It is the midst of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere…right now forecasters are forecasting their asses off about a major ice storm aimed at a hunk of the South. The days are still comparatively short, and with the cold weather that has accompanied a lot of rain in our part of the world (is the drought over yet?) I am not alone in looking for more indoor distractions until golf weather returns.
But, please God, not this: American journalism outlets and associated information-providing avenues, would ya stand down on the perpetualization of the campaign for president of the United States! Stop with the assumption that there is nothing more important to talk about, nothing so critical for me to know about, than who is favored and disfavored by people responding to public opinion polls. Even if those people are telling the pollsters the truth, who cares right now?! So much can happen in the months and months before anyone casts a meaningful ballot that these results are pointless; they only serve to keep funds flowing to the political-industrial complex.
It is too early. It is soooo tiresome. Even the primaries and caucuses that happen more than six months before the general election aren’t helpful in learning about candidates. The whole thing has become a proxy for the on-going national food fight on “cultural issues” (that really aren’t even about culture) and not about administering government operations or even on providing leadership on issues.
And, at this point a year away from the first voters voting in the next national election, what you are telling us has proved to be, so often, so very wrong. In Politico, Jeff Greenfield reminds us that in most recent years the “favorites” at this point do not win the contest. You remember Howard Dean trouncing John Kerry in 2004, right? And 2008, when Rudy Giuliani blew away John McCain while Hillary Clinton obliterated that senator from Illinois with the big ears?
The point here is not to argue for a vow of journalistic silence in the long slog leading up to the actual contests; it’s to put that part of the process into context, along with a serious dose of humility. Yes, Trump looks weakened, but are we really ready to anoint Ron DeSantis the nominee before he proves himself on the big stage? Yes, Biden is an octogenarian whose approval rating has been underwater since August 2021, but is anyone in his party really about to challenge his hold on the White House?
If you need something civic to worry about, worry about the government debt ceiling and the on-going budget deficits; give some thought to how our country can help our allies stifle threats from Russia and China; consider the real causes for and possible humane solutions to the humanitarian crisis at our southern border and the budget crisis it’s created for federal and state governments. You could engage in the speculation about which team will win the Super Bowl or who will be selected as the next head coach of your favorite NFL team. You could even talk to your friends about who will win The Bachelor, but please promise to do that verrry quietly so the rest of us can’t hear you. But please leave the next race for president alone for now.
The House January 6 committee’s investigation has produced all the evidence that should be needed to send a former president to jail. (Who would have believed we’d ever come to that point in this country?) Testimony from Republicans – from people who willingly and eagerly worked for the former guy, yet also valued their own good names and reputations and the importance of truthfulness under oath – makes it unavoidably plain, to any clear-eyed person able to honestly evaluate the evidence, what happened.
Before the election was even held and before anyone had been able to count any votes, Donald Trump laid the groundwork for his con by asserting that any election he might lose would of necessity be fraudulent, and his hangers-on assembled baseless “legal” theories to advance the story that Trump was a victim…that all Americans and patriots were victims of Democrats and progressives and America-haters, that the people whom they had let themselves believe were pedophiles and socialists and opponents of fascism and Trump-haters had stolen their country.
As the votes were being counted the Trumpers pursued dozens of cases in court – in many cases, shopping for Trump-appointed judges they expected would be willing to do anything to please “Mr. Trump” – and they lost, over and over and over again, the judges all finding that there was no basis for the complaints and no evidence to prove them. There was not, and still is not, evidence to prove that there was fraud committed in the 2020 general election for president that was significant enough to change the outcome. Hence, no reason to rise up in rebellion. Still, the crybaby con man refused to accede to reality, despite the efforts from family and friends and staff and lawyers and insightful bloggers that he man up and do the right thing: peacefully stand aside for his lawfully-elected successor as president, as American law and tradition have held for more than 225 years.
Trump encouraged supporters to organize a rally in Washington on the day Congress was to certify his defeat, where they could stage a demonstration that appealed to his overweening sense of himself, his unshakeable narcissistic belief in the grandeur of him! After all, who else but Trump could engender such devotion from the suckers and losers he so detested, that these proud Americans would stage an armed assault on the seat of their own government on his behalf?
Again today there was an air of disbelief from committee members who told the part of the story about how Trump never made any effort to stop this attack on America – never called on any law enforcement assets or federal agencies to defend the Capitol, never issued a call to his supporters to straighten up and go home. Are we surprised at that, really? I’ve got a clear picture in mind of him glued to TV and patting himself on the back in the realization that this plan that was so crazy it just might work…was working! Until it wasn’t, I guess…until enough supporters on the outside looking in, and enough members of Congress on the inside looking out and pleading for help, gained the critical mass to convince even the Great and Powerful Trump that the jig was up. Even then he couldn’t make himself admit to being in error: he professed his love for these “special” Americans who were at that moment still committing treason and gleefully sharing the incriminating evidence of their crimes on social media. Geniuses.
Any list of his questionable behavior since his return to private life – since his big boy pout of “snubbing” Joe Biden’s inauguration – is irrelevant to the possible criminal charges of inciting or assisting an insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and conspiracy to make a false statement that arise from the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (Perhaps another time.) I applaud the committee’s recognition that others in government played a role in Jan. 6 that should not be ignored: kudos for the Ethics Committee referrals against House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP members Jim Jordan, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs for (like Trump) refusing to comply with committee subpoenas. You can’t just thumb your nose at a Congressional committee and expect there to be no consequences.
Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve had ample evidence of Trump’s…shall we say, wrongdoing; Congress made history when it twice impeached him for high crimes and misdemeanors. Well, Democrats in Congress did that; the feckless Republicans succumbed to a partisan effort to protect their own – a president of their own party, and more crucially their own jobs and power from the electoral annihilation they expected they would suffer from their MAGA constituents. The Republican leadership of the incoming Congress will be powerless to stop this disbanding select committee’s work or the publication of its findings. It’s up to the Justice Department now to do something about protecting the integrity of our democracy from those who think the laws do not apply to them.
Twenty years fighting a war in Afghanistan, and what did we come away with? The head of Osama bin Laden…and we threw that in the ocean.
The start of this war was clear cut. America was attacked by Al Qaeda and we went to Afghanistan to get the people who were responsible. Twenty years and four presidents ago. It took almost ten years to finally kill bin Laden (Mission Accomplished!) but we did it. And then…we didn’t come home. We had pushed out the Taliban and installed a new government, and we tried to train the people to govern themselves and to defend themselves. But the killing never stopped, the government never worked, and the Afghan army was a sad joke. Twenty years later the Taliban is back in charge, and look what we’ve left behind in weapons they now control, even after all the deaths we’ve sustained and the trillions of dollars we spent.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” said Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command. “No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served.”
More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians died in the 20-year war, in addition to tens of thousands of casualties among U.S. contractors, the Afghan military and national police, insurgents and others, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University.
The U.S. military succeeded in evacuating more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan in recent weeks, American citizens and others who feared staying under Taliban rule. Quite an achievement, really; unfortunately, there are another few hundred they couldn’t get out before the deadline. Let’s wish them all luck in finally escaping.
I’ve got no issue with why we went to war in Afghanistan, nor with the decision to end the war despite the messy nature of things. I give President Biden credit for closing this down, despite the complaints.
He is under heavy criticism, particularly from Republicans, for his handling of the evacuation. But he said it was inevitable that the final departure from two decades of war, first negotiated with the Taliban for May 1 by former President Donald Trump, would have been difficult with likely violence, no matter when it was planned and conducted.
“To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, ‘What is the vital national interest?’” Biden said. He added, “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan.”
If only our government had learned that lesson ten years ago, after we made good on the real reason we went there in the first place.
You’d have thought that two months would have been plenty of time. Time for Americans to take a calming breath, relax a bit, and let the radicalization of thought and action spurred by “the former guy” just naturally subside. Time for passions to cool. Time for the recognition of fact versus fiction.
Four years of cognitive dissonance generated by the primary source of fake news in our lives reached its crescendo in early January when thousands of people claiming to hold an unwavering belief in law and order ignored the provable facts and attacked the seat of government of the country they swore they loved. Hundreds of law enforcement officers were injured by the “patriots” who took the law into their own hands that day and tried to overturn the results of a free and fair election because they didn’t like the result.
The man impeached for inspiring that assault has left office, but the “the crazy” is still in the house. He wasn’t the cause, it turns out; just a catalyst.
They took advantage of having a mainstream leader—it don’t get any mainstreamer than the White House—who was willing to support their radical beliefs to force a massive change in the course of American society. For four years, it was working. They didn’t count on Dear Leader being so thoroughly self-absorbed and delusional that he refused to lead the country against the ravages of a global pandemic, a failure which generated enough antagonism that it inspired the record voter turnout that caused his defeat.
MAGA nation has always been there; it came out of the shadows in 2016, and it’s not done.
Many Republicans across the country acknowledge that they have a problem: there are too many Americans who have not drunk the kool-aid and are not voting for Republicans. So they are taking action to make it harder for those people to vote at all.
More than 250 bills have been introduced in 43 states that would change how Americans vote, according to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, which backs expanded voting access. That includes measures that would limit mail voting, cut hours that polling places are open and impose restrictions that Democrats argue amount to the greatest assault on voting rights since Jim Crow.
Among other things, the law requires a photo ID in order to vote absentee by mail, after more than 1.3 million Georgia voters used that option during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.
Democrats and voting rights groups say the law will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. It is part of a wave of GOP-backed election bills introduced in states around the nation after former President Trump stoked false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat.
The effort in Georgia and elsewhere—including my state of Texas, sad to say—are marketed as laws designed to provide greater ballot security and give voters reassurance about the integrity of election outcomes. This presupposes your belief in the old GOP chestnut that elections now are not secure and that the outcomes are not legitimate. Which, of course, is untrue—look at the literally dozens of lawsuits pursued across the country by Republicans trying to change the outcome of the presidential race last year, which could not prove voter fraud sufficient to have changed any results. No one can reasonably argue that there is no election fraud, ever, anywhere, but there has never been evidence of the kind of massive voter fraud—ever, anywhere—that Republicans falsely assert as reason to make voting harder. Even to the extent, in Georgia, of making it illegal to give a bottle of water to anyone waiting in line to vote.
Republicans who recognize actual truth understand this: their party controls the legislatures in 30 of the 50 states, and thus the redistricting process in those states, which goes a long way to perpetuate their electoral strength in legislative and congressional elections despite their national weakness. (Democrats redistrict to their own benefit, of course, but they don’t have as many opportunities.) In the 2020 election for president, 84.1 million Americans voted for someone other than the Republican incumbent, and another 80.8 million Americans didn’t vote at all, so nearly 70% of Americans who are eligible to vote turned thumbs down at another four years of Republican control of the White House. In an election where more Americans voted than ever voted before, less than one-third of Americans voted Republican at the top of the ballot. If Republicans want to hold on to power, they know they had better use their majorities while they still have them.
So must the Democrats in Congress. The For the People Act, passed by the House of Representatives and awaiting action in the Senate, is an effort to negate the Republican attempts to make voting more difficult: it would expand voting rights, and limit gerrymandering, and take precedence in these areas over any laws passed in the states. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives seem intent on amusing us with their crying and whining. The party that used to be all about personal responsibility can’t shut up about being the victims of cancel culture when they get caught doing the very things for which they criticize others.
After two days of consideration, and some moping, I’ve determined that I am disappointed with the final vote by the Senate in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, especially since they were so close to calling witnesses who might have provided evidence that could have won over enough votes to convict him of the charges.
I got up early (for a Saturday) to watch the closing arguments, and even though Mitch McConnell had emailed that he would vote to acquit I was happy to learn that there was a chance that witnesses would be called to testify. As someone who believes Trump’s illegal and un-American behavior deserves whatever punishment is available, I began dreaming—calling witnesses was going to increase the chances that something would happen that would persuade more senators to convict Trump. It might be the only way to get Republicans who were hell bent on protecting Trump—or who at least wanted to look like they were protecting Trump, in order to insulate themselves from the anger of Trump nation—into a position in which they could vote their real conscience. Deep down, where everyone knows that Trump is a menace. Even Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz.
Raskin is right: "there’s no reasoning with people who basically are acting like members of a religious cult and when they leave office should be selling flowers at Dulles Airport.” Anyone who pretends that ANYTHING done at this trial would have flipped votes can be ignored.
Although disappointed in the verdict, I am not surprised by it. Because this is not a movie. In fiction, without a doubt, there would have been a surprise speech from some Republican senator that clearly and persuasively and emotionally laid the blame for inciting the attack on Congress on Trump, not just for his speech on the Ellipse that day but for the months of blatant lies inflaming his supporters into thinking a nefarious force was stealing the election. Something like this, right up until the “but…”
Is McConnell reading the wrong speech? This is an excellent case to convict. This may be the most astonishing case of having it both ways I have ever witnessed in politics.
Of course, there was a nefarious force at work…it was Trump.
I can’t comprehend how or why people believed Trump’s warning that an election that had not yet happened had already been rigged. Not that Trump doesn’t have a high enough opinion of himself to make the claim that the only way he could lose would be through theft, but I still don’t get how so many Americans would accept this transparently self-serving claim as true—before the first vote was even cast, and with no offer of proof for how it would happen. After all the opposition to Trump’s policies and his actions that had developed over the years, why was it hard to believe that a lot of people wouldn’t want him to be president any more? You didn’t have to agree with those people to be honest enough with yourself to see that they were there, and they were going to vote for someone else.
The election came, and he did lose, and he bored right in with the lie. There was no evidence of widespread fraud. Court after court after court (after court) rejected literally dozens of legal claims. Right through the recounts and the canvasses in state after state, right through the certification of electoral votes in all fifty states, the lying persisted. These men and women who believed themselves patriots—the only real Americans left—convinced themselves that Trump was right, that taking up arms against their own government was the patriotic thing to do. They were so entrenched in the delusion that they even photo-documented themselves committing the crime, unburdened by any concern for their own legal culpability. Hundreds of them are now aware of just what a mistake that was.
The case against Trump presented by the House managers left any honest audience little wiggle room in concluding that Trump committed an impeachable offense: encouraging an armed assault against the United States Capitol and its defenders, the members of the legislative branch of government, and his own vice president. The smoking gun was right there in Trump’s tiny hand: even if you accept the argument that he meant it when told his supporters that day to make a peaceful protest, you have to explain why, for hours after the violence began, he did nothing to try to stop it. Didn’t get on TV and call on them to stop. Didn’t Tweet at them, telling them to stop. Didn’t call in the National Guard, or any other law enforcement to assist the Capitol police. Did nothing to restore law and order. *
A majority of the U.S. Senate voted that Trump is guilty of the charge, but not the two-thirds of members present that the Constitution requires. Today the Houston Chronicle editorial board praised those seven Republicans senators who braved the backlash sure to come by voting to convict based on the compelling evidence presented in the trial. As for the others:
Their colleagues who voted to acquit either averted their eyes from the glaring evidence or cowered behind strained legal arguments. History will judge them, but the American people need not wait. We bore witness to the assault on our nation’s Capitol and the evidence presented in trial.
We will not forget Trump’s crimes or the failure of most in his party to hold him accountable. Senators failed to show the same kind of courage that Republican state officials did as they resisted the former president’s pressure to overturn an election.
They failed to put their duty to safeguard democracy above partisan allegiance. They took no strength from former Vice President Mike Pence, who rebuffed calls to interfere in the Electoral College certification process, or from former Attorney General Bill Barr, who investigated allegations of voter fraud and, finding no evidence, chose to resign rather than perpetuate Trump’s false claims.
They failed to honor the bravery of the officers who risked their lives to prevent further carnage, including Capitol officer Brian D. Sicknick who was killed and the almost 140 officers who were bruised, bloodied and bashed by a mob wielding bats and flag poles.
Perhaps the starkest profile in cowardice belongs to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for voting to acquit and then delivering a damning speech proving he knew better. McConnell declared Trump “practically and morally” responsible for the Capitol riot but relied on a questionable legal interpretation to claim the Senate lacked the power to hold a former president accountable. Then he tried to pass blame on the House for delays when he himself blocked the Senate from starting the trial while Trump was still in office.
Such excuses, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s claim that Democrats were being “unnecessarily vindictive” in pursuing impeachment, aren’t fooling anybody who’s been paying attention.
So, disappointed…but not discouraged. Not yet. The verdict of the U.S. Senate does not protect Trump from the criminal justice system, which can still prosecute him for his actions in regard to the attack on the Capitol just as it can for his attempts in Georgia and elsewhere to pressure local officials to commit election fraud. Not to mention the civil and criminal investigations in New York and elsewhere, which get the feel of being too much to remember, so thanks to George Conway for bothering to write it down.
This is a criminal case now. Criminal law expert @COFinkelstein and I discuss here how witnesses can prove Trump guilty of incitement of insurrection and conspiracy. Where the Senate failed, a prosecutor can succeed.https://t.co/tImeGrJm00
Trump faces massive civil liability atop everything else. And at every trial for everyone hurt by Trump's wrongdoing, the attorneys for the harmed can play video of the Republican leader in the Senate pronouncing Trump "practically and morally responsible" https://t.co/qAFwFSjiIX
…a diverse and able group of prosecutors laid out an indelible record not only of what happened on Jan. 6 and why, but also Trump’s irresponsibility throughout his term of office: his courting of the violent far right; his celebration of violence; his habit of privileging himself and his own interests over everything and everyone else, including his unrequitedly loyal vice president.
This record matters. We often like to pretend that we can move on and forget the past. But our judgments about the past inevitably shape our future. Every political era is, in part, a reaction to the failures — perceived and real — of the previous one. The Hoover-Coolidge Republicans loomed large for two generations of Democrats. Ronald Reagan built a thriving movement by calling out what he successfully cast as the sins of liberalism.
By tying themselves to Trump with their votes, most House and Senate Republicans made themselves complicit in his behavior. And Trump will prove to be even more of an albatross than Hoover, who, after all, had a moral core.
It’s a sign of how far and how fast the ex-president has fallen that opponents of impeachment rationalized their votes by saying, as McConnell did, that Trump must still confront the “criminal justice system” and “civil litigation.” You’re in trouble when your would-be friends are saying you should be prosecuted rather than impeached.
All of which strengthens the hand of a president whose central campaign theme was a warning against the threat that Trump posed to democracy itself. A bipartisan majority of 57 senators and 232 House members has now declared that Joe Biden was right.
Here’s some of what Joe Biden had to say, standing in front of the Capitol two weeks after Trump’s mob tried to steal an election and subvert our system of government.
Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.
To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.
I ask every American to join me in this cause.
Uniting to fight the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness. With unity we can do great things. Important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice. We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.
Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial. Victory is never assured.
Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward. And, we can do so now. History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.
And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.
My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And, I believe America is better than this.
This is a time of testing. We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities. Now we must step up. All of us.
* EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to remove a referenced Tweet which claimed Trump and his family watched the attack on the Capitol from a party tent on the White House lawn. That was not correct; the Poynter Tweet below explains the error. HIPRB regrets the error.