Anti-BDS Legislation Is Unconstitutional

[ Posted Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 – 17:41 UTC ]

Today, I am going to wade into a minefield, if that's not too mixed a metaphor to begin with. Or, perhaps more accurately, I am going to dip a toe into a minefield (continuing the mixed-up water-versus-land metaphor). Just to warn everyone in advance.

The subject of Israel and American politicians' support for Israel is in the news this week, as the Democratic House votes to condemn anti-Semitism. It is doing so to punish one of its own members for not being sufficiently supportive of Israel, and for complaining about how American politicians' support for Israel has to be unquestioning and absolute.

But I'm not going to address this news, in part because Paul Waldman of the Washington Post already did so with an excellent amount of clarity. He begins his article:

Continue Reading »

An Even Dozen Democratic Candidates

[ Posted Monday, March 4th, 2019 – 18:52 UTC ]

And then there were twelve....

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote about the Democratic presidential field, and we've had a few announcements in the meantime, so it's time once again to quickly run down who is running for president and who is not. If you think the answer to that first question is "pretty much everybody," well, you're not alone in thinking that. We're likely only about halfway through the announcement season, and we've already got a wealth of Democrats to choose from. It's already gotten to the point where sitting down with a blank piece of paper and listing them all is tough for even the wonkiest among us to do (I just tried this, even after I had been browsing the Wikipedia page on the subject, and I only managed to remember 11... I forgot to list Gillibrand...). And this is likely only going to get harder to do, as more and more people decide to jump in.

Continue Reading »

Friday Talking Points -- Trump Unites Washington!

[ Posted Friday, March 1st, 2019 – 19:11 UTC ]

In a bizarre development this week, President Donald Trump brought unity to all the politicians in Washington. He managed this feat by failing to get any deal out of his much-hyped summit meeting with North Korea's murderous dictator Kim Jong Un. When news of this failure on the international stage reached Washington (in the middle of the night), a gigantic sigh of relief was heard -- from both Democrats and Republicans alike. Yes, Washington has achieved absolute unity in the belief that Trump not giving away the store to Kim in exchange for nothing was a very good thing indeed.

Actually, Trump had largely achieved this unity before his summit had even fizzled. Before the failure to reach any agreement was announced, both Democrats and Republicans were already unified -- in their fear that Trump would cut any deal at all just to get some positive media coverage. This palpable fear was just as bipartisan as the sigh of relief was, so it's been a unified week all around!

Think we're being too snarky? Well, maybe. But don't for a minute think we're overstating the unity part, because we're not. Here are three statements made by congressional leaders about the outcome of the summit. See if you can guess which two are from Democrats and which one came from a Republican:

"I was pleased to see the president recognize North Korea's unwillingness to strike a comprehensive deal. President Trump did the right thing by walking away and not cutting a poor deal."

"President Trump was right to walk away from a shallow, and potentially dangerous, deal."

"I guess it took two meetings for him to realize that Kim Jong Un is not on the level. The prospect for success seemed dim in light of the insincerity of Kim Jong Un."

Tough choice, eh? That's because they are all saying exactly the same thing. For the record, the first of those came from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the second from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the third from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But they're all pretty interchangeable, really. Unity has been achieved!

Oh, and one final point that Republicans and Democrats agreed upon -- Trump is a fool if he really thinks that Kim Jong Un knew nothing about what happened to Otto Warmbier. That was also a pretty unanimous sentiment from both sides of the aisle as well -- which included a devastating takedown of this idiocy by Warmbier's parents.

Of course, this was only one of the two biggest events of the week. The other was about as divided along partisan lines as can be imagined. Politicians railed against lying, using lawyers who worked for free, and general disgust that a married man would have girlfriends. In a surprise twist, however, these sentiments came not from Democrats decrying Trump, but instead Republicans facing Michael Cohen, Trump's "fixer" for ten years. The week's final bit of irony came at the conservative-a-palooza festival known as CPAC, where many of these same conservatives stood and cheered for Ollie North -- a man who (wait for it...) was convicted of lying to Congress. Just another hypocrisy-filled day in Conservativeland, we suppose.

Cohen even pointed this out, at one point during his testimony in front of a House oversight committee. Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican, told Cohen directly: "You're a pathological liar." Cohen responded: "Are you referring to me or the president?" The chair of the committee, Elijah Cummings, noted in his closing statement that President Trump has lied, by the count of the Washington Post, a jaw-dropping 8,718 times since he's been in office.

This all led Bernie Sanders to quip during a CNN appearance this week, when asked about how he'd approach debating with Donald Trump: "Well, we'll bring a lie detector along and every time he lies it goes 'beep.'"

Which brings us to the Democratic presidential field, for a moment. Here's this week's update: Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has officially jumped in the race, and he's looking to be the "climate change guy" in the race, obviously. Amusingly, this now means that over a quarter of the American public is represented at some level of government by Democrats who are running for president. This isn't all that extraordinary when you consider that the percentage of people represented by these candidates is exactly the same -- 28 percent -- as it was for the 2016 Republican field. Of course, the Democratic number could go higher as more jump in.

On deck for Democratic presidential run announcements are Beto O'Rourke and (possibly) Joe Biden. As well as plenty of possible others, but those are the two who have been directly teasing possible announcements this week.

Elizabeth Warren made some news this week by swearing off high-dollar fundraisers for big donors. However, this may be nothing more than a convenient way to explain why neither Warren nor probably any other Democrat will be able to boast the same small-donor prowess that Bernie Sanders has already shown. Team Bernie announced they had raked in a whopping $10 million in the first week alone. Furthermore, they boasted of two stats which should make the other candidates sweat: only a tiny handful of Bernie's small donors have topped out the maximum they're allowed to give, and forty percent of those who gave were not on Bernie's already-immense mailing list. Like it or not, Bernie's now the frontrunner and will be at least until Joe Biden makes his mind up. Bernie even topped a poll taken within New Hampshire this week, pulling in even more support than Biden.

We're going to have to whip through all the other news of the week in lightning fashion, since this is already running long. Other things of note from the Cohen hearing:

Before the hearings even began, one Republican House member decided to engage in a bit of freestyle witness intimidation, when Matt Gaetz posted the following tweet:

Hey @MichaelCohen212 - Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot...

He's already being investigated by the Florida state bar for this possibly-criminal act. Stay classy, GOP! Nothing like a little mobster-style witness intimidation to open with, eh?

Reaction was swift. From a former GOP House member: "a new low in an age of low, and possibly a crime by a sitting Congressman." House Democrat Bill Pascrell warned: "One of my colleagues, a duly elected member of Congress, has taken to Twitter to intimidate a witness.. This is grossly unethical and probably illegal. House Ethics must investigate this disgrace and stain on our institution." Winner of snarkiest response, however, went to Representative Sean Maloney, who responded: "Hard to combine disgusting and maybe criminal stupidity in one tweet but, hey, you did it. Keep this up, Cohen's going to need a double cell."

Cohen's testimony provided a dandy roadmap for Democrats to follow when it comes to who they should haul before oversight committees next. And it also provided a clear and convincing reason why the next thing House Democrats should do is demand Trump's tax returns from the I.R.S. -- something well within their legal power to do. By one count, if Cohen's testimony can be proven, Trump is now on the hook for at least five felonies, and Trump's taxes could provide that proof.

During the hearing there was a dustup when Rashida Tlaib essentially called Mark Meadows a racist. Meadows reacted with indignation, claiming he couldn't possibly be a racist. Hours later, however, video emerged of him saying, during a campaign stop: "2012 is the time we are going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is." So, you know, he must have been one of those non-racist birthers.

Since it wouldn't be a proper week in the world of Trump scandals if there weren't a brand new Trump scandal, we also learned that Trump personally intervened to get his son-in-law Jared the highest security clearance possible, even though he was deemed by the professionals as being at risk of foreign influence. Trump and the White House have repeatedly lied about this in the past, but this week they were strangely tight-lipped, insisting that "we won't comment on security clearances."

The House easily passed a measure rescinding Trump's border wall national emergency declaration and sent it over to the Senate. As time goes by, Trump seems to be losing more and more support from Republican senators, so at this point it looks like even odds (at the very least) that it will pass there, too. While neither chamber is likely to have enough votes to override the expected veto, it will still be a pretty embarrassing rebuke to Trump -- the first time Congress will have ever disagreed with any president about what constitutes an actual emergency.

Mitch McConnell performed a stunning display of pretzelry this week, when he (assumably with a straight face) tried to blame Republicans' attempts to steal a House election in North Carolina on Democrats. He tried to conflate voter fraud with election fraud, which led to this amusing reaction in the press:

It's as though McConnell and his party had been complaining for years about burglars using crowbars to break into houses and then claiming validation when someone created a master key to unlock every front door on a block. The result is the same: The house has been violated. But the thing that the Republicans were warning about isn't the thing that actually happened.

Speaking of being divorced from reality, we also had this charming story about the idiocy of President Trump this week:

It started when [President Donald] Trump was asked by a reporter how long "memorandums of understanding" being negotiated with China over trade disputes would last.

Trump shot back: "I don't like MOUs because they don't mean anything."

[U.S. Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer calmly corrected the president, and turned to explain to reporters: "An MOU is a contract. It's the way trade agreements are generally [established]. It's an actual contract between the two parties. A memo of understanding is a binding agreement."

He added: "It's detailed, it covers everything.... It's a legal term; it's a contract."

"I disagree," said a scowling Trump, causing top Chinese negotiator Vice Premier Liu He to laugh. "A memorandum of understanding is exactly that: It's a memorandum of what our understanding is," he said, circling his hands in the air. "How long will that take to put into a... contract?"

In a flash, Lighthizer switched gears without breaking a sweat: "From now on we're not using ‘memorandum of understanding' anymore" ? sparking laughter from several people in the room ? "we're going to use the term ‘trade agreement.' We'll have the same document; it's going to be called a trade agreement. We're never going to have an MOU again."

"Good," said Trump.

You just couldn't make this stuff up if you tried, folks.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have two Honorable Mention awards this week, the first for Senator Cory Booker, who introduced the "Marijuana Justice Act," which would "remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, while also providing financial incentives to states to loosen their marijuana laws.... The bill also aims to reverse the damage done to those who were prosecuted for marijuana use by expunging federal crimes and allowing offenders to petition courts for shorter sentences." He introduced this bill last year, too, but it didn't get a vote in the Republican Senate. This time around, though, he's got some notable cosponsors: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, all of whom are also running for president.

Our other Honorable Mention is actually a group award, to "all Democrats on the House oversight committee who didn't waste their five minutes while questioning Michael Cohen." The most notable among this group was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who asked both followup questions (that previous Democrats had let lie without necessary further questioning) and her own questions, to get Cohen on the record recommending who else the committee should interview next. But, as one commenter to the first article we wrote about Cohen's testimony pointed out, A.O.C. wasn't the only one making good use of her time:

Also of note whole final slate of Dems did good work.

Via Rep. Ro Khanna: "Executive 2" was Trump Jr.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez: Blotus' taxes not under audit -- Blotus refuses to release them coz he fears "experts" would review them and discover stuff that would get him in trouble.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez focused on DJT overvaluing his properties to show off and undervaluing his properties for IRS.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley confirming Blotus buying his own portrait & paying for it with Trump Foundation funds among other things.

Kudos to all of them! When you only have five minutes, you really shouldn't waste time, and these fresh-faced Democrats showed the veterans how it should be done.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to the committee's chairman, Elijah Cummings. After witnessing the entire day's spectacle, Cummings gave one of the most heartfelt and moving political speeches we've ever heard. If you didn't watch the whole hearing -- or even if you missed the second after-lunch phase of it -- you should really take the ten minutes to watch the closing statement Cummings gave. It was a cry for America to rise up from the Trump era and regain normalcy in our politics once again. As Cummings said, "We are better than this."

We completely agree. This was such a powerful speech -- given not from notes but from the bottom of his heart -- that it alone well deserves the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Well said, Mister Chairman, well said.

[Congratulate House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We have two (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards this week, and two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards as well.

The (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards go to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Joe Biden. DiFi got caught on video being incredibly snotty towards a delegation of school-age children who were trying to get her to support the Green New Deal.

This included both the dismissive line: "You know what's interesting about this group is I've been doing this for 30 years. I know what I'm doing," as well as pointing out that none of the kids had voted for her (because they are not old enough, mind you). She told one child: "Well you know better than I do, so I think one day you should run for the Senate. Then you can do it your way." This superciliousness was pretty thick throughout the exchange. If DiFi's been doing this for 30 years, you'd think she would have learned by now how to handle a group of children. But apparently not.

Second up for a (Dis-)Honorable Mention is Joe Biden, for casually remarking that Vice President Mike Pence is "a decent guy." Gay people were, to put it mildly, not amused. Cynthia Nixon tweeted to Biden: "@JoeBiden you've just called America's most anti-LGBT elected leader 'a decent guy.' Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community." Biden, to his credit, immediately realized this was another "Biden gaffe" that wasn't exactly playing well, and he tweeted back to her: "You're right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn't be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President."

But, to our disgust, we have two incredibly disappointing people who deserve the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Both come from the mid-Atlantic region, one from Virginia and one from Maryland.

Here's the first sad story:

Embattled Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax compared himself to Jim Crow-era lynching victims in a surprise speech Sunday, as he resists widespread calls to resign prompted by allegations of sexual assault.

Fairfax strongly defended himself and lashed out at his critics from his rostrum in the state Senate as the 2019 legislative session was coming to a close.

"I've heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people were not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that," Fairfax said, referencing legislation the General Assembly passed expressing "profound regret" for lynchings in Virginia between 1877 and 1950.

"And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia under those very same auspices. And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing," Fairfax said.

When he finished his five-minute impromptu speech, stunned senators sat in awkward silence.

Fairfax, who is black, has been accused by two women of sexual assault. Both of the alleged victims are African American.

He's black and he's from Virginia, and so there's no excuse for him not to understand full well the weight of talk about lynching, and yet he went there anyway.

But, sadly, he wasn't alone in Democrats' shocking talk about race this week. From Maryland we have the following disgraceful story:

A Maryland lawmaker apologized Tuesday for using a racial slur to describe a majority-black county in suburban Washington.

Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford), who is white, allegedly told a white colleague late last month at an Annapolis cigar bar that campaigning in Prince George's County on behalf of another candidate amounted to door-knocking in a "nigger district," reported The Washington Post.

Prince George's County, with a population that is 65 percent black, is one of the most affluent majority-black counties in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. Harford is 80 percent white.

Lisanti, when contacted by the Washington Post, initially responded thusly:

The Post questioned Lisanti earlier this month about whether she used the slur, but she claimed she couldn't "recall much of that evening." Asked if she believes she's ever used the word, Lisanti said she was "sure" she had.

"I'm sure everyone has used it," she told the Post. "I've used the f-word. I used the Lord's name in vain."

That's a pretty flippant attitude. Since then, she's had to step down from a committee chairmanship and the entire Maryland General Assembly voted unanimously to censure her for the comment.

When she finally got around to issuing an apology, however, she set a new standard in the "non-apology apology" category. While her statement did have some solid language in it:

I understand that the use of inappropriate and insensitive language is not acceptable under any circumstance. I am sorry for the hurt I have caused and will do everything I can to help heal that pain and regain the trust of my colleagues and constituents. I pray for forgiveness.

Lisanti also included a rather bizarre claim:

I am sickened that a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth. It does not represent my belief system, my life's work or what is my heart.

This is provably untrue. Anyone in the room whose vocabulary did not include that word would have reacted by saying something like: "I'm sorry, I don't recognize that word she just used -- can someone tell me what it means?" But it is an oxymoron to claim that "a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth." Is your mouth unconnected to your brain's vocabulary? Is it somehow an independent agent? This claim makes zero sense, on the face of it.

Lisanti somehow still believes she can hang onto her job:

However, Lisanti has refused to step down amid calls from other Maryland lawmakers that she resign, saying she planned to continue working and gain back the trust of her constituents. Lisanti has already been stripped of several committee assignments.

"Quitting is easy, but not the road to redemption," she said Thursday, according to the Post. "Staying here, accepting responsibility, is hard work.... But I am up for the challenge. And that is why I am staying. Healing begins tomorrow."

As for her road to redemption, we'd wager it's going to be a fairly long one.

So this week, for claiming moral equivalence with lynching victims, and for somehow using a word that was not in her vocabulary, we hereby award two very shameful Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards, to Justin Fairfax and to Mary Ann Lisanti.

[Contact Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax on his official contact page, and Maryland Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti on her official webpage, to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 520 (3/1/19)

Another mixed bunch this week, with (as usual) one downright hilarious one at the end. Enjoy and use responsibly!


   If a dictator says it, it must be true

This is a rather disturbing trend....

"Donald Trump seems to have one measuring stick for truthfulness: if a dictator says it, it must be true. The leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, says that all drug dealers deserve instant extrajudicial death, and Trump offers words of praise for his death squads. Vladimir Putin tells Trump that North Korea doesn't have I.C.B.M. capabilities, and Trump believed this even when his intelligence agencies reported that North Korea had just successfully tested one. Putin swore to Trump he didn't interfere in the 2016 election, and Trump believes this over every single one of his own intelligence agencies, and furthermore, states this on foreign soil after meeting with Putin. The de facto leader of Saudi Arabia tells Trump he knew nothing -- nothing! -- about the American journalist killed and dismembered inside a Saudi embassy, and Trump believes him over his own intelligence agencies. And just this week, Trump said he believed Kim Jong Un when he said he had no knowledge of Otto Warmbier's treatment while in custody, and once again, Trump took a murderous dictator at his word. It's pretty plain to see that, for Trump, if a dictator or strongman or tyrant tells him something, he automatically believes it -- all evidence to the contrary. To state the painfully obvious: this is a dangerous trend in a United States president."


   One Republican had a good week

On two separate fronts, one GOP House member deserves recognition.

"Representative Justin Amash seems to be one of the only Republicans who have emerged from the pro-Trump fog and realized how far his party has strayed from any claim to morality or ethics. He was the lone Republican who asked Michael Cohen real questions during this week's hearing, and his best question was stunning in its simplicity: 'What is the truth President Trump is most afraid of people knowing?' Cohen himself was so taken aback by this question that he couldn't offer up an answer. Earlier in the week, Amash voted against Trump's 'national emergency' power grab, and tweeted the following admonishment to members of his own party who weren't willing to do the same: 'The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama's executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.' I couldn't have put it better, and I tip my hat to Justin Amash for twice this week standing up for what is right and putting country ahead of party."


   Liar Liar!

Irony was not in short supply in Washington this week.

"During the Cohen hearing, one Republican unveiled a giant sign that screamed 'Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!' which is truly ironic when you consider that Donald Trump is approaching the astounding total of nine thousand lies uttered while in office. Republicans on the House committee performed some pearl-clutching and shed some crocodile tears over the unseemliness of lying, when confronting Cohen. During the same week, President Trump's spokesperson Kellyanne Conway called House Republicans liars for not giving Trump his wall money while they were in power for two years, and Oliver North was cheered at the Conservative Political Action Conference even though he was also guilty of lying to Congress. The Republicans in the committee hearing tried to claim that no person convicted of lying to Congress had ever testified in such a hearing -- even though earlier this month Elliot Abrams did exactly that, after pleading guilty in 1991 to (you guessed it) lying to Congress. In other words, in the midst of all their pretend-angst over lies, the Republicans on the committee were actually guilty of exactly what they were accusing Cohen of doing -- lying to Congress. The hypocrisy and irony was hip-deep in the hearing room by the time they were done."


   You're stupid if you care about your tax refund

Hoo boy.

"According to Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, American taxpayers are, quote, 'stupid to look at your [income tax] refund to see whether you got a tax increase or decrease. You can't measure by the refund.' Unquote. So let's see, after Republicans passed a tax cut for the wealthy, average people shouldn't care about the size of their refund, and anyone who does is 'stupid.' Well, that's one way of putting it, but I'd be willing to bet that the millions of Americans who are about to be surprised by getting a tiny refund or no refund at all would disagree. And that's saying nothing about the millions of others who are going to owe taxes this year rather than getting a refund. This is the GOP's attitude towards regular taxpayers as opposed to the ultrawealthy and corporations in a nutshell, folks. If you're not overjoyed about the way the Republican trickle-down tax cut flim-flam worked out for you, then you are, quote, stupid."


   The media are the ones who can't walk and chew gum

This really needs pointing out by Democrats.

"You know, I remember not too many weeks ago when the media was obsessed over whether Democrats would focus solely on investigating the president or whether they'd concentrate on legislation. Democrats, the media told us smugly, couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. But in reality, we've been doing fine on both fronts. In the same week as the Cohen hearings, Democrats also did the following: passed two gun safety measures, the first to pass in decades; introduced a measure to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court gutted it; held hearings on the Trump administration 'zero tolerance' child-separation policy as well as prescription drug prices; and, for good measure, introduced a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level that almost all the Democratic candidates for president have signed on with. Now, I remember when the media cared about at least some of these things -- remember when the child separation policy was all the media could talk about, last year? So it seems that the folks who can't actually walk and chew gum at the same time is the media itself, not congressional Democrats. Because when we move forward on multiple fronts, only the biggest and splashiest one actually gets covered."


   Too, too funny

Mr. Trump, tear down this wall.

"In the same week that the House voted to reject Donald Trump's fantasy of a national emergency on the southern border, his precious border wall prototypes were actually torn down. Almost 60 former national security officials -- Republican and Democrat alike -- signed a letter stating that, quote, there is no factual basis, unquote, for such an emergency declaration. It further went on to say: 'Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles the president to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border.' This letter was signed by Madeline Albright, Chuck Hagel, Thomas R. Pickering, John Kerry, and a host of others who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents. For good measure, two dozen former Republican congressmen signed a separate letter begging currently-serving Republicans to vote for the measure in the House to deny Trump his so-called national emergency. One Republican senator begged Trump to reverse himself on the Senate floor, and it looks likely that this measure will also pass the Republican Senate. All of this happened the same week that the Customs and Border Protection agency stated 'we don't necessarily have a purpose or use' for the border wall prototypes, and therefore 'we will be bringing them down.' All around, not a very positive week for Trump's precious wall."


   Hold the date!

It's always -- always -- all about Trump.

"Donald Trump just sent out what could possibly be the most brain-dead tweet he ever has ever written. Allow me to read it in full:"

HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called "A Salute To America" and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!

"Really? 'Hold the date' of July freakin' fourth?!? Because you'll be introducing a new celebration on the Mall? And it'll actually have fireworks and entertainment? This, of course, led to widespread mockery online, as everyone with two brain cells to rub together pointed out that Donald J. Trump was nothing short of an idiot if he expected anyone to buy this megalomania. My favorite response:"

HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest candy giveaways in history on October 31st. It will be called "Halloween" and will be held in every neighborhood. Major pumpkin displays.

-- Chris Weigant


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Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


Cohen Provides A Roadmap

[ Posted Thursday, February 28th, 2019 – 16:47 UTC ]

After yesterday's testimony before a House oversight committee, Michael Cohen is now being spoken of by some as "Trump's John Dean." This may be overstating the case a bit, but there certainly are parallels. Dean was a lawyer who flipped on Richard Nixon and worked with the prosecution and the Senate committee which was investigating Watergate, but Dean was a central figure in that scandal and held important jobs in the Nixon administration. Cohen is central to the hush money payoffs to Stormy Daniels, but by his own testimony was much more of a peripheral figure to the larger scandals facing Donald Trump right now. But just as Dean did in the Watergate investigation, Cohen may have provided an excellent roadmap indicating the direction congressional investigators should now take when it comes to exposing Trump's shadiness.

Continue Reading »

Two Clips From The Cohen Hearing Need To Be Seen By All

[ Posted Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 – 18:29 UTC ]

I watched all of Michael Cohen's hearing today in front of the House government oversight committee, from beginning to end. Due to this exhausting task, I'm not going to comment on the entire hearing and the ramifications of what was said until tomorrow. I feel I need some time to process everything, and let it sink in and percolate for a while before attempting to write my reactions to it. So my apologies in advance for the lack of a full column today.

Cohen, in essence, laid out a roadmap of further investigatory avenues for House Democrats to explore in the coming weeks. As usual, some of the questioners were better than others and some of the time (including almost all of the Republicans' time) wound up largely wasted. But again, I'll be getting to all of that tomorrow.

However, I did want to take the time today to point out two extraordinary moments in the hearing, because I would be willing to bet that many (if not most) viewers missed them. They both happened after the lengthy two-hour lunch (and floor vote) break in the hearing, and not many viewers were stalwart enough to stick through this delay to the very end.

Continue Reading »

Congress Taking Historic Steps To Retake Some Powers

[ Posted Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 – 18:24 UTC ]

Just before I sat down to write this, the news broke that the House of Representatives had voted (245-182) to nullify President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. But rather than focusing on the personality-driven nature of this particular vote, I think it is worth taking a step back and looking at it through a bigger-picture lens. Because this isn't the only historic action Congress is currently considering when it comes to retaking constitutional powers that it had previously handed over to the executive branch. Taken together with the upcoming Senate vote on ending American involvement in the war in Yemen, this represents what could be the beginnings of a historic shift in power back to the legislative branch, which would return some power to the legislature that the framers of the Constitution never intended the president to have in the first place.

I say only "the beginnings of a historic shift," because neither effort is guaranteed to succeed, and even if both did it wouldn't fundamentally alter the power structure that is currently in place. That would require further action by Congress, and would likely need veto-proof majorities to accomplish. But we'll get to that in a moment. First, let's take a look at how we got to where we are now.

Continue Reading »

Democrats Should Push Back On Lazy Media Tropes

[ Posted Monday, February 25th, 2019 – 18:58 UTC ]

Democrats are, if the political media is to be believed, in a soul-searching phase right now, deciding what exactly the party stands for and what they should run their next campaign on. They are deeply divided, the pundits tell us, between the "far left" and the pragmatists who don't want to win the primaries only to lose the general election. They can't even agree on which demographic will be the key one to delivering victory in 2020.

In reality, Democrats are actually a pretty united bunch right now, laser-focused on one overriding shared goal: defeating Donald Trump and his Trumpist Republicans. This singleminded dedication to defeating a sitting president is nothing new in American politics, of course, and goes back (at the very least) to the formation of the Whig Party in response to Andrew Jackson's perceived monarchical rule (the party's name was even a continuation of this theme, as the British Whigs were anti-royalist). Democratic politicians and rank-and-file voters all largely agree that the 2020 campaign should primarily be about booting Trump out of the Oval Office, and everything else is secondary to that larger goal. This was so apparent in the 2018 midterm elections that Democratic politicians barely even had to mention Trump, because it simply was not necessary -- Democratic voters were already fully on board with that goal to such an extent that it didn't even need to be said by the candidates, which freed them up to campaign on more concrete issues.

Party unity, however, doesn't sell newspapers. Which is why, throughout the 2018 campaign season, the mainstream media desperately tried to convince Democratic candidates that the real election issue they should be debating was whether to immediately impeach Trump or not. Thankfully, Democrats refused to take this bait and ran their campaigns on protecting Obamacare and people with pre-existing conditions. To great effect.

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Friday Talking Points -- Muellermas Eve?

[ Posted Friday, February 22nd, 2019 – 18:25 UTC ]

The news media -- once again -- has been in a frenzy over the possibility that Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation next week and issue his long-awaited report. They've gone down this road before, as have President Trump's legal advisors (who have been telling Trump the whole thing is going to be over very soon now for almost a solid year and a half). So you'll forgive us for not being all that convinced that this is indeed the time that Lucy won't pull the football away, and we'll finally get to kick it thumpingly down the field!

Perhaps we're being a wee bit too cynical? Maybe. But then again, maybe not. We'll see what next week brings.

Even if Mueller's report does drop next week, we also have to caution everyone that nobody outside of his investigation has any real idea what will be in it. And it may take awhile for the public to even learn what's in Mueller's report, even if he does hand it in next week and closes up shop. The attorney general has the discretion to either release all of the report, some of it, a summary of it, or none of it. If he chooses any path other than "release all of it" then House Democrats are going to immediately begin work to obtain their own copy, of course, so the likelihood that it'll stay forever buried is probably pretty darn low.

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Media Missing The Point In McCabe's 25th Amendment Story

[ Posted Thursday, February 21st, 2019 – 17:32 UTC ]

The mainstream media -- right, left, and center -- are largely missing the point when reporting (and opining) on the recent revelation about Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein talking about the use of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. Because in all the shocking hair-on-fire reaction, few bother to point out that neither man would have had anything to do with removing President Trump with the procedures laid out in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. The president's cabinet would be initially involved, and then Congress might also have a direct say, but "secondary officials at the Justice Department or the Federal Bureau of Investigation" are simply not on that list.

McCabe is, of course, currently out there on a book tour, hawking his tell-all of life as he saw it within the Trump administration. But the focus on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment story is kind of odd, because it was not actually news. It had been previously reported months ago, in fact (in September of last year), from Rosenstein's point of view. The only news was the additional point of view of McCabe, who was the person Rosenstein was speaking to about the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

McCabe's book brought this story back up again, and the media started reporting on it as if it were some sort of scoop, even though the news wasn't exactly fresh or anything. But this time around, the story seems to have made a bigger splash.

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2020 Democratic Primary Dynamics Will Be Different

[ Posted Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 – 18:17 UTC ]

When looking ahead to the 2020 Democratic primaries, many pundits are suffering from a lack of imagination. Either that, or they just don't remember the 2016 Republican primary race, for some reason. Because unlike the last two close-fought Democratic primary seasons (in 2016 and 2008), this time around it will not be a binary process. There will not be a single frontrunner challenged by a single underdog. The field is already too big for that to happen. What this means in practical terms -- the thing that most haven't grappled with -- is that the winner of the early primaries and caucuses could win not with a majority of the votes but with a smallish plurality of the votes. Even winning 30 percent might be enough, with so many others in the race splitting the remaining votes among them.

How this will play out has yet to be determined. But my guess is that it could mirror the 2016 Republican primary season in a fundamental way. One frontrunner may emerge while the others fight for votes and dilute the anti-frontrunner total. This is how Donald Trump won the GOP nomination, after all.

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