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Friday Talking Points -- Rolling Down The Impeachment Track

[ Posted Friday, December 6th, 2019 – 18:48 UTC ]

The impeachment train is rolling right on down the track, and nothing's going to stop it now. That was the big news this week, without question. This has all been happening at breathtaking speed, when you consider the usual glacial pace of things getting done in Washington. Just this week, the House Intelligence Committee put out its report on impeachment, handed it off to the Judiciary Committee, who then held their first hearing, and by week's end Nancy Pelosi was calling for articles of impeachment to be drafted so that the House could vote on them in time for the Christmas break. That all happened in one week.

Of course, Pelosi has had complete control over the timing of all of this, and she is gambling that moving faster rather than slower is going to work out better for Democrats. This decision is already being second-guessed -- and likely will in the future, as well. Pelosi could have chosen a different path, but she has signaled that the impeachment train will continue on the fast track.

Pelosi basically had three options: move fast, move slow, or move somewhere in between. She could have done what the Republican-called witness in the Judiciary hearing suggested, and waited for the courts to rule on the fight between congressional subpoenas and the White House's complete and utter stonewalling. This could have worked out well for Democrats, as Trump is claiming unheard-of sweeping powers to ignore Congress completely. The courts are not likely to agree with this -- even the Supreme Court would likely rule against it, if given time. But it probably would have taken months for that conclusion to be reached. This would have put impeachment on the back burner for months, and would have meant impeaching Trump some time next spring or summer -- right in the middle of the presidential campaign.

Pelosi could have moved just a bit faster than that, and tried to at least get a few lower court rulings to force people like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Mick Mulvaney to testify. Bolton in particular might have agreed to do so with only a lower-level judicial ruling, and Bolton seems to have a big story to tell that hasn't yet seen the light of day. By moving slightly slower, Pelosi could also have had testimony from people like Lev Parnas, who is currently trying to offer up his testimony in return for an immunity agreement for all the crimes committed by him and Rudy Giuliani. That might also have been worth waiting for. At the very least, some of the loose threads in the investigation might have been tracked down if the process had gone on for a few more weeks.

Instead, Pelosi chose to fast-track the whole process. By doing so she appears to be limiting the articles of impeachment to only issues raised by the Ukrainian scandal and avoiding dragging any other possibly-impeachable offenses into the mix. It remains to be seen whether even the obstructions of justice uncovered by Robert Mueller will be included (this is currently a subject of debate among House Democrats). Right now, it appears that the articles of impeachment will be as narrowly-focused as possible, which ignores a whole lot of Trump's other wrongdoing.

Again, this will all be second-guessed by history. But at the heart of Pelosi's decision is the obvious elephant in the room: Senate Republicans are just not going to defect from Trump in large enough numbers to remove the first president in American history through the impeachment process. Knowing that this is not likely to change any time soon, Pelosi is figuring to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible so that we can all turn our attention to the 2020 election instead. Right now, if House Democrats do give Trump the worst possible Christmas present ever, then the Senate will likely hold its trial before Iowa even holds their first-in-the-nation caucuses. And then we'll all move on.

In normal times, such haste wouldn't make much sense, because impeaching a president would likely be the biggest issue in the upcoming presidential election no matter when it happened. But these are far from normal times. Who knows what we'll all be talking (and arguing) about next October or November? By then, after another lifetime of Trump tweets and bumblings, it's a pretty safe bet now that impeachment won't even be in the top three things voters will be thinking about when casting their ballots.

We got a reminder of this dynamic this week, as North Korea ratcheted up its rhetoric in frustration with Trump. When Trump first agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un, the widespread view was that Trump was handing Kim a public relations coup, by elevating him to the same stage as a U.S. president. Now, it seems, Kim has realized that this works both ways as well. Trump never had any intention of doing the hard work of hammering out any sort of denuclearization agreement with Kim, he just wanted the photo-ops for his own political benefit. In an extraordinary turnaround, now Kim is refusing to meet with Trump, because it would just be another meaningless photo-op for Trump to brag about. Instead, Kim seems on the verge of breaking his own self-imposed moratorium on testing either an intercontinental ballistic missile or another nuclear warhead. Either one would show the emptiness of Trump's efforts to date. And move both countries into a much more hostile position. Who knows where this could end up? Kim has promised that if the U.S. doesn't change position by the end of the year, he'll be giving his own Christmas present to Trump -- which sounds pretty ominous.

Or another possible issue that could arise between now and the election -- what if the Supreme Court rules against Trump and he doesn't like the ruling? This is a real possibility on either releasing his taxes or his financial information to prosecutors and Congress, or on forcing former Trump officials to testify before congressional committees. Will Trump directly defy the Supreme Court's rulings, if it comes to this? That would truly be a constitutional crisis, and there is not a whole lot of precedent for how such things play out (the most notable being Trump's idol Andrew Jackson, which didn't end all that well for those affected).

These are just a few possibilities, and it's impossible to say which crises we will all be paying attention to even as early as next spring. So Pelosi's gamble to move quickly on impeachment -- given the likelihood of the Senate refusing to remove him -- may look a lot better in hindsight.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We had a lot of good candidates for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, but we're going to give it to Speaker Nancy Pelosi once again, for one impressive press conference performance.

Democrats, as a whole, don't seem to do righteous indignation very well. There are exceptions to this general rule, of course, and names like Elijah Cummings and John Lewis do spring to mind as examples of Democrats who know how to express such feelings well. But for the most part, Democrats lack this skill, much to their disadvantage.

Nancy Pelosi just proved that she can indeed get righteous, if anyone still had any doubts left about her ability to do so. When asked by a right-wing reporter whether she "hated" Donald Trump or not while walking away from the podium at the end of her press conference, Pelosi drew up and responded: "I don't hate anybody." She stated in no uncertain terms that she was raised as a good Catholic and that she was taught never to hate anyone. She then returned to the microphone, just to make sure everyone heard her:

Don't accuse me.... As a Catholic, I resent your using the word "hate" in a sentence that addresses me. I don't hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love, and [I] always pray for the president, and I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So, don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.

Earlier, in a closed-door meeting with her fellow House Democrats, she read from the Bible while speaking of the impeachment effort, quoting the Old Testament book of Jeremiah's warning about corrupt kings:

Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don't take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Doom to the leader who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives.

Now that's how to show righteous indignation!

If ever there was a time for Democrats to show they're on the moral high road, the impeachment of Donald Trump is it. Republicans know they're taking the low road in defending him, so Democrats should point it out, every chance they get. Pelosi just showed them all exactly how to do so.

For that alone, she is the winner of this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Tell it like it is, Madam Speaker!

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

This week, all of our candidates for Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week come from the Democratic field of 2020 presidential candidates, we're sorry to say. We've got a lot to cover, so let's dive right in.

The Democratic presidential field is actually now shrinking, and will continue to do so throughout the month, most likely. As candidates are shut out from another debate cycle, their donations dry up, and they slowly begin to realize that it just isn't going to happen for them this time around. That's what just happened to Kamala Harris this week, who admitted that her campaign has effectively run out of money, and run out of steam. This was a bit surprising, since she was polling solidly enough to be included in the December debate, which is why it disappointed many Democrats who had planned to vote for her.

Former Montana governor Steve Bullock also dropped out of the race recently, and he is also disappointing many Democrats by insisting that he's not interested at all in running for the Senate. If he did launch a bid, he'd have an excellent chance of flipping a seat currently held by a Republican, which would give Democrats a much wider path to retaking control of the chamber next November. But Bullock swears he's not interested. Perhaps he'll change his mind -- he's got until early March to make his decision -- but for now, his refusal to even consider it is disappointing many.

Joe Biden is in the news for a bit of feistiness. Now, taking on a critical voter one-on-one isn't all that bad a strategy in politics, but Biden was rather harsh in his language while doing so. Biden called a man who challenged him on both his age and his son's involvement in a Ukrainian gas company "a damn liar," and later told him to: "Get your words straight, Jack!" Biden also challenged the man to "do push-ups here together," or even "take an I.Q. test" to prove he wasn't "sedentary."

But what was really disappointing, and what earns Biden a (Dis-)Honorable Mention was either his verbal shorthand or his abject refusal to realize how damaging this issue could wind up being for him in the minds of average voters. When the Iowa man charged Biden with "selling access" by allowing his son to work for a Ukrainian gas company, Biden just refused to acknowledge the scope of the smear campaign against him: "No one has said my son has done anything wrong... no one has ever said it."

This, as we said, is either shorthand or it is delusional. Giving Biden the benefit of the doubt, he could have been trying to make the case that: "No one who has ever investigated these claims has said my son has done anything wrong," which is indeed true. There have been no formal charges either here in this country or in the Ukraine against Hunter Biden, much less Joe himself. But Biden didn't say that (at least not in so many words).

What he said instead was that "no one has said my son has done anything wrong," which is simply not the case. Correctly or incorrectly, plenty of Republicans have indeed made that accusation, starting with Donald Trump himself. In other words, this is going to be a big campaign issue if Biden wins the nomination. Remember what Trump and his henchmen did over the issue of Hillary's emails? That is exactly what is going to happen to Biden over Hunter's cushy job with Burisma -- even if no ethical wrongdoing or crimes are ever proven. And Biden should realize this.

He kind of admitted this, in a different appearance this week. In an interview with Telemundo, Biden was much more realistic about the optics of the situation when asked about Hunter's Ukrainian work:

What may have looked bad but wasn't anything wrong is totally different than whether a president has held up $400 million in aid for the Ukrainian military when Ukrainians are dying. That is criminal.

Biden himself knows that the whole thing "may have looked bad," because he himself has already promised that no member of his family will do such work abroad if he is elected president. Now, he can't have it both ways -- if there was nothing wrong (even with the optics), then why wouldn't he allow his family to do the same thing while president that he allowed while vice president? If it would be a conflict of interest under President Biden, why wasn't it before?

Note that none of this means Hunter Biden did anything illegal, unethical, or even just plain wrong. But that's the thing about a perceived conflict of interest -- no wrongdoing is necessary to make the entire situation look fishy. And you can bet your bottom dollar Trump and the Republicans are going to be pointing this out if Biden is the nominee -- as indeed they already are. Biden's refusal to realize this and to tackle it head-on is going to continue to be a problem for him, at least until he can come up with a better answer than: "no one has said my son did anything wrong."

But our real Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is Michael Bloomberg, who is (for some reason) running for president as a Democrat. That last bit is important, because Bloomberg has been quixotic during his political career over the question of which party he belongs to.

Now, admittedly this wasn't anything he did last week, but it certainly deserves a whole lot of scrutiny now. Here is Bloomberg's record:

Bloomberg leaned heavily on an endorsement from Rudy Giuliani to win the mayor's race in New York City. Bloomberg "trumpeted his support in TV advertising and direct mail, chastising his Democratic opponent for being 'no friend of Rudy Giuliani.'" Bloomberg was an independent, at this point in his political career.

Bloomberg not only endorsed George W. Bush's 2004 re-election bid, he appeared at the Republican National Convention for Bush and said: "I want to thank President Bush for supporting New York City and changing the Homeland Security funding formula and for leading the global war on terrorism. The president deserves our support. We are here to support him. And I am here to support him." Bloomberg also donated money to Republican Senators John McCain, Susan Collins, and Richard Shelby in the past.

Bloomberg endorsed and supported (and even held a fundraiser for) Scott Brown when he was running against Elizabeth Warren for the Senate in 2012. He also spent money to help elect Senator Pat Toomey, as well as numerous House Republicans.

Last year, Bloomberg held a fundraiser for Representative Peter King, of Long Island. A former consultant for King's 2018 Democratic opponent summed up the opinion of many Democrats: "The path to win the House ran through New York: There were seven flippable seats in the state, and he supported Republicans in two of them. To come down and say he wants to be the head of the Democratic Party -- the hubris is unbelievable."

Bloomberg also heavily supported Republicans in the New York state government, which allowed the GOP to continue their stranglehold on the state legislature long past when it should have ended.

And now he wants the Democratic presidential nomination. Hubris indeed.

Michael Bloomberg is, at best, a fair-weather Democrat. He quite obviously has no party loyalty whatsoever. As one progressive put it: "The only thing that's been consistent about his party affiliation is that it has always been about benefiting Michael Bloomberg."

So for his long history of shovelling money into Republican campaign chests, Michael Bloomberg deserves this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. He is eligible for this award because -- this week, at least -- he's now calling himself a Democrat.

[It is our standing policy not to link to campaign websites, so you'll have to look Bloomberg's contact information up on your own if you'd like to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 553 (12/6/19)

OK, we only do this once a year, so here goes.

This column, and this blog, are user-supported. We rely entirely on donations so we can avoid having to clutter up your screen with advertising. But to do this, we have to have a yearly pledge drive every December. So if you like reading these columns, please consider making a small donation (or, heck, even a big donation!) to help us keep the lights on. Thanks for your consideration!

As promised, this will be the only such solicitation you'll see until next year around this time, so let's move on to this week's talking points.

Yesterday, we wrote a related column that some may find interesting. It is closer to laying out traditional campaign talking points for Democrats for the 2020 election cycle, because it is focused on how wildly popular most progressive ideas actually are (a new poll proving this once again was the reason we wrote it). So if you'd like a more forward-looking list of talking points, then please check it out.

Today, we are instead going to focus mostly on disproving yet another of Trump's lies. Trump has been -- laughably, to be sure -- trying to paint Democrats as "do-nothing," because they have the temerity to investigate and impeach him. We say "laughably" because it really is, when you examine the record.

By the numbers: the House has passed 542 measures this year, to the Senate's 384. Of those, 389 of the House measures were bills. On the Senate side, only 91 were bills. The House has held more than 600 roll-call votes so far this year. When you look at the actual facts, the House has unquestionably been getting more things done than the Senate. It's not even close, really. There is one house of Congress which can accurately be called "do-nothing," but it is not Nancy Pelosi's House, it is Mitch McConnell's Senate. Period. So point it out!

 

1
   You must have mistaken us for the other chamber...

Push back on this nonsense hard, because people need to understand exactly who the culprit is, here.

"Donald Trump appears confused, but that's not really all that surprising. He keeps calling us, quote, do-nothing Democrats, unquote, because he has apparently mixed us up with the Republican-controlled Senate. Nancy Pelosi laid out just how wrong Trump is in this regard, in a recent interview, saying: 'We have 400 bills sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk, and [President Trump] keeps saying "all they do is impeach." No -- we have 400 bills, 275 of them are bipartisan bills.' She's right -- the Democrats in the House are quite able to walk and chew gum at the same time, obviously. In fact, they've been quite productive at addressing America's problems. It's the Senate where bills go to die, and the Senate is run by Republicans. Mitch McConnell even brags about not getting anything done, calling himself the 'Grim Reaper' of legislation. Yes, Mister President, there is indeed one house of Congress that deserves the 'do-nothing' label, but it is not the Democratic House, that's for sure."

 

2
   Just this week... (1)

The next three talking points are similar.

"In fact, just this week alone -- right in the middle of the impeachment hearings, no less -- Democrats are doing the people's business in the House. A bill was just passed by an overwhelming 417-to-3 vote to fight back against the flood of robocalls Americans have been enduring. The impeachment hearing had to take a break in order to hold this vote, proving that the House can indeed do both at once. Of course, nobody has any idea when the Senate will act on this important legislation, because Mitch McConnell seems to move as slow as a turtle over in the Senate."

 

3
   Just this week... (2)

Foreign policy? Got that covered, too.

"This week alone, the House passed a measure supporting a two-state solution to the problem of the Palestinians and Israel. We were forced to do so because President Trump broke with what had been longstanding U.S. policy in calling for a two-state solution, much to many people's surprise. This has been U.S. policy for decades for a reason, and the reason is that a two-state solution is the only real path to achieving peace in both Israel and Palestine. This should be obvious, but again, Trump has forced us to restate the basics. Which we were able to do, this week in the House."

 

4
   Just this week... (3)

And, thirdly...

"Just this week, the House passed a voting-rights bill that was made necessary by an outrageous Supreme Court decision that gutted major parts of the Voting Rights Act which had preserved Americans' right to cast their ballots for decades. H. R. 4 passed -- with bipartisan support -- to update the Voting Rights Act and strengthen federal law so that states can't do underhanded things to unreasonably make it much tougher for people to vote. As we've seen since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, this action is needed because without oversight voter suppression does indeed happen in red states. Representative John Lewis, a former Freedom Rider, spoke of the importance of this bill, calling voting 'the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our Democratic society' and decrying 'modern-day barriers to voting' which have been passed since the court ruled. The bill will now get sent to the do-nothing Senate, where it will gather dust as Mitch McConnell refuses to act on it. It's really pretty obvious which side is doing all sorts of necessary things and which side is doing nothing, when you think about it."

 

5
   We'll be busy next week, too

This is going to be a big deal in the 2020 election, because a lot of House Democrats got elected to address this specific issue.

"As if all that weren't enough, next week the House is scheduled to vote on a bill to bring down the outrageous cost of prescription drugs. Democrats have been fighting hard to get this bill passed in such a form that even Republicans in the Senate should be able to vote for it. This first effort won't solve everything, but it should put us on a path to reining in the greed of the big pharmaceutical corporations and begin to restore some sanity to the pricing of basic medication that millions of lives depend on. Democrats want to make people not being able to afford prescription drugs a thing of the past, and we welcome any Republican who also agrees with this goal. This is not a left-versus-right issue, or it shouldn't be. It is instead a sick-people-versus-the-greed-of-drug-companies issue. And we'll be voting on it next week. When will the Senate act on this bill? You got me -- I have no idea, since the Republicans can't seem to do much of anything these days, impeachment or no impeachment."

 

6
   Trump's first and second supporters now guilty

This is just too good to pass up, really.

"Republican Representative Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to federal felony charges this week, after being caught spending campaign donations on his multiple mistresses, taking money that should have gone to the Wounded Warriors and spending it on golf equipment for himself, and also using his campaign cash to pay $600 in airline fees to fly a pet rabbit across the country. I mean, you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried! So far, he has refused to resign his seat even after pleading guilty to his crimes, and he's still casting votes even though that is against the rules of the House. Oh, and less than two months ago, fellow Republican House member Chris Collins also plead guilty to a federal felony -- insider trading, in his case. What do these two have in common other than now being convicted felons? Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump's candidacy. Duncan Hunter was the second. That seems entirely fitting, at least to me, considering how many other of Trump's political buddies are now behind bars."

 

7
   Laughingstock of the world

And finally, to close on, let's just rub some salt in this particular wound, shall we?

"At the NATO meeting this week, it was shown once again that Donald Trump has become precisely what he promised to avoid if he became president. Right there on the world stage, Trump was his usual self, beclowning the office of the president of the United States in typical fashion. This led to a candid video of other world leaders standing around laughing at Trump. More proof -- if any were really necessary -- that Donald Trump is nothing short of the laughingstock of the entire world. Kellyanne Conway's husband summed it up best, tweeting to Trump: 'The world thinks you are an incompetent, ignorant, dumb, deranged buffoon -- and they are right. And you prove it to them every day.'"

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground