Republican talking points, and the way to Respond to Them

In listening to the Trump impeachment inquiry, it’s become obvious what the Republican’s defense of Trump is going to look like. Their eleven (or so) talking points can be summarized and easily defended.

  1. That the Impeachment inquiry is just a part of the Democrats attempt to overturn the 2016 election results.
  • While there are some Democrats who wanted to impeach Trump from the start of his Presidency — based on the overwhelming evidence that Trump was colluding with the Russians long before he was elected — most Democrats (including the leadership under Nancy Pelosi) waited until Trump forced their hand by trying to extort Ukraine. It was the whistleblower’s allegations that began the inevitable march towards impeachment proceedings.
  1. That Republicans are not being offered due process in the hearings.
  • The procedures being used in the hearing are essentially the same procedures that the Republicans wrote for the investigations into Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email server. On top of which, the Republicans have been given just as much time as the Democrats to question witnesses. The only thing the Democrats have not allowed is for the Republicans to call witnesses (like Hunter Biden) who clearly have nothing to add to the investigation of President Trump’s behavior.
  1. That Hunter Biden should be subpoenaed by the Committee.
  • The Republicans want to subpoena Hunter Biden because they want to have a separate investigation of his activities — unrelated to the Trump impeachment inquiry — but Hunter Biden’s behavior has already been investigated, and there is no evidence that Hunter Biden engaged in any illegal conduct.
  1. That the whistle-blower should be subpoenaed by the Committee.
  • The Republicans only want to expose the whistleblower so that he can be punished, and to discourage other whistleblowers from coming forward. Everything the whistleblower alleged has already been confirmed in the impeachment inquiry, so — given that the whistleblower did not have first hand knowledge — there is nothing he could contribute to the factual narrative that has not already been discussed. I thought the Republicans wanted to hear from people with first hand information.
  1. That Trump did not say the magic words “Quid Pro Quo.”
  • The Republican seem to think that it’s a problem that President Trump was not heard saying the magic words “quid pro quo” when he clearly required that the Ukrainian’s should announce an investigation into the Bidens publicly, as well as on an American news channel, before the military aid to Ukraine should be released. But people don’t talk that way. When someone extorts money from you, they generally don’t tell you, “I’m extorting you.” When they hold you up with a gun, they don’t have to say “this is an armed robbery” in order for it to qualify as a crime.
  1. That it’s significant that President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that there was “no quid pro quo.”
  • The Republicans seem to think that it’s significant that President Trump told Ambassador Sondland — in answer to his question of what the President wanted from Ukraine — that he wanted “nothing, no quid pro quo!” But the President said that only after the whistleblower had already come forward, and the media had already reported on the allegations of the quid pro quo.
  1. That President Trump is interested in corruption in Ukraine.
  • This is completely laughable, it’s so ridiculous. President Trump is not even interested in corruption in the United States. Trump has repeatedly been quoted as saying that he “does not give a shit” about Ukraine, and it was clear to everyone that the only thing he cared about was getting the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.
  1. That other countries have had a hold placed on their military aid.
  • While other countries (such as Lebanon) have had holds placed on their military aid, this has never been to secure their cooperation in an investigation of political opponents of the President. In point of fact, the issues of corruption that Trump was supposedly concerned about had been addressed earlier in the year, when Ukraine had been certified in May by his own State Department to have made enough progress on issues of corruption to satisfy Congressional requirements.
  1. That the Committee should be investigating Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.
  • This is a complete red herring. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Ukrainians meddled in the 2016 election. As Fiona Hill pointed out, this is a Russian talking point and a Russian effort to deflect focus away from their own meddling in the 2016 election.
  1. That Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election is a hoax.
  • The entire first half of the Mueller report is devoted to proving that the Russians meddled in the 2016 Presidential election, and the Republicans have no evidence to counter the findings of the Mueller report on this issues.
  1. That nothing was found against President Trump during the Mueller investigation.
  • This is also completely untrue. In point of fact, Mueller found 10 specific ways in which Trump obstructed justice. He also decided, based on the legal opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice, that Trump could not be indicted while he was a sitting President. On the other hand, Mueller’s team was able to secure the indictment and conviction of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Maria Butina, and Roger Stone, as well as the indictment of 13 additional Russian citizens and entities.

It’s also noteworthy that back in 2016 Trump asked the Russians — right on live TV — to investigate Hillary’s email server and (as we now know) the Russians obliged a day later. Now, in 2019, Trump was trying to get another country (Ukraine) to screw with another of his political rivals (Joe Biden) for the 2020 Presidential election.

So clearly, President Trumpelthinskin has not learned a bloody thing from the 2016 election. Or, if he’s learned something, it’s that illegal interference from foreign countries works! It is so obvious by now that this guy thinks he’s completely above the law, and that the law will never catch up with him.

Maybe he’s right, but as Bibi Netanyahu is learning right now, maybe he’s not. The fat lady has not sung yet, if you know what I mean.

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It’s Interesting to see where Republicans are trying to take the Impeachment Inquiry

Well, it’s nice to see where Republicans are trying to take the impeachment inquiry on day #3 of the public hearings.

  1. They’re still trying to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
  2. They’re still trying to out the whistleblower.
  3. They’re trying to question the patriotism and judgment of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

The response to these efforts need not be complicated.

  1. Joe and Hunter Biden are not under investigation in this inquiry. The behavior of Donald Trump is. Others have looked into the Biden’s relationship to Burisma and Ukraine, and while there are certainly issues of appearance of conflict of interest, there is no “there” there.
  2. Under the laws of the United States, the whistleblower should not be outed, and since (by his own admission) he has no first-hand knowledge, he would not be able to contribute much to the debate regardless.
  3. Lt. Col. Vindman is not responsible for the fact that the new Ukrainian regime — apparently impressed with both his qualifications and bearing — offered him the position of Minister of Defense, an offer that he never entertained.

Sorry Republicans, you’re going to have to do better than this.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs, Part 20

Last week at the House Intelligence Committee hearings on impeachment, the Republicans were whining about several things:

  • That the witnesses who were being brought in to testify mostly had second hand (or hearsay) information.
  • That some witnesses were first testifying behind closed doors.
  • That the rules of the Committee did not allow the President to have “due process.”

So, in quick response to that, it should be noted:

  • The witnesses were mostly providing second hand information because President Trump has blocked all of the witnesses who have first hand knowledge from testifying.
  • The Republicans also complained when the doors were opened and the witnesses were allowed to testify publicly and in front of TV cameras.
  • The House Intelligence Committee is essentially using the same rules that the House Republicans used when investigating Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email server.

You just cannot please these people.

Even Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano has admitted, on Fox News, that the rules being used are essentially the ones that the Republicans wrote back when they had the gavel.

Note to Republicans: you can’t establish a set of procedures and then complain when the other team uses the procedures that you set up.

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It Wasn’t Witness Intimidation, but it was definitely an Attempt at Bullying

On Friday of last week the House Intelligence Committee brought in former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of the impeachment inquiry. She was a very clear and composed witness.

In response the President of the United States, the Twittler in Chief, tweeted the following:

Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff tried to make out that this was “witness intimidation.” I don’t think it was witness intimidation. Witness intimidation is more like, “I know where your children go to school” or something where there is at least an implied threat.

This was just plain bullying, one of President Trumpelthinskin’s favorite activities (his wife’s “be best” campaign notwithstanding).

Of course, blaming the ambassador because things have not gone well in Somalia is just plain stupid. Like Trump claiming that his daughter Ivanka created 14 million jobs.

Still, on the Democratic side we have to be careful not to become hysterical. There’s enough evidence of Trump’s trying to extort the Ukrainians to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden that we don’t have to add witness intimidation to the pile.

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Republican defense of Trump impeachment: the Crime was Not Completed

The first day of impeachment hearings on Wednesday weren’t exactly riveting television, but there were certainly some interesting moments. One of those was watching New York Representative (and GOP rising star) Elise Stefanik sum up the impeachment hearings this way:

For the millions of Americans viewing today, the two most important facts are the following:

No. 1, Ukraine received the aid.

No. 2, there was, in fact, no investigation into Biden.

Ahem. So their argument is that there is no problem because the crime was not completed?

The first difficulty with this argument is that the crime would have been completed but for the intervention of the whistleblower, the one that the Republicans are so desperate to unmask.

Turns out that Ukraine received the embargoed military aid a day or two after the whistleblower did his thing.

Also, if you try to kill someone and don’t succeed, it’s not like you get off scott free. Instead of it being murder, it becomes attempted murder.

I thought everyone knew that.

In any case, just about the only moment of merriment all day was provided by Vermont representative Peter Welsh, who said this in response to Republican Representative Jim Jordan’s demand that the whistleblower — the one who “started it all” — be required to testify before the committee:

I’d say to my colleague, I’d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.

Let’s see what kind of merriment today’s hearings might produce. LOL!

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Democrats are panicking more than they should about whether they can win in 2020

There was an interesting article in the Boston Globe today entitled Doubts about 2020 field send Democratic party elites, donors scrambling to find a savior.

The Democrats are panicking, yes they are.

  • Michael Bloomberg? Lots of money but no charisma at all.
  • Deval Patrick? Loads of charisma but a mediocre manager (and I’m not sure America is ready for another black President so soon). 1

Yes, it’s not the world’s strongest field.

  • Biden is not Obama.
  • Warren is probably too far left.
  • Sanders is a protest vote.
  • Buttigieg is very young, inexperienced, and also very gay.

Still, as Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania points out, in head-to-head national polls, the top Democratic candidates in the running beat Trump.

I’d like to see a Biden-Warren ticket, with Biden maybe offering to be a one-term President. Just a thought.

I posted something on Facebook about this today, and it generated a lot of debate.

In any case, don’t freak out yet, my fellow progressives. It’s still all about the electoral college, and I don’t see Trump winning all five of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida a 2nd time, which he would have to do to be re-elected. Suburban women may still save us all.

There is no savior out there. We have the candidates that we have. Some of the candidates that could have caught fire — Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — did not catch fire. But it is, one must concede, a narrower race than it should be.

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While waiting for the public phase of the Impeachment Inquiry, let’s not completely forget the Mueller Report

While we’re waiting for the public (i.e. televised) portion of the impeachment inquiry to begin, let’s not completely forget the Mueller report.

The Mueller report was a disappointment to liberals, progressives never-Trumpers and sane people all over the nation, and frankly, many parts of the Earth as a whole, as Mueller and his team refused to state out loud that Trump and his merry band of Pranksters had committed obstruction of justice.

That is not, lest we forget, because they did not find evidence of obstruction of justice. It is rather because — as a special project of the Justice Department which is (after all) a part of the Trump administration — the Mueller team adhered to an advisory opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel within the Justice Department that a sitting President could not be indicted.

And, if he can’t be indicted, then there’s no point in finding that he committed crimes, because he can’t be prosecuted.

And if he can’t be prosecuted then he also can’t defend himself in a court of law, so to accuse him of obstructing justice under those circumstances would be “unfair.”

And then, the Mueller team proceeded to enumerate the ways in which Trump (or members of his administration) obstructed justice. Let us count the ways:

  1. The Trump administration lied about their contacts with the Russians during the campaign, even though those contacts clearly existed and were known to one and all.
  2. Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn discussed sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period, and then lied about this to the media, the FBI, the Vice President and other members of his own administration.
  3. The President asked leaders of the intelligence community in general (and then-FBI Director James Comey in particular) to make public statements that he had “no connection” to the investigation into Russian interference in the election.
  4. The President fired James Comey because he refused to make public statements to the effect that the President was not under investigation with respect to Russian interference in the elections.
  5. The President made specific efforts to have the special counsel (Robert Mueller) removed from the investigation of Russian interference.
  6. The President made specific efforts to curtail the Special Counsel investigation.
  7. The President made specific efforts to prevent disclosure of emails about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials.
  8. The President made specific efforts to have the Attorney General take over the Special Counsel investigation.
  9. The President ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to deny that the President tried to fire the special counsel.
  10. The President ordered his personal fixer, Michael Cohen to submit false statements to Congress minimizing the Trump Tower Moscow Project.

So, that is ten ways in which the Special Counsel found that Trump obstructed justice. After repeating ad nauseum that the President could not be indicted because of the Office of Legal Counsel advisory opinion, Mueller practically challenged the Congress to impeach the President.

Which they have now done.

But not because of the Mueller enumeration of the ways in which Trump and his team tried to obstruct justice into the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

No, what finally pushed Democrats (and Speaker Nancy Pelosi) over the edge are the allegations that Trump and his administration pressured the President of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as a specific quid pro quo for the release of military aid which the Congress had appropriated for Ukraine.

But let’s not completely forget about the Mueller report allegations while we enjoy the public phase of the current impeachment inquiry.

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Michael Bloomberg wants to Run for President, joining the Billionaire’s Club.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former Mayor of New York, wants to run for President, joining the billionaire’s club that is either already running (Tom Steyer)1 or that was considering running (Howard Schultz).2

Seriously, enough with these Billionaires who think that they’re qualified to be President. At least Blomberg was the two-term Mayor of New York, so that he has actual government experience.

But, if he gets in, he would be he second Mayor of New York to get into the race, and I think he would find (as Bill DeBlasio did) that what plays well in New York doesn’t necessarily play well in Preoria.

As billionaires comes and go, Bloomberg, Schultz and Steyer are pretty good guys. They are a whole lot better than Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers.

However, what all three of these guys (Bloomberg, Schultz and Steyer) lack, is charisma. Not a one of them has much charisma. And without charisma, it’s hard to be elected President of the United States.

Bloomberg has also been a political vagabond. He started as a Democrat, switched to Republican to run as Mayor of New York, and then switched to being an Independent. This would now be his third switch, if he were to run again as a Democrat.

In addition, Bloomberg is 77 years old, putting him in the same age bracket with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Bloomberg seems to think that Joe Biden will fade, and maybe he will. But Biden still has by far the best numbers against Trump, and is a very credible, experienced guy. With lots of appeal to middle America.

I wouldn’t count him out yet.

At least Bloomberg isn’t proposing to run as a 3rd Party candidate, with the potential of splitting the anti-Trump vote.

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Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Today is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which happened on November 9, 1989. Count me among those who never thought that would happen. I always wanted to see East Berlin while the wall was still up, so that I could see modern communism — at least the East German version of it — while it still existed.

I never made it there while the wall was still up. No one (myself included) thought that it would happen so quickly, and it really was an accident of history. Making a long story short, or at least as short as possible:

  • In October 1989, longtime East German leader Erich Honecker1 stepped down in favor of Egon Krenz.
  • On November 1, 1989, Krenz opened the border with Czechoslovakia, in response to pressure from the East German populace.
  • On November 7, 1989, new travel regulations were proposed by the Politburo.
  • At a press conference by Günter Schabowski, the party boss in East Berlin (and the spokesman for the Politburo), Schabowski — who had not been properly informed of the regulations — answered questions in a manner that implied that East Germans would be able to travel to West Germany relatively unimpeded.
  • The press conference was highlighted by West Berlin television stations (all of which could be received by East German televisions), causing massive numbers of East Germans to gather at the wall.
  • The East German border guards at the six Berlin checkpoints became overwhelmed, and opened the checkpoints, causing thousands of people to slip through.
  • Many of the East Germans were greeted by their West German counterparts with flowers and champagne.
  • People began to climb the wall and started to dismantle it with sledge hammers, with no resistance from the border guards.

And that was it, the accident of history.

After reunification, the East and West Germans were jokingly known as Jammer Ossies (complaining East Germans) and Besser Wessies (West Germans who always thought they know better), and much interesting sociology has been learned by the complicated integration of these two cultures, which were on parallel development for forty-five years.

It makes one wonder when North Korea and South Korea will be reunited. It will happen eventually, but no one knows when.

It’s still complicated in Germany, and most of the neo-Nazi activity there has been generated in the old Eastern region — where the populace never had to come fully to terms with the legacy of the holocaust — but it’s still better than having two countries.

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Tuesday was good for the Democrats, but maybe not as good as the Headlines Suggest

If you just checked the headlines on Wednesday morning, you might walk away thinking the Democrats had a massive night.

It was, let’s remember, an interim election with a few Governor’s seats available, and a bit of a bellweather relative to what one might expect for next November (362 days and counting down, my friends).

However, if you look behind the headlines, the results were more mixed:

  • In Virginia, the Democrats capturing both the House of Delegates and the Senate, albeit by narrow margins, is uniformly good news.1
  • In Kenntucky, Attorney General Andy Beshear has defeated incumbent Governor Matt Bevin by 5100 votes (49.2% to 48.8% at latest counting) which is also good news. Although Bevin has called for a recount, the odds are not good that he succeeds.
  • On the other hand, in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated Attorney General Jim Hood in an open race with no incumbents. Not a surprise, but still reassuring for Republicans.

On balance, this is certainly better news for the Democrats than the Republicans, but it mostly reinforces how divided the electorate currently is. And President Trumpelthinskin, despite his outrageous and completely transparent behavior over the last three years, still enjoys remarkable support given what his behavior has actually been like.

I don’t think we’ll ever see another person in my life time who is this badly behaved and still enjoys so much support. Not completely sure what it says about the United States of America, but I don’t think it’s good.

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