Tag Archives: Ted Cruz

QAnon and the New McCarthyism

mccarthyism (the kevin variant) n. 1. the behavior of a craven, amoral politician eager to advance his or her political career at the expense of the security and safety of the nation. 

2. The antithesis of patriotism.

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“I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us — denouncing Q-on, I don’t know if I say it right, I don’t even know what it is,” House Minority Leader  Kevin McCarthy (Q-Calif.) said after he defended the bigoted, conspiracy theorist freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Ga.) for her heinous remarks and actions. His defense is a classic example of the new McCarthyism.

Nice try, Representative McCarthy, but pulling the old Trumpian dodge — “I know nothing about QAnon” — will not get you off the hook. Here is the problem with that formulation, Mr. Minority Leader: The rest of us know enough about QAnon and its loony conspiracies to condemn it. And, here is another problem, Mr. Craven Politician: You are on tape, on FOX News last August, condemning QAnon. “Let me be very clear: There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it,” you said then. I know you do not have a reputation as the sharpest knife in the drawer, but surely, Mr. McCarthy, your memory is better than that. But, selective amnesia is a part of the new McCarthyism.

Of course, the gyrations of the Republican House leader on Greene reflect the state of today’s Republican Party. There may have been no place for QAnon in the Republican Party six months ago, but, today, McCarthy and the bulk of the Republican House caucus are more than willing to carve out a spot for her, with some members giving her a standing ovation at a contentious meeting Wednesday night. Think about that: Republicans in the House gave a standing ovation to a colleague who wants Speaker Nancy Pelosi assassinated. The reasons are simple: Greene mirrors the views of millions of voters to whom the party appeals, and she is close to former president Donald Trump. Greene may hold idiotic notions, but she is savvy enough to know when to invoke Trump’s name, which she did last weekend as the furor over her intensified. “I had a great call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump! I’m so grateful for his support,” the QAnon lawmaker tweeted. 

It is hard to see this McCarthyist cowardice as a winning strategy. Republican loyalty to Trump led to the party losing the White House, the House, and the Senate after controlling all three in 2017. Sure, a public vote to remove Greene from her committee assignments might result in a primary challenge against a member from someone even further out in la-la land, but what is the value in staving off a primary challenge only to lose in the general election?

Actually, many Senate Republicans understand the danger of hooking the party to QAnon. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and the country,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, asked whether Republicans “want to be the party of limited government… or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon? (The Senator might want to withdraw the question as he might not want to hear the answer.) Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.” 

Many Senate Republicans know Greene spells disaster for the Republican Party. Already, the Democratic Party is running an advertising campaign making Greene the face of the GOP. But, Senate Republican condemnation of Greene rings hollow given the party’s past tolerance of Trump’s lies and embrace of conspiracy theories. Remember, Trump came to political prominence pushing “birtherism.” Along the way, he claimed Senator Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate John Kennedy; Barack Obama founded the Islamic State; TV anchor Joe Scarborough, when a congressman, murdered one of his staffers, and many more “looney lies.” Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories culminated in the big lie of a stolen election in 2020 that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The dynamic in the House is different. Republicans in the lower chamber refused to take any action against Greene, settling, instead, for a tortured McCarthyist statement from their leader in which McCarthy said Greene’s “past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward” before pivoting to attacking the Democrats for wanting to more effectively rebuke the Georgia representative. House Republicans assume a racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who has not apologized for any of her assaults on decency will behave decorously in the future. Good luck with that!

Republicans also took up the future of Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican. Cheney, a consistent conservative, ran afoul of the Trumpistas in the party for voting to impeach Trump for instigating the Capitol riot. Cheney survived by a vote of 145 to 61, but only, one suspects, because the vote was secret. On the open vote Thursday on removing Greene from House committees, only 11 Republicans voted in the affirmative. The vast majority of Republicans were unmoved by the emotional appeal of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who displayed a picture of Greene posing with an assault rifle juxtaposed with photos of three progressive Democratic congresswomen of color above a caption, “The Squad’s Worst Nightmare.” “When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said to his Republican colleagues. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”

The cowardice of the new McCarthyism is unfathomable. Just two years ago, McCarthy stripped Iowa Representative Steve King of his committee appointments because of his history of white supremacist remarks. Odious as King’s racism was, it seems tame compared to the egregious behavior of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But, according to the new McCarthyism, it is acceptable for members of the United States House of Representatives to threaten other members on the other side of the aisle with assault rifles.

Fortunately, at least for now, the Democrats have a majority in the House.

Posted February 5, 2021

Call for Unity

Donald Trump left the White House several hours before Joe Biden was sworn in Wednesday, January 20, 2021, as the nation’s 46th president. A small person to the end, Trump broke a long-standing tradition by declining to attend his successor’s inauguration. Just as well, as the presence of former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama testified to the sanctity of the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of power while highlighting Trump’s petulant refusal to concede he lost.

Biden’s Inaugural Address was a clarion call to unity, asking Americans to put aside “this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” But, Biden uttered more than platitudes. The president also called upon America to live up to its core values of truth, equality, justice, and acceptance of diversity of opinion. “Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war,” Biden said. 

The new president’s appeal to our “better angels” contrasted with his predecessor’s constant stoking of division, distrust, and hatred. Other contrasts between Biden and Trump were the evident openness of the new administration — the new press secretary briefed Wednesday evening — and the eagerness of those at the top to get down to work. Biden signed several executive orders only hours after becoming president, and Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the swearing-in of three new senators in her role as President of the Senate. Trump always showed little interest in actually being president, in the work of the presidency, and in the weeks following his electoral defeat he did little but stew, lie about the validity of the election, play golf, and issue pardons to his cronies.

There is evidence that the sway of Trumpism is diminishing. The Proud Boys, the far-right group asked by Trump at the first debate with Biden to “stand back and stand by,” is rethinking its undying loyalty to the former president. After the election, the Proud Boys wrote in an online message on a private channel “Hail Emperor Trump.” But, as soon as Trump departed the White House, the White-supremacist group referred to him as a “shill” and “extraordinarily weak.” It may be a positive sign that no militias descended on Washington, D.C., and state capitols and no anti-Biden protests occurred, despite warnings from the FBI of the potential for violence and the threats of far-right activists to mobilize in the days leading up to the Inauguration.

One place where divisiveness still lingers is the Capitol. Biden is quite right to call for unity and to appeal for bipartisan cooperation, which may occur as some Republicans search for ways to work with Democrats on much needed legislation, such as economic relief from the ravages of the pandemic and rebuilding the nation’s decrepit infrastructure.

While unity and bipartisan cooperation is a worthy goal, some accountability is needed for those who worked to undermine American democracy by pushing the “big lie” of election fraud. That there was no significant fraud and that Biden fairly won election as the next president was evident immediately after November 3. Yet, a significant bloc of Republican senators and a majority of the House GOP caucus voted against certifying the electoral returns of two states. They did so only hours after a mob — encouraged by Trump and congressional opposition to certification — stormed the Capitol, putting the lives of members of Congress in jeopardy.

The United States cannot pretend this did not happen. Obviously, we will never forget those frightful images of insurrectionists desecrating the “people’s house.” But, we also must never forget the role played by prominent Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is a case in point. Two weeks ago, McCarthy was a prominent challenger of Biden’s victory, telling constituents, “I agreed with objections that were made to two states.” Yet, Wednesday, McCarthy had the temerity, the gall, the nerve to stand in Statuary Hall and tell Biden and Harris he was “very proud of you both.” The California Republican added, “I listened to your [Biden’s] speech today. You talked about tension and division. Our task as leaders is to bind this nation’s wounds and dedicate ourselves to the values that all Americans hold dear.”

Not too proud, evidently, to vote against Biden’s and Harris’ certification as president and vice president. Politics is not a profession that emphasizes self-introspection, but really, Mr. Minority Leader, how lacking in self-awareness can you be? On Inaugural Day, McCarthy also said, “As leaders, we are judged not by our words, but by our actions.” Indeed! Mr. Minority Leader, your action in objecting to electoral certification before and just after the insurrection of January 6 speaks much louder than those words you spoke on Inaugural Day!

McCarthy is not the only Republican who requires scrutiny. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas fanned the flames of insurrection by their words and actions. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin called the behavior of Hawley and Cruz “inexcusable” and said the Senate must  “seriously” investigate their actions. Some Republicans in the House may have given aid to the mob before and during the storming of the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “there will be prosecutions” if evidence shows that members of Congress “aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died.”

Public understanding of the role of elected officials in undermining the peaceful transfer of power — a bedrock of republican government — needs to occur not because Americans are vengeful but because knowledge is the most effective tool for preventing future betrayals. We know that lies — deliberate lies told by people who knew better or ought to have known better — unleashed the mob on the Capitol. The only way to fight lies is with truth and the truth will only emerge when the culprits are named and their abettors come to grips with their betrayal of constitutional government. Only then will the unity of which President Biden spoke truly occur. 

Posted January 22, 2021

Never Again!

We are learning new and even more disturbing details about the storming of the nation’s Capitol by Trump supporters, right-wing extremists, and QAnon conspirators (overlapping groups, to be sure) last Wednesday. The revelation of additional information indicates how close the United States came to anarchy and/or the overthrow of our democracy. The information reinforces the determination that such events — the election of an unfit, amoral president, the overthrow of truth, and an insurrection— never happen again. 

Michigan Representative Peter Meijer said a fellow Republican in the House voted against supporting the results of November’s election even though the member knew the election was free and fair. Meijer said his colleague voted against certification out of concern for the safety of the member’s family. In an opinion piece in The Detroit News, Meijer wrote, “My colleague told me… voting to certify was a constitutional duty” that this member shunned out of fear. “An angry mob succeeded in threatening at least one member of Congress from performing what that member understood was a constitutional responsibility,” Meijer concluded. Meijer added that worse were the members who “doubled down, repeating lies of a stolen election” and voted not to certify after “a dead woman’s blood dried mere feet from our chamber.” 

Think about how scary Meijer’s revelation is. His information means that the machinations of President Donald Trump, the sinister ploy of Republican senators such as Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, and the drumbeat of deliberate misinformation by right-wing media, which all contributed to riling and provoking Trump’s base, at a minimum, succeeded in intimidating at least one member of Congress. It means that one member — afraid for his or her family — was cowed by vicious thugs into voting against the truth and the elected representative’s conscience.

More than 100 Republicans in the House voted against accepting the results of the election. They were joined in their traitorous votes by eight senators who supported one or more of the challenges to electors. These Republicans are guilty of an attempt to overthrow the Constitution. I do not know how many of them are so dumb as to believe the nonsense Trump and his cohorts spewed or how many made a cynical calculation that voting against the truth was good for their presidential ambitions or how many feared being “primaried” by someone nuttier than they. It makes no difference. There must be a reckoning for all of them.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution says, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress… [who] shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against… the United States.” The amendment was one of the three Reconstruction amendments enacted to preserve the gains of the Union victory in the Civil War. It is relevant in this case. Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday that Democrats are considering invoking the amendment to expel Republican lawmakers who supported overturning the results of the November election and encouraged the insurrection. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are discussing the relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment following last week’s riot.

Evicting 120 or so Republicans from Congress is not likely. But, perhaps the willingness of Democrats to ponder the Fourteenth Amendment’s relevance indicates an eagerness among loyal Americans to impose some form of punishment on disloyal members of Congress. Perhaps, censure is in order. In any event, those Republicans who voted against truth and law forever will be remembered for their crimes.

The other disturbing piece of news from this weekend confirms what was suspected all along. According to Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Trump “was delighted” while watching the televised events unfolding Wednesday at the Capitol. Sasse told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that “senior White House officials” conveyed to the Republican senator that “Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was” by a mob storming the Capitol. 

Trump was “delighted” while millions of Americans were appalled. Trump’s delight suggests that Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, was being naive when he said Sunday, “Now, my personal view is that the president touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again.” Blunt’s assessment echoes Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins’ justification for voting against convicting Trump during his Senate trial for attempted extortion of Ukraine on the grounds that the president learned “a pretty big lesson” and would not engage in future illegalities. Yes, Trump learned something. He learned he can get away with just about anything. 

What Trump never learns is the right lesson. Everyone knows that, or should. It is abundantly obvious. President Trump is an amoral man whose narcissism insures that he looks out only for himself. He cares nothing for his followers or his loyal sycophants. On the issue of Trump loyalty, Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe told Tulsa World that Vice President Mike Pence was “angry” because the president was attacking Pence for the vice president’s refusal to act illegally and overturn the Electoral College returns. Inhofe said, “I had a long conversation with [Pence]. He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for [Trump].’” As for Trump’s disdain for his followers, reflect for a moment on his remarks on the Ellipse to the crowd before it headed to the Capitol and mayhem. After repeating his baseless claims of election fraud, the president egged on his supporters, urging them to “walk down to the Capitol… and I’ll be there with you.” Well, perhaps he meant in spirit, because Trump apparently watched the insurrection on television. Granted the Secret Service would not allow the president to walk in such a crowd, but, let us be honest, this president would not want to be bothered. 

A member of Congress scared by a president “delighted” to lead an insurrection against the government he heads must never happen again! The way to guarantee a return to sanity is to punish the truth deniers and the inciters. Trump and all the others who incited the storming of the Capitol must be held to account: Trump via impeachment and conviction; his abettors by the full weight of the legal system; and members of Congress by expulsion and/or censure.

We are learning just how fragile our constitutional framework is and how easy it is to circumvent truth and the law. We must punish the guilty to guarantee that such recklessness as we witnessed last week never occurs again.

Posted January 12, 2021

Remove. Impeach. Convict.

Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and remove President Donald Trump from office. Immediately. Even though Trump has less than two weeks in office, he cannot be trusted with the reins of power — not to mention the nation’s nuclear codes — given his role in organizing and inciting the thuggish mob of insurrectionists who stormed the nation’s Capitol Wednesday. 

Removal from office now does not permanently remove the danger Trump presents to the American experiment in republican government. Trump served only one term as president. He is eligible to run in 2024, something he has mused about openly. Because Trump back in the White House is unthinkable, the House of Representatives must begin impeachment proceedings against him, and the Senate must convict if the House impeaches. I do not know how long the process might take nor what kind of hearings would be needed. I should think the playing of his remarks at the rally before his supporters stormed the Capitol — “we fight like hell, and  if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” and “we’re going to walk down [to the Capitol] and I’ll be there with you” (actually, he slunk back to the White House) — coupled with his tweets in the days before — “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” — makes a prima facie case for a vote in the House in the next few days, followed by trial in the Senate. But, if the process were to take weeks, even months, it must be pursued to the end because the punishment for impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate can be a ban on ever holding federal office again. Conviction also sends a signal to any putative future dictator that Congress and the nation will not tolerate undermining the Constitution. 

Trump, of course, did not act alone. The proper authorities should begin looking into the scoundrels who also spoke at the rally on the Ellipse Wednesday. Rudy Giuliani — the buffoon posing as Trump’s lawyer — called for a “trial by combat,” and Donald Trump Jr. — the president’s son — warned lawmakers debating challenges to the Electoral College vote, “We’re coming for you, and we’re going to have a good time doing it.” The insurrectionary mob needed no further encouragement.

The reckoning of responsibility doesn’t stop with Trump, his lawyer, and his son. The guilt of lawmakers eager to slavishly aid Trump in fomenting a coup against the government he leads must be addressed. A total of eight senators and more than half of the GOP caucus in the House supported one or more of the challenges to the slates of electors. These traitors — for that is what they are — will be forever marked by their vote to violate the Constitution of the United States and ignore the will of the people who collectively chose Joe Biden as president in a free and fair election.

Special attention should be paid to the prime culprits in the coup attempt: Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas. Hawley got the ball rolling last month when he announced he would challenge Pennsylvania’s slate of electors, claiming he only wanted to assuage the concerns of millions of Americans who believed the election was fraudulent. Wednesday, he raised a clenched fist as he strode past the insurrectionists. Cruz suggested forming a commission similar to the one that looked into the contested 1876 election to investigate allegations of fraud in last November’s election. Both senators know that no credible evidence of fraud has been presented, and Cruz’s allusion to 1876 proves only that his knowledge of American history is as limited as his awareness of the Constitution. Yes, a commission was formed to adjudicate the allotment of electors between Republican candidate Rutherford Hayes and his Democratic opponent Samuel Tilden because three states sent two slates to Congress, something that did not happen in 2020. Yes, the commission awarded the disputed electors to Hayes. But, both sides accepted that result only because of an agreement — the so-called Compromise of 1877 — under which Democrats acceded to Hayes inauguration in return for the removal of Federal troops from the South and the end of Reconstruction. No one asked — nor cared — what newly freed African Americans thought of the compromise that ushered in Jim Crow and a system of peonage akin to slavery.

The blame for how the United States reached the depths of a thug brandishing the Confederate flag in the Capitol extends far beyond those politicians who voted to overthrow the results of a legal election. Praise is being heaped on Pence for not letting Trump strong-arm him into acting illegally in announcing the electoral vote and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rightly saying on the floor of the Senate, “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Speaking against Trump at the end of his tenure, when his behavior became too egregious to ignore, does not constitute a profile in courage.

Pence and McConnell — and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress and those who served in the Trump administration — were Trump’s enablers. Everyone knew that Trump is a narcissist unfit to hold national office. Trump’s ignorance of politics, government, and law was on display before he ran for office. His bullying and his racism were apparent to all. Yet, no one more eagerly did Trump’s bidding for four years than Pence. Not that acting as the president’s lapdog did the vice president any good. In the end, when Pence followed the Constitution and custom because he truly had no other choice, because that is what the law demanded of him, the president turned on him as he turns on everyone who crosses him. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” tweeted Trump. McConnell, for his part, earned Trump’s scorn when the majority leader recognized the obvious and called Biden president-elect. 

The point of noting Republican responsibility and servility to Trump is not to exact revenge against every member of the party. While Hawley and Cruz may deserve censure, at least, from their colleagues, the issue is not punishment but acknowledgement. Republicans must come to recognize their role in the rise of Trump. It is not only that the GOP abetted Trump during his four years in the White House. It is also the role the party played in making Trump possible. Years of pandering to racists and xenophobes, incessant obstructionism, and tolerance of “birtherism” and conspiracy theorists turned the Republican Party into a political organization ready to welcome a would-be authoritarian, paving the way for Trump and his attempted overthrow of constitutional government. 

In his speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell said, “We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes… with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other.” A good way to begin healing that divide would be for Republicans to recognize their role in the rise of Trump and begin the process of removing him from presidency and insuring he never holds that office again.

Posted January 8, 2021

Mafia Don and His Mob

There’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated.  

I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. 

All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state. —  All quotations are from phone call of President Donald Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, January 2, 2021.

President Donald Trump, in his own words, caught on tape, begging, cajoling, committing treason while trying to intimidate, in the manner of a Mafia Don, Georgia’s top election official into fraudulently changing the state’s vote tally so that Trump, and not President-elect Joe Biden, receives Georgia’s electoral votes. No longer is there any pretense by Trump that the totals were manipulated in battleground states to give Biden a victory in the Electoral College. In Saturday’s call, the president simply tells Raffensperger to “recalculate.”

This is the stuff of Banana Republics or post-Soviet elections in Belarus. It is treasonous. I will leave it to the lawyers to decide whether Trump’s vague threats against Raffensperger (“you’re not reporting” what “they did” is “a criminal offense,” Trump tells Raffensperger) rise to a prosecutable crime, but it certainly is impeachable. Impeaching the president before January 20 is highly unlikely, but a case can be made for impeachment after he leaves office — if Congress wants to insure that the former president can never hold federal office again. Since Trump has served only one term as president and has said he may run again in 2024, there is a powerful case for the House to move forward.

But, that is for the future. For now, there is the looming certification of the electoral votes by Congress this Wednesday, with a substantial number of Republican representatives and senators poised to object to certifying the votes of key battleground states. Their refusal will force each chamber to debate and vote on each challenge, placing other Republicans in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between the Constitution and Donald Trump. The choice should be a no-brainer, but the cowardly and sycophantic members of the Republican Party have shrunk, for four years, from doing their patriotic duty.

The challenges are a case of civic vandalism and constitutional trashing. Some of the leaders — especially Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas — are graduates of Ivy League law schools and purport to be constitutional scholars (both clerked for chief justices of the United States Supreme Court). They know better. Apparently, for these politicians, overthrowing the Constitution is a small price to pay to advance their presidential ambitions. Literature is full of stories about ambitious young men and women who ignore moral niceties in the march to the top, but a politician sacrificing the bedrock of American democracy to reach the pinnacle used to be unthinkable. Our republican experiment is in danger if ambition trumps principle when it comes to the Constitution. 

The level of cynicism of congressional Republicans supporting the challenges may be unmatched in American political history. In a statement, the senators said they are challenging the electoral votes because “election integrity should not be a partisan issue. A fair and credible audit — conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20 — would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President.” Unmentioned in the statement is that many Americans question the integrity of the election because Trump and his minions (including those on Capitol Hill) spent months before the election and weeks after saying the balloting was fraudulent. All claims of fraud have been debunked, with Trump losing every law suit but one and no one presenting a shred of credible evidence proving chicanery in any state’s election. Despite that, these senators want an investigation to assuage the fears of some voters that were stoked by the very politicians asking for the investigation!

Their challenges become even more untenable following the revelations in Trump’s call to Raffensperger. As long as Trump could claim he was merely demanding that only legitimate ballots be counted and illegitimate ones disqualified, his toadies had sufficient cover to support his debunked allegations. But, his one-hour phone call with Raffensperger removes that veneer, exposing Trump’s ploy for what it has always been: An attempt to subvert the outcome of a fraud-free election to keep him in power.

It is difficult to understand what Trump is seeking. Even if Raffensperger were to play along and “recalculate,” claiming he had found 11,780 votes, that would swing only Georgia’s electoral votes to Trump, leaving him still short of a majority in the electoral college. A clue to Trump’s thinking — if one could call what goes on in his mind thinking — may be found in the revelation that the White House switchboard had placed 18 other calls to the Georgia election official’s office over the last two months. Since that many calls were made to Raffensperger, Trump may well have been calling secretaries of state in other battleground states as well, asking them to find votes for him. Since Trump frequently speaks the quiet parts out loud, it may not be too long before we know whether the calls to Raffensperger were part of a larger scheme to steal the election.

Make no mistake: Stealing is what it is. Trump often tweets: “Stop the Steal,” but the only attempted theft being committed is by him and his craven supporters. Biden won convincingly and every official with responsibility for certifying the results has proclaimed the election free of fraud. But, Trump faces multiple legal problems on many fronts — including, potentially, this new one stemming from his outrageous phone call to Raffensperger — and is desperate to cling to power to preserve his immunity from prosecution. In addition, Trump cannot accept that he is a “loser” (in his thinking, the worst insult in his bag of slurs) who lost to “Sleepy Joe.”

The Saturday phone call was shocking but not surprising. It fits the pattern of Trump’s behavior as a mob boss and is no different from the attempt he made in July 2019 to extort damaging information about Biden and his son, Hunter, from Ukraine’s president. The House impeached Trump for that crime, but Senate Republicans exonerated him. Will they continue to indulge his behavior at the expense of the Constitution? All members of Congress swear an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The United States has no greater enemy today than Donald Trump, a president who would subvert the Constitution to remain in power. Let us hope that Republicans in Congress — representatives and senators — will live up to the oath they swore just this past weekend.

Posted January 5, 2021

The Banana Republic of the United States

#OVERTURN,” President Donald Trump shouted in a one-word tweet this week. No longer is he merely claiming he deserves a second term because, if the votes were counted fairly and accurately, he would have won. No longer is he content to rail against a “rigged” election marred by illegally cast mail-in ballots. Now, the president is calling on someone or some people to ignore the will of the electorate as freely expressed in a fair election.

Donald Trump is orchestrating a coup d’état, calling on unspecified people to “overturn” the results of the November election. Unspecified, but everyone can guess to whom Trump is appealing: The courts to invalidate the election or state legislatures to override the will of the people in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and/or Arizona and replace the legitimately chosen electors with ones who will vote for Trump. And, if both the courts and state legislatures fail to satisfy the president, his tweets imply a recourse of last resort: Encouraging his armed followers to take to the streets and prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States.

This is what politics in the banana republic of the United States has come to in 2020: A putative dictator clinging to power by ignoring the will of the people. 

In the days immediately after the November 3 election many analysts and presidential allies claimed Trump just needed time to process his defeat. But, in the end, so the argument went, he will leave the White House and our democratic republic will survive. Trump’s latest machinations prove that analysis to be wanting. Trump never had any intention to leave. He plans to pull any trick he can to stay in power.

Conventional wisdom has held that Trump would not concede the election because he hates to lose. In Trump’s damaged psyche the worst label a person can have is “loser.” But, illegally remaining in office will not dispel the image of loser, so Trump must have other motives for his attempted coup. I suspect Trump fears federal and state prosecution for numerous crimes — and the possibility of a jail term — so much that he will risk the appellation “loser.” We may not know much about the extent of Trump’s crimes, but he does.

Trump has never demonstrated a knowledge of nor an interest in protecting American democracy. Such niceties as the people’s will, free and fair elections, and constitutional norms mean nothing to him. But, what about the rest of those willing to overturn the system? Are they so beholden to Trump, so afraid of losing an election, so fearful of the president’s wrath that they are willing to discard more than two centuries of constitutional government to maintain in office a man who shows no inclination to do the job? Let us remember that more than three-thousand Americans died of COVID-19 Wednesday — more than the number killed on 9/11 — while the president did little to battle the pandemic but much to destroy democracy.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, has agreed to argue the baseless lawsuit brought by the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, claiming that alleged voting irregularities in four states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — warrant interference by the Supreme Court. Paxton is immersed in a scandal in his own state involving allegations of bribery, so it may be possible that he filed this suit — which is outlandish since Texas has no standing to sue over voting practices in other states — to curry favor with the president. Is a pardon being dangled?

Republican attorneys general in 17 states have joined the suit, and Trump has filed a motion with the Supreme Court to intervene, which makes him a party in the suit. A majority of House Republicans — 106 of the 196 GOP members — signed an amicus brief filed in the high court. The court is not likely to hear this case, which is perhaps why Cruz agreed to argue it. Cruz may be many things, but ignorant of Supreme Court practices and the constitutional division between the federal government and the states — which this lawsuit violates — is not among them. My hunch is he told Trump he would do it because he gets on the good side of Trump without having to make a horse’s ass of himself by arguing a case that he — a former law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist — knows is absurd. Saying yes to Trump was a cynical freebie for Cruz.

Cruz ran for the presidency in 2016 — he was the last Republican standing before Trump sewed up the nomination — and he clearly has not put aside his presidential aspirations. Agreeing to argue the Texas case wins Cruz favor with the 74-million Americans who voted to reelect Trump. Another spineless Republican with presidential ambitions is Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri who praised his state’s attorney general for siding with Texas and Trump. “Good work,” tweeted Hawley. 

On Tuesday, I wrote about the dangers that election officials in Georgia and Michigan faced because they did their jobs in certifying the election results in their states. The threats of violence have only intensified in recent days. This week, the Republican Party in Arizona urged people to fight to the death to overturn the election in which Biden defeated Trump by 11,000 votes in the state. Dozens of Republican lawmakers — current and former — in Arizona publicly called for the results to be decertified. 

In Pennsylvania, 64 Republicans in the General Assembly signed a letter urging Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to reject the state’s Electoral College votes for Biden. Kim Ward, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, who Trump called to ask her to declare there was electoral fraud in Pennsylvania, said she had not been shown the letter, but when asked if she would have signed it, Ward said, “If I would say to you, ‘I don’t want to sign it,” I’d get my house bombed tonight.”

Welcome to the banana republic of the United States! Coups are common in banana republics, so none of what I have written should surprise anyone. Yet, I cling to the hope that Trump can be thwarted and our constitutional republic saved. 

At least I used to cling to that hope. Now, I am not so sure. Even if Trump’s coup is prevented, I am not optimistic about the future health of American democracy. It is been sorely tested over the last four years, and many in power have shown themselves willing to throw it away. 

Posted December 11, 2020

2045 and the Court

Remember the year 2045 when trying to understand what is at stake in the battle over who should appoint the next Supreme Court justice. 

That is the year — according to the Census Bureau — when the United States will become a majority-minority nation. Not only will White people no longer be a majority, but fifteen years later — in 2060 — the number of Hispanic children will equal the number of White ones. By then, the Republican Party will either cease to exist or be a remnant no longer able to contest national elections. Even today, the GOP clings to power only because the Electoral College allows Republicans to overcome losing the popular vote in presidential elections, the Senate favors small rural states, and gerrymandering provides additional conservative seats in the House.

Seen against this demographic backdrop, the Republican determination to ram through Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement is a fight to preserve control of the one institution not directly answerable to the popular will. If Republicans can name the next justice and if that justice is young enough, the GOP can cement control of the Court for decades, despite losing control of the country. A strongly conservative Court could erase healthcare for millions, block effective measures to fight climate change, challenge the presence of immigrants in America, preserve income inequality, eviscerate minority rights, overturn progress in gender equality, strip women of their right to choose, and attempt to enshrine conservative Christian values in a nation becoming less religious.

Power is at the center of what amounts to a Republican coup d’etat against the future. Republican legislators tried to claim the moral high ground in 2016, asserting a seemingly convincing, if fraudulent, principle that the people should decide who should appoint a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. Their invented rule ignored the inconvenient fact that the people had decided when reelecting President Barack Obama. Principle was never involved, only power as attested to by the naked power play of opposing Obama’s replacement for a justice who died in February of 2016 while accepting President Donald Trump’s replacement for one who died in September of an election year. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican caucus who go long with this power grab are certainly hypocrites. But, to accuse them of hypocrisy is beside the point. McConnell and the others have no shame, so accusations of hypocrisy roll off them easily. For them, hypocrisy is not a character flaw; it is just another tool by which they cling to power, along with voter suppression, gerrymandered districts, and inventing rules that apply only to Democrats — such as not holding a confirmation vote on a judicial nominee in an election year.

Violating the popular will comes naturally to Republicans. If they succeed in naming Ginsburg’s replacement, it will mean that more than half of the justices will have been appointed by presidents who did not win the popular vote. These five justices — John Roberts, Samuel Alioto, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Trump’s latest appointee — will sit on the Supreme Court as justices selected by presidents in the White House only by the grace of the Electoral College and approved by a Senate in which 70 percent of the members represent only 30 percent of the population and in which, as Ezra Klein points out, a voter in Wyoming has 66 times as much power as a voter in California.

What can Democrats do? Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats “have our options. We have arrows in our quiver,” but she ruled out leveraging a government shut down as a weapon to derail Republicans from voting on a court nominee. Certainly, Democrats have to organize and get out the vote, and they should make clear what they intend to do if they win control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress in November. Admission of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states would give Democrats four more senators, further pushing the GOP into the minority. Republicans will accuse Democrats of a power grab, but both Puerto Rico and the District deserve statehood. It is the right thing to do, regardless of the court fight, and only Republican intransigence has stood in the way of what should have been done long ago.

Similarly, the time is long overdue to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate. The filibuster if a relic of a racist past when segregationists used it to frustrate civil rights legislation. Now, it survives only to frustrate the rights of the majority. Also, a constitutional amendment must be introduced to abolish the Electoral College, which was written into the Constitution because the Framers distrusted the will of the people and southerners wanted bloated influence in presidential elections to preserve slavery. 

Another popular suggestion is for Democrats to retaliate by adding two justices to the Supreme Court as replacements for the two seats stolen by Republicans. The size of the Court is not fixed by constitutional mandate, and the number of justices varied until 1869 when Congress designated the number at nine. Court-packing has an odious reputation, but a valid case can be made for its justification in this instance. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and other conservatives, will scream about the sacredness of nine on the Court. Cruz will forget that he is on record declaring that if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016 the Republican-controlled Senate should not replace Scalia and let the number of justices remain at eight. But, then again, hypocrisy has no meaning for the shameless.

Still, adding justices should be carefully considered because it might unleash a cycle of retaliatory acts that would undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. The nation’s high Court functions because it is considered above politics and nearly all Americans accept even those decisions with which they disagree. Court-packing threatens to make the Supreme Court into just another political institution subject to the vitriolic partisan divide that rules America today.

McConnell has been notably silent on the timing of a vote for Trump’s nominee. The Kentuckian — involved in a tough race for reelection — may want to hold hearings on a nominee before the election and schedule a vote for after the November 3 to spare Republican senators in close races from having to go on record voting for an ultra-conservative to the bench. But, McConnell would not hesitate to have a lame duck Senate hold a confirmation vote.

Either way, McConnell is determined to put another conservative on the Supreme Court, the only institution the Republicans can hope to control as they shrink into a minority in a nation becoming less White.  

Posted September 22, 2020

America’s Cruel President

[T]he President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain. — Timothy Klausutis to Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter, May 21, 2020.

The president of the United States is a cruel man. No, not just cruel, but, malignantly cruel, obsessively cruel, a man who seems to revel in inflicting pain on others. Trump is a cruel man who lacks all empathy and sympathy for other human beings. 

Americans have been privy to Donald Trump’s cruelty for years. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he physically mocked a disabled reporter. Trump publicly humiliated Carly Fiorina, a 2016 Republican primary opponent, saying of her, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” He defamed the late Senator John McCain twice, once by belittling McCain’s record as a tortured prisoner of war, and then declaring he was “happy” McCain was dead. Trump suggested the late Representative John DIngell might be “looking up” from hell instead of down from heaven.

I could continue cataloging Trump’s despicable behavior, but everyone gets the point, and no one should be surprised that he would defile the memory of Lori Klausutis who died in 2001 while working for then-Republican Representative Joe Scarborough, now a TV host and frequent critic of the president. I will refrain from detailing Trump’s baseless accusations. Those unfamiliar with the suffering of the Klausutis family can read about it by clicking here.

We can debate whether Trump revels in this kind of cruelty. But, what is not debatable is that Trump feasts on conspiracy theories like the one surrounding Joe Scarborough. Conspiracy theories are bread and butter for a man who built his political career on racist allegations about President Barack Obama’s place of birth. During the 2016 primaries, Trump claimed Senator Ted Cruz’s father was linked to President John Kennedy’s assassination, and Trump has suggested the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murder. Trump has insisted that voter fraud cost him the 2016 popular vote and claims, proactively in case he loses, that mail-in voting is rife with fraud. I could go on, but you get the point: Truth matters little to the president. But, one more conspiracy theory promulgated by Trump needs mentioning for its delicious irony: The president has claimed childhood vaccines cause autism but now links his reelection to the discovery — at “warp speed” — of a vaccine against COVID-19.

I see three possible explanations, which are not mutually exclusive, for Trump’s cruelty and trading in conspiracy theories. First, one or both appeal to his base. Second, they are a distraction from the failures of his administration: More than a 100,000 dead — and counting — from COVID-19 and an economy in shambles. I have written about the usefulness of distractions for this beleaguered president, but in this instance I am not sure a gross display of cruelty is a beneficial distraction. Replacing failure with cruelty may not be a winning political choice. And, third, he just cannot help himself. The president is a cruel man who is also ignorant, and, therefore, susceptible to conspiratorial thinking. 

What to do about Trump? Timothy Klausutis requested Twitter remove the tweets. The social media platform declined, but posted at the bottom of two of Trump’s tweets on alleged voter fraud, in blue lettering, a link to “facts about mail-in ballots.” Early Friday morning, Twitter flagged a presidential tweet about the protests in Minneapolis for “glorifying violence.” Trump and his allies argue these actions violate the president’s First Amendment rights. That is nonsense. Twitter did not censor nor delete the president’s tweets; his posts are still available for all to read. There have been many other instances when Twitter has removed offensive comments or disinformation, but it has taken a hands-off approach when it comes to the president. The assertion of the First Amendment also is nonsense because the amendment does not apply in this case. It reads “Congress shall make no law…” and refers to public actions. Twitter is a private company that can make its own rules and enforce them, so long as those rules do not discriminate. Besides, the president has it backwards. He does not need nor does he warrant First Amendment protections from Twitter. The company needs those protections from him.

Still, Twitter should leave Trump’s indecent tweets up. The company claims, not always with consistency but with enough justification to be worthy of consideration, “Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.” And, few would be comfortable leaving the decision of what to delete or let stand to private individuals.

The argument over what to do about Trump’s tweets is related to the ongoing debate over how the media should handle his myriad lies, disinformation, and penchant for baseless conspiracy claims. The answer is not to censor the president. Nor is it just to act as a conduit from Trump’s mouth to the public. Twitter is correct to label his false tweets on voting because of what they are. It should also post links on the malicious tweets on the Scarborough murder charge to fact-based information debunking the conspiracy. Similarly, the media should fact check Trump where appropriate and call out his lies when necessary.

Call me naive or a cock-eyed optimist, but I still believe both in the ultimate wisdom of the American people and that truth eventually triumphs in the contest of ideas. Let Trump’s malignant cruelty stand for all to see. It is hard to imagine anyone who is comfortable with these controversial tweets.

I say this while agreeing with Timothy Klausutis when he writes, “My wife deserves better.” Mr. Klausutis, she does, and so do all of us.

Posted May 29, 2020

Trump’s Criminal Response

There comes a point when incompetence slips into dangerousness and then, finally, at a critical moment, into criminality. Americans concerned about President Donald Trump’s disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, and his boorish behavior — full of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia — could take refuge in the widely held and frequently proven notion that, well, at least he and his administration are incompetent. 

Take comfort no longer. Trump’s willful disregard of the dangers of the coronavirus to public health jeopardizes the well-being of thousands, if not millions, of Americans. The lives of citizens are at risk. Trump’s decision to treat the potential pandemic as a political and public relations matter — which is the way he handles everything else — is no longer merely incompetent. His boasting about his supposed vast medical knowledge is posturing beyond acceptable behavior. His wearing of a hat bearing a campaign slogan at an official presidential visit to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta demonstrates a callous indifference to the threat the disease poses to ALL Americans. 

Attempting to happy talk the crisis away is no solution. Trump knows a tanking stock market — his one go-to “success” — will tank his reelection chances, so he is trying to pretend that there is nothing to see here in hopes of mollifying investors. Others in his administration attempt to further the illusion that the government is in control. Late last week, Larry Kudlow, the president’s chef economic advisor, assured most Americans that they are “not at risk…. Let’s try to be calm and not overreact.” Kellyanne Conway, a presidential adviser, says, “It is being contained.”

Trump not only happy talks, he wants to manipulate the data to make him look good. At the CDC last week, he suggested that infected passengers on a cruise ship should be left on board rather than brought to port so they would not be counted in the nation’s tally of those ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by this coronavirus. “Do I want to bring all those people off?” he asked. “I would rather have them stay on personally…. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

With Trump, it is always someone else’s fault. The infected on the Diamond Princess is not “our fault,” so they do not count in the American total. Of course, that suggests that all the other Americans infected are his fault. But, logic is not Trump’s strong suit. Blaming others, however, comes easily to Trump, and the veracity of the accusation is beside the point. For Trump, blaming his predecessor, President Barack Obama, is the default position, so it naturally follows that the lack of available test kits to determine whether someone has COVID-19 is Obama’s fault, an accusation that earned “Four Pinocchios, the level for the most egregious falsehood, from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. 

Insults also easily roll off Trump’s tongue. After Vice President Mike Pence and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee amicably discussed the federal and state response to the coronavirus outbreak in the Seattle area, Trump said Pence disobeyed orders. “So I told Mike not to be complimentary of the governor because the governor is a snake” and Pence should not be “nice to him,” Trump said while touring the CDC. Trump was angry because Inslee previously had tweeted, “I told [the vice president] our work would be more successful if the Trump administration stuck to the science and told the truth.

The Economist concluded last month that people die at a higher rate in epidemics in authoritarian countries than in democratic ones. That sounds counter-intuitive since autocratic societies can easily impose controls, such as restricting travel. Democratic Italy, for example, apparently is having difficulty locking down 16 million people in large parts of its north while China successfully restricted travel in the Wuhan area after the coronavirus was first detected in that region.  

While authoritarian regimes can respond quickly to crises in certain ways — limiting travel and building the necessary infrastructure, for example — democracies are better at fact-based policymaking and telling their citizens the truth. Unfortunately, telling the truth does not come easily to the Trump administration, and its poor, criminal response to the crisis is one more indication that Trump and those around him have the instincts of autocrats. Even worse than that, the Trump administration combines, in this crisis, the inability of authoritarian regimes to level with their people with the inefficiency and slowness of democratic societies.

From the beginning, Trump has minimized the severity of the crisis (advising people who are sick to go to work) and has floated conspiracy theories that the disease and Democratic criticism of his handling of the outbreak are a hoax. Many on the right bought into Trumpian propaganda and either downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak or argued that it was another plot by “the deep state” to take down Trump. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz jokingly wore a gas mask to the vote on appropriations to combat the virus, only to learn two days later that one of his constituents died from COVID-19. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is on voluntary quarantine after attending a conference and coming in contact with an infected participant. Trump spoke at the same event and shook hands with the organizer who also interacted with the same attendee. Both Gaetz and Representative Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, had contacts with Trump after possibly being exposed to the virus. And, late Monday came word that incoming White House chief of staff, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, also had contact with the coronavirus carrier at the conservative conference attended by other Republicans. 

Incidents like this will make it difficult for Trump’s followers to buy his propaganda on the coronavirus and notions that press coverage of its spread is a plot against the president. Weakening public confidence in Trump’s ability to confront a possible pandemic will further complicate the president’s narrow path to reelection. He lost the popular vote in 2016 and won in the Electoral College only by a few thousand votes in several key states. Trump cannot afford any erosion of his base. Beyond that, his failed response to the coronavirus means he forfeits any chance to make inroads with independent voters. 

But, truly, the politics does not matter, and it should not matter to Trump. What is of concern is that Trump is sacrificing public health for political ends. That is criminal.

Posted March 10, 2020

 

 

The Reign of King Hyperbole

Long live King Hyperbole! He appeared this week on Twitter and the floor of the House of Representatives, dressed in his finest cloak. The Republican Party — once the party of Lincoln — is so bereft of ideology, thought, and moral compass that it — now more properly known as the party of Trump — can only pay homage to King Hyperbole. Democracy be damned! The Constitution, ignore it! Long live King Hyperbole!

No Republican defended President Donald Trump’s actions in shaking down a U.S. ally for the benefit of his reelection. No excuses were offered, because there are none. All that the Republicans who trooped to the well of the House to speak in the debate on the president’s impeachment could say was, well, not much more than exaggeration in the form of hyperbole.

To be sure, there were hours to fill in the debate Wednesday, and each member had only a minute or two to make a point — hence, the outsized metaphors. The president weighed in early in the contest to see who could cite the most inapt historical atrocity. A day before the vote to impeach, Trump compared his treatment — unfavorably, of course — to the Salem witch trials. “More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials,” wrote Trump-the-historian in a tirade in the form of a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Historical aside: 19 alleged “witches” went to the gallows in Puritan Massachusetts in 1692, and one man was crushed to death by heavy stones — his punishment for refusing to enter a plea before the court. Another four convicted “witches” died in prison before their execution dates. No one is suggesting such a fate for the president, only his removal from office — and perhaps a later date in court.)

By the time the impeachment debate reached the floor of the House, the historical gaze of some went much further back in time than the late 17th century. For sheer absurdity, the prize must go to Representative Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican, who said — with a straight face — “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process.” Loudermilk was not the only member to invoke the Crucifixion. Representative Fred Keller, a Republican from Pennsylvania, cited the Gospel of Luke, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I am not going too far out on a limb here in asserting that Jesus — suffering an excruciatingly painful death on the Cross — was far more forgiving than Trump. Supposedly pious Republicans using biblical imagery to defend the crotch-grabbing, election-cheating, lying, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic bully in the White House borders on blasphemy. No, it is blasphemous.

Other absurd comparisons: Representative Mike Kelly, another Pennsylvania Republican, invoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s reference to Pearl Harbor: “This is a date that will live in infamy.” “Today, December 18, 2019, is another date that will live in infamy,” Kelly said. And, Representative Clay Higgins of Louisiana came up with vivid imagery while not indulging in amateurish history. “I have descended into the belly of the beast. I have witnessed the terror within,” he opined. Oh, my!

Republicans once knew — but, have apparently forgotten — how odious Donald Trump is. Lindsey Graham said the real estate developer was “unfit for office.” Now, Graham does not even want to hear the evidence in Trump’s Senate trial. Mick Mulvaney once called Trump “a terrible human being.” But, that was before Mulvaney became Trump’s acting chief of staff. Rick Perry, who has resigned as Energy Secretary, referred to Trump as a “barking carnival act” and labeled his candidacy as “a cancer on conservatism” before becoming one of the three amigos in the Ukraine caper. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called Trump a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral” before defending the man who slimed his wife and father.  

The Democrats did their duty and impeached the president for abuse of power and obstructing Congress. The Senate, under the ever-compliant Mitch McConnell, will conduct a sham trial, and, if “Moscow Mitch” gets his way, the upper chamber will not call any witnesses. Apparently, McConnell fears what those witnesses might reveal. The majority leader’s position is hypocritical and untenable. House Republicans wasted a lot of breath claiming none of the witnesses called by Democrats in the House had first-hand knowledge of what Trump demanded from the Ukrainians. That claim was not true — there was testimony from witnesses who listened to the infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But, true or not, why not hear the testimony of other witnesses who have first-hand information about Ukrainian policy?

Trump’s acquittal is virtually a foregone conclusion, which only will embolden Trump to further abuse of his office. The day after acquittal, the president — if he waits that long — will be hatching another plan to cheat in the 2020 presidential election. It may involve a  different foreign country, or it may be some other nefarious plot. But, Trump will try to rig the election. Why? Because he cheats at everything, he cannot tolerate losing, and, while he does not read much, he can read the polls. Actually, judging by the travels of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s current personal lawyer, the cheating continued during impeachment and probably will continue during and after the trial.

Trump will cheat — and he will get caught because he is incompetent and because he relies on cronies like Giuliani. What will the Republicans say then? Still look the other way? Probably. Invoke more hyperbole? Hard to top the Jesus imagery, but do not discount their abilities. King Hyperbole will be back.

Posted December 20, 2019