Mulvaney and Bolton

WHAT DO THEY HAVE IN COMMON?

They both worked with Trump at the most Senior levels and have been asked by Congress to testify. They both were ordered by Trump not to testify. They both now say they will ONLY do so IF they are ordered by a Judge to do so in response to a subpoena.

And, now Bolton has asked a Judge to tell him what to do as he does NOT want to testify and Mulvaney has now also asked to join that case. The practical effect of that would be a normal judicial proceeding which after appeals etc. could take a year to become final, by which time the 2020 election may have come and gone.

Now the Congress says –thanks we do not need you after all, but you are welcome to come, and we will squeeze you in.

They have in common that they both have attempted to obstruct justice and could be fined or jailed.

Will they now try to correct the obstruction charge by coming after all and testifying under oath?

Big boys playing little boys’ games with our democratic system.

Aren’t we are all owed something better!!??

The Best Judge Of Biden’s Candidacy

IS TRUMP!

Trump we now know was well and widely warned that his effort to pressure the President of Ukraine to smear Biden to try to eliminate his competition with Trump from 2020, was very risky, wrong and illegal.

Trump persisted nevertheless!

Why, because his BEST judgment obviously is that Biden presents a serious challenge in 2020.

Generally, people do not think well of Trump’s judgment. But, where HIS skin is at stake, he has generally been right.

Why are more Democrats –including Bloomberg—not reading these tea leaves more carefully?

One-On-One With Trump

IN THE OVAL OFFICE ‘ALONE’

There I was with the ‘great’ man – at his invitation! – to have a ‘frank’ conversation. The subject:  to help him understand, with his unmatched wisdom, how he was perceived by folks like me and what he might do to convince himself, at least, that there were things he could do win my support and avoid being impeached and convicted.

T-“People tell me you are fair and open minded. Is that true and what does it mean?’

F- “I believe I am, and I think it means I truly want this country to work well in the world and for all our citizens and that no one person is either above the law or indispensable.”

T- “Well, then basically we agree! We may have to disagree on some of my ways and means. I have learned the hard way in my life that being a modest, moderate operator rarely works. That is why you probably think I am such a clown. People do not listen/hear you unless you can break through their outer shell of ignorance and/or bliss.”

F- “There may be an element of truth in what you say, but the frequency and way you do it, reduces your credibility with most people to the point that they stop taking you, and whatever you say, seriously.”

T- “If you are right, why would so many Americans still like me and support me?”

F-“You have to ask yourself who those folks are and why they have not yet abandoned you.”

T- “I have, and they are pretty much the same folks who ‘almost’ really elected me in 2016. And, they have not abandoned me because they still believe in me and what I am doing!”

F- “They may still believe your bullying and bluffing the Chinese will work because the evidence that it really is counterproductive takes time to become apparent as with the so called ‘J Curve’ in economics which shows that things often take two years to become apparent.”

T-“Your B.S. with fancy terms, like J-Curve, drives me and my supporters crazy. It is a good example of what your educational elitism has been doing to ruin the country.”

F- “It would help you and your Presidency if you read more and listened to your experts in economics and intelligence. They are not B.S.ing you. They are there to protect you and the country based on a lot of prior experience. For example, if you had listened to experts when you were in the real estate business, you probably could have avoided bankruptcy more than once, which had to have hurt you and your creditors badly.”

T- “There you go again with throwing dung at me for no good reason.”

F- “Call it whatever you like but denying reality simply to feel better about yourself is a very dangerous thing!” 

T- “What should I do to stop this ridiculous impeachment circus?”

F- “First, I would stop saying to TV cameras ‘when I am still President 12 years from now’. You know perfectly well that is –or should be—impossible! It scares people into fearing that are willing to burn the Constitution! Second, if I were you I would make a deal with Congress NOW while you still have some leverage left, to let you resign and avoid all further legal risks including Post-Presidency JAIL!”

T- “Why would any sane man do that?

F-“Who suggested you were sane?”

T-“How could I have accomplished what I have, if I were not sane.”

F- “History is replete with the accomplishments of madmen. Even Nixon managed to do it. And, he died a relatively satisfied man. If you’re thrown out of office, you will go down in history as one of the dumbest, sickest people ever!”

T- “I thought you were open and fair minded?”

F- “If you think about it for a minute, you will understand. If I were not fair, I would beg you to stay your course and go to jail for the rest of your life.”

T- “Thanks for coming in. My staff will take YOU directly to jail now. And I will see you there soon enough for both of us.”

What Makes An Impeachable Offense?

In the end, the public will determine Trump’s fate.

The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”


— U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4


The Constitution’s instructions on impeachment are curiously simple and vague [for a reason!?]. To the, presumably well-understood, offenses of treason and bribery, the text adds, “high crimes and misdemeanors” as grounds for impeachment. Any definitions, and indeed, the whole process of impeachment itself, are left to the House of Representatives – the sole holder of ‘impeachment’ authority.

The Senate – after conducting a trial based on the House’s Articles of Impeachment– votes up or down on the House’s Articles, all or some. But, the Senate cannot introduce articles on its own

Impeachment, then, is obviously more a political process than a criminal one.

Trump famously suggested, while running for President, that he could shoot a person dead on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single voter. Indeed, it appears that he thinks he could do so NOW and likely still would not be convicted today, even if impeached!

Considering our country’s limited experience on this subject, perhaps we should not be surprised at this situation. Bill Clinton’s ‘crimes’ were related to a sexual relationship with a White House intern. The House voted to impeach him shortly after the 1998 midterm elections, in which most of the public expressed little interest in the subject; the Senate acquittal quickly followed.

Andrew Johnson’s ‘crime’ related to a partisan difference of opinion about an appointment. In that case the House impeached and the Senate, by a single vote, acquitted.

Richard Nixon’s crimes were uncovered outside of the House’s impeachment process – largely by the media and the Senate Watergate Committee.  Nixon, seeing the writing on the wall as Republicans abandoned him after release of his White House tapes, resigned before the House voted on articles of impeachment.

Thus, in its entire 240+ years, our nation has witnessed two impeachments, no convictions, and one resignation in advance of a virtually certain impeachment and conviction. All of which leaves us with very little to go on into what might/should constitute the level of an impeachable offense.

It used to be believed that an “impeachable offense” was simply whatever the House found it to be. Now, it is becoming clear that the standard is whatever the PUBLIC thinks it should be. At this very moment, the public appears evenly divided on the question, largely along partisan lines (with independents reflecting the overall average). That suggests to many people now that with the election only a year away, impeachment perhaps now should be moot and left to the voters next year.

The House majority seems to feel strongly – along partisan lines — that considering the facts known at the moment, they still have a solemn duty to address the question and have now voted to proceed with their investigation into Articles of Impeachment.

According to today’s facts, impeachment will not result in conviction and removal unless and until a lot more independents and, more important, Republicans, begin to support the idea. If enough [?] abandon Trump, the resulting threat to continuing its majority might encourage enough Senate Republicans to do the same.

That won’t be easy. There is an increasing push among Republicans to simply concede the “substance” of Trump’s actions and assert that it still does not rise to the level warranting removal from office.

Perhaps the country needs to better understand the significance of Trump’s acts. Public hearings will help in that regard, with the televised testimony of obviously honorable people providing a counterweight to Republican dismissals of facts as well as efforts to stain the integrity of the witnesses to Trump’s corruption. 

And, any efforts to focus on the substance of Trump’s actions still fall into hard-to-explain (or relate to) aspects of Congressional appropriations, international diplomacy, and obscure right-wing conspiracy theories about foreign interference in the 2016 election. All of those are subjects which make ordinary peoples’ eyes glaze over in a stupor of disinterest. [Boring–Dad -boring was the mantra I heard, for example,  from my 15 year old son in 1978, as I answered his questions about what I did in the Commerce Department!}!! May be to him BUT challenging to me!

Here are some more down to earth ways to think about – and more important, talk about — Trump’s actions:

  • Worse than anything Nixon did. Watergate was, at its roots admittedly with hindsight, a modest infraction: a dirty tricks operation to enhance the President’s reelection prospects. There were other crimes along the way, to be sure, but it was the cover-up that ultimately did Nixon in. People today may not know the intricacies of Nixon’s many crimes, but there was widespread understanding that he was a corrupt and malign President who deserved to be run out of office. Remember Bob Dole’s famous comparison of Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Nixon? “See no evil, hear no evil – and evil.” That Nixon was bad might be the only political statement that still has a broad consensus in American society.  Putting Trump’s crimes in Nixonian terms should make them easier to grasp and emphasizes their severity.

  • What is he hiding? This boils down to a simple talking point: if he’s so innocent, why is he refusing to cooperate? Under the law, someone refusing legal orders to produce information may be presumed to be hiding something that would indicate his guilt. Trump must be guilty of something, or he would be more forthcoming. Trump was eager to share the ‘non-transcript’ of his July 25 call to the Ukrainian President, but now he’s stonewalling the real transcript. Why? As all TV commentators make clear, it is because there is something he doesn’t want you to know.

  • No person is above the law. Even the most red-blooded patriots of Trump’s vaunted base fervently believe this this point is basic to democracy. Trump, however, acts like he’s a king. In his view, he doesn’t have to follow any law or submit to any authority if he, in his “great and unmatched wisdom” [his words], deems the reason for such effrontery somehow illegitimate. – They are all totally illegitimate in his head.

Polling support for not only an impeachment inquiry, but removing Trump from office, has grown dramatically even though in recent weeks, America learned from Trump about his “perfect” call with the President of Ukraine. There is an inconsistency there that needs to be explored?

But the tipping point will never arrive unless and until a clear majority of independents, and a significant minority of Trump’s base, come to recognize that Trump has played them and the whole world for suckers.

Finally!!!

I THINK I’VE GOT IT!!!

For those of you who have read my blogs for a while, you know that I have long sought an answer to how it is possible that 40 percent of Americans do not seem to see the same Trump that the other 60 percent of Americans believe they see so clearly and unhappily.

FINALLY – I THINK I’VE GOT IT!

And, it turns out the answer is so simple that it is hard to understand how and why it took so long to find it.

The reality is that ‘the 40 percent’ see Trump just as clearly as everyone else. But, unlike ‘the other 60 percent’, they like what they see for essentially two basically overlapping and combined reasons.

Let me elaborate and explain that first.

Then, I will identify an antidote to be tried.

I do not want to swamp you with too much confusing data.   When you find it, and see it for yourself, you will be startled and really believe it.  

 I turns out that there is an amazing correlation in how those two different groups of people see Trump so differently based almost entirely on their level of education and their negative view of what government means in their lives.

Notwithstanding obvious sensitivities in illuminating touchy comparisons, it is statistically obvious that the overall educational level of the 40% is significantly below that of the 60%. And, the same 40% do not trust government in their lives, while the 60% recognize the necessity of government, even though 2/3 of them have no college education.

When you blend those two factors into an illustrative Venn diagram,

[see below]

the result is clear to see and recognize: 40% of the public are both undereducated and are enamored of a President who is disdainful of government, and who is unabashedly parading his ignorance on a daily basis as a rejoinder to those “elites” who surround him (and attempt to rein him in) as his supporters feel they are reined in as well. 

The 40% who seem to stick with Trump through thick and thin view him also as their ‘agent of change’, a norm-smashing embodiment of how they feel about the country!

The antidote to deal with this distorted vision of the real world is –you guessed it –more and better civics education. It hopefully can be used both to address today’s circumstances as well as a long-term restoration of democracy. It will not be simple, easy or quick.

Every institution in American needs to address their constituencies with civics lessons which failed to reach lots of people in their youth. It may seem lame to have to start over to educate the population. But, as it is a big part of the problem, there really is no other choice.

Trump’s support obviously isn’t universal anywhere. The “traditional” Republican view, focused on defense, foreign policy, and fiscal restraint, has little place in a Trump world. Many of those traditionalists today serve in the U.S. Congress, and it can still be hoped that enough of them will ultimately step up to their duty and support an impeachment that leads to Trump’s removal.

That must be done in terms simple and respectful enough that almost everyone can begin to realize that Trump’s anti-government postures and routines are intended to make Trump himself the only alternative.

Trump is sticking it to the ‘old guard’ not by standing up for “Joe Six-Pack” but by making government an extension of himself, for his personal benefit.

Of course, most of the 40% will eventually surely discover that Trump’s promises were largely empty, and ultimately, they will realize they had been cleverly suckered.

Until we address the gaping lack of understanding and embark on a massive civics’ education, America will continue to remain vulnerable to a next Trump, McCarthy, or P.T. Barnum selling their own brand of fakery at some point in the future.

Trump may be something of a mad genius to have seen and exploited the weakness in our democratic process, which is the emergence of a hunger for authoritarian control among a segment of the populace despairing of its fortunes in a swiftly changing world.

Yet, it seems to me more likely that he personally actually embodies [embraces?] the correlation, which reflects his worldview and behavior. His ignorance, of course, is famous, and he seemingly cherishes it? And, he’s made it very clear that he sees no value in government, except as a vehicle for his own glory and enrichment.

All he had to accomplish in the 2016 election –because Hillary Clinton was so flawed –was to sell himself to an audience already waiting to receive his message. Enough of them fell for him because he seemed so rich, powerful and popular on TV. Wait until they see his tax returns!

Now, that the source of the 60/40 conundrum seems much clearer, our challenge is to enlarge and sharpen the big picture clearly enough, so that it might be seen by all for what it really is!

While that is happening, we have a decent chance again for clear sailing into a democratic future!

The World Is Evanescent

AT LEAST IT SEEMS THAT WAY

Have you ever noticed the scenery you pass on the way to work and wondered what that scene looked like 100 years before and what it might look like 100 years ahead?

I hadn’t until recently, but as I am now 88 years old I have begun to wonder why we humans take our selves so seriously, while our eyes and minds still work, when we should realize that it is we who are evanescent, while the world around us persists through millennia?

There are many dimensions of this phenomenon. Some are purely psychological; some are physiological; and some are structural and geographical.

The psychological range from the eyes of a ten-year-old to those of a 90-year-old. The kid may be awed, inspired and impressed. The 90-year-old may be bored, depressed or resigned.

The physiological range from how the world we live in shapes our lives, limits our functions and/or inspires our creativity.

And the geographical dimensions effects transportation, speed and density.

The role of us humans in dealing with all that our predecessors created before us – and we inevitably leave for our successors – is distorted by our collective egos telling us that the world we live in is all about us – not what surrounds us.

The deconstruction of our relationship with the physical world we live in perhaps is too abstract for understanding and helping our everyday living. Yet, it may help some of us figure out better how to use our remaining time on this planet.

Every human who ever lived must in some way, to some degree, have hoped to be happy, comfortable, free, liked, loved and respected. There are probably almost as many ways for that formula to be applied as there are people and it is largely an unconscious process.

Now that the time left to me before I cease to see, the fixed world seems even more important than it did before.

Some may have phantasies of taking dire steps to change the course of history, which could shorten their time alive. But, the odds of being successful are far too slim to justify the risk.

Therefore, all that remains for us old geezers is to keep on trying trying to explain better to our successors how it should be possible to ‘lay down all our arms’ and grip our hands more in friendship, than any effort to throw them for a loss at this moment.

When enough humans genuinely begin trying together to make our world a better place, we should have seen enough success to warrant more trying!

The Two-Trick Pony

HE HAS RUN OUT OF TRICKS?

Donald Trump has an exceedingly simple playbook as President. His two tricks are [1] control over tariffs and penalties and [2] hiring and firing Presidential appointees. As his recent misadventures in foreign policy illustrate, we should probably be grateful that he’s up to now been willing to limit his tricks to the first two.

When it comes to tariffs and trade, bluffing may work once or twice. Being the real estate tycoon, he claims to be, Trump obviously uses this trick because he can exert complete control and try to ‘scare’ other countries into playing the game his way. But, once his bluff is called—as it now has been by China—that game is finished.

Presidential appointments famously serve “at the pleasure of the President.” But, when Trump recently fired a 30-year professional woman Ambassador without any visible cause, the world spoke out. So that trick is over as well.

There are a few other so-called ploys like distraction, obfuscation and simple confusion. Those are the everyday running plays, that do not rise to the level tricks. But they do throw up a lot of dust.

So, what is left in Trump’s play book?

Throwing out the whole rule book entirely! I will grant that the Constitution is old, creaky and out of date. But Trump makes the case to ignore it by simply asserting that impeachment is illegal because it seeks to undo a legal election. No kidding! Indeed that is what it is supposed to be able to do!

He is said not to read much. Perhaps someone should risk their job by suggesting to him that he read the Constitution!

The almost daily disclosures of new examples of Trump’s abuse of power, and his own very public unraveling in the face of growing public support for impeachment and disgruntled Republicans in Congress, suggest that Trump is going to need a new trick: magically making himself disappear.

The alternative will be certain removal from office at the hands of either Congress or voters, with the additional likelihood of jail time in his post-Presidential career.