Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trumpcare Isn't Dead Just Yet


The news that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided to "delay" a vote on the Republican "healthcare" bill is being hailed as a victory by Senate Democrats, most state governors (Republican and Democratic) and just about everyone capable of reading.

Being the skeptic that I am, though, I'm not convinced that this thing is dead; far from it. True, it's on life support and McConnell certainly has his work cut out for him. Republicans only have a slim two-seat majority in the Senate, meaning they can only afford two "no" votes and still pass a bill through reconciliation. And right now McConnell has at least three "no" votes among the moderate senators who feel the bill is too cruel and as many as three "no" votes among the conservative senators who don't think it's cruel enough. I guess that means he has 46 senators who think it's just cruel enough. [Sorry, I couldn't resist the porridge pun]. Even if he manages to appease one camp, he's still one vote shy of getting to the all-important 50 vote threshold. And that's assuming that there aren't any more defections within his caucus. Quite a conundrum for dear-old Mitch.

But like the House bill that everyone assumed was dead in its tracks until it suddenly wasn't, if there's one thing we've learned about Republicans it's that you should never underestimate their ability to ignore the facts and plow full speed ahead. And if boy wonder Paul Ryan could cobble together enough votes to get his bill through the House, McConnell - even with a considerably smaller margin for error - is certainly capable of getting his through the Senate. And know this, McConnell could eat Ryan for breakfast and shit him out for lunch.

So, if I'm the Democrats, I'd hold off on the celebratory dances. You never leave before the fat lady sings. If they're smart - and as of late, they've been anything but - now would be a good time for Chuck Schumer and a few centrist Democrats to reach out to Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, etc, and try to co-sponser an Obamacare fix that gives the GOP some of what they've been looking for - greater flexibility in selecting plans, less regulations, elimination of the employer mandate, more tax relief for middle-class families and small businesses - in return for assurances that the exchanges would be protected and better funded and the law itself would survive. In other words, reform, rather than repeal, the ACA.

Such a move would put a death knell in Republican plans to repeal the law and force McConnell to come to the table and negotiate. It would also give Democrats something to run on in the 2018 midterms. The four special election losses that they suffered should serve as a painful reminder to the Party that simply being against something - or someone - won't be enough to retake the House next year, or, for that matter, win back the White House in 2020. Voters need a reason to vote for a candidate and Democrats must give them that.

Proving they can come up with solutions to problems instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching the other side fail will be an important first step for Democrats. While Trumpcare may be very unpopular, it's not like Obamacare is a finely tuned engine. There are almost as many people who don't like the ACA as there are people who hate what the Republicans are proposing. The GOP doesn't quite get that because their base won't let them. If Democrats can seize upon that opportunity and bridge the two camps they will prevail.

If they can't, get used to seeing Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in charge of Washington for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Semantics


Let's assume your boss calls you into their office, tells you to close the door and sit down. If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "Oh, shit, what'd I do now?" But let's leave my insecurity out of it for now, shall we?

Your boss hands you a piece a paper with a name and a phone number on it and proceeds to say the following: "This is the phone number of one of our customers and he's very upset. If it's at all possible I hope you can see your way to calling him and finding out what his problem is and then resolving it? I've dealt with him before and he's really a nice guy and a good customer of ours. Okay?"

Now, nowhere it the above paragraph does it say that the boss "ordered" or "directed" the employee to call the customer. Indeed, to the untrained eye, it almost seems as though the boss was merely making a suggestion, not unlike a friend who makes a suggestion as to what restaurant he or she wants to go out to. "You know, we had Mexican last week, how about Chinese tonight? Okay?"

But to the person who's spent more than ten minutes in the private sector - and I've spent a lot more than ten minutes, believe you me - this is anything but a suggestion. While the words "direct" or "order" do not appear in the paragraph, they are implied. This employee has bas been told by their boss to take care of a customer issue and if that employee knows what's good for them, they will comply.

That's how the world operates. Bosses tell their subordinates what to do all the time; some couch it differently, but in the end it's the same thing. Whether a boss says "I order you to do this" or says "If at all possible, I hope you can do this," is irrelevant. It's called semantics. One does not have to be a lawyer to come to that conclusion, merely a person capable of using the common sense God gave them.

James Comey knew exactly what Donald Trump meant when he said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." And the reason he knew that was because Trump told Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence to leave the room. In other words, Trump and Comey were all alone in the Oval Office. One does not go to all the trouble of clearing a room to make a "suggestion." Just the opposite, one goes to all that trouble when what they are about to say is urgent and needs immediate attention. The boss asking their employee to close the door and sit down implies a seriousness that belies even the hint of a suggestion.

But it goes much farther than that. Not only was Trump directing Comey to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn, he was doing so in a manner that suggests he knew he was wrong. You don't tell your attorney general and vice president to scram if you're on the up and up. Quite the contrary, you do that when you know full well that what you're doing is illegal and you don't want anybody else to know about it. Comey got that, which is why he took great pains to document his meetings with Trump, all nine of them.

To suggest that because Trump never actually "directed" Comey to drop the Flynn investigation meant that he was not guilty of obstruction, as Idaho senator James Risch did, is absurd. Equally absurd, not to mention insulting, is the comment from Speaker Paul Ryan that Trump is "just new to this." Really? We're supposed to believe that a man who has had more litigation experience than Clarence Darrow is somehow "new" to investigations? Now that's what I call new.

I have two questions for both of these idiots: If either of them were to walk into a bank and hand the teller a note that read, "I hope you can see your way to giving me the money in your vault," 1) How long do you suppose it would take before he was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and taken away by the cops? and 2) Would any defense attorney worth a damn actually have the balls to argue that his client was "new" to the banking industry? I'm guessing the answer to the former question would be about ten seconds and the answer to the latter would be never.

But in GOP land, where reality has been on hiatus ever since January 20 - some would say longer - both questions are perfectly valid. For four and a half months now, Republicans have been bending over backward trying to justify every stunt this president has pulled. No matter how outlandish or childish his conduct has been, the leadership of the GOP has turned a blind eye or a deaf ear to it.

And as if to add insult to injury, some of them are now going after James Comey for - get this - "leaking" his memos to the press. Yes, you read that right. Comey, not Trump, is the real villain here, because he leaked the contents of his communications with Trump. Never mind that those communications were neither classified nor privileged; never mind that Comey had every right to divulge those contents to whomever he felt like; and never mind that when it comes to releasing sensitive information, this president has been the Leaker in Chief, even before he took office. Trump, through his tweets, has shot himself in the foot so much, it's a wonder he hasn't bled to death.

And now this moron says he wants to testify under oath before special counsel Robert Mueller that Comey is the one who's lying, not him. Can you imagine Trump swearing under oath that he never told Comey to let the Flynn investigation go? Or that he demanded that Comey pledge his loyalty to him? I would love to be a fly on a wall in that room.

Then again, Trump is so brazen in his lies, so smooth in his deception, he might actually pull it off. The man has no moral compass, no discernment between right and wrong and no conscience to speak of. He's totally incapable of admitting he's wrong, even when the overwhelming evidence points to it. Next to him Jeffrey Dahmer is just someone with an eating disorder.

What we have here is more than just a textbook case of obstruction of justice and, thanks to his own big mouth, perjury. What we have here is a rogue president who lacks the basic abilities for the position he currently holds. Not only he is a threat to himself, he's a threat to the country and the world as a whole. Far from evolving into the job, he appears to be regressing.

And the Republican Party has apparently gone along for the ride, totally indifferent to their complicity. History will judge them accordingly. Forty-three years ago, the GOP stood up to a corrupt Republican president and told him he had to go. That was a difficult decision to make, but in the end they put their country before their party.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to follow suit.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Call It A Night, Hillary


There's this scene from the seminal movie A Night To Remember where Kenneth More's character, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, is having a discussion with a passenger in one of the Titanic's lifeboats as the rescue ship Carpathia arrives on the scene to pick up the survivors, and it goes like this:

Passenger: "Would that be the Carpathia?"
Lightoller: Nods.
Passenger: "Aren't you glad to see her?"
Lightoller: "Yes, I'm glad, but then I'm still alive."
Passenger: "If only she'd been nearer."
Lightoller: "There's a lot of ifs, aren't there? If we been steaming a few knots slower, or if we'd spotted that berg a few seconds earlier, we might not even have struck. If we'd carry enough lifeboats for the size of the ship instead of just enough to meet the regulations, things would've been different again wouldn't they?"

It was one of the more poignant moments in the epic disaster film that to this days still stands as the best depiction of the events on board the doomed ship, but it was all fake. The truth is that Lightoller, to his dying day, could never bring himself to acknowledge what truly happened on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. He blamed the disaster on many things: the berg had recently overturned so it was too dark to spot; the lack of a moon meant that visibility was limited; the ocean was a flat calm so there was no breaking water around the berg. Indeed, it seemed all the elements had conspired against them that night to bring about the calamity: one which Lightoller insisted was a once in a century event. Never did it occur to him that the principle cause of the disaster was gross incompetence on an epic scale. And if it did occur to him, he certainly never admitted it publicly.

How could he? Denial, it seems, isn't just a river in Egypt.

Listening to Hillary Clinton give excuse after excuse about why she lost to Donald Trump got me thinking about that scene and about Lightoller. I wonder what some actress portraying Clinton in the future might say about the events of November 8, 2016. Perhaps she, like More, might be humble enough to admit the obvious. And then, just like in 1958, poetic license would have its way. For you see in the movies, life imitates art, not the other way around.

But movies, no matter how realistic they may look, aren't real; they are vehicles which allow the audience to escape into a make-believe world where fiction is fact and reality is in the eye of the beholder. And that is a world that Hillary and her supporters are trapped in.

I've about had it up to here with Clinton blaming everyone but herself for last November's debacle. Can you believe it, now it's the DNC's fault that she lost to Trump? Yes, it's true, the Democratic National Committee is the latest villain in the never ending saga of "Who Stole Hillary's Election."

So far her list of bad guys consists of James Comey, the FBI, Vladimir Putin, Wiki-Leaks, Bernie's supporters, the racists, the sexists, the New York Times (apparently good journalism is bad for some political candidates) and now the DNC, the very organization that practically dry-humped her leg all throughout the primaries. I swear if Clinton had stopped short just once, it would've taken a crane to pry the DNC out of her ass. And now, she's turning on them. How typical.

My God, what is it about the Clintons that they can never bring themselves to accept responsibility for their own actions? I bet Bill still believes that his meeting with Loretta Lynch was completely innocent. And why shouldn't he? The man got a blow job in the Oval Office from an intern and survived, so what's a little conflict of interest during a criminal investigation?

I have bent over backwards giving Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt. I believed then, and still do, that had she won the election she would've made a very good president, perhaps a great one. And not just because of the shit-for-brains man child that currently holds the job, but because her resume speaks for itself. She was a tireless advocate for women's rights as first lady; she was a damn good senator from my home state; and, in spit of what the bat-shit contingent on the Right keep saying about her, she was a more than adequate secretary of state. Indeed, her husband was the first Democrat to win two terms in office since FDR. The list of accomplishments for the Clinton family is considerable and honorable. They and their party should be proud.

But the problems that have plagued the Clintons over the years have had little to do with their professional lives, but rather their private ones. If they had a theme song it would be "You're Living In Your Own Private Idaho." I've heard of people who live in bubbles, but this family takes the cake. For them, admitting to a wrong is like pulling a tooth from a tiger in the wild - without a tranquilizer.

And the sad thing about it is that it was never the actual act that proved to be their undoing, but rather their response to it. Bill gets a B.J. and spends the next three months denying it; Hillary has a private email server discovered and goes on a Ralph Kramdem "Hamana, Hamana" rationalization tour. Even after Comey called her on the carpet last July, she does an interview with Chris Wallace and, with a straight face, insists the FBI said she was innocent. Anyone who with two ears and half a brain, however, knew different.

It's one thing to be stabbed in the back by your opponents; it's quite another to push the blade in with your own hand. And that is exactly what the Clintons have done for most of their political lives. True, they've been the victims of some of the most vile and despicable conspiracy theories ever concocted. And equally true, the press and the media have done a mediocre job at best of debunking most of them. But who said politics was fair, or decent for that matter? As the saying goes, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

So this is my message to Hillary Clinton: if you're looking for the person most responsible for putting Donald Trump in the White House, I suggest you look at the woman staring back at you in the mirror. Because she's the real villain in this tragedy. No one else.

Yes, Comey screwed you; and yes, Putin had it in for you; and the blame that NAFTA received for all those blue-collar job losses in Ohio and Michigan was completely overblown. I'll grant you all of that. But it wasn't Comey who decided not to visit Wisconsin once during the general election. Nor was it Putin who thought having a private email server in your basement was a swell idea. Those were all your doing. You don't get to go full speed ahead through an ice field and then blame the berg. It doesn't work that way.

You're pissed and your pride is wounded. I get it. You were supposed to win in a landslide and you lost. There will forever be an asterisk next to the 2016 presidential election and people for generations to come will remember you not for your service as first lady or senator or secretary of state, but as the person who gave us Trump. That's a heavy burden to carry. You are the Baltimore Orioles of politics, only it wasn't the Miracle Mets who beat you, it was the Bad News Bears.

And now you're embarking on yet another tour. You're going after Trump the way attorneys re-litigate the cases they've lost. Unfortunately, that never changes the jury's verdict. Nothing will ever undo November 8, anymore than replaying the Titanic disaster will make the great ship reappear or the 1500 lives that were lost restored. Time only flows in one direction: forward. The future belongs to those who can let go of the past. And, sadly, that is not you.

You are consumed by all the what ifs; what if this and what if that. That is certainly your right, but you don't have the right to take the entire Democratic Party down Recrimination Lane with you. There is too damn much at stake for such nonsense. What Trump is doing to this nation, dictators do to third-world countries. He must be stopped.

If you insist on throwing a pity party, knock yourself out, but leave us out. This is no time for pity. There's a special election in Georgia this month that will go a long way towards determining whether the Democrats have a shot at taking back the House. They need to win it by hook or crook. Then there are the 2018 midterms themselves. A net gain of 24 seats and they will be able to stop der Fuhrer in his tracks. To achieve that goal, they will need to focus all their energy on constructing a message that will resonate with voters, not licking your wounds for you.

Face it, it's over. You and your husband have had quite a ride. Bill a two-term president; you a two-term senator and secretary of state. That's more than most couples could ever hope for. And now, for the good of the Party, the country and whole fucking planet, it's time to pack it in. You've written your book, now go back to Chappaqua. They love you there; hell they love you in a lot of places, just not in the places where you got your ass handed to you, which geographically speaking covers a lot of ground.

The Democratic Party needs new blood and new leadership if it is to regain its once lofty status. It's amazing to consider, but just eight short years ago, it was the GOP that was the party on the run, bereft of ideas and hopelessly tied to a shrinking demographic. Funny how things can turn on a dime.

I implore you as one Democrat to another: if you truly love your country and would like to make one last contribution to its future, then do the right thing. Release the grip you and your husband have on this party. Allow it to regroup and heal.

Rick said goodbye to Ilsa; Willie Mays said goodbye to baseball. It's time for you to say goodbye to politics. And the sooner the better.