Saturday, December 8, 2018

Mueller Is Moving In for the Kill


Contrary to what many - myself included - have been speculating, Robert Mueller, far from winding down his investigation, appears to be ramping it up. The court filings against Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort paint a picture of a campaign that was deeply imbedded with the Russians and was doing everything possible to cover their tracks. And for the first time, Donald Trump, aka Individual 1, has been identified by the Southern District of New York as the one who directed Cohen to make hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in violation of campaign finance law.

Let me repeat that: the Southern District of New York, an arm of the Justice Department, is accusing the President of the United States of committing a crime. When you combine that with the recent revelation that Trump was negotiating the building of a tower in Moscow while he was then a candidate and the meeting his son and son-in-law had with Russian officials at Trump Tower to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, it's clear that Mueller is building a case for collusion and obstruction of justice, and his target is Trump.

If this were a Hitchcock movie, we'd be at the part where Janet Leigh turns on the water in the shower. At the rate this investigation is going, I would be surprised if more indictments aren't handed down before Christmas. If I were Donald Jr. or Jared Kushner, I'd pack a toothbrush and a change of underwear now. Want to know why Trump has been more unhinged than usual in his tweets this week? It's because he knows what's coming and where this will ultimately wind up. Mueller undoubtedly has his tax returns, so he knows where his money comes from. Flynn and Cohen have dotted the i's and crossed the t's, and Manafort, by discussing his plea deal with Trump's lawyers, has provided the noose that will ultimately end up around this president's neck.

And here's the best part of all. For those who were worried that Matthew Whitaker would end this investigation, Mueller appears to have preempted such a move through these filings with the courts. This is now clearly in the hands of the judiciary. Even if Trump ordered Whitaker to pull the plug, the filings would still be in place; the redacted portions have been fully disclosed to each presiding judge, and only those judges can dismiss any grand juries that might still be impanelled. Indeed, the case in the Southern District of New York would go on with or without Mueller. Whitaker would have to fire all the attorneys in the case, one of whom was a Trump appointee. And both Manafort and Cohen, in the event of a presidential pardon, could still be prosecuted for crimes committed at the state level.

Long story short, there is no way Donald Trump is going to stop this train from arriving at its destination. He knows that, his attorneys know that, and most of all, Robert Mueller knows that. With each passing day he gets closer and closer to his objective. While it is true that, per DOJ rules, Trump may never be indicted for his crimes, at least not while in office, the report that Mueller's team is in the process of writing will paint a damning picture of a corrupt business man who thought he could piss all over the Constitution on his way to becoming president.

I'm more optimistic now than I was a month ago that the truth is eventually going to come out. Sadly, 40 percent of the country will not believe Mueller's report, and a vast majority of both House and Senate Republicans will take no action regarding it; just the opposite, in fact. Trump's surrogates have been actively engaged in crafting an alternative narrative in an attempt to smear Mueller and neuter his findings. But in the end I believe the wheels of justice will have their way with Trump and his whole crime family.

And Robert Mueller knows how to deal with crime families. Let's not forget that this is the prosecutor who brought down John Gotti by flipping Sammy the Bull, a man who murdered 19 people, so he knows how to work his way up a food chain.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Kirsten Gillibrand Isn't the Bad Guy Here


Kirsten Gillibrand is catching hell for "forcing" the resignation of Al Franken last year after it was revealed that he had been accused of sexual misconduct. How much hell? According to a recent piece in Politico, "more than a dozen prominent West Coast, New York and national donors and bundlers — many of them women — said they would never again donate to or fundraise for Gillibrand or would do so only if she ended up as the Democratic presidential nominee."

One of the prominent donors who just happens to NOT be a woman is George Soros. Yes, that George Soros. In June, he questioned Gillibrand's motives, saying she only did it to "improve her chances" for a 2020 presidential run. If you're on Soros's shit list you clearly have a problem.

Look, I understand the frustration many Democrats feel over what happened to Franken. He was an accomplished senator who would've made a formidable opponent for Trump had he decided to run in 2020. But Gillibrand is not the bad guy here; Franken is. Granted, he's no Roy Moore or Matt Lauer. But he's hardly Pope Francis either. In any other era what he did would've gotten him a slap on the wrist. But this is the Me Too era and yesterday's slap on the wrist is today's career ender. Franken knew that, which is why he chose to resign rather than force a lengthy Senate investigation.

His supporters need to realize that there is no up side in vilifying Gillibrand; just the opposite in fact. Since the Monica Lewinski scandal twenty years ago, Democrats have had a blind spot when it comes to the sexual misconduct of their own leaders. It matters not that Bill Clinton was an outstanding president who, while in office, championed women's right; his conduct was deplorable, and the way in which Democrats - particularly progressives - treated Lewinski was a disgrace. Slut shaming does not even begin to describe what happened to her. There are many women that to this day have never forgiven the party for that incident. Given that 2018 saw record numbers of them elected to office, it is foolhardy to say the least to defend the actions of a man who, in the end, admitted his wrong doing and did the right thing by resigning.

I don't know whether Kirsten Gillibrand will decide to run for president in 2020 - for my part I'm holding off commenting on what will undoubtedly be a crowded field for at least another month. But this much I do know. If she does run, she deserves to be evaluated on what qualifications she would bring to the table, and not crucified for standing up for what she believes in.

Democrats can't have it both ways. They can't publicly excoriate Republicans for defending the likes of a Brett Kavanaugh while at the same time conveniently ignoring the malfeasance of an Al Franken. If they are going to mount a serious challenge to Trump they are going to have to convince a majority of the electorate that they have a rightful claim to the moral high ground.

One way to do that would be to admit that just because you have a D next to your name doesn't mean the rules of common decency don't apply to you.

Friday, November 23, 2018

John Roberts Fires A Shot Across Trump's Bow


John Roberts has had enough of Donald Trump's endless assault on the judiciary. The Chief Justice got his dander up after Trump went after the 9th Circuit for issuing a temporary restraining order blocking the Administration from denying migrants the opportunity to seek asylum. Trump called the decision "a disgrace," and referred to the judge who issued the ruling "an Obama judge."

And that prompted this response from Roberts:
"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."
Let's put aside for the moment that the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has been political with respect to some of its decisions over the last couple of decades. Bush v. Gore and Citizens United are two of the most egregious examples of right-leaning activist decisions that have marred the Court.

The message that Roberts is sending has little to do with ideology or politics. In short Roberts is issuing a warning to Trump that there could be consequences for him if he doesn't lay off the judiciary. Now don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that Roberts is going to start bunking with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. He was, after all, appointed by George W. Bush and he is clearly a conservative justice.

But Roberts is also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and, as such, he has a responsibility to ensure that the reputation of this co-equal branch of government is not besmirched by Trump, or anyone else for that matter. His 2012 landmark majority opinion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius is a case in point. I won't go into all the details of the actual decision - you can read my synopsis here - but suffice to say Roberts pulled the legal equivalent of a rabbit out of his hat. Rather than side with his fellow conservatives who wanted to gut the whole law, Roberts decided to split the proverbial baby in two. By calling the mandate a tax - which even the Obama Administration didn't do - he allowed it to remain in tact and thus saved the Affordable Care Act from extinction.

There was only one reason Roberts made what many legal scholars believed was the most bizarre decision of his judicial career. He didn't want the court that he was presiding over to ostensibly wipe out a law that was legally passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by a duly elected president. The unwillingness of conservative justices, like Antonin Scalia and alleged swing vote Anthony Kennedy, to allow part of the law to survive was the tipping point for him. If the only choice was to gut the ACA or leave it alone, Roberts opted for the latter.

Roberts took a lot of flack for that decision. While progressives may have praised him for his courage, conservatives assailed him as a traitor. The dissenting opinion, which many have speculated was originally intended to be the majority opinion, all but accused Roberts of rewriting the law to allow it to stand. In the end, I doubt Roberts cared all that much what people thought of his decision; his only concern was the reputation of the Court.

And that's why I think - but won't go out on a limb to predict - that if Democrats subpoena Trump's tax returns and he fights them all the way to the Supreme Court, it will be Roberts who will be the swing vote that allows the nation to finally see once and for all where this man's income comes from. Trump knows this, or at least has been told as much by his lawyers. That's why he's picking a fight with the judicial branch. It's stupid from a legal perspective; but from a political one, if and when he loses, it will allow him to once again frame the whole debate as yet another example of the "deep state" out to get him.

This weaponizing of the judiciary poses one of the gravest threats to the Republic we've yet seen from this president. John Roberts is rightly concerned about the damage such rhetoric can do and he's done being shy about it. His condemnation of Trump might be remarkable and unprecedented, but it will pale in comparison to the impact he could end up making in a few months.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Pelosi's Moment Of Truth


When all is said and done, Democrats are likely to wind up with a net gain of 38 seats in the House of Representatives. That would give them a total of 233 seats to the Republicans' 202. When you combine that with a net gain of seven state houses and the the fact that the damage in the Senate will likely be limited to two seats, this was a pretty successful midterm election.

But all is not a bed of roses in the land of the Dems. With less than two months to go before the next Congress is sworn in, we still don't know who the new Speaker of the House will be. That's because there's a growing insurgency among some of the freshman class and a few incumbents to oust Nancy Pelosi from her leadership perch.

As of now, 16 Democrats have signed a letter declaring they will not vote for her as Speaker. With Democrats holding only a 15 seat majority, that leaves Pelosi one shy of the requisite 218 yes votes she would need to get an absolute majority in the chamber. Further complicating matters is the fact that while opposition to the current minority leader may be fierce and determined, there doesn't appear to be a viable alternative who can muster the necessary votes either. And that leaves the party up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

I've made no secret of the fact that the Democratic Party needs new blood. All three of its leaders - Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn - are in their 70s, and the majority of the new chairs belong to men. If ever there was a party that needs a housecleaning it's the Democrats. And with the majority of newbies considerably younger and more diverse, it's imperative that they have a place at the table.

Of course the paradox is that for all her negatives, few if any Democrats know how to run a caucus like Pelosi. She was almost singlehandedly responsible for getting the Affordable Care Act through the House, successfully putting down a rebellion by progressives who demanded single-payer or a public option. Given that the top issue Democrats ran on this year was healthcare, it would be ironic indeed if the woman who gave them that issue weren't around to see it through.

And then there's the sixty-four thousand dollar question. If not Pelosi, then who? It's one thing to publicly declare you won't support someone, it's quite another to declare who you will. And so far, no one has come forward who can fill Pelosi's shoes. Tim Ryan challenged her two years ago and fell short of gaining enough votes. Marcia Fudge, another Ohio Democrat, was seen as a strong candidate, but rumor has it that Pelosi showed her her scheduler and that was all it took for Fudge to have a change of heart.

If I were a betting man, I'd say Pelosi survives, but just barely. One way would be for a number of incumbent members to vote present rather than no. That would reduce the absolute majority she needs to secure her second stint as Speaker. Another way would be for her to guarantee a few plumb appointments to committees for several "reluctant" yes votes. About four or five should be sufficient to get her across the finish line. Even among idealists, money talks and bullshit walks.

Then there's always the very real possibility that Pelosi could call everyone's bluff and demand a straight up or down vote. That would ostensibly box the naysayers in. Without a candidate capable of getting 218 votes, many of them would likely cry uncle and vote yes rather than let the political equivalent of a food fight break out and consume the entire caucus. And with so much at stake, to have that happen would be like giving Republicans the Christmas gift of a lifetime.

One thing's for certain: whoever does become the next Speaker will have their work cut out for them. Already there is a civil war brewing between progressives and centrists for the heart and soul of the party. The fact is that most of the freshman class were elected in suburban districts that are anything but liberal. They are not beholden to any ideology, much less one which is not embraced by a majority of their constituents. Contrary to my earlier comments regarding her, it seems Pelosi might be the only Democrat who can successfully navigate through this minefield.

One thing I will say in her defense. There's a reason Republicans made her an issue throughout the midterms. They were deathly afraid of what she would do if she ever got a hold of the gavel again. Neither John Boehner nor Paul Ryan were terribly effective Speakers when it came to keeping their conference together; both were unable to control the factions that divided it. By comparison, Pelosi was practically Wonder Woman. And that, more than anything else, might be the best reason of all to give her another crack at it.

Look, am I a fan of Nancy Pelosi? No. Would I like to see someone younger than her take the reigns? Yes. The problem is there's nobody out there who either wants the job or is up for the challenge. And until that happens, the pragmatist in me says if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Five Years


Where did the time go? Has it really been five years? I remember it as though it was yesterday. It was a Thursday afternoon. I called my wife around 4 at her job to let her know I was leaving work early. She was doing the same. It was not a happy occasion. In fact it was one of the more somber moments in both our lives. Waiting at home was our dog, Henry, who was dying of cancer. And the reason we were leaving early was to bring him to the Vet to end his suffering.

Never in my life had I been forced to make such a gut-wrenching decision. To end someone’s life, even someone who was clearly in pain like our Henry, broke my heart. He was a part of our family, our fella, as I referred to him every chance I got. The idea that he would no longer be with us was unfathomable.

When I got home, my wife was already there. Henry was on her lap and she was doing her best to comfort him. He hadn't eaten in days and was shaking in her arms. I took him for one last short walk. When we got back, I called the Vet to let her know we were coming down.

My wife and I took turns hugging Henry. Instinctively, he knew our hearts were breaking and he licked our faces. Here he was in pain and he was trying to console us. After a few final moments I realized it was time to go. Maria took off his collar, picked him up and we both made our way for the car.

Even though the Vet's office was only a mile away, it seemed as though the ride took forever. When we got there we had to wait for the doctor. She finally came and took us into the examining room. I held Henry in my arms, and with tears in my eyes, I asked her if she was certain there was no other way. She reassured the both of us that we had done everything possible for Henry and now it was time to let him go.

She explained what was going to happen next and said we would have as much time as we needed to say our goodbyes. She took Henry to shave his leg so they could insert the needle. She then brought him back to us and we petted him while he was on the table. I was sobbing the whole time not wanting to lose him but knowing in my heart it was the only humane thing to do.

When we were ready, the doctor came back in the room and injected him with a sedative. He went limp in our arms but not before he gave me one last lick on the mouth as I said goodbye to him. The next injection she gave him was the one that ended his life. I was stunned at how quick it was. One minute he was with us; the next he was gone.

I lost it completely. So inconsolable was I that I could barely stand up. The doctor let us stay in the room with Henry for a few minutes to say one last goodbye. I put my face near his and kept whispering into his ear how much I loved him and how I would never forget what he meant to us.

When we got home, Maria finally broke down and cried. I hadn't stopped crying since we left the Vet. I looked around the house not wanting to believe what had just happened, thinking maybe it was all just a bad dream and that he would somehow reappear all healthy and vibrant.

But it wasn't a dream. It had really happened. He was gone and he wasn't coming back. All we had left were the reminders of his presence: Both his bowls on the kitchen floor, the medicine that we were giving him to help him with his pain in the fridge, and the toys he used to play with all strewn around the house.

I posted Henry's passing on Facebook that evening and thanked everyone who had been praying for us. It was a small consolation I suppose to know that so many had gone through similar experiences with their pets. Before going to bed, Maria and I decided to eat a little something. It was the first time in years the two of us had an uninterrupted meal.

Suffice to say that night was the longest night of our lives. The pillow where Henry had slept the night before still had his scent on it and I buried my face in it, tears still streaming down my cheeks. I'd have given anything to have him sleep by my side one last time, but, alas, the pillow was all I had.

I will never forget the impact Henry made on our lives. Even after five years, his memory still lives on. He was an indelible spirit that made people laugh, and he brought joy to everyone who knew him. But most of all he was a blessing to us.

He is waiting with Puffin, our dearly departed cat, in the garden near the Rainbow bridge for that day when we will all be reunited and cross over into Heaven. And when that joyous day arrives, we will hug him and squeeze him and he will land kiss after kiss upon our tender cheeks.

For it is written, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Saturday, November 10, 2018

It's Time To Revoke Trump's Press Credentials


At this past Wednesday's "press conference" at the White House, CNN's Jim Acosta, PBS's Yamiche Alcindor and National Urban Radio's April Ryan were verbally assaulted by Donald Trump for having the nerve to ask tough questions of him and demand he answer them. Later that day, Acosta had his press credentials revoked after a doctored video showing him chopping the arm of a woman trying to grab the microphone from him was released by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The source of the video was infowars. In the actual video, Acosta is simply pushing back the woman's arm. In any other White House, the incident would've been scandalous; with this White House, it was just another day at the office.

How many times are we going to go down this road? How many more times is the media going to be treated so disrespectfully by a man who behaves more like a toddler than a president? When are they going to take my advice and pull the plug on this narcissistic asshole? Where is it written that the White House Press Corps has an obligation to be humiliated just for doing its job? My God, even masochists know when to cry uncle.

Trump can call Acosta rude all he wants, and several people within the industry have said, perhaps with some validity, that he does tend to push the needle a bit with his line of questioning. So what? It's his job to push the needle. David Gregory used to drive George Bush up the wall just about every time he held a press conference. But despite the legendary and often heated exchanges between the two, Gregory's press credentials were never taken away. Since the days of Nixon, the press has had an adversarial relationship with the White House. It's a political axiom that if reporters aren't making our nation's leaders squirm a bit, they're abdicating their responsibilities as journalists. What the hell was Acosta supposed to do, give Trump a reach around like Hannity? If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

To make matters worse, Trump has threatened to revoke the credentials of other White House reporters. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if, by the time he gets done, all we're left with are reporters from the likes of Fox News, Breitbart and WorldNet Daily. Just think of the questions that would flow from such a press conference: "Mr. President, can you share with the nation your secret for being such a political genius?" "Mr. President, how much longer will it take before you completely make America great again?"

Enough is enough! For years the media in this country have treated Trump like he's mana from Heaven, as far as their ratings are concerned. We've talked a great deal about the Faustian bargain Republicans made with Trump. In short, they tolerated his outrageous antics in exchange for him getting their tax cuts passed and their conservative judges appointed to the bench. And how did he repay them? By taking over their party and shrinking their demographics to historical lows. When Bush was reelected in 2004, he got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in this country. When Trump won the presidency in 2016, that percentage fell to 28. The GOP is now the party of old white men, most of whom live in rural America.

Well the media made its own Faustian bargain with Trump back in 2015. They knew he was a racist con artist who had no business being anywhere near the White House, but they couldn't resist what he did for their bottom line. To quote then CBS chairman Les Moonves, "It may not be good for America," Trump's candidacy, "but it's damn good for CBS." The fact that he and other network executives, like CNN's Jeff Zucker, never expected him to actually win the 2016 election was no excuse for giving him over a billion dollars of free advertising.

So now that the goose that laid the golden egg is cracking that very same egg over their heads, those executives who were rolling in the dough, like the Republican Party, are reaping what they sowed. Well excuse me, but it's a little hard feeling sorry for an industry that every waking hour spits on the graves of Murrow, Cronkite and Mudd. The 24 hour cable news networks can no more resist the allure of Trump's malignancy anymore than a heroine addict can resist his next fix.

That being said, it's not too late to take action. As I've said on numerous occasions, Trump is a whore when it comes to the media. He may hate it, but he knows he can't survive without it. Why else do you think he gives so many interviews to the "failing" New York Times? Why else do you think he picked Acosta to ask a question when he could've chosen anyone else in the room? The answer is simple: Trump knows that a majority of people read the New York Times and watch CNN. Despite a staggering lack of intellectual curiosity, Trump is no fool. In fact, he's one of the most savvy politicians this country has ever seen. He makes FDR look like stuttering John. If Nixon had had Trump's ability to manipulate people, he would've served out his second term.

The way you beat Trump is to deprive him of the attention he craves. Like a fire needs oxygen to spread, Trump, likewise, needs the media to spread his hate. Every altercation he gets into with a reporter just reinforces the message he's been sending to his base from day one: that the "fake news" media is out to get him. Good news, bad news, it's all the same to him. So long as his name gets mentioned, he wins. Acosta, without quite realizing it, fell into Trump's trap.

But if no one shows up to ask him a question, if the cameras aren't there to broadcast his image to millions of viewers, there's no controversy. And controversy is how Trump thrives. Like the Weather Channel during a hurricane, Trump's appeal is in the collateral damage he can cause at a moment's notice. He's a walking, talking, category five blowhard. And the media acts like the warm Gulf Stream giving him the sustenance he needs to maintain his fury.

It isn't enough to simply condemn Trump's actions; the media has to do the unthinkable: it has to literally boycott him altogether. In short, it has to revoke his press credentials. The next time Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a press conference in the White House briefing room, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN should be no shows. The next time Trump wants to be interviewed by the New York Times or the Washington Post - another one of his favorite punching bags - they should decline.

It's time the networks and the press realize that Trump's antics are not news; hell, they barely qualify as the stuff that makes it onto TMZ. It's nice that they have decided not to broadcast his rallies live; now follow that up by going the extra mile and shut him off completely. Instead of granting his surrogates the chance to spread his propaganda, concentrate instead on the fallout from his policies. It wasn't that long ago that cable news would talk about real issues like taxes, immigration reform, defense spending, foreign policy, deregulation and entitlements; now it spends most of its resources talking about payoffs to porn stars and centerfolds. When someone like Michael Avenatti gets more air time and ink than a bill that could end coverage for millions of people with preexisting medical conditions, Trump wins and the country loses. Can you imagine a freak show of Avenatti as the Democratic nominee running against Trump in 2020? Trump can. It would be a dream come true for him; a gift-wrapped reelection to a second term if ever there was one.

No, the media didn't create Trump. But it did, in essence, turn him into the monster he has now become; a monster that, like the one in Mary Shelley's novel, is terrorizing the villagers. And it has the moral obligation to repair the damage it has unwittingly caused before the whole damn village is burned to the ground.

Jim Acosta's ego and reputation will recover; the nation may not be so fortunate.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Tale of Two Countries


The dust is still settling on last night's election results, but for now here's what we know: 1. Democrats have secured more than enough seats to retake the majority in the House of Representatives; 2. Republicans have added to their majority in the Senate (though at present there are still a couple of races that haven't been called which could go either way); and 3. Democrats flipped seven governorships including one held by the dread pirate Scott Walker in Wisconsin. I'll concentrate primarily on the first two in this piece.

From the start it was clear that Democrats had set their sights on the House. The list of candidates they fielded was diverse and strong, a stark contrast from previous election cycles. And, surprisingly, their messaging was disciplined. They ran on ostensibly two issues: healthcare and legislative oversight on the executive branch.

Regarding the former they were helped tremendously by a GOP that had spent the better part of the last eighteen months doing their best to strip away protections against pre-existing conditions. It was clear Republicans knew they'd stepped in it because in the closing weeks before the election they lied through their teeth trying to convince the electorate that they weren't in fact the Grinch trying to steal Christmas. It didn't work; most voters saw through the canard.

As for the latter, once again Dems were helped by House Republicans who during most of the last two years virtually rubber-stamped every malfeasance that came out of this White House. Dry humping your own party's president may play well on Fox News, but for millions of voters in swing districts across the country it didn't go over nearly as well. Clearly, a majority of the people who showed up at the polls in these districts want some kind of check on this administration. Impeachment, no; oversight, yes.

However, this wave - if you can call it that - bears little resemblance to the one that Republicans had in 2010. In fact, you could say it was the polar opposite. In 2010, the Tea Party wave that swept Democrats out of the majority in the House and almost claimed the Senate was about as far to the right as any movement the country had yet seen, including the infamous Gingrich revolution in the 1994 midterms. With a few exceptions, most of Democratic winners last night were moderates. Had they been far left most of them would've lost. I know because I live in suburban America, where most of these races were held, and I can assure you that it is not a bastion of liberalism. If it's fair to assume that Trump lost the suburbs in these midterms, it's equally fair to assume the Bernie wing of the party hasn't captured their hearts either. Something for the next Speaker to consider in the coming weeks.

But while winning the House was an accomplishment; the results in the Senate races were a sobering reminder of just how daunting a task Democrats had and will continue to have in their quest to regain the majority. Yes, it was the most  brutal map any major party has had in almost a century, and, yes, having to defend 26 seats while your opposition only has to defend 9 is akin to stepping up to the plate with two strikes against you and a cracked bat.

All that aside, what we saw from the Senate results was a microcosm of what has happened to the country. Take Florida, for example. For the second time in as many elections, the state was virtually split in two between the cities and the burbs in blue and the rural counties in red. Both incumbent Senator Bill Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (who was running against Ron DeSantis for governor) ran up impressive margins in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, as well as a good chunk of the I-4 corridor. But apart from those areas, the majority of the rest of the state was one gigantic sea of red.

It was as if we were seeing a repeat of the 2016 election, and not just in Florida. In every state that had similar geographic breakdowns, the results were the same. Claire McCaskill got trounced in Missouri, as did Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. The only blue dog Democrats to survive the night were Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana; and in the case of Tester, only a late surge of ballots saved him. He looked like a goner earlier this morning.

It was clear Trump's offensive and racist rhetoric down the stretch was effective in these Senate races. The ad that he put out about a caravan of migrants over a thousand miles away, which most of the networks - even Fox News! - elected not to run, was so blatant, it made the Willie Horton ad look like a promo for the Salvation Army. Trump knew precisely what buttons to push with his supporters and, in one of the most disgraceful chapters in this nation's history, was rewarded handsomely last night.

And speaking of his supporters, it is clear that a lot of them aren't being accurately represented in the polling, whether by design or by accident. Going into the election, the polls showed McCaskill ostensibly in a tie, and both Donnelly and Nelson with small but consistent leads. As of this writing, only Nelson is still technically alive by virtue of a mandatory recount. However, it is doubtful he can overcome a 30,000 vote deficit.

Welcome to the Divided States of America; Trump's America. Not since the Reconstruction era have we seen such a deep and corrosive divide within the electorate. And if you think last night's results will change anything, you must be smoking the same stuff Bill Maher and Willie Nelson are smoking. If anything, we are more entrenched now than we were 24 hours ago.

Don't take my word for it. In Der Fuehrer's first press conference, he spent most of his time doubling down on his "fake news" charge - even verbally assaulting CNN's Jim Acosta - and threatening retribution against the new Democratic House majority if they dare hold his feet to the fire; in other words, if they do their jobs. Almost immediately after, Jeff Sessions, the beleaguered Attorney General, "resigned" and Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, bypassing the current Acting AG, Rod Rosenstein. I fully expect Rosenstein to either quit or be fired in the next few days.

You don't need a road map to see where this is going. Whitaker is on record as being an ardent critic of the Russia probe and, even if he doesn't fire Robert Mueller, he can starve the investigation to such a degree that Mueller won't be a threat to Trump at all. I have been saying for months that Trump wants to end this investigation; he's been calling it a hoax since he was sworn into office. With Whitaker in place, he now has the means to, if not shut it down, at least cripple it.

And if you think that Trump gives a rat's ass about what Democrats might do with their new-found subpoena power, you haven't been paying much attention the last three years. This man has no regard for anything or anyone; his contempt for the rule of law holds no bounds. He will fight House Democrats tooth and nail all the way to the Supreme Court, where his new BFF, Brett Kavanaugh, may well cast the deciding vote on whether this Republic lives or dies. If you really want to know why Trump went to the mat for this guy, this is why. You can call this president many things but stupid isn't one of them.

So what should House Democrats do? Well for one thing, they should be fearless and ignore the so-called "experts" who will undoubtedly warn them not to overreach. Already Republicans and their conservative surrogates are making false equivalence arguments about the GOP's impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 that cost them seats in the House that year. Just to be clear, Clinton got a blowjob in the Oval Office and lied about it; Trump's corruption is so vast, as I've said before, he makes Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln. Any attempt to equate the two is obscene and offensive to anyone with half a brain.

The second thing they should do is pass as many bills as possible to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and to undo some of the damage of Trump's tax law that, come next April, will screw millions of middle-class families when they sit down and prepare their tax returns. They can start by removing the cap on SALT payments and restoring the personal exemptions that were stripped away in the law.

Then there's immigration reform. They can pass a real bill that improves border security while providing a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people who are here through no fault of their own. Yes, I know there's no way such a bill would ever make it to the floor of the Senate, but that's not the point. Voters gave Dems the majority expecting something. Being the party of No, like Republicans were during the Obama years, may be tempting for a few in the party, but as a long-term strategy, it will cost them their majority and any hope they have of winning back the White House in 2020.

Basically, Democrats will have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. They must be as tough as possible with this lawless president, while making it clear to the electorate that they are focused on accomplishing things while in office. Let Mitch McConnell take the heat for being Trump's wing man. I believe so long as Dems take care of their side of the street, they will be rewarded handsomely by the voters in the long run.

Of course, I'm also a Giants' fan who thought they'd be going to the playoffs this year, so what the hell do I know?