[ Posted Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 – 17:04 PDT ]

The Washington Post just unveiled a sneak peek at Bob Woodward's upcoming book about the Trump White House, and so far it looks pretty much exactly the same as every other peek inside the Trump White House. Chaos reigns, Donald Trump is patently unfit to hold the office, and his aides do their best to get important things done while refusing to follow the worst of the unbalanced and angry orders from their boss. As Chief of Staff John Kelly is quoted saying, it is "Crazytown."

Kelly's full quote on Trump is worth repeating, to understand the depth of frustration of the sane adults who surround Trump and try to fend off his worst impulses:

He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in Crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had.

Elsewhere, Reince Priebus (the man who used to hold Kelly's job) describes Trump's aides as "natural predators," with a particularly gruesome metaphor: "When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls, things start getting nasty and bloody." Also, Defense Secretary James Mattis compares Trump to a fifth-grader -- for which he really should apologize immediately... to fifth graders.

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From The Archives -- Labor's Agenda Should Become Democrats' Top Priorities

[ Posted Monday, September 3rd, 2018 – 16:39 PDT ]

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

I wrote the following column last year, and sadly it still mostly applies. The Democratic Party has made some progress on the following issues, but by and large it has been individual Democratic candidates who have been left to carry this banner forward -- some of whom have done so in remarkable ways. Many pro-Labor and Progressive candidates have now advanced to the general election as Democratic nominees, which is good news. And, it must be said, when you discount all the hand-wringing happening inside the Beltway over what Democrats should be campaigning on, out in the rest of the country, Democrats have been running pretty solid campaigns on precisely the issues voters want addressed in a positive manner: healthcare, education, and lots of pro-Labor pocketbook issues.

Even so, I thought it was worth a reminder of how Labor issues could and should be at the center of the Democratic Party's agenda, because they are issues that could make life better for millions upon millions of Americans, especially those who don't even have the option of joining a Union. We now have a year and a half of Republican rule (House, Senate, and White House), so comparing the record of what they've done for working-class Americans (not much) to what could be achieved with a little political will is a pretty easy (and stark) contrast to make.

So here is last year's column, which would need very little updating to reflect the current situation (other than drawing those contrasts with the Republicans' actual record, really). Enjoy, and hope everyone had a happy Labor Day weekend.


Originally published September 4, 2017

Since today is Labor Day, I thought it was time to point out something that seems incredibly obvious to me. If you listen to the inside-the-Beltway chatter, Democrats are currently seen as floundering around, searching for an agenda. This is less true than the cocktail-party-circuit crowd believes, but whatever. Simultaneously, Democrats are urged to try to win back the working-class vote, because Donald Trump supposedly seduced them all away with his empty promises. Again, the answer to this perceived problem is pretty obvious. The Democratic Party needs to rededicate itself to the Labor agenda -- thus giving it a solid agenda to fight for, and also a perfect way to woo back white working-class voters.

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Friday Talking Points [498] -- Remembering John McCain, Good And Bad

[ Posted Friday, August 31st, 2018 – 17:19 PDT ]

We have to begin today, sadly, by speaking ill of the dead. However, we do so respectfully (unlike some other folks have done this week). We fully realize it is a serious breach of etiquette, but in all the laudatory remarks given this week about the late Senator John McCain, there has been one glaring omission. Because, more than anyone else, John McCain is responsible for regularizing the concept that a know-nothing could be considered presidential. Some might push the blame back further, to George H. W. Bush, who selected Dan Quayle as his vice president, but McCain certainly shoulders the lion's share of this blame for deciding that Sarah Palin was qualified to be president. Anyone listening to her speak for more than two minutes could easily tell how misguided the idea of her running the country truly was, after all. And yet McCain went ahead and selected her anyway.

Palin won't be at John McCain's funeral, since she was on the short list of people "disinvited" by McCain and his family. This list also included President Donald Trump and Steve Schmidt, McCain's former campaign manager. Several other former McCain aides were likewise excluded from the ceremonies. This avoids having any reminder of the McCain/Palin ticket on television screens, but no one should forget that just being a "maverick" isn't always such a good thing. If Palin hadn't been elevated to the national political stage, it is debatable whether Donald Trump would be where he is today. The Republican Party had to go out of its way to defend Palin as a candidate, and by doing so seriously weakened the concept of who should and who should not be considered presidential material by the public. So while we are not detracting from all the good things John McCain accomplished during his extraordinary life of public service, we do feel it necessary to point out that we're still living with the fallout from what was quite possibly his biggest mistake ever.

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The Final Propaganda Battle In The War On Weed

[ Posted Thursday, August 30th, 2018 – 17:23 PDT ]

The War On Weed's days are numbered. That should be pretty obvious, by now. State after state has jumped on the bandwagon against the War On Weed, liberalizing their harsh laws on cannabis through decriminalization, legalization of medicinal marijuana, or outright legalization for adult recreational use. In fact, it's getting harder and harder to find any states which haven't done so, in one form or another. Nationally, the public's attitude on the subject has gone through a sea change in the last two decades, and now polls regularly cite public support of complete legalization of marijuana at 60 percent or higher. The weed warriors, obviously, are losing the battle for hearts and minds, and they're losing almost all the battles at the ballot box. This long social warfare, stretching back almost a century, is finally almost over. In the end, sanity will prevail, and the nation's second Prohibition will finally be thrown on the ash heap of failed political and social policy.

That's not to say, however, that the remaining weed warriors will not go down without one last fight. That's the message, at any rate, that BuzzFeed just uncovered at the White House. Here's what has recently been happening behind closed doors:

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Four Progressive Candidates For Governor

[ Posted Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 – 17:46 PDT ]

Primary season is winding down, which means the slates have mostly been set for the midterm general election races across the country. Last night, two Progressives won Democratic nominations for governor, in Florida and Arizona. This means at least four such Progressives will be running in November, when you add in the races in Maryland and Georgia. Progressives haven't exactly swept the board in the primaries this year (many other Progressive candidates in various races have lost to Establishment Democrats), but this is still significant progress. But their chances of winning in November vary, so anyone looking for sweeping conclusions about the superiority (or inferiority) of a Progressive platform is almost sure to be disappointed. All of the candidates are people of color as well, which could also lead to erroneous conclusions by pundits looking to nationalize the story in some way. Different states and different candidates mean there likely won't be one single and obvious conclusion to draw, once the dust settles. You really have to take the races individually in order to accurately assess them on their own. So that's what we're going to do, in alphabetical order.

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Is Manafort About To Flip?

[ Posted Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 – 16:48 PDT ]

Paul Manafort, now an eight-time convicted felon, could be considering cutting a deal with Bob Mueller to avoid his second (and more serious) federal trial. The Wall Street Journal (not exactly a left-wing news source) is reporting that Manafort's team already explored the possibility of such a plea deal during the four-day period when the jury in his first trial was still deliberating. The plea talks broke down and no deal emerged, but the fact that such a discussion took place at all shows that Manafort's legal team knows full well the serious jeopardy their client is in. Today it was also reported that Manafort's second trial will be delayed for one week, at the request of the defense. Could the extra week be to work out a plea deal before the second trial even begins? Speculation is running rampant on that very question.

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Defining Impeachable

[ Posted Monday, August 27th, 2018 – 16:48 PDT ]

Today's question is a purely academic one, for the time being. What constitutes an impeachable offense for a United States president? What rises to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" and what falls short? The quick (but unsatisfying) answer to that is that anything that a majority of House members find impeachable is impeachable. This still leaves a lot of undefined territory, obviously, but it is indeed the only concrete standard that really exists.

The reason I'm pondering the subject today is because I heard an interesting statement on Meet The Press yesterday. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee (meaning: if the Democrats took back the House, he would likely become the committee's chairman), was asked by Chuck Todd about statements he had made during the impeachment of Bill Clinton (taken from the transcript).

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Friday Talking Points [497] -- Guilty Pleasures

[ Posted Friday, August 24th, 2018 – 17:41 PDT ]

We have to admit, we were torn when selecting this week's headline. The other candidate under consideration was: "Making Flippy Floppy," which of course was a Talking Heads song from the 1980s which contained the immortal line: "Our president's crazy / Did you hear what he said?" What with today's news of the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization flipping after being granted immunity, this did seem like the obvious choice, since it followed the news of Michael Cohen and David Pecker of the National Enquirer also flipping on Trump. Oh, and the news of those 30 hours of testimony already given by White House Counsel Don McGahn, as well. But in the end, we weighted the uncontained glee which liberals everywhere greeted the news of the sixteen guilty verdicts/pleas this week more heavily, and had to go with acknowledging these guilty pleasures. Because no guilty verdicts/pleas have caused this much pleasure on the left since Scooter Libby's fall from grace.

Within minutes of each other, two legal bombshells exploded in federal courts this Tuesday. Paul Manafort's jury returned and announced they had found him guilty on eight felony counts, and it was later revealed that they had voted 11-1 on the other 10 counts. Only one holdout refused to admit the solidity of the evidentiary trail on these counts, meaning Bob Mueller's team is quite likely to get a conviction on all of them if they retry Manafort (and do a better job of jury selection next time). But they may not even bother to, since Manafort's second federal trial is already teed up and ready to go. This will be a much more substantial case, legally. Manafort is already facing a possible 80 years in federal prison for the eight crimes he's been convicted of, so if Mueller wins more convictions against Manafort in the second trial he probably won't even need to bother retrying the 10 counts the jury hung on. One way or another, Paul Manafort is going to be spending many, many years behind federal bars -- unless, of course, Donald Trump pardons him.

Meanwhile, up in New York, Michael Cohen surprised everyone by appearing in front of a federal judge and pleading guilty to eight federal felonies of his own. Yep, Trump's fixer has officially flipped. His allocution was an even bigger bombshell for Trump, since Cohen flat-out accused the president of directing him to commit criminal acts. He didn't name Trump, but when an anonymous individual is described in court as: "who at that point had become the President of the United States," it's pretty obvious who is being talked about.

This is the most pleasing guilt of all, because now Trump can correctly be described as an "unindicted co-conspirator" -- a phrase not heard in relation to a president since Tricky Dick stalked the halls of the White House late at night, talking to the paintings. So rather than "Donald Trump" or "President Trump," every Democrat should immediately start using "Unindicted Co-Conspirator Trump" instead. It just has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

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Elizabeth Warren's Swamp-Draining Bill

[ Posted Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 – 16:26 PDT ]

What with all the guilty pleas and verdicts for felony corruption in the news, it's hard for any other story to break through -- even one about a senator valiantly trying to end some of the most egregious forms of corruption in the nation's capital. Which is a shame, because Senator Elizabeth Warren's new bill deserves more attention than it has been getting -- maybe now more than ever.

Warren introduced the "Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act" this week, which contains a six-part effort to reform the way Washington currently works. She focused most of her attention on lobbyists and the pay-to-play atmosphere surrounding them. She also takes a big swipe at Donald Trump, because another thing the legislation would do would be to require any candidate for Congress or the White House to publicly release at least eight years of tax returns in order to be an eligible candidate for office. HuffPost had a pretty good rundown of what the bill aims to accomplish:

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The Unindicted Co-Conspirator

[ Posted Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018 – 17:10 PDT ]

Listening to the ever-more-frantic attempts by Trump supporters to explain away all the rampant lawbreaking committed by his inner circle is certainly amusing, that much is for sure. I even heard the laughable: "Paul Manafort's going to walk away on 10 out of 18 charges!" Well, um, yeah... if he's lucky, in about 10-15 years he will be walking away; but that's hardly a stunning legal victory to brag about. Bob Mueller can always (if he chooses) retry Manafort on the 10 charges, but he may not even have to since Manafort still faces his second trial in a few weeks, on multiple other felony charges. But according to Sean Hannity, this is somehow all Hillary Clinton's fault -- can't forget to wow the audience with the oldies, right?

If I seem a bit dismissive, well, that's because I am more than a bit dismissive of such ludicrous attempts to spin yesterday's double-whammy as some sort of victory for the president. It was perhaps Donald Trump's worst day in office, and that's pretty tough to spin. He has even sounded subdued (a new emotion, for him, one assumes) in answering reporters' questions, in his West Virginia rally, and in his weak Twitter attack on Michael Cohen this morning. Trump's still going through the motions, but you can see how hard all the guilty verdicts and pleas have hit him. Give Team Trump a few days, and they'll come up with some sort of talking point or another, but so far they've been pretty flatfooted in their response.

Spinning it for the other side is easier than shooting fish in a barrel, of course. Yesterday was the day when America could start speaking of its second president in history to be "an unindicted co-conspirator." That's it, plain and simple. The link to Nixon is there, the link to serious legal charges is there, the threat of impeachment is even there -- it's really got it all. President Donald J. "Unindicted Co-Conspirator" Trump.

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