Obama Was Wrong

[ Posted Friday, June 24th, 2022 – 15:53 UTC ]

[Program Note: Today, I simply couldn't bring myself to review the past week as usual here, so instead of the normal Friday Talking Points column all I have to offer is a rant. Hopefully by next week -- especially since there will be no House Select Committee hearings to watch -- this column will return to its normal format, but today I just couldn't. I had a few things to get off my chest, instead.]


Barack Obama created many memorable soundbites and campaign slogans, but one of the best-remembered is (as he phrased it in a tweet): "There are no red states or blue states, just the United States." This call for unity in politics was generally well-received, since it spoke to (as another former president once put it) "the better angels of our nature."

But what is becoming more and more obvious is how wrong Obama got this. His words sound blissfully naive, at this point. Because we are devolving further into the Divided States of America, seemingly with every passing day. Today's Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade is merely another milestone on this grim journey.

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The House January 6th Select Committee Hearings [Episode 5]

[ Posted Thursday, June 23rd, 2022 – 18:56 UTC ]

Today saw the final June hearing of the House Select Committee on January 6th. Next week, Congress scarpers off on one of their many two-week holiday breaks, ostensibly for the July 4th holiday, so we won't be getting another of these hearings until the week of July 11th, at the earliest. But the committee does indeed plan to hold more public hearings, although they continue to hold their cards very close to the vest on exactly how many such hearings will take place, as well as the subject of any of the upcoming hearings. Perhaps this is done to build tension and interest among the public, or perhaps it is just because they are now reportedly being flooded with new information and new testimony, all offered up since the beginning of the public hearings earlier this month.

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Prosecute The Fake Electors

[ Posted Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022 – 15:19 UTC ]

Donald Trump's Big Lie wasn't just a political ploy. Parts of it were criminal, because people (including Trump himself) didn't just theorize or promote the falsehood that the election had been somehow "stolen" from Trump, they acted on it. And -- the violence of January 6th aside -- some of those actions were indeed criminal. The most obvious was the fact that in seven states groups of Republicans took it upon themselves to proclaim themselves the rightful slate of electors to the Electoral College, and they tried to foist this fraudulent proclamation upon the rest of the country. That is election fraud, and every single participant in this scheme should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law -- if only to deter others from doing anything like it in the future.

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The House January 6th Select Committee Hearings [Episode 4]

[ Posted Tuesday, June 21st, 2022 – 17:44 UTC ]

Today was the fourth in the series of June hearings televised by the House Select Committee, and it turned out to be one of the most effective yet. The emotional tension in the room started somber but built into outrage and fear at the end. The subject at hand today was Donald Trump and his henchmen attempting to interfere in the election process at the state level, the illegal scheme to create out of whole cloth fake slates of electors, and the impact all of this had upon the people who stood firmly for the United States Constitution and the rule of law.

While the first three witnesses -- all Republican state officials at the time -- outlined exactly what the president and his "legal team" were trying to strongarm them into doing, the final witness stood in for the thousands of elections officials across the country that in one way or another have had their lives impacted for the worse as a direct result of Trump's Big Lie. She (and the others) gave powerful testimony as to the personal toll it has taken upon her and her entire family.

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Republican-On-Republican Violence

[ Posted Monday, June 20th, 2022 – 14:56 UTC ]

In the past, whenever I have used that title phrase, it has always been tongue-in-cheek -- as a hyperbolic metaphor, in other words. Other close cousins to it would be: "A GOP circular firing squad," or "Republicans eating their own." Neither of those was ever meant literally either, obviously. They were all merely used to dramatize intraparty GOP power struggles, or one Republican getting ostracized or worse by his or her own fellow party members. Such as Madison Cawthorn getting successfully primaried, or what the party has done and is doing (both in the House of Representatives and back home in Wyoming) to Liz Cheney.

Now, however, one Republican candidate's new campaign ad forces me to use the phrase in absolutely literal fashion, since Eric Greitens, running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, posted an ad that takes Republican politics to a whole different -- and very ugly and dangerous -- level.

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Friday Talking Points -- 50 Years From Watergate

[ Posted Friday, June 17th, 2022 – 15:55 UTC ]

We do realize that last week we semi-committed to publishing regular Friday Talking Points columns if there weren't any previous primetime Thursday-night hearings to cover from the House Select Committee on January 6th. However, there was one thing that came out of yesterday's hearing that is not getting nearly enough media or public attention, and we feel obligated to try to change this -- mostly because it is so important.

So we are not in fact going to provide a regular Friday Talking Points column. We will first spend a few paragraphs dealing with a few other bits of political news, and then the rest of this column will consist of an extended excerpt from a letter which was entered into the record during the committee hearing yesterday, a letter which deserves everyone's attention. Every American should read this letter in full, but since it is 12 pages long we will only be offering up the most sobering parts of it.

Today, coincidentally, is the 50th anniversary of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. The Washington Post has been building up to this anniversary all week, for the obvious reason that the newspaper's big claim to glory rests on the fact that it was instrumental in taking down President Richard Nixon, due to his illegal activities surrounding the 1972 presidential election. It's an important historical marker to note, obviously. And more than just a little bit ironic, considering where we as a nation are today.

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The House January 6th Select Committee Hearings [Episode 3]

[ Posted Thursday, June 16th, 2022 – 16:09 UTC ]

After a last-minute scheduling change to postpone yesterday's hearing before the House Select Committee on January 6th, today we got what was supposed to be the fourth hearing -- a look into Mike Pence's role in the events, and the pressures that were brought to bear on him by Donald Trump and his henchmen.

The star witness of the day was Judge J. Michael Luttig, who is a well-respected conservative legal voice. Luttig, after all, was the person Mike Pence reached out to for definitive advice on the role of the vice president in presenting and counting the Electoral College votes. Pence, obviously, would never have sought out the advice of some liberal "woke" judge, instead he turned to the weightiest conservative legal mind he could think of: Judge Luttig. It is important to keep that in mind, when hearing what Luttig had to say today.

Luttig speaks very slowly and deliberately, which many lawyers (especially judges) tend to do in order to carefully weigh and consider each word before it is uttered. In Luttig's case, however, it is due to a stutter or stammer and is just the way he copes with the speech impediment. This fact wasn't immediately known when his testimony began, which led to some mean-spirited commentary on social media until the true facts of his condition were known.

Even with this challenge, Luttig absolutely stole the entire show today, with a statement he read at the end. But before we get there, let's run down what the rest of the hearing covered.


Public Hearings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol [Episode 3]

There were only two witnesses for the entire time today, Judge Luttig and Greg Jacob, who was Vice President Mike Pence's chief legal counsel at the time. This position allowed Jacob to either be present for or at the heart of all the discussions being held between the vice president, the president, and all the crackpot lawyers who were attempting to convince Pence to either break or just ignore the Constitution and the relevant law which outlines the process of electing a president (the "Electoral Count Act of 1887").

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How Low Can The GOP Bar Go?

[ Posted Wednesday, June 15th, 2022 – 16:08 UTC ]

How low can the bar go for what is acceptable in a Republican candidate to the rest of their party? That is a question that many have been asking ever since the rise of Donald Trump. Because while he was busily tearing up all the political rules of decorum, one of the first ones he shredded and flushed down his golden toilet was the expectation that political candidates aren't suppose to tell blatant lies -- especially about themselves. Before Trump, getting caught in one big fat lie might not have been a death blow to a Republican politician's career (at least, with the right artfully-worded explanation), but getting caught in two of them was sure to be disqualifying. In our post-Trump world, however, it is apparently fine with the Republican Party if you just go out and have a ball lying your face off and just making things up out of thin air. Because, these days, why not?

This week, the "liar, liar, pants on fire" spotlight is on the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, Herschel Walker. Just this week alone, it was revealed that Walker has been untruthful about his stance on absentee fathers and that he repeatedly lied about being some sort of policeman or even F.B.I. agent. That's just the revelations from this week alone, mind you. And so far, I have yet to hear any denunciations from any of the prominent national Republicans who are backing Walker (and I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting, either).

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Preventing It From Happening Again

[ Posted Tuesday, June 14th, 2022 – 16:39 UTC ]

While I listen to and read all the pundits' reactions to the hearings the House select committee is televising, what amazes me is how few of them seem to realize what the actual point of these hearings and of the investigation itself truly is (or should be, at any rate). Many see it and interpret it all through a political lens: "What do the Democrats want to accomplish by all of this? Will it all help or hurt Democrats or Republicans in the midterms? Are the hearings changing anyone's mind?" But these questions all really miss the focal point of it all. Because the end goal is not actually a political one. The end goal should be to prevent it from ever happening again, period.

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The House January 6th Select Committee Hearings [Episode 2]

[ Posted Monday, June 13th, 2022 – 16:26 UTC ]

Early this morning (very early, for those of us on the West Coast!), the second June hearing of the House January 6th committee was supposed to get underway. This didn't happen on time, due to a last-minute changeup in the program. One of the two in-person witnesses for the first hour, Bill Stepien, cancelled his appearance at the last minute. Stepien was Donald Trump's campaign manager for the last three or four months of the 2020 presidential campaign, and was thus in a unique position to provide an eyewitness account of what went both before and after the election.

At first the only explanation was that he had a "family emergency," which was rather vague and could even have been interpreted as just "got cold feet, didn't want to testify," but as the committee's chair explained at the start of the hearing, Stepien's wife had just gone into labor, so of course he had to be with her. As "family emergency" excuses go, that one's pretty hard to beat, you have to admit. So the hearing was postponed for three-quarters of an hour and didn't get underway until 10:45 Eastern time.

What was simply astounding, given the sudden cancellation of a key witness, was that it only took the committee 45 minutes to regroup and put on a very adequate presentation anyway. That takes forethought and good contingency planning -- a whole team who had cued up a "Plan B," just in case Stepien (or, one assumes, any important witness) suddenly became unavailable. We wound up hearing plenty of testimony from Stepien, all of which had been recorded in earlier taped sessions. The flow of this presentation was just a little rougher than it assumably would have been if he had been there live, but it was seamless enough to do the job. As I said, that takes preparation -- you can't just throw something like that together from hours of videotape inside of 45 minutes, in other words. In any case, footnotes aside, let's dive right into the hearing itself.


Public Hearings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol [Episode 2]

Today's hearing opened with statements by Chair Bennie Thompson, Vice-Chair Liz Cheney, and then Zoe Lofgren, who provided the bulk of the questioning throughout the hearing.

Thompson read a very short statement in that dignified and solemn voice he has, where he once again expressed both his sadness at what happened as well as his righteous anger at what Trump tried to do:

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