Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Michael Cohen Has His Day in Public Court

Before we go any further, I want to go on record as saying that I do not feel even the slightest bit sorry for Michael Cohen. He lied to Congress and to the Southern District of New York; he committed bank fraud; and for ten years he did the bidding of one of the most depraved human beings ever to walk the Earth. He knew what he was doing was wrong and still he did it with no more care than a person stepping on a cockroach. And now he is headed off to prison to serve a three year sentence. To paraphrase a line from the movie Ben Hur, what he has done has had its way with him.

But to paraphrase another great line, this one from William Shakespeare, I have not come to bury Cohen, but to give him his due. For as complicit as he was during his years as Donald Trump's "fixer," his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee was nonetheless compelling and enlightening. While Republicans on the committee spent the entire day pointing out what everyone already knew - that Cohen was a convicted liar - they ultimately failed in their bid to quash the one undeniable truth: that Cohen was acting at the behest of Trump. Worse, they didn't even try to defend him.

It was Trump who - as president - signed the checks that reimbursed Cohen for his illegal payment to Stormy Daniels; it was Trump who was properly identified by the SDNY as Individual One; and it was Trump who stood to gain the most by Cohen's nefarious actions. Contrary to the what the bubble people keep insisting, attorneys do not, as a rule, disburse funds on their own, not without being directed by their clients to do so. The copy of the signed check that Cohen produced proves that Trump was lying when he was asked aboard Air Force One if he knew about the illegal payments made to Daniels.

Put aside all the "Trump is a racist" remarks in his opening statement. At this point, if you need Michael Cohen to tell you about this president's racism, you've been hiding under a rock for the last three and a half years. The only thing that matters is what Cohen did and for whom. Trump and his sycophants can scream from the highest mountaintop that their guy is as pure as the driven snow, but innocent men are not referred to as "Individual One" in a criminal proceeding. There is no ambiguity in what the prosecutors said about Trump. He directed Cohen to make those payments. The word alleged appears nowhere in the court documents.

And know this about the Southern District. While existing DOJ rules may in fact prevent Robert Mueller from indicting Trump, there is a very distinct possibility that those rules do not apply to the SDNY. That means we could indeed see the first indictment of a sitting president in the history of the country. I'd give my right nut to watch federal marshals show up at the White House with a warrant. Wouldn't you?

I believe we are months away from a RICO case being brought against the entire Trump crime family for money laundering and obstruction of justice. Remember Allen Weisselberg? He's the accountant for the Trump Organization who was granted immunity for his testimony to the Southern District. No one knows more about Trump's finances than him. Cohen cited him during his testimony and I have no doubt Democrats will subpoena him once prosecutors are through with him.

And then there's the WikiLeaks dump. Cohen testified that Roger Stone knew about Julian Assange's plans to leak thousands of emails from the Clinton campaign and communicated that to Trump. Those emails proved to be quite damaging to Clinton. If this is true, it is by the far the strongest piece of evidence that this president did in fact collude with Russia to influence the election.

Circle this date on your calendar as the moment when Trump's world began to crumble. He can tweet all he wants, he knows this isn't going away; and so do Republicans. In the summer of 1973, a man named John Dean testified before Congress regarding a "cancer on the presidency." One year later, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.

If there's one thing we know about history, it has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Feinstein Ambush Proves the Left Still Doesn't Know How To Win

Let's be clear here. What happened to Senator Diane Feinstein was an ambush. I don't want to hear anything about how smug she was. Let's see how you react when a bunch of people plant themselves outside your front door. For those who bothered to watch the entire video, I thought she handled herself pretty well, given that she had to contend with a bunch of students - most of whom couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 - who were being used as pawns by the Sunrise Movement, a progressive group spearheaded by Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez and the Justice Democrats.

It was a shameless display of cowardice by people who are driving Democrats so far to the left, they are imperiling the party's chances of not only defeating Trump in 2020, but of holding the majority in the House, as well. Is this what it's come to, using children as pawns? What's next, the suicide kiddie patrol? Maybe Marvel can design the costumes. I'm sure Captain America and Tony Stark wouldn't mind loaning out their suits.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe that climate change is real and that humans are primarily responsible for it. And I agree that if something isn't done about it, dire consequences lie ahead for the entire planet. The issue comes down simple math. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can pass the Senate without 60 votes. That means the Green New Deal is dead on arrival. Calling it "aspirational" is like calling a unicorn tangible. And investing even a microsecond's worth of attention to a proposal that has zero chance of becoming law is a waste of time and resources.

If you seriously believe eliminating ALL carbon emissions in ten years is an achievable goal, you're either on some kind of weird hallucinogenic or you're as young and gullible as those poor students outside of Feinstein's office. Think about what that would mean. You'd have to ostensibly shut down the whole damn planet to achieve zero carbon emissions. And even then you'd still have the emissions from cattle, because, well, it turns out they fart and when they do, guess what comes out?

And just in case you were wondering what a total shutdown of the planet would look like. Remember that little thing we had in the '30s called the Great Depression? Think that, only worse. No planes, no fossil fuel cars, trucks or buses and every source of energy from renewable sources. Even under the most ambitious plans that have been laid out by scientists who've studied the problem for years, it would take at least thirty years to achieve something like 50 percent compliance with the Green New Deal's objectives.

This "my way or the highway" tact, as Feinstein correctly called it, is the real problem that besets Democrats. The Left's overreach is irresponsible, not because it isn't a good thing to defend the planet we live on - I'd much rather be on the right side of history than the wrong side - but because it needlessly gives Trump and the GOP valuable ammunition at the worst possible time. Poll after poll shows that climate change is not even close to the number one issue concerning voters. The economy and healthcare are 1A & 1B. Running on those two issues is how Democrats won the House and picked up seven governorships last fall. And that strategy is still the best path forward to winning the Senate and White House in 2020.

Leadership needs to step in now before the die is cast. There are many freshmen Democrats who aren't part of the AOC / Bernie wing of the party that are serving in swing districts where Trump won. Up till now, they have, for the most part, stayed quite. Well it's time for them to raise their voices and be heard. It's time for the few remaining Blue Dogs in the Senate to nip this thing in the bud. It's time for Nancy Pelosi to remind Ms. Ocasio-Cortez who the real "boss" is.

If Democrats are truly interested in building a big tent party, the best way to do that is NOT by pissing off two thirds of the country. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Thing I Hate Most About Trump

Every once in a while, a post pops up on my Facebook page that goes something like this: "Name the one thing about Donald Trump that you hate the most." Typically, my reply is "Just one?" Seriously, with everything this man has done, it's really hard narrowing it down to just one.

But I think I finally have an answer. When all is said and done, it's not his overt racism that I hate most. Nor is it his contempt for the rule of law, or the fact that he has the attention span of a gnat, or that he thinks he's the smartest person in the room - despite all the available evidence to the contrary - or that he treats everyone like shit, or that he has no moral compass and that his favorite people appear to be dictators. Sadly, he's not the first president to exhibit one or more of these character traits. Andrew Johnson was a racist, as was Woodrow Wilson. George W. Bush was hardly a Rhodes scholar, and Richard Nixon wrote the book on corruption; a book that Trump has added more than just a few chapters to.

No, the one thing I hate most about Trump is the way he is tearing this country apart. He has literally created an alternate reality in which his supporters fervently believe there is a deep state out to get him. The other day, I read a post from some author in Massachusetts who is calling for the arrests of everyone from James Comey to Hillary Clinton for conspiracy against Trump. If you thought that was crazy, you should've read the comments people left. Let's just say if they ever decide to reshoot One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, I know where they can find some stand-ins.

To be honest, I'm frightened. I've never seen the country this divided; this caught up in a make believe world. The saddest part about this is that these poor fools don't know they're being played by a master manipulator. This is all part of an elaborate scheme designed by him to divert attention away from his real mission: which is to turn the United States into a banana republic. Years ago, I had this law professor in college who gave the class one simple rule: "Don't make the mistake of thinking that if you throw enough shit at the blackboard some of it will stick." It was his way of warning us that he wasn't going to fall for it.

Obviously, Trump has never heard of this rule. He's thrown so much shit at the blackboard, he's turned it into a toxic waste dump. And whoever succeeds him as president - whether that's in 2021 or 2025 - will spend the bulk of their term in office cleaning it up. From his relentless assault on the media to his constant undermining of the Russia probe, Trump has so debased the national discourse that slightly more than a third of the country will believe anything he tells them.

Friendships have ended, families have stopped talking to each other and marriages have been strained, some beyond repair. There's a limit to what a free society can tolerate before it devolves into anarchy and Trump is pushing it past the breaking point. His rallies are little more than hate gatherings; recently a cameraman from the BBC was assaulted by a man wearing a MAGA hat.

There is a disturbing pattern at work here; one that appears to be working. Trump is so shameless in his deceit that virtually nothing he does shocks anyone any more. Indeed, people are more numb than they are surprised. And the media, once the vanguard of truth, have become little more than sidekicks for him. It's as if Trump has taken his Celebrity Apprentice show on the road to Washington.

The sheer brilliance of the man is matched only by his depravity. No wonder he admires people like Putin; they speak his language. But there is one difference between the two men. Putin runs a country with no checks and balances, a kleptocracy posing as a republic. Trump is the president of an actual republic whose founders had the wisdom to put in place a strong constitution that has, so far, frustrated his more sinister impulses.

And that's the one thing I'm most optimistic about. Despite his best efforts, the institutions of this country - most notably the courts - appear to be functioning the way they were intended to. He may be tearing apart the fabric of society and reducing what's left of the Republican Party to a bunch of sniveling runts, but he isn't winning, not by a long shot. Think about it: he hasn't been able to fire Mueller, and with Democrats now in control of the House, his administration will be the subject of intense investigations through at least the 2020 election. He may act like a dictator, but, like his reality TV show days, that's all it is, an act.

And as for the people who are under his spell, we can only hope that some day, they will discover what the rest of us know all too well: that Donald Trump is nothing more than a snake oil salesman, peddling a cure for a disease he created.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Democrats, Meet Me Over At Camera Three

Whenever Jon Stewart needed to reach out to a particular group or person, he would always say the following: "Meet me over at camera three." That was his way of getting something important off his chest. Well, like the former Daily Show host, I think it's high time for me to have a heart to heart with the party looking to win back the White House and Senate in 2020, so, Democrats, meet me over at camera three.

Look, I get it. Last November was truly epic. You picked up 40 House seats and retook the majority. You also netted seven governorships, including Kansas. That was truly impressive, especially since Kansas wasn't even on the radar before the midterms. And you didn't stop there. You picked up two important Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona, the latter belonging to former Republican senator and Trump irritant Jeff Flake. I'm sure that didn't go unnoticed over at the RNC, even if it flew right over the head of Captain Bone Spurs.

But the night wasn't without its disappointments. Losses in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Florida kept the Senate in Republican hands, giving Mitch McConnell two more years to appoint as many of Trump's judges to the bench as he can. And Florida, once thought to be a future blue state, is now completely red, and may well remain so for the foreseeable future. Progressive candidates like Stacey Abrams, Beto O'Rourke and Andrew Gillum all lost their respective races against Republican opponents that were very beatable. The O'Rourke loss was particularly painful, given that it was against Ted Cruz, one of the least liked men in the Senate.

Indeed, contrary to what so many of you keep insisting, most of the gains by Democrats were by moderate candidates who were far more appealing to the general electorate. Face it, the progressive winds may have been at your back, but it was good old-fashioned centrism that carried you across the finish line election night.

And that's why you need to hear what I'm about to say because you're on the verge of throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime. It's time to reign in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives like her while you can before they end up defining the whole Democratic Party. I'm not joking. It's not even two months since the new Congress was sworn in and already they are the talk of the town, and not in a good way, mind you.

I know some of you have been calling for a Democratic Tea Party uprising, much like the one that gave Republicans control of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. If it worked for them, why not us, you ask? Except, if you take a closer look, it really didn't work for them. What it did was isolated the GOP politically from the rest of the country. Were it not for gerrymandering, Dems would've won back the House in 2016. Oh, and by the way, before I forget, Barack Obama won reelection rather easily in 2012. The Tea Party may have started off as a populist movement, but in retrospect it severely hindered the ability of Republicans to effectively govern. Despite winning the White House in 2016, the GOP is at its lowest approval rating since the days of FDR. Is that the movement you really want to emulate? One that alienates the majority of the electorate?

Initiatives like the "Green New Deal" have garnered a lot of attention lately, most of it negative. Calling it ambitious would be like calling the Atlantic ocean wet. It's two principle goals are the elimination of all carbon emissions within ten years and full employment for every able-bodied person in the country. Next to this, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was akin to Reaganomics.

Already, Republicans are pouncing on this "deal." McConnell is planning on calling for a vote in the Senate, no doubt to put Democrats on the record. Are you in favor of winning in 2020 or getting your ass handed to you? Let's put aside for the moment that attaining zero emissions in ten years is unfeasible, even under conditions that would ostensibly destroy the U.S. economy; the political minefield of such a proposal would not only guarantee Trump a second term, it would give back control of the House to Republicans, perhaps forever.

This was not what the country signed up for when they voted last November. What they wanted, and more importantly, what Democrats ran on, was making sure Republicans didn't take away their healthcare coverage and government oversight of the Trump Administration. Pie-in-the-sky initiatives were not part of the discussion and will not be well received, I can assure you.

Nor will unforced errors, like the Amazon fiasco. Look, I'm not defending a corporation that makes more money in an hour than I'll make in my entire lifetime. Jeff Bezos is hardly Mahatma Gandhi. Just ask the city of Seattle what they think of Amazon, and the response you'll likely get will not be positive. Companies like Amazon, once they move into a major metropolitan area, end up taking it over. By threatening to pull its headquarters out of the city, Amazon effectively killed the so-called "Head Tax" that Seattle was going to impose on corporations making in excess of $20 million a year to pay for more affordable housing. Now that's power; the same power I have no doubt Amazon would've tried to wield over New York once its new headquarters was built in Queens.

But it's clear that Ocasio-Cortez and her allies had no idea what they were talking about when they came out against the deal. Sure, giving away $3 billion in tax incentives to a multi-billion dollar corporation on the surface seems like extortion, but that $3 billion, contrary to what she and her supporters said, was not just lying around in some petty cash drawer. It was money that was to be reimbursed back to Amazon from taxes collected once the facility was opened. And while the $27 billion figure that was floated as the amount the state was supposed to get in the deal seems a bit of a stretch, there's no denying that it would've generated badly needed money to pay for overhauls to New York City's transit system and roads. That money will now have to come from other sources; i.e. tax increases. If, like me, you live on Long Island, you're not happy with what happened and why.

Then there's Elizabeth Warren's "wealth tax," another proposal that will be dead on arrival should she actually win the White House. The fact is there's no way Warren will ever get 51 votes in the Senate for her plan, much less the 60 required to overcome a filibuster. And the same can be said of Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all dream. He can talk all he wants about Europe, the fact is this isn't Europe. Virtually none of the proposals being floated by progressive candidates running president are popular with voters. To quote David Frum: "There is no progressive majority in America." To be fair, I would also point out that there is no conservative majority either. The truth is somewhere in between.

Rule number one in politics is do no harm. It's a rule Trump keeps breaking, which is why he is polling in the low 40s. Democrats, you cannot win by copying that failed formula. It's one thing to be energetic; it's quite another to be reckless. For most of the last two years, the headlines were mainly about this president and his rogue administration. Of late, the headlines are starting to shift away from Trump towards the split between progressives and centrists. This is a giant gift to the GOP that is unconscionable.

Look, Dems, there's still time to avoid a catastrophe, but it will require something you historically have had a hard time mustering: courage. To beat Trump, you have to keep it simple. Resist the temptation, no matter how good it feels, of going for the gusto. There is no need to shoot for the stars, when simply attaining orbit will do.

The Democratic platform should contain the following: fixing the Affordable Care Act so that more people have access to affordable health insurance; restoring the middle-class tax deductions that the GOP tax scheme took away; rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and perhaps passing a carbon tax that would result in lower greenhouse gases; and partnering with the private sector to rebuild our infrastructure. No freebies, no wild-eyed schemes that Republicans can weaponize against you in 2020.

Trump will continue to do what he has been doing since he took office: implode. The man is his own worst enemy. Did you watch his press conference in the Rose Garden the other day? Incoherent would be a word in a half. It is political malpractice of the highest order to engage in any conduct or behavior that gets him off the hook by distracting voters away from what he's doing to this country. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn't understand that fact, it is incumbent upon those of you who do to either reel her in or cut the legs out from under her.

Progressives will have a fit. Let them. After all was said and done, the chief reason for Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016 was her failure to connect with voters in the suburbs. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will have one helluva time getting them back. They shouldn't be forced to go to the plate with two strikes against them already.

Sorry, I wasn't funny like Jon Stewart would've been, but the fact is this stopped being funny a long time ago. With eighteen and a half months to go till D day, it's time to stop fucking around and get down to business, people.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Will Democrats Overreach ... Again!

It's only February and the 2020 presidential field is already crowded. With the announcement by Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar that she is running for president, the number of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination is now up to ten. In addition to Klobuchar, the list includes Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey senator Cory Booker, California senator Kamala Harris, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration Julian Castro, New York senator Kirsten Gilibrand, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and Hawaiian congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

By the end of the month we could see former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, California congressman Eric Swalwell, Colorado senator Michael Bennet, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown announce their candidacies. And let's not forget the 800 pound gorilla in the room: former VP Joe Biden. The man who many now feel should've run in 2016 has said he will make his decision on whether to run in 2020 soon. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if by the end of March there are 20 or more Democrats in the ring. And while I haven't officially weighed in on the various strengths and weaknesses of each of these candidates, I am starting to see a disturbing pattern emerge among those who have declared that could be potentially fatal. To put it succinctly, most of these candidates are running way to the left of where the party needs to be to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

While the Medicare for all pledge that the frontrunners have adopted will no doubt be music to the ears of progressives, the fact is that in 2009, when Democrats held 60 seats in the Senate, they couldn't even get a public option to the floor for a vote, much less a single payer. Serving up red meat to the base may deliver some lucky person the nomination, but it could also deliver Trump a second term in the White House.

Clearly there is a split within the party between the centrists and the progressives, and I fear that the progressives may end up with the upper hand. And that would be tragic. The gains Democrats made in the House primarily came from suburban districts that are anything but liberal. Many of these districts voted for Trump in 2016 and they could end up voting for him again in 2020 if Dems overreach.

That is why it is imperative that more moderate Democrats like Bennet, Brown and Biden decide to run. They could pull the party back to the middle, which is where it needs to be to prevail in a general election. Brown, in particular, knows a thing or two about how to run and win in a state where Democrats are about as popular as a mosquito at a picnic. While he has supported Medicare for all in the past, he has recently stated that it's "not practical." Instead, he supports lowering the age that people can get Medicare to 55.

Bennet, likewise, has criticized plans to push for a single payer system, calling it "a bad opening offer." He has proposed, along with Virginia senator Tim Kaine, a public option that would allow people to keep their private insurance if they are happy with it. And Biden, perhaps more than any other Democrat, knows all too well that pie-in-the-sky politics doesn't necessarily translate into legislative accomplishments. It is no coincidence that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were both widely criticized by their base for striking deals with Republicans while in office. It's also no coincidence that both won reelection rather handily.

That's because governing is a lot more difficult than campaigning; a fact that often appears to be lost on many progressives these days. While liberals still decry the Affordable Care Act as a sellout to the insurance industry, it nonetheless passed because Obama was pragmatic enough to realize that a little bit of something was better than a whole lot of nothing. You can call it selling out or incremental politics; it depends on your point of view.

Another potential disaster in the making is the proposal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to impose a 70 percent tax on the rich. Don't get me wrong: I'm not opposed to the top one percent paying more in taxes. The idea that if you raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires they will lose all incentive to succeed is a fantasy concocted by conservatives that even wealthy men like Warren Buffet have denounced. But ultimately, it's a distraction that can come back to bite Democrats in 2020.

Rather than pledging to raise taxes on the wealthy, the better move would be to pledge to restore the deductions that were taken away (i.e., stolen) from millions of middle-class families in the Republican tax scheme of 2017. As we speak, many of these people are discovering what any first-year accounting major could've told them: that they got screwed. And, as is typical for them, not a single Democratic presidential candidate has mentioned it. Running as a champion of the middle class is a winning hand that Trump and the GOP will have no answer for. It should be priority one in the party platform at next year's convention.

Promising the moon is not the way to win over the electorate. We already have a snake oil salesman in the White House who sold a bill of goods to a lot of gullible and frustrated people. And while those people are still frustrated, they're not nearly as gullible as they were four years ago. Many of them have caught on to Trump's lies and are reconsidering the Democrats. The best way to ensure they vote blue in 2020 is by providing them with workable and practical solutions to their everyday problems, not conning them again.

Put it this way. When Kennedy, in 1961, promised to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, America couldn't even get a rocket off the launch pad that didn't explode. But NASA, step by step, constructed a series of rockets that not only attained orbit, but eventually made it all the way to the moon and back. Patience and perseverance was what made the difference.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's wrong with the country. Trump did that brilliantly in 2016. The real trick is knowing how to make it right.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

"Countless" Lies

Before we get around to Trump's State of the Union address, I wanted to say a few words about Stacey Abrams' rebuttal. It was a pleasure actually watching someone give an address that didn't look like a hostage video. She was warm, engaging and made a compelling case for Democrats going into the most consequential election in more than a generation. It was also quite clear from her demeanor that she not only has a future in the party, for all intents and purposes she represents the fastest growing segment of it.

Now onto the Liar in Chief. Let's just cut to the chase: it's easier keeping track of the few truths that emanate from Trump's mouth than the many lies. In just under two hours, this president outdid even himself. It's a wonder Nancy Pelosi didn't keel over from laughter during his speech.

I did my best to list the more egregious offenses, and, surprise, surprise, almost all of them had to do with the border and illegal immigration. But a few had to do with another pet peeve of his: tariffs and trade.

The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.

Between 1993 and 2006, violent crime in El Paso fell 34 percent. In fact, the city had the third lowest violent crime rate prior to the construction of a 57-mile border fence, which was not completed until 2010.

Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.

While most illegal drugs do enter the U.S. via the southern border with Mexico, they arrive at legal ports of entry which would be unaffected by a border wall. However, the number one cause of drug-related deaths is prescription drugs. Indeed, the opioid crisis affects thousands of counties across this country, and no president - including this one - has come up with a solution for it.

Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.

This is an absurd charge to make, given that the word "countless" is not quantifiable by any known metric. However, what we do know is that immigrants - illegal or not - are less likely than native born citizens to commit violent crimes. You can google this, it's not that hard.

The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.

For the umpteenth time, there is no security crisis at the border. Since 2000, apprehensions at the southern border have gone from 1.6 million to less than 400,000. As of 2018, it was at the lowest level in 45 years. This is due primarily to an increase in both technology and the number of border patrol agents deployed, the very things Democrats want to increase funding for in their budget proposal.

Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion dollars of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars.

He still thinks that tariffs go directly into the Treasury. The fact is exporters like China do not pay the tariff. It's the importers who pick up the tab and then pass it on to consumers in the form of higher prices at the cash register. A first year economics major could figure this out.

Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers: bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with the four beautiful words: Made in the USA.

Actually, it doesn't come close to dealing with any of the legitimate issues the U.S. has with China and net, net it will cause car prices to rise and the overall selection of cars to decrease. G.M. has already announced it is fazing out most of the sedans in its Chevrolet division.

In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom -- a boom that has rarely been seen before.

Actually, we have seen it before. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2014, to be precise. In both instances, U.S. GDP was 5.1 percent and 4.9 percent respectively, and both were considerably higher than the 4.2 percent in the 2nd quarter of 2018 that Trump likes to boast about. In fact, since the end of the recession in December of 2009, the Obama Administration saw the creation of more than 16 million jobs. During the Clinton Administration, the economy added 18.6 million jobs, by far the most of any presidency. So far, in the first two years of the Trump Administration, the economy has added 4.8 million jobs. Assuming Trump wins reelection and those numbers hold firm, they would eclipse both Obama's and Clinton's. But that's a big if. Both Clinton and Obama had to contend with economic down turns that negatively impacted job growth. It is highly likely that a similar economic down turn will occur over the next couple of years, thereby depriving Trump the title of number one job creator. At any rate, there is nothing "unprecedented" about this economic boom.

The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.

If you subtract the 2nd quarter of 2018, the economy has grown pretty much at the same pace as it did under the Obama Administration. Indeed, Trump's biggest accomplishment appears to be not completely screwing up the recovery that began under Obama. But give him time; I'm sure he'll get around to it.

If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.

So, basically, what he's saying here is that, sans him, the world would've ended in a nuclear holocaust. Because that's ostensibly the logical conclusion. Any major war involving North Korea would undoubtedly lead to an exchange of nuclear weapons. The fact is this president has been no more successful in getting Kim Jong-un to give up his nukes than previous presidents. Indeed, Kim appears to be playing Trump the same way every other dictator has by stroking his massive ego. If anyone deserves credit for getting Kim to the table, it's South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who welcomed North Korea's athletes to the Winter Olympics at Pyeong Chang last year. Trump, through his use of the term Little Rocket Man to describe Kim in 2017, damn near started World War III.

There were a few more beauties in the speech, but I think you get the point. It was a bad night for the truth and an even worse one for this president, who seems to not care in the slightest that he is destroying the very nation he bragged he would make great again and which he also swore an oath to defend. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Ralph Northam Has No Excuses, and Neither Do Democrats

This was no childish prank or drunken outing with the boys at a local honky tonk. Nor was it merely a simple lack of judgment. This was a med-school graduate in his mid-twenties who on his yearbook page had a photograph of a man in blackface and another man dressed in KKK garb.

There is no justification for this. None! Nor is there any excuse that passes the smell test. To even suggest there is offends any sense of decency a civilized society possesses. And for Democrats, this isn't just a political issue, it's a moral one. Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, did something profoundly wrong and he must be held accountable.

I don't want to hear any of the typical rationalizations that I've heard over the years. In the '90s, progressives covered for Bill Clinton. They were wrong. Over the last few months, Senator Kirsten Gilibrand has been facing backlash for demanding that Senator Al Franken resign after his sexual misconduct had been made public. They are wrong. This inability to hold members of their own party accountable for indiscretions is problematic and potentially fatal. Thankfully, it looks as though Northam isn't going to get the same mulligan that Clinton and Franken got.

There are calls for him to resign the governorship coming from virtually all the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and many from within his own party. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be getting the message. Far from it. Northam, after issuing a public apology last night, is now maintaining he was not either of those two men in the photo. Really, Gov? Do you typically apologize for things you haven't done? Are you saying you didn't notice the blackface and hooded guys on your yearbook page when you graduated - 35 YEARS AGO?! Or that you spent three years at a medical school and never purchased a copy of its yearbook, yet took the time to submit to the school a photo of yourself dressed in a suit? Spare me. Be a man and own what you did, for God's sake.

Face it, whether you resign or not, your political career is over. So why not do the right thing and spare your state and party the embarrassment of having a closet racist in the governor's mansion of a valuable swing state going into a presidential election? There is an African American lieutenant governor by the name of Justin Fairfax who is more than qualified to do your job. You can begin your road to redemption by stepping down and turning over the reigns of power to him right now. And with February being black history month, it could be the last decent thing you end up doing in office.

And to Democrats, regardless of what Ralph Northam does or doesn't do, this episode underscores the need for every politician running for president in 2020 to do thorough opposition research on themselves to make sure there aren't any skeletons in the closet that could pop out. Because, trust me, they will. This isn't the '50s and '60s anymore. JFK may have slept with Marylin Monroe and no one cared. That world is long gone. Today, every misstep, every indiscretion, no matter the severity, can find itself on the front page of The Washington Post.

It is not enough for Democrats to say they hold the moral high ground against Donald Trump. They will have to prove it. And the best way they can do that is to have a zero tolerance for anyone in their party who crosses the line and engages in unacceptable conduct. Ever since Watergate, politicians have lost the benefit of the doubt with the electorate. Now in the MeToo era, the electorate's ability to forgive and forget is somewhere between zero and point one.

I know what you're thinking: Trump bragged about grabbing women's genitalia, cheated on all three of his wives and paid off two women to keep quiet over affairs he had with them on his way to winning the presidency. Why should Democrats be forced to behave like Mr. and Mrs. Clean when Trump was rewarded for behaving like a scumbag?

That is certainly a valid question, and one I'm sure political science students will be studying for decades to come, but as they used to say in Manhattan, that and a subway token will get you a ride on the 7th Avenue Express. Like it or not, Trump appears to have created an alternate reality in which there are two sets of rules: one for him and one for everyone else. While he lowers the bar to such a degree that he can virtually step over it, his opponents have to pole vault over theirs. No, it isn't fair, but unfortunately, it's a reality that Democrats will have to accept if they hope to win the White House next year.

As strange as it may seem, Ralph Northam may have done Democrats a huge favor. His response to this self-inflicted wound should serve as a wakeup call to all of them. The type of collateral damage that past candidates have suffered and in many instances survived will no longer be tolerated.