Biden Impeachment Investigation About To End Not With A Bang But A Whimper

[ Posted Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 – 16:43 UTC ]

T. S. Eliot wrote a poem that seems entirely appropriate to quote from today, since it aptly sums up the Republican effort in the House of Representatives to find something -- anything! -- to use to impeach President Joe Biden. After more than a year of digging, they have found less than nothing. Their one crown jewel of an accusation was brought by a man who is now being charged with lying about the entire thing to the F.B.I. Which is why the final lines of "The Hollow Men" seemed appropriate to quote (emphasis in original):

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but with a whimper.

Or you can go back to the beginning of the poem, if you'd like a description of the Republicans mightily trying to make their fantastical dark vision somehow true:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

As I said, it just seems appropriate.

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Biden Should Address The Nation

[ Posted Tuesday, February 20th, 2024 – 16:52 UTC ]

It is a rare event, but every so often I have to fully agree with a Republican. I was going to write this today anyway, begging for the same thing (for broader reasons), so this definitely caught my eye. Here is Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (which just introduced a foreign aid and border security deal as an alternative to the Senate-passed "foreign-aid-only" bill), advising President Biden to publicly go on offense over Ukraine military aid right now:

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From The Archives -- Moving Washington's Birthday

[ Posted Monday, February 19th, 2024 – 16:35 UTC ]

[Program Note: Since it is a federal holiday and all, I decided to take today off and run a few errands. So I am running this column again, due to its timeless nature (pun intended -- calendarless, maybe?). Or if you remember it from years past and are bored, you can check out the Washington Post today, where intrepid historians have uncovered a remarkable linkage -- the story of how President Joe Biden's great-great-grandfather was pardoned by none other than President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War. In any case, we hope everyone (who gets the day off, that is) has a wonderful holiday, no matter what you call it!]


Originally published February 17, 2014

Happy Presidents' Day to all!

Well, to all who live in Hawai'i, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont, at the very least. These are the states which officially recognize today as "Presidents' Day." Unlike other federal holidays, however, there is much disagreement and controversy surrounding the holiday. Not so much the holiday itself, but over what to call it (and when to celebrate it). In states such as California and Alaska (and, notably, the state of Washington), the apostrophe moves and it is known as "President's Day." This can be read as either snubbing all the other presidents (since the holiday originally celebrated one president's birthday), or celebrating the presidency itself (or the day of the president, to put it another way). But even without such grammatical gymnastics, the day has plenty of other official titles. Some states such as Michigan and New Jersey dispense with the apostrophe altogether and just call it "Presidents Day." Some states get flowery ("Recognition of the birthday of George Washington" in North Dakota), and some get inclusive ("Lincoln's and Washington's Birthday" in Montana, "Lincoln/Washington/Presidents' Day" in Arizona, and "Washington and Lincoln Day" in Utah), and some even throw in a local personage to the mix ("George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day" in Arkansas). Wikipedia lists ten separate official state titles for the holiday, in fact.

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Friday Talking Points -- Grinding Exceedingly Fine

[ Posted Friday, February 16th, 2024 – 18:04 UTC ]

That headline comes from the end of an aphorism that goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks: "The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine." Today, the wheels of justice just ground out a penalty of $355 million for Donald Trump, for committing serial fraud in his New York businesses -- which we certainly found to be an "exceedingly fine" result of the case (an "exceedingly fine fine," maybe?). The $355 million can now be added to the $88 million Trump is already on the hook for, after losing two other civil cases (the defamation cases brought by E. Jean Carroll). Plus, in today's ruling, two of Trump's children were fined $4 million each, as well as a $1 million fine for another member of the Trump Organization (making it a $364 million penalty, in all). This was the capstone to a week watching the slow grind of multiple court cases Trump is currently ensnared in, so we thought it was an appropriate place to start our column this week.

The biggest other Trump legal news of the week is that for the first time in history, an ex-president will face a criminal trial for paying "hush money" to a porn star. Actually, every word after "trial" in that previous sentence is superfluous in a way... but it's still fun to point out.

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Scheduling Trump's Trials

[ Posted Thursday, February 15th, 2024 – 16:58 UTC ]

Donald Trump will finally be forced to sit in a courtroom to answer criminal charges against him in a trial before a jury of his peers. This trial will begin on March 25th, the judge overseeing the case ruled today. This was the originally-scheduled date for the courtroom drama to begin, which Trump's lawyers tried unsuccessfully to push back as far as they possibly could. The judge just flat-out rejected their pleas for delay, so jury selection will begin late next month.

Just to be clear, this is the New York state-level trial over charges that Trump illegally tried to hide hush-money payments to a porn star and broke campaign finance laws by doing so. Trump is facing 34 felony counts in this trial, which carry a total maximum penalty of 136 years in prison. While that certainly sounds serious, it is in fact the least serious of the four criminal trials Trump is currently facing. It also may be the hardest case to make, at least in the court of public opinion, as it involves legal niceties that aren't immediately apparent to the layman. And even if Trump is convicted in this trial, it is doubtful whether he would even be sentenced to any prison time at all (since he will be a first-time offender in a very white-collar crime).

The other three criminal cases against Trump are all much more serious and much easier for the public to understand, so it is kind of a shame that the porn-star case will be the first one heard in court. These other three trials are all slogging through various roadblocks, which has made even coming up with a firm scheduling date for them impossible so far.

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Republicans' Refusal To Do Anything About The Border Costs Them A House Seat

[ Posted Wednesday, February 14th, 2024 – 16:59 UTC ]

The House seat once held by George Santos is back in Democratic hands once again, after an impressive 8-point victory in a special election last night. Once Tom Suozzi is sworn in, this will leave Republicans with a smaller majority, meaning Speaker Mike Johnson will only be able to lose two votes from his own party when passing purely partisan bills. This may not have that big an effect, since Johnson already struggles to pass partisan bills with the majority he's currently got (a bill on spying powers had to be pulled today, for instance, since Republicans can't agree among themselves over what to put in it). If Johnson had been wildly successful up to this point and his new smaller margin put that at risk then that'd be one thing, but the reality is the only bills he's been able to move with any chance of becoming law are ones with wide bipartisan support. Not much about that dynamic is actually going to change, even with one more Democrat in the chamber.

Still, last night was good news for Democrats. In 2022 Santos initially won the district -- which flipped the seat to the Republicans -- by eight points too. His odiousness had to have been a factor in the race to replace him, but it wasn't like Democrats won in a solidly red district or anything. They (obviously) won some voters back to their side, which is indeed good news for them heading into this year's regular elections. Democrats could retake control of the chamber by picking up only four seats in November, and New York may be the place where this happens. House Republicans had a very good cycle in New York in 2022, so if four or five more Democrats can win seats back (as Suozzi just did), that could be the whole ballgame.

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Counting Noses In The House

[ Posted Tuesday, February 13th, 2024 – 16:28 UTC ]

As I write this, there may or may not be a second impeachment vote happening later today in the House of Representatives. Republicans tried to impeach the secretary of the Department of Homeland Defense last week and suffered a rather embarrassing loss, so one would assume that this time around the speaker will do a better job of counting noses before the vote takes place -- and also that this time the vote won't happen if Republicans don't have enough. As we saw last week, the difference of one vote can indeed be critical in such a closely-divided House.

So I thought today was a good day to do some nose-counting math in general over in the House, since the political world is also awaiting the results of a special election in New York to fill the seat of George Santos (or whatever he's calling himself today). The seat could easily flip back to the Democrats, but the polling shows a very close race (and Long Island has been hit with a snowstorm on Election Day, which could dramatically affect the turnout for in-person voting).

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The Nepo Baby Ad

[ Posted Monday, February 12th, 2024 – 17:01 UTC ]

Family dynasties have been part of the American political scene since the very beginning. Our second president was the father of our sixth president, the two differentiated only by the middle name "Quincy." The Bush family almost had three presidents, a father and two sons, but while two of them made it to the White House (differentiated only by the extra middle name "Herbert"), the third fell short. Al Gore, who ran against George W. Bush, was also the son of a national politician (of the same name, they were "Senior" and "Junior"). It happens a lot, in other words -- American politics and nepotism have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. But I have never seen such a blatant attempt by what is now known (disparagingly) as a "nepo baby" to benefit solely from his last name as the ad for Robert F. Kennedy Junior that ran during yesterday's Super Bowl.

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Friday Talking Points -- A Disservice To Actual Working Clowns

[ Posted Friday, February 9th, 2024 – 19:29 UTC ]

This was a very bad week for Republicans in Congress, pretty much all around. The Speaker of the House proved incapable of counting votes and thus saw two big defeats on the floor, and over in the Senate the Republicans cut off their noses (elephant trunks?) to spite their faces in a spectacular turnaround from their own basic bargaining position. GOP incompetence was on display on both sides of the Capitol, to put it bluntly.

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GOP Leadership Vacuum

[ Posted Thursday, February 8th, 2024 – 15:55 UTC ]

Donald Trump is, without doubt, the leader of the Republican Party right now. He is cruising to the Republican presidential nomination and the party's base has rallied around him almost to the exclusion of all others. But below the level of Trump, there is a growing leadership vacuum in the party, as everyone scrambles to bend whichever way the Trump winds happen to be blowing at that particular moment, while still attempting to hold the party together. This lack of secondary leadership came to the fore this week in three notable ways.

Both houses of Congress have Republican leaders who proved to be either ineffective or downright incompetent this week. Neither one could hold his caucus together to get what they wanted done actually accomplished. In the House of Representatives, what they failed to accomplish was a red-meat MAGA move, while over in the Senate they failed to accomplish a centrist compromise with Democrats. So Republicans proved their incompetence in two different ideological directions at once, within the same week. Meanwhile, the chair of the Republican National Committee -- who is about as pro-Trump as can be imagined -- is about to be eased out of her position, because now Trump isn't supporting her anymore. That's a whole lot of disarray for a party heading into an election year, you've got to admit.

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