Shake up after the Iowa Caucuses

By now it’s pretty clear that the Iowa caucuses were a mess. It’s pretty much acknowledged that the phone app that was developed for this year’s caucuses was a total disaster. And it wasn’t even the Russians this time. It was just plain old-fashioned incompetence.

It’s Wednesday morning as I write this, and still we’re only at about 71% of the votes counted.

What is interesting is that right now Buttigieg is leading 27% to 25% over Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden is trailing the pack in 4th with 15%. Elizabeth Warren is clocking in at about 18%.

As I’ve written previously, I was wrong about Bernie Sanders, and he continues to surprise. But this one is a disaster for Joe Biden and very encouraging for Pete Butigieg.

Buttigieg has a lot in common with Obama from 2008. He really doesn’t have nearly enough experience, and he’s gay. But he does have something that Obama had right from the start, and that is character.

Buttigieg has a lot of character, and that can overcome a lot of other deficiencies. I didn’t think that America would elect a black man (or at least bi-racial man) in 2008, so maybe we’d elect a young gay man in 2020.

Who knows?

In any case, I wouldn’t feel good about the Iowa caucuses if I were Joe Biden.

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I was wrong about Bernie Sanders, and mostly wrong about Elizabeth Warren.

Longtime readers of the blog know that in the 2016 Democratic primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders because it “tickled me pink to be able to vote for a septuagenarian socialist Jew as a serious candidate for President of the United States.”1

However, this time around I was not so enthusiastic about Bernie:

But it seems that the voters don’t agree (if the polls can be trusted). Young voters, in particular, seem to be drawn to Bernie. They believe that Bernie has been saying the same thing for 40 years, which he has.

I still don’t believe that Bernie would beat Trump matched against him one-on-one. Bernie is (depending on your point of view ) a socialist or a social democrat (which are not the same thing). He’s 78 years old. And he’s a Jew.

The Republicans have not yet gone after Bernie, because they believe he would be a much easier match up then, for example, Joe Biden.2 Once the Republicans focus their propaganda machine on Bernie, bad things are going to happen. I don’t think Bernie will get much support from the black of Hispanic communities, notwithstanding his endorsement from AOC and three of the four members of “the Squad.”

But I’ve been wrong before. In 2016 I promised all my German relative that although we were crazy, the United States was not crazy enough to elect the Orange Asshole as President. Especially not when running against someone as übercompetent as Hillary Clinton.

And I was completely wrong.

So maybe Bernie could unleash a tidal wave of young voters who would actually sweep him into office. If he became President I believe he would have a great deal of difficulty governing, especially if the Senate does not swing Democratic, but that’s a discussion for another day.

I was also wrong about Elizabeth Warren, who I didn’t think was likable enough to catch fire, but she’s done remarkably well. I may still be proved correct on that one, but then I thought someone like Kamala Harris might catch fire, and that clearly did not happen.

Let’s face it, I have no effing clue what the average American is thinking.

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Irony is Dead (or at least on life-support)

When you see Ken Starr getting up in front of the Senate and the American public, and lamenting that we’ve arrived at an “age of impeachment,” then you know that irony is dead.

Or at least on life support.

Ken Starr? Isn’t he the guy who prosecuted Bill Clinton relentlessly, starting with the “Whitewater scandal” and ending with Monica Lewinsky, the blue dress, and a President who was afraid to admit to his wife that he’d been getting blow jobs in the oval office?

Ken Starr at the Senate impeachment trial

You know how I can prove that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was an actual witch hunt? Without looking it up on Wikipedia, tell me what the Whitewater scandal was actually about.

That’s right, you have no idea.

And how did we get from there to the blue dress?

That’s right, you have no idea.

Ken Starr was such a political blowhard, such a Republican hack, that he dealt the death knell to the Independent Counsel statute, after which Congress let the authorizing statute expire because everyone believed that there was too much of a danger of the office going rogue, as it had under Ken Starr.

So here we have Ken Starr appearing before the Senate and intoning with a straight face that impeachment should be a “measure of last resort” and that it’s too divisive for America.1

Irony is dead. Or at least on life support.

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I never thought I would see the day where I would be in support of John Bolton

Boy, I never thought I would see the day where I would be in support of John Bolton. He is a neocon’s neocon. He and I aren’t likely to agree on just about anything.

And yet, here we are. Bolton is publishing a book in which he directly contradicts Trump that the “President” didn’t specifically trade military support with the Ukrainians for their promise to announce an investigation of the Bidens. Not to investigate the Bidens. No, just to announce it.

In other words, a quid pro quo.

Now the pressure is building for Bolton — who has already publicly proclaimed his willingness to testify before the Senate — to be called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial.

It seems like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are ready to break with Republican leadership. But they need a few more, like Lamar Alexander to come with them. Beyond that maybe Rob Portman of Ohio, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona, who took John McCain’s place after he passed away.

Nobody (we’re told) wants to be the fourth and final vote necessary to call witnesses, but if you have seven or eight Republican Senators voting that way, then you cannot pin it on just one defector.

This trial, which has been a snoozefest so far, could get interesting after all. Stay tuned my friends, stay tuned.

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President's Team still claiming there was no Quid Pro Quo.

It’s interesting that the President’s team is still claiming that there was no quid pro quo because that’s what the President told Ambassador Sondland on their September 9 phone call. Just to review the time-line:

  • July 25, Trump makes his famous “perfect” phone call to Zelensky where he asks for the Ukrainians to “do us a favor.”
  • August 12, the whistleblower complaint is filed.
  • September 9, Trump tells Ambassador Sondland in the phone call that he wants “no quid pro quo” from Ukraine.
  • September 11, military aid to Ukraine is finally released.

So by the time of the Trump had the phone call with Sondland, the whistleblower complaint was almost a month old, and Trump clearly knew that the allegations were out there and that the allegations were that he had asked Ukraine for a quid pro quo.

Trump’s argument is like as if a known local tough guy had engaged in an armed robbery, the tough guy is tipped off that the police are coming, and when the police do arrive on his doorstep he blurts out “there was no armed robbery!” And the police turn around and go home because, you know, they guy had told them that there was no armed robbery, and why shouldn’t they believe him.

It’s ridiculous.

If this is the type of argument that the President’s legal team is going to use to prove that the President is innocent, then we’re all in big trouble.

While we’re at looking at his legal team, found that Trump’s legal team made (in keeping with their commander-in-chief) a number of false statements, including by:

  • claiming that Republicans were barred from the closed-door depositions conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, whereas Republican members of three different committees were all allowed to be in the room;
  • claiming that the President was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, to access evidence and to have counsel present at hearings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, whereas the President simply declined;
  • claiming that the Mueller report found that Trump committed “no obstruction,” whereas the Mueller team found that there were “multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence” and which amounted to obstruction of justice if the President could be indicted in federal court.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined in the lie-fest by claiming that his resolution outlining the impeachment trial procedures “tracks closely” with the rules for Bill Clinton’s impeachment. It is true that the Clinton trial did hold off on the question of whether to have witnesses (such as Monica Lewinsky) testify, but only because they wanted to be sure that the testimony itself (involving semen, the blue dress and blow jobs) would not be inappropriate before a national audience.

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Day 1 of the Impeachment Trial

One of the interesting things about the first day of yesterday’s impeachment trial is that the President’s attorneys kept making the point that the President didn’t respond to the subpoenas issued by the House because the House did not begin their impeachment inquiry with a House-wide vote.

The problem with this argument is that there is no requirement in the Constitution that the House kick of it’s impeachment with a House-wide vote. As it happened, the impeachment inquiry was kicked off when Nancy Pelosi referred the matter to the House Intelligence Committee to begin with. Which was entirely within their right.

The President does not get to decide whether a House subpoena is legitimate or not. But it’s clearly going to be part of the President’s team strategy for the attorneys to just misrepresent the law, assuming that most Americans aren’t going to know the difference.

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Seven Fallacies about Impeachment to keep in mind

As the impeachment trial of Donald Trump finally gets rolling, this might be a good time to review some of the legalities of impeachment. It turns out that the gold standard for books about impeachment is Charles Black’s Impeachment (A Handbook). Black’s book was originally written during the years of the Nixon administration. Professor Black has since passed away, but his little volume gets updated now and then, as it did for the Clinton impeachment, and now again for the Trump impeachment (this time around by Phillip Bobbitt).

In any case, the book identifies seven fallacies about impeachment that might be useful to reproduce at this point in time:

  1. Impeachment is a political question, not a legal one.
  2. The grounds for impeachment are whatever the House of Representatives determines them to be by voting a Bill of Impeachment and sending it to the Senate.
  3. A criminal act by the president is an essential predicate to impeachment.
  4. Any serious criminal act by the president is grounds for impeachment.
  5. Congress cannot remove a president via impeachment for exercising or declining to exercise authorities that are constitutionally committed to the president’s discretion.
  6. Acts authorized by Congress cannot provide a predicate for the impeachment of the president who carries out these acts.
  7. What constitutes a “high Crime or Misdemeanor” does not vary with the office of the person being impeached.

So these seven statements are false. They are fallacies. It turns out that impeachment does not require a criminal act, but it does require an abuse of power, which we certainly have in the Trump case. As explained in the Impeachment Handbook, “An impeachable offense is one that puts the Constitution in jeopardy. This act might also be a common crime, but the reason we impeach is not to punish common crimes.”

It is also not true that Congress cannot remove a president for exercising authorities that are constitutionally committed to his discretion. These questions are “confused by failing to differentiate between the exercise of a lawful power, and the unlawful exercise of such a power.” For example, “the president could clearly be impeached were he to take bribes from a foreign state in exchange for recognition. The grounds for impeachment lie not in the exercise of the power per se but in its corrupt exercise.”

So the question is not whether the President has the right to fire ambassadors (he clearly does) or the right to withhold money from Ukraine (he clearly does) but whether he did these things for a corrupt purpose (getting dirt on Joe Biden, which he clearly did).

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Our Hypocrisy is not like theirs, part 23

As the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins this morning, there has been a bit of focus on the oath that Senators have to swear in order to be jurors in the impeachment trial. That oath says:

Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you god?

Senate impeachment oath

So, Mitch McConnell has been very open out the fact that he’s planning on coordinating with the White House with respect to Trump’s defense.

Which brings up a question: can a Senator be impeached for obstruction of justice?

The answer, it turns out, is no. Senators can be censured or expelled, but not impeached.

McConnell will not be censured or expelled because in order for that to happen, the Democrats would need to be in the majority. Heck, even Joseph McCarthy wasn’t expelled (although he was at least censured).

Too bad, though, because McConnell has done more to destroy the Republic than just about anybody this side of Donald Trump.

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Trump manages to unite Iran and Iraq

Well, as everyone knows, we have a very stable genius in the White House. He decided, in his infinite wisdom, to assassinate Gen. Qassem Soleimani of Iran three days into 2020, getting the New Year off to a rocking start.

So, let’s see what has happened since Trump made what was surely a thoroughly thought-through and well-considered decision:

Oh good, well nothing to see here. I’m sure the Trump administration is, once again, playing chess while the rest of use are playing checkers.

For those of you who don’t remember, Iran was involved in a war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988. These people basically despise each other. Congratulations for uniting them, President Trump!

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Is Trump wagging the dog with his assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani?

Like most of you, I had never heard of Gen. Qassem Soleimani before yesterday. I read in the media that he was a bad guy. Maybe he was. Maybe he was just an Iranian patriot. (You know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. See the entry for Menachem Begin, if you don’t know what I mean.)

The question arises, why take out this guy now? It smells awfully like a “Wag the Dog” scenario.

Wag the Dog trailer

For better or worse, back in 2011, and 2012, when Obama was running for re-election, Trump tweeted multiple times about how he thought Obama was going to start a war to help his reelection chances, and how that is “what I would do” if Trump were in the same position.

Trump does realize that his tweets are archived, does he not? So, just to review:

  • Aside from tweeting about Obama potentially going to war, before he was President, Trump also tweeted about what a terrible deal the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that John Kerry had helped negotiate was, and how he could get a better deal.
  • Sure enough, when he was elected President, Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (notwithstanding that the other signatories, including Germany, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and even Iran stayed in the deal).
  • The Trump administration then reimposed very punitive sanctions on Iran, even while Iran still kept to the terms of the agreement.
  • Eventually Iran began to retaliate with actions such as harassing the oil tankers in the straits.
  • Now Trump has gone out and assassinated their #1 General, on the eve of his impeachment and right before the actual voting starts.


BTW, targeting a particular individual is considered to be a war crime under international law.

Pompeo is claiming on behalf of Trump that Soleimani was planning an operation against American diplomats, and that this action was necessary to prevent that action, and therefore not an assassination.

Yeah maybe. Do you trust the Liar-in-Chief and his administration? I don’t.

For those of you who don’t remember the history between the United States and Iran, NPR just put up a story reminding everyone of the 1953 overthrow of the popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, which the CIA happened to engineer. In case you’re wondering, you know, why the Iranian people might have some issues with us.

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