Friday Talking Points -- My Impeachment Reactions So Far

[ Posted Friday, January 24th, 2020 – 18:19 UTC ]

Since there's really only one story this week, we're going to totally forgo our usual format here and instead share our thoughts on the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the United States Senate. Other things happened in the world of politics this week, but they all pale in comparison to the constitutional theater playing out live on television for seemingly-unending hours. We're even going to forgo our much-beloved editorial "we" this week, to better focus on our personal reaction to the third-ever presidential impeachment trial in our history.


The mechanics of an impeachment trial

I must admit, I haven't watched every single hour of it, although to my credit I did make it through all of the televised House testimony from beginning to end. The trial is a rehash of what was learned in those hearings, assembled in storyline fashion and complete with all the relevant video clips from the hearings. The House managers are spending 24 hours over three days on what in a criminal trial would merely be the opening statement from the prosecution. The president's team of lawyers will then have the same 24 hours over three days to present the defense's opening argument.

Unlike in a criminal trial, however, what happens next is that the senators will have two days to ask questions of both sides. Questions must be submitted in writing, and will be read by the chief justice, who is presiding over the trial. The senators are often called "the jury" but in reality they also have much of the power of judges as well.

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Sanders Surging? Expect Incoming

[ Posted Thursday, January 23rd, 2020 – 18:21 UTC ]

Once again, today I prefer to focus on the Democratic primary race rather than on the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. I'm saving up all my impeachment commentary for Friday, so you'll have to wait another day for that. Just wanted to be clear about this, up front.

Over the past two weeks, I've been watching the Democratic presidential polls to see if any significant changes could be ascertained after the most recent debate. It's still too early to draw firm conclusions, but at this point in time it seems that Bernie Sanders had a great debate, Joe Biden's was pretty good, and nobody else moved the needle -- except Michael Bloomberg, who wasn't even at the debate. As I said, it is still too early to tell if this "Bernie bump" (or maybe "Sanders surge"?) is going to be real or wind up being just a few outliers which happened to arrive at the same time.

But before we get to analyzing the numbers, the reason why this is interesting even if it proves to be illusory is that ours will not be the only eyes taking note of this trend indicator. You can bet your bottom dollar that everyone on all the other Democratic campaigns is also paying close attention. Which is why the conclusion we're going to draw will probably prove to be true even if the Sanders surge never actually manifests itself fully. Because there's not a lot of time before Iowa and New Hampshire vote, meaning the other campaigns are going to react by painting as big a target on Bernie as they possibly can. Nothing terrifies a campaign like the news that one of your competitors is experiencing that sought-after "late-breaking surge." Such surges can turn into wildly unexpected results on Election Day, even though there's no guarantee of it happening. Which is why I fully expect the anti-Bernie onslaught to begin in earnest very soon now. But more on the implications for the next few weeks in a moment. Let's first take a look at the three points of data that recently came out.

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Media Missing The Point In Democratic Squabbles

[ Posted Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 – 17:35 UTC ]

As the Iowa caucuses draw nearer and nearer, the Democratic presidential candidates are getting a little sharper-edged towards each other, it seems. I say "it seems" because all I know of the dustups is what I read in the media, and they're an often-inaccurate judge of what is really going on. The candidates might have been this sharp all along and it is only now that the media has noticed, to give just one example of how they might be misleading us. But whether new or just the media's current obsession, the attacks flying between the candidates (and former candidates, now) are all being covered with breathless glee.

That's fine and good, because it really is just par for the course. This is a primary race, and not a feel-good yoga session, after all. Like The Highlander, in the end there can only be one. This means everyone else has to lose the race, and none of them want that to happen to them. So of course they're competing hard for voter support. However, what truly annoys me is the almost-total media focus on personality instead of paying attention to what will prove to be more important when we get to the general election: the actual or perceived substance of these attacks.

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What Iowa And New Hampshire Might Mean For The Democratic Field

[ Posted Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 – 19:05 UTC ]

Today is the first day of the impeachment trial, some of which I watched earlier. However, nothing of any real note will happen today as the whole debate currently is over the rules the Senate will agree to for the trial itself -- and Mitch McConnell seems to have the GOP votes locked down to push through his own version of the rules. Notably, these will not be as stringent as he initially proposed, but that victory apparently came from pushback from within his own party, not from Democrats. In any case, we'll have plenty of time in the coming days to discuss the trial, so today instead I decided to take a look at what Iowa and New Hampshire will mean for the leading Democratic presidential candidates instead.

As many have already noted, four candidates for president will be absent from the campaign trail until after the trial concludes: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet. The first three of those have an actual shot at the nomination, which could give the other two frontrunners (Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg) a clear advantage in the final days before Iowa and, perhaps, New Hampshire vote (depending on how long the trial lasts).

How this affects the results is anyone's guess, but then again what those results may be is also anyone's guess. The final debate before the first votes are cast was held last week, but there hasn't been much polling on either the state or the national level since then, so it's hard to tell if it had any real impact or not.

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King Was A Radical

[ Posted Monday, January 20th, 2020 – 18:13 UTC ]

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior was a radical, which is oft forgotten in all the praise we heap upon him on his birthday. The reason it gets overlooked so frequently is that we'll all hear miniature clips of King today which highlight the positive aspects of his agenda and his movement while editing out all the harder edges of what he had to say. He was non-violent, to be true, but radical does not equate to violent. Most people think of the two as interlinked, but they're not. Dr. King preached non-violent radicalism.

King called not just for racial equality, but he also called for economic equality as well. His economic ideas were somewhat to the left of Bernie Sanders, in fact. Andrew Yang likes to remind people that King was for Universal Basic Income, and he's right to do so. King called for a guaranteed job for everyone who could work, which was one portion of the Green New Deal that drew derision and scorn from its detractors.

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Friday Talking Points -- Republican Senators Prepare To Violate A Sworn Oath

[ Posted Friday, January 17th, 2020 – 17:46 UTC ]

This week, for the third time in American history, the Senate began the impeachment trial of a sitting United States president. As Nancy Pelosi helpfully pointed out, that is forever and will never be erased. Trump still bizarrely believes that somehow this is all just going to go away, but we've crossed that Rubicon now.

The most amusing thing (of a number of amusing things about the impeachapalooza circus) is how the Republicans have made "doublethink" their mantra. With this president, it's almost necessary, we suppose, but it's still hilarious to us to now hear Senate Republicans argue until they are blue in the face why they can't possibly hear from witnesses after listening to Trump and his minions argue for months on end why they should hear from witnesses. It's also doublethink of the purest order to hear them now state that those with personal first-hand knowledge of what was done and said cannot possibly testify -- after arguing for months and months and months that "this is hearsay -- it's only second-hand!" But then that's life in the GOP under Trump, one supposes. They've now moved on to arguing that the witnesses should have testified before the House committees, which conveniently ignores how Trump barred them all from doing so and all the same Republicans backed him up. Just another fun day in Trumpland.

This doublethink continued this week, as every sitting senator (except the one who was absent due to a family medical emergency) swore a solemn oath to be an impartial juror -- an oath that several Republicans have already publicly promised to utterly disregard. Because, you know, all that business about being for law and order and all that tut-tutting over the sins of "moral relativism" is so 1990s.

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Lightbulbs And Dishwashers And Toilets, Oh My!

[ Posted Thursday, January 16th, 2020 – 17:43 UTC ]

I have to begin with an apology to The Wizard Of Oz for that title. But somehow it seemed appropriate in the latest of the so-called "culture wars." Because I think most everyone is missing the point about Donald Trump's newfound focus on household appliances.

I've seen articles ridiculing Trump for talking about lightbulbs and dishwashers and toilets (and showers, but somehow they don't get the headlines as much as the other three) and heard plenty of late-night jokes from the comedians. And on one level it is admittedly not just funny but downright pathetic to hear the leader of our nation obsessing over bathroom fixtures. It's an easy punchline, especially because Trump himself has shown he just doesn't understand the basics of pretty much anything he's talking about. Flushing a toilet ten times? Opening a dishwasher while it is running? He obviously has never operated a dishwasher in his life, and it shows. To say nothing of what he's doing to his toilets, but let's ignore that one for decency's sake. So hearing him opine about the troubles of housewives and househusbands is certainly grist for the comedy mill. But all of this focus on the silliness of Trump's delivery misses the point.

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Two Amusing/Horrifying Suggestions To Update The Debate Format

[ Posted Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 – 17:44 UTC ]

While reading everyone else's take on last night's debate, I came across an interesting idea. Actually, two of them, but they're closely related, both being suggestions for how the debate format might be changed from what we saw last night to improve it for everyone. The first suggestion was an incremental one: since there are now fewer candidates, give each of them longer answer segments -- anywhere from two to five minutes. That makes a lot of sense now that there are only six of them on stage. But the reaction that really spurred my thinking came from Larry Sabato, who wrote in Politico the following suggestion:

Now that the D.N.C. has managed to reduce the field dramatically, can we please do away with this awful format? Instead, have the candidates sit at a roundtable with a moderator whose sole job is to introduce topics and equalize time. Let the candidates take it from there.

This goes further than the other suggestion, and it also makes a lot of sense. We're down to the frontrunners (or "near-frontrunners"), so let them speak! Get rid of the formalized podium setting and have them all sit around a table with just one moderator, who would prompt discussion and occasionally keep the peace. That would indeed allow for more substantive discussion of both the issues and the candidates' differences.

This got me thinking creatively about other ways to improve the debates, and I came up with two of my own suggestions, which can either be read as tongue-in-cheek or perfectly serious, depending on whether you choose to be amused or horrified by these ideas. Ready? Here's the first one:

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Snap Reactions To The Seventh Democratic Debate

[ Posted Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 – 00:12 UTC ]

To use a sports metaphor, we're right at the end of the pre-season and about to start the actual games that count. Tonight was the last presidential debate between the Democratic candidates before Iowa votes in its caucuses. From now on, in each subsequent debate, we'll know not just who is up in the public opinion polling, but who has done better at the actual polls, where voters cast their ballots for the Democratic nomination.

Tonight's debate was the smallest yet, as only the top six candidates qualified. In order of their current poll standings, we had: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, and Amy Klobuchar. I was a little surprised that Steyer ranked above Klobuchar (mostly because he almost didn't qualify for tonight), but he's recently seen a surge in state-level polling due to running ads in states the other candidates have been ignoring, so I suppose that's what put him above Klobuchar.

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Warren-Sanders Spat Wildly Overblown

[ Posted Monday, January 13th, 2020 – 18:21 UTC ]

As you may have heard, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are now locked in a political deathmatch, trading body blows and viciously attacking each other. Except for the fact that this isn't really true, of course. But the media loves confrontation, so when there isn't much to work with, they just hype the heck out of whatever thin reeds they have available.

Excuse me for being snarky, but this sort of thing just kind of brings it out in me. I have firm beliefs about primary races in general, and my biggest disappointment (which usually comes true every four years like clockwork) is when Democrats don't attack each other strongly enough. But that needs a qualification, because mere attacks for the sake of attacking aren't what I'm talking about.

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