Tuesday, February 28, 2017

While Rome Burns, Dems Fiddle

Watching Democrats fight over who got elected as the new DNC Chair is like watching two passengers argue over which lifeboat they're going to choose on the Titanic. The Bernie Sanders wing wanted their man, Keith Ellison, to win, but when former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez prevailed, they threw a hissy fit.

Seriously, Donald Trump is slowly installing the Fourth Reich and these idiots are getting into a pissing contest over who has the privilege of steering the Party back to the Promise Land. Promise Land? More like Land of the Lost.

Tell me we're not going to do this. Please tell we're not going to relitigate the 2016 election all over again. Because quite frankly I'm getting fed up with this shit. This is no time for a civil war. The stakes are way too high. Whatever else you may think about Perez, he's more than qualified for the post. True, he's not as liberal as Ellison, but he's hardly a Reaganite. In fact, the only knock on him, as far as I can tell, is that he's part of the Democratic establishment. So naturally, in the eyes of the Left, that makes him the wrong choice.

Look, I get it; well almost, that is. Hillary lost and Bernie supporters are crowing. In politics that's what happens. Actually, it pretty much happens everywhere else too. In sports, whenever a team loses a World Series or a Super Bowl, there are always going to be fans of another team who will boast that their team would've won. The problem however is that there's no way to prove that hypothesis. It makes for good conjecture but that's as far as it goes.

We will never know if Sanders would've beaten Trump. There are compelling arguments both for and against. What we do know is that as a party, the Democrats find themselves in a very precarious position. Not only did they get their butts kicked last November, they are badly outnumbered in both state houses and state legislatures. In just six years the GOP has gone from a party on the run to a party that has a stranglehold on the country. And if you think all of that is Hillary Clinton's fault, you're some kind of stupid.

If the Democratic Party ever intends to regain power in Washington, not to mention at the state level, it needs to put 2016 behind it. Trump won, and the Republicans kept control of both Houses of Congress. All the Monday-morning quarterbacking in the world isn't going to change that fact. What the Democrats need now is a vision for the future; not a reenactment of the past. That doesn't mean they can't learn from history. But this constant infighting not only doesn't help their cause, it gives Trump and the GOP the cover they need to solidify their power.

While Democrats were busy bickering about their leadership, the real battles were taking place in town halls all across the country. Thousands of people showed up and let their representatives - most of them Republicans - have it. The fight over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act has now become a major pain in the ass for the GOP. This is a good thing; something for Democrats to rally around.

Another thing for them to rally around is the Russian ties with the Trump Administration. Each day it seems we get another story on this president's connection with Russian oligarchs. Did you happen to catch Rachel Maddow's show Monday night? If you didn't, I encourage you to visit her webpage and watch it for yourself. In fact, I encourage every Democrat, progressive or plain old American who gives a shit about our Democracy to watch it.

While you're at it, I would also read this excellent piece by sociologist Todd Gitlin about the danger Trump represents to the country. The parallels to Nixon are unmistakable and undeniable, save for one exception.  Gitlin explains:
Trump is a verbal knife-fighter more exhibitionist than Nixon. Where Nixon kept his snarls private, Trump rails against leakers. He sees enemies lurking everywhere and wants everyone to know it. He fears not only sticks and stones but any loss of control over the image — the brand — that is his proudest achievement. The con man has conned himself. The would-be strongman quivers lest he be unmasked as a ‘pitiful, helpless giant.” The ultra-sensitivity of such men is the flip side of their ultra-narcissistic needs for endless applause.
And I would also add that Nixon, once he was in office, was for the most part a mainstream Republican who established relations with China, took the U.S. off the gold standard and created the EPA. Trump has been anything but mainstream since he was sworn in. He is the embodiment of the anti establishment. His propaganda minister Steve Bannon bragged that one of Trump's goals was the "deconstruction of the administrative state." If you're looking for an historical reference, see Germany in the early '30s. That's pretty much what the Nazis did. And yes, for the umpteenth time, I'm going there. Because we need to go there. Not all dictators come with funny mustaches and arm bands.

You see why I'm pissed? We've got Genghis Khan incarnate in the White House and the Dems are splitting hairs over who's further to the left. Frankly, I could give a shit. It doesn't matter. It's time to get real; time to get down to the business at hand and take this menace seriously while there's still time to do so.

Because these aren't just precarious times for the Democratic Party; these are precarious times for the entire Republic.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Take Away Trump's Mirrors

Jesus, this is getting monotonous. It's like watching the same soap opera over and over again. The media reports on something that Donald Trump doesn't like. He responds by calling them fake. He holds a press conference where he berates them to their faces and then holds a rally where he doubles down on his outlandish charges.

And around and around we go on this twisted merry go-round. Now he's resorted to banning certain news outlets from White House briefings. When does this nightmare end? Well, I've been thinking a lot about that very same question and I've come up with the only logical answer; the only one that has a chance of working.

Pull the plug. You heard right. The next time this administration holds a press briefing don't show up. Pull your cameras and your microphones from the White House. Let Sean Spicer talk to an empty room for twenty minutes. Breitbart and Infowars can dry hump his leg if they want. Who cares? And don't make the mistake of taking a copy of the minutes. Propaganda is propaganda. Don't devote even one second of programming to anything that he or his brownshirts have to say. 

When he holds a rally, don't show up and cover it. He can spew all he wants to the dumb-ass minions who show up and froth at the mouth, but there's no need to give him a larger audience then he deserves. When he boards Air Force One, let him do it alone. He can bore the pilot to death all he wants with his conspiracy theories. There's no need for you to jot down every single syllable that comes out of his mouth. And when he heads off to Mar-a-Lago to play golf, as he has done every weekend since being sworn in, don't follow him onto the course.

The fact is that for all his personality quirks - and he has a shitload - the one thing this megalomaniac craves more than anything else is attention. He loves it, he needs it, even the negative attention. It gets his juices flowing. He's been fighting the whole world his whole adult life. He became the media mogul he is by manipulating the media and grabbing the headlines. He knows how to work the media better than anyone alive and now he is doing the same thing only with the Washington press corps.

Well it's time they stopped playing along. Look, they created this monster. Nineteen months ago when he announced he was running for president, the media made a calculated decision that he was good for their ratings. Les Moonves, the President of CBS, said this about Trump's candidacy, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." It was that mindset in the media that enabled Trump to get his message out to millions of people. By some accounts, he received as much as a trillion dollars of free advertising, more than twice the amount that Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Republican field of candidates received as a whole.

CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, they all brought this upon themselves, so I don't for a moment feel sorry for them. Campbell Brown, a former CNN news anchor, sounded the warning bell, but her words fell on deaf ears. And now this insecure, man-child is the leader of the free world. Maybe they didn't think he'd pull it off. Shit, almost nobody did. But that's still no excuse for how they drooled all over him.

So here's how they can redeem themselves, by taking away the very thing Trump loves the most: the spotlight. The way you deal with an egomaniac who loves looking at his own refection in the mirror is to remove the mirrors from the room. He loves hearing about himself on TV; even his own staff has said that he spends most of his free time - and by free time, I assume most of his waking hours - watching cable news. He's obsessed with CNN; they've become his favorite whipping boy so to speak. More than half his tweets are directed at them. What better way to drive him up the wall than to deny him the opportunity of seeing his magnificent reflection on the screen? Christ, it would be worse than watching a crack addict detoxing.

I'm being serious here. Things have gotten out of hand. We have a president who is openly hostile to the media, while at the same time craving its attention, and we have a media who is behaving like an abused wife who doesn't want to call the cops on her husband. Something's gotta give and it ain't gonna be Trump. Based on what we saw at the Nuremberg Rally, er, CPAC convention, the administration plans on stepping up its assault on the Fourth Estate. D├ętente is not in the offing. 

Where is it written that the media is required to provide press coverage of the president? Since when did the term "alternative facts" become a legitimate talking point? When I was in school we had only one set of facts. Anything else was considered wrong. I could believe all I wanted that four plus four equalled nine, but if I put it on my paper, the teacher would put a red mark through the answer. That meant it was incorrect. If I had too many red marks on my paper, I got an F. There was no alternative reality in which I was really an A student with a teacher who just didn't appreciate my uniqueness.

And there is no alternative reality in which the White House is right and everyone else is wrong. The term for such thinking is called delusional. And the way you challenge a delusion is to not give voice to it. Providing a platform for Trump's paranoid world view not only gives him license to continue his wild machinations; it allows him to paint himself as a victim of some conspiracy to silence him and his supporters. We are already seeing this play out in the country. A recent poll showed that more people trusted Trump than the press 45 to 42 percent. If true, that is frightening.

Look, I get it. Cutting this president off is going to be extremely difficult. Like it or not, network news is now considered entertainment. That means it must produce a profit. And Trump, whatever else you may say about him, gets good ratings. But Bill Maher had a valid point on his show Realtime this past Friday. News as a percentage of revenue for the networks is very small, less than 4 percent overall. "Guys," he implored, "Take one for the team."

That sounds like good advice to me.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Why the Press and Media Can't Back Down

Over the last few weeks, something really extraordinary and, from my perspective, unique has been happening. As this president and his administration continue to lie and deflect about their reprehensible conduct, the press and the media have stood their ground and held them accountable. The recent reporting in both The New York Times and The Washington Post concerning Russian ties with the then Trump campaign has been among the finest investigative journalism we've seen since the days of Watergate.

I'm also pleasantly surprised at the pushback I hear from cable news hosts who are rightly alarmed at not only being called "fake news" but being called "the enemy of the American people." Chris Wallace of Fox News handed Reince Priebus his lunch in a heated exchange between the two. "You don't get to tell us what to do, Reince."

When Priebus attempted to deflect by saying President Obama took plenty of shots at Fox News, Wallace responded by saying, "No, he took shots, and we didn't like them, and frankly we don't like this either. But he never went as far as President Trump has, and that's what's concerning, because it seems like he crosses a line when he talks about that we're an enemy of the people. That is concerning."

Don Lemon of CNN recently called out a Trump supporter on his show who was labeling a legitimate news story about the costs to the American taxpayer of protecting the First Family as fake news. “Please stop it with that stupid talking point, that it is a fake news story. If you don’t want to participate in the news stories on this network, then don’t come on and participate. But don’t call them fake because you don’t agree with them. Go on.”

When the Trump supporter wouldn't stop, Lemon abruptly ended the segment and "thanked" everyone for participating. Wow, I've never been all that much of a fan of Lemon, but after watching that back and forth, my respect for him just went up a couple of notches.

I've been seeing this a lot lately, and I am indeed encouraged. If the role of the Fourth Estate is to hold power accountable, then so far so good; it will certainly have its work cut out for it in the coming months, if not years. That's why it is essential that it not back down. Now, more than ever, the American people need a free press and media that has the courage to report the truth, even while the executive branch continues to berate and question their validity.

Look, I've made no secret of my contempt for the main-straem media in this country, but my critique of them had to do with their inability and sometimes unwillingness to do their jobs as journalists. Too often they've been lazy and easily distracted. Donald Trump has, without quite realizing it, lit a fire under this moribund industry and awoken the sleeping giant within. It's as though the ghosts of Murrow and Cronkite have risen from the grave and invaded the collective body of the press.

Well it's about fucking time. Maybe if this industry had done its job a year and a half ago, we wouldn't be in this predicament now, but crying over spilt milk won't solve anything. What's done is done. What we need now isn't recrimination but fortitude; fortitude in the face of power. Because, as Chris Cillizza wrote in The Washington Post, there is a "strategy" at work here for Trump.
In bashing the media so publicly and relentlessly, he hopes to divert attention from questions about his administration's ties to Russia, legal problems surrounding his travel ban and the broader sense of chaos that seems to reign at the White House. He knows there are few subjects about which his followers are more passionate than the perceived moral corruption of the media — so what better way to rally them to his cause?
Bret Stephens of Time elaborates further:
I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.
That should scare any reasonably sober individual. A society that cannot discern true from false and has nothing it can anchor itself to as definitive or certain, is a society that will inevitably fall for anything or anyone. Was it not Lenin who said, "A lie told often enough becomes the truth?" Ironic if true because Steve Bannon, Trump's senior adviser and propaganda minister, is an admirer of Lenin, and is also consumed with destroying the state and all its apparatus, which includes the press and media.

The threat could not be more real or the challenge more daunting. If the Fourth Estate cannot be the arbiters of truth, if they cannot stand up to this demagogue in the Oval Office, then this marvelous experiment we call democracy is finished. And like another well known, infamous figure of the 20th century, Donald Trump will be our last president and our first dictator.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

It's Time To Invoke the 25th Amendment

Sweet Jesus, somebody pinch me. I can't believe this is happening. Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump stood in front of the press and the nation and had what can only be described as a total meltdown. For 77 minutes, the man raged at the media, the Democrats and the judiciary. In a paranoid frenzy, he blamed everyone in the known universe for his problems, while insisting his administration is running "like a fine-tuned machine." If by fine-tuned, he means a rocket hurtling toward the earth, then I guess he's right.

And when he wasn't deflecting, which appears to be his number one specialty, he was engaging in another one of his favorite pastimes: spewing racist and bigoted comments. In one particularly distasteful exchange, Trump asked an African American reporter to set up a meeting between himself and the Congressional Black Caucus. Evidently, he believes all black people know each other. In another exchange, he told a Jewish reporter to sit down because the reporter had the temerity to ask him about the rise in antisemitism.

It has been one month since this narcissistic buffoon took the oath of office and already he has had more scandals than the previous administration had in eight years. The "resignation" of Michael Flynn could well prove to be the worst scandal in presidential history, surpassing even Watergate. Dr. Allen Francis is right. "Calling Trump mentally ill IS an insult to the mentally ill."
“Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).”
But whether Trump is mentally ill or just the most thin-skinned megalomaniac ever to occupy the Oval Office is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. The point is he is unfit to serve as commander in chief. His performance Thursday confirmed it.

This is not the way the leader of the free world is supposed to behave; hell, it's not even the way a six year old is supposed to behave. Seriously, if you had a kid who behaved like Trump did in that "press conference," you wouldn't just send him to his room, you'd take him to see a specialist. Well adjusted people simply don't act like this; certainly not in public.

That this man has access to the nuclear launch codes is frightening. If he can go off on a rampage over journalists finally doing their jobs, imagine what could happen if he faced an actual crisis like North Korea having the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the west coast or a Russian incursion into eastern Europe. Don't kid yourself, you know it's coming; it's only a matter of when. Our friends may be perturbed by his conduct, but our adversaries are practically rolling in the aisles. For them, Trump is the gift they've been dreaming of for years: an unprepared, and thoroughly ill-equipped president with the attention span of a gnat. You think Vladimir Putin wanted him to win the election just so he could get a couple of free nights at Trump Tower? The man may be a ruthless thug, but he knows a sap when he sees one, even if, sadly, the minions who voted for him didn't.

And now this sap has become the laughing stock of the world. His demeanor, his delusions of grandeur, his outright racist comments, would be grounds for resignation or sanctions for a congressman, senator or governor; for a sitting president, they go beyond the pale. This cannot and must not be allowed to continue. Our reputation is at stake; not to mention the fate of billions of people.

That is why it is imperative that Donald Trump be removed from office as quickly as possible. If the Republican-controlled Senate will not impeach him, then there is another avenue available: the 25th Amendment. Section four states:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Granted, this won't be an easy task; in fact, it hasn't happened once since the Amendment was passed. But if ever there was an occasion for it to be utilized, this is it. We're not just talking about someone who occasionally has a bad hair day; we're talking about someone who can probably count the number of lucid moments in his adult life on both hands and one foot. And this someone holds a unique position of power that makes him a threat to the very Republic he swore an oath to defend.

Now I know what you're thinking: if Trump is removed, we wind up with Pence. How does that help us? Well, so far as policy goes, it doesn't. Unlike Trump, Pence has a moral compass. You may not like which direction it's pointing - neither do I - but he's predictable as dirt. He'll do whatever he can to get his right-wing agenda through Congress and he'll probably be successful with most of it. As I've said before, elections do have consequences. But on the bright side he should be easier to run against in 2020, presuming the Democrats nominate a stronger candidate than they did last time around.

The sad truth is once the election was over, there was never going to be an easy way out. This was a shit sandwich no matter how you sliced it. At least with Pence, it won't be laced with arsenic.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Democratic Tea Party? Perhaps.

Over the last few days, a number of Republican congressmen have been getting an earful from their constituents at town halls over the Affordable Care Act. Seems now that they control both houses of Congress AND the White House, their pledge to repeal the law is causing a great deal of consternation among a large number of people who stand to lose healthcare coverage. How large? About 20 million.

The GOP is learning the hard way that it's a lot easier to run on a promise to do something than it is to actually follow through on it. Funny, so long as Barack Obama was president, they could shoot off their mouths all they wanted about what they were going to do if they won the White House. Now that they have it, they sound more like Ralph Kramden muttering the old "homina, homina" line. Like the proverbial Monday-morning quarterback who suddenly finds himself on the 50 yard line having to actually throw the football, Republicans now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to put up or shut up.

And some of them are shutting up, or at least their voices are being drowned out by the crowds at these town halls. Ironic isn't it? Eight years ago it was the Democrats who were catching hell at those same town halls. That was the year of the rise of the Tea Party, and while few if any thought much about it, within a few months it grew into a national force that swept the Republicans into power in the House of Representatives and a significant number of state houses.

Are we now witnessing the birth of a Democratic Tea Party? And if so, would such a movement help or hurt Democrats? The answer to the former will come in due time. It is too early to tell whether these town hall protests will develop into a much larger and more focused movement. We all know what happened to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

When it first appeared, the original Tea Party was more of a populist grass roots movement that was spontaneous. Then it was coopted by people like Dick Armey whose group Freedomworks ostensibly took over the movement and turned it into a right-wing engine to take back power from Democrats. It worked like a charm. The Tea Party is now so powerful that Republicans are more worried about being primaried than they are about losing a general election.

Which brings us to my second, and perhaps more salient, question: would a Democratic Tea Party help or hurt Democrats? That depends on how you define the two terms. On the one hand, it's impossible to look at what has happened over the last seven years and not conclude that the Tea Party helped the GOP take back the reigns of power, not just in Washington but throughout the country. You'd have to be blind not to see it.

But on the other hand the Tea Party was also responsible for the current state of polarization that has gripped the nation. The gulf between Left and Right has never been wider than it has these last few years and, according to many pundits, it is the primary culprit behind the malignancy that has spread throughout the body politic. Legislatures no longer legislate; instead they obstruct the other side. The primary business of Washington appears to be preventing the opponent from scoring a victory. The result is a paralysis where nothing gets done and the general electorate grows more and more frustrated and disillusioned.

So in the short run, the Tea Party was a smashing success; it accomplished its goals. But in the long run, its legacy to the Republic is a dysfunctional government that has become the laughing stock of the West. With that in mind, why would Democrats want to replicate such a movement? The answer is probably not, but they may have no choice in the matter.

Just like what happened in '09 when the Right began to mobilize, the unrest within the Left is beginning to coalesce around issues like healthcare, women's reproductive rights, voting rights, the environment, etc... Democrats are feeling pressure from their base to stand up to the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, has had protesters in front of his New York City headquarters for the last couple of weeks. I can assure you they are not there to get his autograph.

To a certain extent this unrest within the Left is nothing new. I have written about it several times. It goes all the way back to the Clinton Administration. Despite electoral success at the national level, progressives felt they were sold down the river. They've been trying to regain control of the party apparatus ever since. Obama was supposed to be the deliverer, but once in office he learned what every politician knows all too well: that it's a lot easier to campaign than it is to govern. For many of them, hope and change turned into the same old song.

Bernie Sanders, in many ways, represented what so many of them had been craving for: a true independent who despised the Democratic Party almost as much as he despised the Republican. Bernie had few friends in Washington and both he and his supporters preferred it that way. He detested what the party had become and warned the rank and file that it was courting disaster if it didn't start paying attention to the millions of disaffected voters in the Rust Belt states.

Many Democrats - myself included - dismissed Sanders' warning as alarmist rhetoric, but the results in last November's election proved him right. The Democratic Party, in its zeal to become an all-inclusive party that championed the rights of minorities, had forgotten about the multitudes of white, working class voters. And because of that, many of them ended up voting for Trump; not because they wanted to, but because they felt that the Democrats had abandoned them. It didn't help matters any that Hillary Clinton spent most of her campaign trashing Trump instead of talking about her plans to help these people.

So once again, the Left is rising up. Progressives who had propelled Bernie to a strong second place finish in last year's primary, are poised to strike again. And this time, they appear to mean business. The Elizabeth Warrens of the party are standing up and speaking out. Warren was silenced on the floor of the Senate for having the temerity of reading from a Coretta Scott King letter regarding Jeff Sessions. This has only inflamed the base even more. The protests are getting larger and the voices louder.

If I were a betting man, I'd lay odds that this movement is here to stay and we're in for a battle royale for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. And while part of me applauds this, I have some concerns. For one thing, while most of the energy may be on the Right and Left, a good chunk of the country still identifies as either moderate or independent. These voters are not motivated by wedge issues; some may be for raising the minimum wage, but for lower taxes; some may be for equal pay, but still be pro life; some may be for voting rights, but feel a little uncomfortable with the LGBT community; and some are concerned about the rash of black shootings by cops, but still may be put off by the Black Lives Matter movement. They don't run with the pack.

There is another, even bigger, concern I have. The original Tea Party was a monolithic movement comprised mainly of white people; A LOT of white people. The Democratic Party is anything but monolithic. It's a big tent. That is both its greatest strength and, unfortunately, its greatest weakness.

If this new Tea Party is to be effective, it's going to have to thread a needle between the core of the Democratic base, which is the urban voter, and the more suburban / rural voter. Michael Tomasky had an excellent piece on this that I've referenced before and do so now. One passage is particularly worth noting
But here is American liberalism’s biggest short-term job, what should be its 2017 New Year’s Resolution, and some of you aren’t going to like it: See to it that multiculturalism includes white people. And not urban white people or Jewish white people or gay white people or white people who live in hipster neighborhoods and wear ironic eyewear. Suburban, gray-haired, church-going white people.
This won't be easy, but then nothing worth while ever is. The Democratic Party has a lot of amends to make to a lot of people who out of desperation did the unthinkable last November. If they ever expect to pull these voters back into the fold, they are going to have to bite down hard and swallow. They are going to have to contend with an electorate that loves Adele as much as it does Beyonce.

Remember, the same country that elected Obama, also elected Trump. Think about that.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What To Make of the 9th Circuit Court Decision.

Let's start with the good news:

First, the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was unanimous. All three judges - one of whom was appointed by a Republican president - rejected the Trump Administration's request to stay the Temporary Restraining Order of the District Court. So much for this being a political decision. If it is, it's a political decision that apparently crosses party lines.

Secondly, on the issue of whether this executive order could be reviewed, the Administration was thoroughly rebuked in this decision. All three judges concluded that not only was this order reviewable, it was arrogant of the Department of Justice to even suggest that it wasn't.

Third, Donald Trump, himself, was his own worst enemy. The inflammatory language used by him and his surrogates - hello, Rudi Giuliani - throughout the campaign, came back to bite him. It was clear to even a blind man that this was a Muslim ban and that belied what the Administration was attempting to argue.

Fourth, the Administration was unable to prove that not staying the TRO would cause irrevocable harm to the country, which was the basis for the ban in the first place.

Fifth, should this end up at the Supreme Court, because there are presently only eight justices on the bench, in the event of a tie, a lower court ruling for the plaintiffs would stand. In other words, that's all she wrote. How much you wanna bet Mitch McConnell is praying that doesn't happen?

Now the not so good news:

First, the Circuit Court did not rule on the merits of whether the ban was constitutional or not; only that the District judge had standing to issue the TRO, which flies in the face of precedent. In fact, the majority of legal scholars are skeptical as to whether states have standing to even challenge executive orders.

Second, since their was no constitutional ruling on the merits, this case most likely will go back to the same District Court that issued the TRO, which means that the plaintiffs will then have to prove they have standing. That will be a steep legal hurdle.

Third, in the event that the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the final outcome may well hinge on whether the plaintiffs get a favorable ruling in the District Court. It would be presumptuous to assume that because one judge issued a TRO, that automatically means a repeat performance. But let's be optimistic and say lightning strikes twice, the Supreme Court could still reverse the lower court, even with four liberal justices on the bench.

Fourth, if the Trump Administration can drag this out till, say, April, Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed as the ninth Supreme Court justice, meaning it won't really matter if a lower court rules the ban unconstitutional, it would be reversed on appeal.

On balance, though, it was a good night for lovers of democracy and a bad night for autocrats. And while this win may feel good, I would advise caution. If history has taught us anything, it's that counting one's chickens before they are hatched is not a very good recipe for success.

But it is a very good way to starve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

This Isn't Funny Anymore

Did you get a chance to watch Melissa McCarthy’s brilliant takedown of Sean Spicer on SNL? I missed it, but I watched it on You Tube. And did you also get the chance to watch Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump making insulting phone calls in the Oval Office to various heads of states while a Grim Reaper Steve Bannon stood behind him egging him on? Again, I missed it, but I’ve watched it several times since. These are but two very funny and incredibly well done skits out of many that I’m sure have given millions of people more than their fair share of chuckles.

But here’s the thing: This isn’t funny anymore. In fact, it stopped being funny a long time ago.

This isn’t George Bush butchering the English language as only he could do. I wish it were. Hell, I wish it were with all my heart. What is happening here is no laughing matter. It is as serious as a heart attack.

Think about what has happened in just two and a half weeks. The President of the United States – the leader of the free world – has insulted two foreign presidents, accused the media – and CNN in particular – of spreading fake news, got into a pissing contest about the size of his inaugural crowd (yes, that actually happened), issued a gag order on federal workers, instituted a ban on all immigrants entering the country from seven Muslim countries, fired a sitting attorney general who wouldn’t enforce the ban, impugned the integrity of a judge who issued a restraining order against said ban, spread lies about fraudulent voters in the last election, promoted a white supremacist to head the National Security Council, had his staff berate anyone who dares to question the validity of his actions and policies, and, oh yeah, practically gave Vladimir Putin a reach around in an interview with Bill O’Reilly; an interview, I should add, where even O’Reilly pointed out that Putin was a killer.

Somewhere in hell Richard Nixon is laughing his ass off.

If you aren’t worried about what is happening, you’re either not paying attention or you’re on something. I know Democrats and progressives have been focused on making sure they stop the nominations of Betsy DeVos and Neil Gorsuch and I’m not poo pooing that cause. But there’s more at stake here than an incompetent secretary of education or a right-wing Supreme Court justice. Let’s not forget Bush appointed Michael Brown to head FEMA. Next to him DeVos is practically Neil deGrass Tyson and Gorsuch is Thurgood Marshall.

Laugh it you must, but I’m not. I’m done with laughing. I am VERY frightened by what is going on in this country. None of us have ever seen anything like it. Not even the McCarthy era can compare, for Joseph McCarthy never became president. The Fourth estate is under assault and with it the Constitution and a large percentage of the country would rather watch Dancing With the Stars or Big Bang Theory. Talk about your bread and circuses.

Even some of my more reliable liberal columnists have become distracted by the antics. Michael Tomasky’s most recent piece is about how Bernie Sanders can save Obamacare. First of all, Michael, Bernie is hardly the ideal spokesman for Obamacare; the man has made it abundantly clear he wants single payer. He ran on replacing it. Secondly, the GOP has no replacement for the ACA and is currently facing something of a split within its ranks over how to deal with it. Why on earth would Bernie or any sane person want to step into that hornet’s nest? When your opponent is drowning you let them drown. The last thing you do is throw them a life preserver.

The White House Correspondents Dinner is fast approaching and some publications have said they will boycott it. Good for them. Here’s a question: why isn’t every news publication and media outlet boycotting it? Why hasn’t the White House press corps simply walked out of the briefing room en masse? I’m serious. Where is it written that the media in this country have an obligation to provide an administration with a platform with which to blatantly lie and chastise them and the institutions of this country? This president has behaved like a four year old and, with a few notable exceptions, he has gotten a free pass. Indeed, for the better part of a year and a half the press has been trying to figure out when this manchild will finally grow up and act presidential. At what point do reasonable people stop hitting their heads against a wall?

The media’s obsession with not being perceived as biased is at the heart of the problem. It has prevented them from seeing the obvious and doing their jobs. This must stop, for the sake of the Republic. Trump isn’t going to let up. Indeed, anyone who has followed his depraved career knows all too well that he destroys those he perceives as weak. He has made a living taking advantage of his lenders, his partners and his customers. The media’s unwillingness to take him on is only encouraging him, and late-night comics who poke fun at him are trivializing the grave threat he poses to our democracy.

Murrow took down McCarthy, Cronkite took on Nixon. It’s time for someone to step up and speak truth to power, before power ends up devouring everything in its path.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Could Mitch McConnell's Gamble Come Back To Haunt Him?

While Democrats rightly insist that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court was stolen from Barack Obama and should do everything in their limited power to prevent Donald Trump from filling it, there is another, potentially more cumbersome problem that could gum up the works, and not for Democrats but for the GOP.  Did Mitch McConnell, in his attempt to deprive Obama his pick, inadvertently screw his president?

At present, the Supreme Court is evenly split between four liberals and four conservatives. Merrick Garland, while certainly no right-wing ideologue, is nevertheless a conservative; or at least he's what used to pass for a conservative before the Tea Party took over the Republican Party. Had he been confirmed last year, the balance of the Court would've shifted to the right. Maybe not as far to the right as it was when Antonin Scalia was alive, but to the right nonetheless.

Why is that relevant? The Trump Administration's immigration ban is currently being litigated in the courts. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Justice Department's request to stay the Temporary Restraining Order on the ban issued by a federal judge in Seattle. The DOJ has until Monday to present a written argument for why the order should be reversed. Regardless of the outcome, the case will undoubtedly end up in the Supreme Court, and that's where McConnell's calculated risk could come back to bite him.

Should the 9th Circuit uphold the TRO and the Supreme Court winds up deadlocked at four, the lower court's decision would stand. Merrick Garland could've been that all-important fifth vote in favor of the Administration. In other words, by playing hardball (e.g., being a dick) dear old Mitch might very well be responsible for a "YUGE" Donald Trump defeat.

Funny how irony works. What looked like the political equivalent of a home run only a couple months ago, could well turn out to be a judicial strikeout. If Democrats can drag out the confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch a couple of months, they might end up having the last laugh on the Republicans.

Odds are Gorsuch will eventually become the next justice to sit on the Supreme Court, but he will arrive too late to be of assistance to the man who nominated him to the bench.