centrist, adult-like candidate, and make the election about Trump.  Hmmm.  

The Unheard Message

March 20, 2018

President Trump’s unexpected 2016 Presidential victory has all the markings of a message not heard. Candidate Trump promised all good things to everyone and did so in a showman’s style. That was heard. Intertwined, however, with Trump’s promises was a spiteful and narcissistic tone promising also to change long standing institutions.

Apparently the promise of so much good lulled many Americans to reserve judgement and let Trump be Trump.

Fourteen months into the Trump Presidency, incident after incident is accumulating that core traditions and institutions which underpin the operation of our Democracy are being mocked, attacked, and derided. It may be understandable that a struggling worker who hears of jobs returning may ask the President no further questions, but for political, intellectuals, and senior business leaders to not recognize the existential threat President Trump’s behavior is making on the proper functioning of the American Democracy, this is sad and should be a major concern.

The concerns are not about

  • Nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The next Democrat President will nominate someone as liberal as Gorsuch is conservative.
  • Attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The ACA while insuring some 20 million more Americans than before was still too costly compared to the rest of the modern world.  (ACA was no more costly than what preceded it.)
  • Unfunded tax cuts favoring the already wealthy. Natural consequences will show whether these tax cuts have been prudent or whether they have been simply a sop to wealthy Trump campaign supporters.

The concerns are about

  • The wholesale and unabashed mixing of Trump businesses and political nepotism without any regard for ethics. What an example for Americans.
  • The denigration of longstanding key government agencies like EPA, FDA, CIA, FBI, and Justice Department. It is one thing to disagree with existing agency policies, and to work to replace them. It is quite another to insinuate that the fundamental role of government is at fault.
  • The trashing of the State Department though allowing wholesale vacancies in Ambassadorships, key department officials, and funding. Again, one might disagree with policy direction but new policy direction needs a functioning State Department to develop the changes.  The “deal maker in chief” is not the answer.
  • The total lack of respect for civil discourse as exemplified by demeaning, degrading, and unproven statements personally addressed to other Americans. Name calling, serial denial of facts, and abusive, petty personal attacks have no place in arguably America’s most important office.

Congressional Republicans have pretty much decided to “go along and get along” with President Trump.  Apparently they have assumed this was a wise choice for them personally. Neville Chamberlain possessed similar thoughts in the late 1930’s too.

Business, academic, and civic leaders have also been muted in their criticism of President Trump. Never the less, these groups should have the capacity to see the logical extension of Trumpian rhetoric and find ways to speak out, before it is too late.

Successful democracies depend upon much more than just free speech and free elections.  With 340 million Americans, President cannot “make a deal” with each one.  There must be broad policies developed by skilled and experienced people.  And, there must be sound, ethical agencies charged with developing and implementing policy.

President Trump may simply be a politician who has not recognized he is the President and still sees every issue as a campaign opportunity.   Regardless, his actions and behavior have consequences, and can leave his successor with weakened institutions, shattered foreign relations, and many Americans with bankrupted confidence in the role of government.

Maybe Tom Steyer is right.

 

 

Whose Bluffing Who?

November 7, 2014

President Obama said in an interview that he would put forth new rules covering immigration by year end unless Congress moved to pass comprehensive reform. That’s pretty clear (although the President has said that before). House Speaker John Boehner in a different interview said the President was playing with fire and the President might get burned. Boehner implied that any hope of cooperation would go out the window if the President acted unilaterally. Hmmm.

So, are these two bluffing?

Hmmm. I wonder.

Or is Speaker Boehner using these words “playing with fire” to hide the “I” word? Impeachment would be relatively easy to accomplish with the GOP House majority. Conviction is at least conceivable with a GOP controlled Senate. But would moderate Republicans go along with this? Would any sensible Republican go along with this?

The Democrat calculus may be that since the GOP has no interest in cooperating on any substantive legislation in any case, why not begin doing what will appeal to Democrat voters (at least Hispanics) through executive orders?

The more clever Democrat strategists may also seek to invite dysfunctional GOP behavior so they can say, “see we told you Republicans cannot govern”.

The “congratulations on your victory” mood which President Obama had presented appears very short lived. The 24/7 news media couldn’t be more thrilled with the prospect of venomous sound bites filling hours of mindless TV and radio talk shows.

With so many Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016, a dysfunctional Congress might be well received by Democrats.
Of course, fire often burns both ways…