Monday, January 28, 2019

Here's the Challenge for Howard Schultz

So Howard Schultz is considering running for president as an independent. How nice. I'll let the Trump 2020 campaign know so they can stop collecting donations now and prepare for another stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue. Seriously, if this is true and Schultz actually runs as an independent, you can kiss goodbye any hope the civilized world has of evicting the Dark Lord of the Sith from the White House.

The simple truth is that in the entire history of the Republic there has never been a successful third party candidate who has won the presidency. In fact, you have to go all the way back to George Wallace in 1968 to find a third party candidate who actually managed to pick up a few states. Teddy Roosevelt came the closest when he challenged Republican Howard Taft in 1912, only to finish second.

For those not familiar, Roosevelt was furious at Taft for abandoning the progressives values he had championed as the former Republican president. However, far from winning, all Roosevelt accomplished was delivering the White House for the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. That's because he split the Republican vote.

Third party candidates historically cost the party they are more aligned with the election. The lone exception appears to be the '68 election, in which Wallace, who ran as a segregationist, actually hurt the Democrat, Hubert Humphrey more than the Republican, Richard Nixon, even though Nixon deployed what some have referred to as the Southern strategy, designed to provoke anxious white voters into voting Republican. I should point out that there are historians who think it was the other way around. That what really happened was Wallace took away votes from Nixon and made what other wise would've been a rout into it a relatively competitive election for Humphrey. They could be right. It is doubtful that a liberal like Humphrey would've won any of the five southern states Wallace captured.

The two most recent examples of third party candidates who inadvertently tipped the election are Ross Perot in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 2000. Perot was the business tycoon who siphoned off votes from Republican George H.W. Bush and allowed Bill Clinton to win the presidency with less than 50 percent of the vote; and Nader was the consumer advocate who kept Democrat Al Gore from winning Florida, thus saddling the nation with the likes of George W. Bush. Neither candidate had a realistic chance of winning, yet both effectively became spoilers in their respective races; their legacies forever enshrined in the annals of history. Schultz' legacy, if he chooses to run, will be no different.

Schultz's rationale for running is based on his claim, often repeated by pollsters, that 40 percent of the electorate identifies as independent and is therefore winnable. Additionally, he says, neither party seems all that concerned about solving the problems that beset the country and are more interested in what he described as "revenge politics."

While I will stipulate that the hyper-partisanship that grips Washington often does culminate in something akin to revenge politics, one party is clearly far more responsible for the polarization that has so turned off the electorate. And that party is now completely under the control of Trump. Removing him should be goal number one for any candidate who cares about the country.

But when it comes to independents, Schultz makes the same mistake Bernie Sanders made all throughout the 2016 campaign. Sanders kept insisting that the throngs of supporters who were showing up at his rallies were independents. In fact, the people who were showing up were disaffected Democrats who felt the party wasn't progressive enough.

The fact is the term independent has undergone something of a metamorphosis over the last couple of decades. Back in the day, an independent was someone who was moderate in their political views. They tended to be either center right or center left. This is where we got the terms Reagan Democrat and Clinton Republican from. Basically, they were one in the same. Nowadays, independents fall primarily into two groups: far left and far right. They are far more extreme in their thinking and tend to reject any candidate they feel isn't pure enough to earn their vote. It is doubtful, given the current political landscape, that there's more than 15 percent of the electorate that would describe itself as moderate. Even if Schultz were to run the table with that group, at best he'd be nothing more than the next Ross Perot: another billionaire with his thumb on the political scale who couldn't close the deal.

If Howard Schultz really wants to beat Trump, his best bet would be to run as a Democrat. If he's concerned that the party is drifting too far to the left, the way to pull it closer to the center is for him and other moderates like Michael Bloomberg to jump in the ring. Indeed, Democrats would be strengthened by having an open and honest debate about which vision would be more effective in a general election.

Prior to 2016, the GOP was a pro-free trade party whose stars were Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz. Then Donald Trump came along and turned things completely upside down. Today, Republicans sing the praises of protectionism and tariffs and Trump's hold on the party is complete. What that proves is that political parties can be transformed with the right candidate.

Over the last six decades the Democratic Party has come full circle from the Great Society days of Lyndon Johnson to the more centrist days of Bill Clinton back to a more liberal ideology today. There are more than just a few pundits who feel such an ideology in a general election is a weak hand. Even if Schultz doesn't win the nomination, his presence on a stage with other Democrats could influence the party platform. Just as Bernie pushed Hillary to the left, Schultz could push the eventual nominee to the right.

That's the challenge for Shultz: to be a team player instead of a lone wolf. Many of his positions are reasonable and would be attractive to voters in 2020. But the only way those positions will ever see the light of day is if they are part of a comprehensive and inclusive platform of a national party that has a reasonable chance of winning an election.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Biggest Tragedy of the Shutdown Had Nothing To Do With a Wall

When all was said and done the biggest tragedy of the shutdown had nothing to with Trump's wall, or the revelation that, once more, Washington proved it couldn't govern. No, a monument to bigotry and a dysfunctional government, as sad as that might be, played second fiddle to the real problem that the shutdown unmasked, and that is the heartbreaking stories of federal workers who were unable to go even a month without getting paid and had to resort to going to food banks just to eat.

If you think this is just a public sector problem, you're wrong. It affects the majority of the American workforce. As of 2017, according to a report published by CNBC, 78 percent of full-time workers lived paycheck to paycheck. That was up 3 percent from 2016. Another report, this one from Bankrate, said that only 39 percent of Americans would be able to pay an out of pocket medical expense of $1,000. The rest would either have to forgo the procedure, use a credit card, take out a personal loan or borrow the money from a relative or friend. Imagine not having enough savings to cover a thousand dollar medical bill.

But that's precisely the plight most Americans find themselves in. The tragedy of the 2018-19 government shutdown is that it revealed just how close to the edge millions of people are. Part of the problem is the high cost of living, but the rest is owed directly to a shrinking middle class. In 1971, middle-income earners comprised 61 percent of the workforce; in 2015, it was barely 50 percent.

And that middle class is enjoying less and less of the fruits of this economy. While the United States controls 41 percent of the world's wealth, it also has the largest percentage of wealth inequality of any industrialized country. As of 2014, the top 1 percent owned 40 percent of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 80 percent owned only 7 percent. The gap between the middle class and the top 1 percent was 2,000 percent. The average American employee needs to work more than a month to earn what the typical CEO earns in a day.

If Democrats are looking for an issue to run on in 2020 that will resonate with voters, this is it.  Hatred for Trump may gin up the base, but a far more effective strategy would be to focus on providing solutions for the millions of people who week in and week out know all too well what it's like to come face to face with financial ruin. Imagine what it must be like to literally be a month away from possibly being homeless.

That the richest country in the world should permit the majority of its citizens to live like this is an obscenity. Neither party has taken this problem seriously. Republicans have focused mainly on huge tax breaks for the rich that have only made a bad situation worse and added more than a trillion dollars to the debt. But Democrats have not done nearly enough to come to the table with solutions that can mitigate the disparity among the classes.

Perhaps Elizabeth Warren could become the candidate to champion this cause - assuming, that is, Bernie doesn't make another run - but so far she has been more concerned with regulating Wall Street and the banks than addressing income equality. And while many in the party favor raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, that will do little to help struggling families get ahead. Many of the federal workers who were victims of the shutdown make $20 or more an hour and still were up a creek once they missed a paycheck.

Until and unless we have a real conversation about what it means to be middle class in this country, I doubt we'll be able to address the problems with this shrinking demographic. One thing we do know: Trump's success was due in no small part to the belief by blue-collar workers that he would have their backs. Obviously, like most of his promises, that turned out to be a con. But those blue-collar workers are still out there and they're still hurting. This used to be a reliably Democratic voter bloc. If they hope to win it back, they will have to work for it.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Thanks to the storm Trump inadvertently created, Democrats may have been given the silver lining of a lifetime.

Friday, January 25, 2019

No Wall, Just A Cave

Make no mistake about what happened here. Donald Trump got his ass kicked. Period! And the person who administered the ass kicking was none other than Nancy Pelosi. For 35 days, Trump huffed and he puffed and he shut down the government trying to extort $5.7 billion for his wall; a wall he promised Mexico would pay for. And Pelosi said no.

He tried temper tantrums; that didn't work. He tried dangling a temporary fix for dreamers; that didn't work. He took away Pelosi's traveling privileges; she took away his State of the Union address. The man who has made a living getting his way by bullying his opponents, not only didn't get his way, he now knows his principle protagonist isn't remotely intimidated by him and, even worse for him, isn't going anywhere.

This wasn't just a cave; it was a cowering. The great deal maker negotiated himself into a corner with no exit strategy. He needlessly dragged this country through five weeks of hell, threw members of his own party under the bus - including the current majority leader of the Senate and recent inductee into the witness protection program, Mitch McConnell - and recklessly brought pain and suffering into the lives of eight hundred thousand government employees, all to appease the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

In the end, the reality TV president came face to face with reality. He was forced to sign a three week continuing resolution to reopen the government without one cent for his pitiful wall; the same CR, mind you, he could've signed back in December. It's bad enough coming up empty handed, but taking five weeks to get there is the very definition of adding insult to injury.

Clearly Trump is not accustomed to being told no, especially by a strong woman like Pelosi. And it's driving him up the, you'll pardon the pun, wall. It's time to admit the obvious: all the Debbie Downers out there like me who were publicly questioning whether it was time for Democrats to find a new, younger leader were dead wrong. Three weeks into the new session, Pelosi has been nothing short of brilliant. She hasn't just vanquished her political foes, she's served notice to this president. If you're going to behave like a child, you're going to be treated like one.

The difference between Trump and Pelosi could not be clearer. The former is reactive, relying mainly on his instincts, which are typically wrong; the latter might be the most strategic Speaker we've had in over a generation. While Trump leaps before he looks, Pelosi is always thinking two or three moves ahead. It's like watching someone who's only played checkers try their hand at chess. Trump is so out of his league you almost feel sorry for the bastard. ALMOST!

Not only doesn't Trump have any leverage over Pelosi, thanks to this stunt of his, he may very well have lost a good chunk of the leverage he had over his own party. Did you notice that right after he capitulated at his presser in the Rose Garden he tweeted he might shut down the government again in three weeks if he doesn't get his wall funding? You can take this to the bank: there's no way in hell McConnell is going to let that happen. We are done for the foreseeable future with Lord Fauntleroy burning down the village. If it's a wall he wants, he can build it with Legos.

For now, Trump's biggest problem might be with his base. After swearing up and down that he wasn't going to end the shutdown without funding for his wall, old blood and guts came off looking like the pussy he usually grabs. Ann Coulter lit him up on Twitter. Sean Hannity, who's so far up Trump's ass it would take the jaws of life to pry him free, did his best to defend him on his radio program, but to no avail. You can take the tiki torches away from the Hitler Youth, but you can't take away their rage. And rage is the fuel that drives Trumpism. Let's be honest here: the one thing this president can't afford to lose is his base. They're the reason he beat Hillary in 2016 and they're the only chance he has of winning reelection in 2020. Without that 30 to 35 percent of the population - yes, God help me, it's that large - he's finished and he knows it.

And that's why I'm worried he might do something even more stupid than shut down the government. He could start a war. Did you notice his recent comments about Venezuela? For a man who campaigned about not getting entangled in foreign conflicts and who probably can't locate Venezuela on a map, don't be surprised if in a couple of weeks - right about the time McConnell informs him he isn't getting his fucking wall - we end up invading that country. With Robert Mueller closing in on his family, he desperately needs a large distraction. A war would certainly suffice.

I tell you we are dealing with man who is not stable. A narcissist with no moral compass, incapable of feeling empathy and possessing all the impulse control of a four year old. Those are the character traits one would expect to find in a patient residing in a mental ward. Unfortunately for us and the world, he resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Temporary Fix Is No Fix At All

The Washington Post's editorial board says that Democrats should accept Donald Trump's offer to grant a three year extension of protection for Dreamers, which would also include TPS (temporary protected status) immigrants, in exchange for giving him $5.7 billion for his border wall. They write,
These are the dreamers, hundreds of thousands of young people who have played by the rules, studied, worked, made lives in this country. They are American in every way but in the eyes of the law, having been brought here as children — as first-graders, on average. Thanks to a dispensation from President Barack Obama, many of them have come out of the legal shadows and are contributing to this country. If no deal is reached, the Supreme Court is likely at some point to end that dispensation, as Mr. Trump has demanded, and they will be sent back into the shadows, or to countries of which they have no memory.
Much as I agree with that sentiment - who couldn't? - giving this president a permanent monument to his bigotry for what amounts to a temporary fix to a problem that has plagued the country for decades is not a solution. It only delays by three years the plight these people have had to live with since their parents brought them here as children. In the ghastly event of Trump winning a second term, we will simply be right back where we started come 2022. What concessions then will he try to extort from Democrats to do the civilized thing?

But rather than flat out reject the offer, I believe the smart play for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer is to up the ante on Trump. You want your funding? Fine, we'll give you $2.5 billion - not $5.7 - in exchange for a permanent DACA and TPS fix. And the government is reopened, not for two months, but for the balance of the fiscal year. Oh, and throw in raising the debt ceiling through the rest of the year.

Tell Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh to go, well, whatever it is those two do to each other when the rest of us aren't looking. If Trump doesn't agree, the government stays shut and he alone gets the blame, along with this month's MIA candidate, Mitch McConnell. Even old turtle face will have a difficult time backing this president on his suicide mission.

David Frum of The Atlantic, I think, had the best take on Trump's "offer."
The shutdown was a demand for unconditional surrender. Unfortunately for him, the president lacks the political realism to recognize that he doesn’t have the clout to impose that surrender. He’s the one who will now have to climb down, and very soon, probably within days.
Negotiation is always prudent, but in order to negotiate there needs to be two willing partners. So far, we have a president who thinks the federal government is an extension of his organization and a newly Democratic House majority which begs to differ.

Ready, Fire, Aim

There's a great scene from the movie All the President's Men in which Bob Woodward's source, Deep Throat, berates him for screwing up on a story involving Bob Halderman.

Deep Throat: You let Halderman slip away.

Woodward: Yes.

Deep Throat: You've done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you've got people feeling sorry for him. I didn't think that was possible. In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step. If you shoot too high and miss, everybody feels more secure. You've put the investigation back months.

Yesterday, a piece in BuzzFeed claimed that Donald Trump instructed his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie in his testimony before Congress about the Moscow Tower project. If true, that would make the President of the United States guilty of subornation of perjury, which is obstruction of justice. Understandably, the media and, in particular, Democrats jumped all over there story. Some were throwing around the "I" word.

Later that evening, however, Peter Carr, a spokesperson for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, threw cold water on the story. A statement issued by Carr said, "BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate."

What did Carr mean by "specific statements?" Was he saying all of the piece was wrong or just part of it? Did Trump tell Cohen to lie or not? While BuzzFeed is standing by its story, Trump and his allies are, not surprisingly, having a field day. Once again, the "fake media" was proven wrong, this time ironically enough by the office of the man tasked with investigating his administration.

Look, we still don't know how all this will play out. No doubt Cohen will be asked to clarify exactly what Trump told him when he appears before the House Oversight Committee in February. What we do know is this: it's rare for Mueller's office to issue a statement regarding the investigation, so we can only surmise that he felt it was necessary in this instance.

And let's face it, BuzzFeed isn't exactly The New York Times or The Washington Post when it comes to credibility. They may well have jumped the gun on this one, and if that is true, like the aforementioned line from All the President's Men, it will make Trump and his supporters feel more secure. While it still won't have any impact on the actual investigation, since that is still in Mueller's control, it will give ammunition to those who are looking to smear it.

And that's the thing that needs to be underscored here. BuzzFeed intentionally or unintentionally ran with a story that cannot be corroborated and has now been challenged by Mueller's office, and that makes everyone's job in the press that much harder to do. One fuck up, one failure to dot an "i" or cross a "t" is all it takes to muddy what is already pretty much a toxic cesspool. Imagine what Fox News and the rest of the conservative media will say the next time a story about Trump surfaces, and you know there are going to be more. With a president this corrupt, it's inevitable.

This is why sources are so critical. That's why it is imperative that leads be checked and rechecked. When you are dealing with something this big, there is no margin for error. Yes, mistakes will happen, and when they do, it is incumbent upon the publication or media outlet to correct them as soon as possible. If the editors at BuzzFeed truly feel their story is legit, then fine, stick with it. But if there is even a scintilla of doubt, they owe it to their colleagues to pull it and pull it now.

This is the greatest story of our lifetime. A foreign power interfered on behalf of a presidential candidate, who then went on to win the election. To what degree, if any, is that president compromised? What, if any, intelligence did he share with that power? And what are the short and long-tern consequences for this country?

To find the answers to these and other questions will take a concerted effort by both the intelligence community, of which Mueller is a part, and a free and independent press committed to a thorough and relentless search for the truth.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pelosi Pulls the Plug on Trump

Just to be clear, I don't seriously believe that there is a problem providing for the safety of 535 members of Congress, various cabinet officials, nine Supreme Court justices and the president and vice president of the United States. It's a closed building; if the secret service can't handle that, we're fucked. So when Nancy Pelosi says Donald Trump should reschedule his State of the Union address until after the government reopens because of "security concerns," you can file that under "yeah, right."

The motive behind Pelosi's move could not be more obvious. She's sending a message to Trump loud and clear: If you want to close the government over a wall, knock yourself out, but I'm not giving you a platform to deliver a 45 minute infomercial. If it's a stage you're looking for, hold a rally and invite your minions.

It was a brilliant stroke of genius by this Speaker who is proving to be one tough cookie. If you have any doubts about Pelosi's chops, just ask Kathleen Rice. She opposed Pelosi as Speaker and for her efforts she lost out on a cozy appointment on the House Judiciary Committee. Do not think for a moment that what happened to Rice was lost on other members of the Democratic caucus. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that somewhere in Pelosi's office there's a copy of The Godfather, Part 2. Because just like Michael Corleone, this leader knows how to deal with her political foes.

Trump is learning the hard way that, unlike the last two speakers - both of whom were spineless - Pelosi actually has the cojones to do her job. If this were a TV Show it would be called Pinky and the Brain. Only Pelosi wouldn't have to bother asking Trump if he was pondering what she was pondering. I doubt the man knows what the word means. While Newt Gingrich encourages Captain Bone Spurs to resist negotiating with Democrats, Pelosi cleverly responded by "taking away" his TV, as Jennifer Rubin so adroitly observed. And this president is nothing without the airwaves.

Peter Beinart has an excellent piece in The Atlantic that I believe best describes the traits that make Pelosi a political force to be reckoned with. In a nutshell she has a penchant for playing the long game. Beinart writes that in 2005, right after winning a second term in office, George W. Bush decided he was going to spend some of the "political capital" he thought he had to privatize Social Security. The plan was to bait Democrats into offering solutions of their own. Get them to the table, as it were. But Pelosi and her caucus wouldn't take the bait and instead held firm: no changes to Social Security. Period.

It was one of several political blunders Bush made - the Iraq War being the biggest - that led to Democrats taking back Congress in the '06 midterms and the White House in the '08 presidential election. Pelosi understood that a house divided could not stand. And she is applying that same tactic with yet another Republican in the Oval Office, only this time the issue isn't entitlements but border security. Trump and his allies are looking to goad some centrist Democrats into funding for the wall. So far their efforts have proven to be in vain. If anything, the cracks are coming from the other side of the political aisle, as vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection in 2020 are hearing it from their constituents.

Trump has boxed himself into a corner and Nancy Pelosi has no intention of letting him out. Indeed, she appears to be going in for the kill, or, as Beinart put it more bluntly, "the emasculation" of Trump. It's a risky move that could blow up in her face, but against this president, my money's on Pelosi. As Mr. T might've said, "I pity the poor fool that underestimates this Speaker."

Or as Peter Beinart actually said, "For years, Democrats have wondered when their leaders would start playing tough. Turns out Pelosi has been doing so all along."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Manchild Who Cried Wolf

For once I agree with Donald Trump. The border shutdown is a crisis of the heart and soul. It's a crisis manufactured by a heartless and soulless president who needed a wedge issue to gin up his base. When he couldn't get Democrats to agree to fund a wall no reasonable person believes will work, he shut down the government. Then when he discovered that the majority of Americans were blaming him for the shutdown, he used the backdrop of the Oval Office to deliver a speech to the nation that was riddled with lies and misleading statistics.

It was a desperate and pathetic stunt from a desperate and pathetic administration that ended up backfiring. Not only didn't Trump make a credible case for his ridiculous wall, he may even have lost support within his own party. The great negotiator has negotiated himself right into a ditch. When Fox News is the network fact checking your lies, you know your goose is cooked.

But it wasn't just Fox News who called him out. From David Frum to Peter Beinart to Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic to Rick Wilson in The Daily Beast to Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post to Ross Douthat in The New York Times, the list of conservative op-ed writers who are skewering this president over his conduct in office is both refreshing and telling. These are not closet liberals touting the virtues of single-payer health care or tax increases on the rich. And they are definitely not fans of Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. What they are, though, are disaffected conservatives who have had it up to here with what has happened to their party and, by extension, the country. And you thought tigers were the only ones who ate their young.

The fact is Trump has told so many lies, it's impossible to keep track of them. He's worse than the boy who cried wolf, because no one seriously believes there will come a point where this president - like the fabled boy - will actually tell the truth. The only redeeming thing about Tuesday night's speech was that it was relatively short and free from the usual bombast we've come to expect from him. Perhaps if his staff had piped in some of the crowd noise from one of his rallies, he would've looked less stiff. Thank God for small favors.

Sadly, fact checking Trump has become something of a full-time vocation for journalists over the last three years. Calling him a compulsive liar would be akin to calling the ocean wet. And that's his problem in a nutshell. Because he has such an aversion to the truth, Trump doesn't get the benefit of doubt most presidents would get in a televised address.

Illegal immigration and drugs are serious problems for the United States, and they demand serious solutions, not the hokum Trump is peddling. A wall isn't going to stop migrants seeking asylum into the country, because most of them are intercepted at legal ports of entry; nor would it stop terrorists like the 9/11 hijackers, because they enter the country legally through temporary visas, then overstay their welcome. A wall also isn't going to prevent the billions of dollars of heroine and cocaine that make their way onto our streets, because more than 90 percent of it is flown into airports like LAX and JFK, or hidden in the cargo holds of ships that dock at ports like Miami. The other 10 percent is in trucks and vans that cross the border at legal points of entry like San Diego. Even a total lockdown of the border would not alleviate these and other problems.

What would alleviate them, or at least begin the process of dealing with them, is a comprehensive plan that includes appointing more immigration judges to tend to the backlog of asylum applications, fixing the guest worker visa program which everyone agrees is broken, deploying enhanced technology at the border to detect illegal crossings, hiring more border patrol agents who could respond in a timely fashion to incursions, building more boats for the DEA to track and apprehend ships attempting to smuggle drugs into ports of call, employing tougher screening at airports to stop illegal drugs before they leave the terminal, purchasing enough scanners for border agents so they can thoroughly check every single vehicle crossing the border. And if there is any existing fencing at the border that needs to be replaced, replace it. The total cost for these improvements and others like them will probably cost more than the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding, but it will be considerably more effective.

But the word effective isn't in Trump's vocabulary. The truth is Trump isn't interested in problem solving. If he were, he wouldn't be dry humping a concept as ineffective and ancient as a wall. He also wouldn't have waited until Democrats took control of the House to declare we have a national crisis. Think about it: He had a whole two years to secure the funding for a wall he made the central theme of his campaign. Indeed, he could've had the $25 billion Democrats were offering him last year in exchange for letting the dreamers stay in the country.

There's only one reason Trump turned down such a generous offer. He never had any intention of building a wall. All he wanted was a campaign issue to run on. Deep down what Trump wants is division and distraction. It's the secret to his success. The wall is a symbol for him. It further divides a country already on a razor's edge and it distracts the media from the thing he doesn't want them talking about: namely the Mueller investigation.

Did you read about the latest revelation regarding Paul Manafort? If not, that's because you were probably "distracted" by Trump's fake crisis at the border just like the master planned it. Well it seems Manafort's legal team accidentally released an unredacted filing in which Manafort admitted to sharing polling data with a Russian agent. And that, my friends, is what they call collusion.

That's why Trump is behaving even more like a child than he normally does. That's why he stormed out of a meeting with Congressional leaders that he, himself, called. That mean, old Nancy Pelosi said "no" to his wall so he threw a temper tantrum. The big baby didn't get what he wanted so he took his ball and went home.

But there is always a rhyme and a reason for everything in Trumpland. While we were all fixating on a grown man who acts more like a toddler, Rod Rosenstein announced he will be stepping down in February, just as the new attorney general - William Barr - is being confirmed. The same William Barr, mind you, who wrote a memo critical of the whole Russia investigation. See where I'm going?

Mark my words, people: never underestimate this president's ability to deflect from the underlying issue he doesn't want to talk about, and never overestimate the media's ability to navigate through his bullshit.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

For Dems, Patience Is A Virtue

It's been three days since Democrats took control of the House, and while the toddler in chief continues to hunker down in his bunker at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nancy Pelosi has her first major test. And no, I don't mean the "controversy" over freshman rep Rashida Tlaib's use of the term "motherfucker" to describe Trump. Seriously, we have a president who bragged on tape about groping women's "pussies" and openly curses at his own rallies and we are worried about an admittedly inappropriate expletive. Get a life, people.

No, the real test for Pelosi is dealing with the hotheads in her caucus who want to move forward with impeaching Trump before Mueller issues his report and all the facts are known. Brad Sherman, on the first day of the new Congress, introduced articles of impeachment against Trump on the floor. He had done the same thing in 2017. And just like the former, this move, as expected, went nowhere.

Don't get me wrong, I want Trump out of office too, but there's a proper procedure that must be followed and jumping the gun, as some Democrats want to do, is not only imprudent, it will give Republicans the cover they need to close ranks around Trump at the worst possible time. Remember, impeachment in the House doesn't remove a president from office; only the Senate can do that. With Democrats currently holding 47 seats, they will need at least 20 Republicans to join them. The only hope of convincing them will be if they see that the House did their due diligence.

And the best and only way to do that is through a series of thorough and transparent committee investigations into Trump's financial dealings. I have been adamant that the thing that keeps this president up nights is the fear that the country will discover where he gets his money from. Subpoenaing his tax returns will remove any doubt as to whether he is compromised. Even some Republicans, who have forgiven a multitude of sins, will draw the line at Russian oligarchs funneling cash through the coffers of a sitting president.

And then there's Mueller. If he finds that there is sufficient evidence to issue articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, collusion and / or money laundering, then, and only then, should Democrats proceed accordingly. Even if Mitch McConnell balks at moving forward in the Senate, the majority of the electorate will know what happened and that, far from being a witch hunt, the Russia investigation was a legitimate inquiry into a corrupt administration, and that will go a long way towards making the case for Democrats to retain the House and take back the Senate and White House in 2020.

They say that all good things come to those who wait. Democrats would be wise to heed those words in the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Key Player in the Shutdown is McConnell, Not Trump

Look, it's obvious that Lord Fauntleroy could care less about the plight of thousands of government workers during his government shutdown. When you don't have a shred of decency or possess an ounce of empathy, you're incapable of feeling another person's pain. I sincerely doubt that Trump has gone a day, much less weeks or months, without his massive ego being stroked nine ways to Sunday. Just look at how he carried on about not being able to get away to Mar-A-Lago over the holidays. Talk about being pampered!

And you can also throw out any concern he might have about what his shutdown is doing to the markets. In Trump's demented, warped brain, he probably sees a cratering Dow Jones as an opportunity to buy some stocks on the cheap. For someone who once callously referred to the housing crash, in which millions of people lost the equity in their homes, as just "business," it fits a predictable, if depraved, pattern. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat shit and die."

But Mitch McConnell is not Trump. Don't get me wrong. It's not that McConnell's heart is any bigger or that he has a greater capacity to show empathy. It's just that, unlike general bone spurs, he has an instinct for political survival that Trump can't even spell, much less appreciate. McConnell no more wants this shutdown than he wants a Democratic majority in the Senate.

And that is why he, and not Trump, will hold the key as to how long this shutdown lasts. Because he realizes that the longer this charade goes on, the worse Republican poll numbers become. Already there are cracks forming in the wall of resistance. Corey Gardner, the junior senator from Colorado who's up for reelection next year, has publicly called for the government to be reopened, sans Trump's wall funding. He and several other vulnerable Republican senators, who are facing an uphill battle to retain their seats, are not going to die on this beach head. It's only a matter of time before McConnell faces a rebellion within his own conference.

And that's where I believe he will finally say enough is enough. He'll call Trump on the phone and tell him that he's going to put Nancy Pelosi's bills on the floor where they will likely get at least 70 votes, which means they will be able to override any presidential veto. Trump will explode at him and call him every name in the book. That's what little boys do when you take away their toys. They throw temper tantrums. But, mark my words, McConnell will have the final say.

Exactly when this will happen no one knows for certain. With Republicans it always comes down to their resistance to pain, especially the pain they inflict on themselves. And make no mistake about it: this shutdown is a textbook example of self abuse run riot. The toddler in chief huffs and puffs, holds his breath and counts to a zillion while what's left of his party blindly follows him off the cliff.

Even Republicans, who have always had a problem with science, will have to grudgingly admit that when it comes to the law of gravity, the effects are very real and quite lethal.