Category Archives: Congress

Every Genocide Needs a Soundtrack

A few years back I got irrationally obsessed with reading books about the Rwandan genocide including this excellent, harrowing one, and one thing that stuck with me from it was the role talk radio played in stoking violence and encouraging people to turn on their neighbors.

This is a transcript from one of those stations, assuring its listeners that no matter what they see and hear on other channels, THIS is the real story:

.. When talking, we should be aware that we are talking to other people, and to intelligent people. Because what will cause harm to the Rwandans, what will harm the politics of this country is that a person thinks that he is the only one who can play politics, he thinks that he is the only one who can speak, he thinks that he is the only one who holds the truth, that members of other political parties are not intelligent, that they are stupid, that they do not understand, that he should con them because he has the opportunity to talk, that he should say whatever he wants… Here, on RTLM, on your independent radio, we will hOt stand that. You will tell lies people, and we will tell them the truth.”

Does that sound familiar to you? It should: 

  • In a fearmongering, over-the-top opening monologue, Fox Business host Trish Regan claimed coronavirus is “yet another attempt to impeach the president” as “the chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo.”

  • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs reported that coronavirus “has now infected 113,000 people … in 111 countries and territories around the world” and, in nearly the same breath, claimed that “the national left-wing media [are] playing up fears of the coronavirus.”

  • On Lou Dobbs TonightSiegel dismissed the World Health Organization as “overly political” and “incompetent,” arguing that coronavirus is being politicized to attack Trump.

We’re not yet at the stage where Fox is advocating that Trump nuke Wuhan but their listeners are already there and have been for a week or so. We’ve been talking since mid-2016 about how this stuff doesn’t start with the ovens. It starts with people whispering that there’s a secret only the worthy know, and Rush and his imitators have been saying that shit since the moment they went on the air.

A sane country would have shut down any broadcast knowingly disseminating false information in the name of public safety. This whole country is a crowded theater and they’re screaming fire.

BUH BUH BUH says you, a person who thinks reality is a simulation, BUH WHO DECIDES WHAT IS FALSE? Isn’t this always the pretext governments use to shut down dissent, that it’s unsafe? Well, this isn’t “dissent.” What Fox is doing is not opining on how the president should handle the crisis. They’re saying there IS NO CRISIS and then telling people to go out and make the nonexistent crisis worse.

There aren’t any equivalents to this. This isn’t a free speech issue. This isn’t an issue of civil rights. Before you throw internet conspiracies on the left in my face, consider the difference between six people on a blog saying “something seems dodgy here” and a NATIONAL BROADCAST NETWORK THAT’S ON EVERY TV IN THE AIRPORT, from which everyone takes their cues including THE PRESIDENT.

GO TO A RESTAURANT THE GUBMINT CAN’T CONTROL YOU, says the government, and had we the Republican party of even 20 years ago, much less the glory days, we’d have at least one or two people on ACTUAL BOTH SIDES saying look, this is insane, but no, the entire Senate and GOP House contingent has to take their cues from these people. Mike DeWine is a cock, okay, but I give him credit for acting like he’s in charge of people’s safety, unlike most of his colleagues. Look at this fucking prick. Great job, Kansas Republicans.

Lots and lots of people are going to get sick and die in the coming weeks. Fox News is encouraging this, if not actually making it happen. Once it does, and/or there’s violence or looting or reasonable responses like, say, a bunch of people getting really pissed and throwing things, then it will be time for law and order and suppressing the unruly masses, none of which, conveniently, will be white.

But god forbid someone suggest you forgo green beer and Buffalo Wild Wings and stop pouring hate into your ears like poison. I’ve read way too much about how this ends.

A.

Bickering

I know, it’s Politico, I’m better off reading the inside of the wrapper of the “health” food bar I just ate for information on how stuff works:

Bickering. Or, as we call it in the world where we don’t pretend to be dumber than we are for hate-clicks, FIGURING OUT THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS. These solipsistic fucksticks know this, they know that what they call “bickering” is actually WORK in the sense that ideally politicians would bitch each other out and then compromise and get down to work but it’s hard to compromise when one side is like “but make the tests free tho” and the other side is all “THE PLAGUE IS GOOD AND WE SHOULD EAT IT ON TOAST.”

I don’t know why I expect the discourse about actual real things to be better than the stuff about elections. Smart people who should know better are posting things like, “Why won’t the Democrats propose paid sick leave and cheap/free health care” as if that’s not THE GODDAMN PARTY PLATFORM, basically. Democratic politicians have been proposing that for years and if you don’t HEAR about it maybe the problem isn’t the words they’re making with their mouth-holes. Maybe the problem is they can’t get coverage for anything that isn’t the T-word.

Again, forever, let’s spend all our time crabbing at the only people with a plan and hashtagging #WhereIsTheHouse, Nancy Pelosi’s at your mom’s, okay. And she’s busy.

Fucking hell, no matter what they do this is the message: Republicans are bad, Democrats are bad and also dumb about how they’re being bad, the two sides “bicker,” let’s infantilize grown adults and make everybody throw their hands up and say “who can change anything.”

Fucking schmucks.

A.

SOTU: Freak Show

Image by Michael F.

I didn’t watch Trump’s speech last night. I can’t take such an extended dose of the Impeached Insult Comedian without tossing my cookies or retching up my rice. Besides, the SOTU never lives up to the pre-game hype even when delivered by a President who knows how to deliver a written speech such as Reagan or Obama.

Slate’s Jim Newell watched the SOTU so I didn’t have to. Merci, mon ami. The title was just as good as the piece: The State Of The Union Was A Visibly Degenerate Variety Show.

Here’s one of Jim’s money quotes:

The speech is being described as a Trumpian reality show for its assortment of stunt-pegged character call-outs in the gallery. It was more of a variety show, though, divided into alternating segments of election-season appeals to the middle, gags, and abrupt fascism. It was a joke he played on the House majority.

I’d call it a freak show but I have more sympathy for freaks than for President* Pennywise. Todd Browning weeps as does Ryan Murphy,

I do, however, wish that Democrats would stop freaking out. Repeat after me: Freaking out never helped anybody.

After the speech, we heard a lot about civility from Republicans. It’s somehow worse to tear up a speech than to rip apart the constitution. Besides, Trump awarded the Medal Of Freedom to a racist windbag who has dedicated his life to incivility.

Repeat after me:

The Senate will acquit the Impeached Insult Comedian later today even though a growing chorus of Republican senators admit that what he did was wrong. Susan Collins had the funniest line when she said that the president* had learned a lesson from impeachment. I knew Mainers were eccentric but I didn’t think they were from another planet.

This is where I planned to cut Doug Jones some slack if he voted to acquit; he did not. Instead I wrote a full post, Doug Jones: American Hero.

The last word goes to Nancy Smash with the rip heard around the world:

Doug Jones: American Hero

I have a post in the hopper about last night’s Freak Show. In it I addressed the Trump removal trial and what Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones might do.

I hope Democrats will cut Senator Doug Jones some slack. If I were advising him, I’d tell him to hold his nose and vote to acquit on at least one article if not both. There’s no point in sticking your head in a guillotine if you don’t have to.

I just saw Senator Jones’ statement and was blown away that he is doing the right thing and voting to convict on both articles. It’s refreshing to know that there’s one Senator who puts country before expediency. I’m sure Chuck Schumer would have given him a pass since he represents one of the reddest states in the nation.

It’s rare in any era to see a politician cast a vote that could doom their re-election bid. I am beyond impressed by Senator Jones’ courage and statesmanship.

This is almost like a Capra movie. We need more politicians like Doug Jones. Thank you, Senator.

If Life Were A Capra Movie

If life were a Capra movie, the eloquence and passion of Adam Schiff and the House Managers would sway the Senate into removing President* Pennywise from office.

If life were a Capra movie, Donald Trump would be played by Edward Arnold who was a wealthy fascist who manipulated the “little people” in Meet John Doe. He would be exposed in the end as a mountebank by Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.

If life were a Capra movie, Mitch McConnell would be a corrupt Senator played by Claude Rains who could be shamed into doing the right thing in the last reel of the picture.

If life were a Capra movie, Lindsey Graham would be shown his past life by an  angel who would convince him to betray Mr. Potter and stand up for Ukraine Bedford Falls.

If life were a Capra movie, Lamar Alexander wouldn’t just say that the Impeached Insult Comedian did a bad thing, he’d vote to remove him from office.

If life were a Capra movie, John Bolton would be played by Henry Travers with bushy eyebrows but without the mustache of war. He’d ring a bell, create new angels, and Trump would be stripped of his office.

If life were a Capra movie, Jimmy Stewart would play Adam Schiff.  Sure, Stewart was goyer than thou, but he played the hero in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Adam Schiff is the hero of the Trump impeachment. Thank you for your valiant effort, sir.

If life were a Capra movie, the spunky and smart Jean Arthur would play Nancy Pelosi. She played a Congresswoman in Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, after all.

If life were a Capra movie, Trump’s lawyers would be eloquent and truthful unlike the creepy liar Sekulow, the bombastic has been Dershowitz, or the dweeby bore Philbin.

If life were a Capra movie, we’d have a happy ending with the townsfolk rallying to help Mr. Deeds, Mr. Smith, or George Bailey. The bells would ring, and we’d all join Ronald Colman in Shangri-La as the screen fades to black.

Life is NOT a Capra movie.  The Senate will vote against allowing witnesses and acquit the Man Who Would Be King. Oops, that’s a John Huston movie.

Even Frank Capra’s life was not a Capra movie. He was a Republican who hated FDR until the president stopped being Dr. New Deal and became Dr. Win-the-War. (FDR gave himself those nicknames.) Capra was only a populist onscreen; in real life he disdained the “little people” he celebrated in his movies. So much for Capracorn.

There are positive lessons to be gleaned from Capra movies. His heroes were knocked down but always got up like Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, or Ronald Colman in Lost Horizon. That’s what the resistance needs to do after John Roberts gavels this show trial to a close. We knew the removal trial would end without a removal. Keep fighting and never let the bastards get you down.

Unlike real life, Capra movies always had a happy ending. America’s chance to have a happy ending is on November 3, 2020. We licked Trumpism in 2018. It’s time to consign it to the ash heap of history in 2020. Do it for Longfellow Deeds, Jefferson Smith, Robert Conway, and George Bailey. Do it for your family, and your friends. Most of all, do it for America. She’s in trouble and she needs our help. End of Capraesque peroration.

The last word goes to America who is played by Solomon Burke:

The Roberts Option

Chief Justices Chase, Rehnquist, and Roberts.

When Neal Katyal speaks, I listen:

Yet Republican members of the Senate have signaled that they intend to uphold Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision to block all of this material.

But it turns out they don’t get to make that choice — Chief Justice John Roberts does. This isn’t a matter of Democrats needing four “moderate” Republicans to vote for subpoenas and witnesses, as the Trump lawyers have been claiming. Rather, the impeachment rules, like all trial systems, put a large thumb on the scale of issuing subpoenas and place that power within the authority of the judge, in this case the chief justice.

Most critically, it would take a two-thirds vote — not a majority — of the Senate to overrule that. This week, Democrats can and should ask the chief justice to issue subpoenas on his authority so that key witnesses of relevance like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney appear in the Senate, and the Senate should subpoena all relevant documents as well.

The Senate rules for impeachment date back to 1868 and have been in effect since that time. They specifically provide for the subpoenas of witnesses, going so far in Rule XXIV as to outline the specific language a subpoena must use — the “form of subpoena to be issued on the application of the managers of the impeachment, or of the party impeached, or of his counsel.”

As you can see, there is no “Senate vote” requirement whatsoever in the subpoena rule. A manager can seek it on his own.

Rachel Maddow asked Adam Schiff about this possibility last night. He was cagey, which is a good sign.

I hope they give this a shot. It will put the Chief Justice on the spot, but if Salmon P. Chase could do it, so can he. Roberts is just sitting there like a hood ornament right now, after all. It would be like throwing a live grenade in his lap ala Bolton-Rudy. The wheels keep on turning. Stay tuned.

Hashtag Of The Day: #MittOrGetOffThePOT

This is the first and probably the last time I’ll have a hashtag of the day. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I remain skeptical that “moderate” Republican Senators will buck their leader and their president*. BUT hope is one of the most important commodities in politics. There’s no reason to give up hope until the votes are in. Besides, the removal trial is a battle in a longer war. As Ted Kennedy said in a different context in 1980 “…the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

The leaks coming out of the Senate GOP caucus were a signal for the baying banshees of Trumpistan and Wingnuttia to do that voodoo that they do. The Turtle rarely, if ever, leaks about a vote count. This is a calculated attempt to keep the cover-up going by scaring the shit our of those GOPers  who might do the right thing and vote for witnesses.

I have no idea how this will play out BUT we went through something similar during the Kavanaugh Mess. There was a tease by some Republican Senators who claimed they might oppose Kavanaugh. Just because Willard Mittbot Romney and Susan Collins are showing some leg now doesn’t mean that they will do the right thing. It’s unclear if they even know what that means.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Willard Mittbot Romney is perfectly positioned to be the hero of this drama. It remains unclear if his cautious temperament will allow him to take the plunge. His father, George, was a balls-to-the-walls politician whose presidential dreams were crushed by the “brainwashing” gaffe. Then his political spirit was crushed by his time in Tricky Dick’s cabinet. The Mittbot prefers equivocation to risk:

Here’s hoping that Willard and a handful of his colleagues will heed the hashtag: #MittOrGetOffThePOT. But do robots sit on the pot? That’s an existential question that only Asimov or Sartre could answer. I’ll just make like the Mittbot and punt.

Quote Of The Day: Adam Schiff Edition

Apologies for being a removal trial slacker. I feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air. That’s life.

Adam Schiff’s closing on Day Two of the trial was passionate and downright brilliant. Ain’t nothing better than a lawyer who believes in his case. This passage, as published by TPM, was a standout:

Schiff cited impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s declaration that he was doing what’s right by testifying against Trump because “right matters” in the U.S.

“If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost,” the Schiff said. “If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Schiff warned that acquitting Trump would give the President license for future wrongdoing and imperil the U.S.

“This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed, because right matters,” he concluded. “Because right matters, and the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.”

Words to live by.

Here’s the video via a TPM tweet:

 

 

 

It’s A Removal Trial, Not An Impeachment Trial

I almost called this post Confessions of a Slacker Blogger but the reason I was silent about the removal trial is that I was crazy busy the last two days. I was preoccupied with writing my latest 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief. When it was finished, more shit hit the fan in the Hard Rock/Kalias collapse story. A major rewrite ate yesterday morning and the trial gnawed away at my afternoon.  More on that later.

I have a few random thoughts and scattershot comments about the big shebang going down in the Senate right now:

The post title says it all. Impeachment has already happened. Trump will forever be the Impeached Insult Comedian. The purpose of the trial is to decide whether Trump will be removed from office. I realize that I’m howling at the moon on this point, but I like calling things what they are. Trump, like Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, will always wear the scarlet I for Impeached.

The House managers have done a superb job, especially Adam Schiff who opened and closed the first full day of argument. He spoke like a latter-day Clarence Darrow only without suspenders. Snap.

Jerry Nadler is not half the orator that Schiff is, but his presence surely irked the Impeached Insult Comedian. Nadler fought valiantly against a Trump real estate development on Manhattan’s West Side and succeeded in reducing its scale and footprint. That’s why Trump’s hate for Nadler is pure. The congressman welcomes his scorn.

There are still people looking for a savior. Chief Justice John Roberts is the latest candidate. Never gonna happen, my friends. Roberts is a Rehnquist protege and the latter conducted the Clinton removal trial with a light hand. For good or ill, Roberts is staying in the Rehnquist lane.

There’s been much grumbling from Senate GOPers about how “boring” the removal trial is. It’s what you wanted, STFU. And sit in your seats. That’s your job. You work for us, not vice versa.

The outcome seems preordained but the House managers aren’t just speaking to the Senate, they’re speaking to the country. Their goal is to put Senate Republicans on trial and they’re off to a good start in that regard. Keep the pressure on them, make them regret their time as Trumper toadies.

Speaking of false saviors, never trust Susan Collins. I’ll believe that she and other Senate “moderates” will act when it happens. The guy to watch is Lamar Alexander. While he’s unlikely to vote for removal, he might vote to hear witnesses. He’s already announced his retirement so he’s not subject to the same red hat political pressure that other GOPers face. Besides, he’s the first Senator on the roll call, if he votes to hear witnesses others could follow. Senate Republicans are followers, not leaders. Will this happen? Beats the hell outta me.

A removal trial is neither fish nor fowl. This one feels fishy and has a foul odor attached to it. The Senators are both judge and jury. Past removal trials had witnesses and evidence. Mitch McConnell prefers a see-no-evil approach. It may work in the short term, but voters want a fair trial and that includes evidence and witnesses not named Biden. The political blowback over this show trial could be fierce among educated suburban voters. It’s up to the House managers to make it so.

Repeat after me: It’s A Removal Trial, Not An Impeachment Trial.

Ride The Tigers

I’m uncertain if I have a coherent post in me today. You’re probably saying: when was he ever coherent? I started Monday off by giving y’all a straight line, be nice.

Since I still have King Cake on my mind, I’m going to cut this post into slices.

Geaux Tigers: I’m as nervous as Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof about tonight’s national championship game. I’m not sure if I’m Brick, Maggie, or Big Daddy; mercifully, there’s nary a no-neck monster in sight and PD is undercover as a big blue lump on the bed. Make that under the covers…

My LSU Tigers have had a magical season, but they face a formidable foe in the Clemson Tigers. Formidable as in defending national champs and winners of two of the last three titles. The good news is that Coach O gets it. He was in the same position as an assistant at USC when the Texas Longhorns hooked the defending champion Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

LSU doesn’t  have the mascot advantage for a change; it’s the Tussle of the Tigers. We do have two of the three colors of Carnival on our side: purple and gold. Clemson’s color is orange. Not one of my favorite colors even though the fruit is swell and citrusy.

It’s time for a semi-relevant musical interlude:

The long layoff has me worried. One team is apt to be rusty, the other to be prepared. Let’s hope it’s the right Tigers who do the riding or some such shit.

I’d like to call your attention to an article in the Failing New York Times, which gives my main man Coach O his due:

Ed is officially a folk hero now but that doesn’t ease my pre-game jitters. The last word of the segment goes to Brian Setzer:

Speaking of riding tigers, the impeachment process is finally moving to the Senate.

Cover Up, Trump Style: Speaker Pelosi tried to nudge and/or coerce the Senate into giving a shit about its reputation, but Moscow Mitch seems to have dug in his heels. He’s declined to relinquish his iron hold on his caucus, which makes a fair trial much less likely. Mitch doesn’t give a damn, Harry Reid said last year that his former colleague had ruined the Senate. The ruination continues apace.

I’m still glad that Nancy Smash pulled the Tribe Gambit. It has made GOPers look bad to fair-minded members of the public, and resulted in a series of meltdowns by the Impeached Insult Comedian.  He continues to play the victim card. Apparently, he’s the most mistreated and misunderstood president* in history. Who knew? Imagine a president being impeached with such a strong economy. Just ask Bill Clinton about that, Donald.

It’s time for a relevant musical interlude:

These opening lyrics could easily be sung by President* Pennywise:

Just want to be misunderstood
want to be feared in my neighborhood
Just want to be a moody man
Say things that nobody can understand
I want to be obscure and oblique
Inscrutable and vague
So hard to pin down
I want to leave open mouths when I speak
Want people to cry when I put them down

That Pete Townshend is a smart fella. He’s the Cyrano of rock music, after all.

Speaking of heels, Trump is refusing to let John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and Mike Pompeo testify; even behind closed doors. Clearly, they have nothing to hide. #SARCASM

If the terrible trio had exonerating testimony, Trump would beg them to appear in public. This has nothing to do with executive privilege or national security. It’s defiance in the face of the facts. I suspect Pompeo is pleased not to have to perjure himself. He can stick to lying on the Sunday shows.

Frank Rich wrote a great piece for New York Magazine, What Will Happen To The Trump Toadies? In which he posits that they’ll get their comeuppance sooner or later. Nick Lowe said much the same thing way back in 1983:

Who knew that Pete Townshend and Nick Lowe would prove to be so prescient about the current president*? Not even a fan boy like me.

Let’s finish this potpourri post on a lighter note. It involves chicken, not tigers.

I Yam What I Yam: A contestant on the Canadian version of Family Feud mixed up her food groups; substituting chicken for spinach as Popeye the Sailor’s favorite food:

Love that chicken from Popeye’s.

I wonder if the toon liked yams since he was wont to say this:

His moocher pal, Wimpy, preferred hamburgers, and Olive Oyl seemed not to eat at all; certainly not fried chicken. Where the hell is this going? In the direction of the last word.

Since I originally called this post Monday Morning, the last word goes to Fleetwood Mac and Death Cab For Cutie:

Willard’s Political Hangover

One of my first posts last year was The Wind Cries Willard. A year later, I still have Willard Mittbot Romney on my mind and he still has President* Pennywise on his. If he so chooses, he will be one of the biggest players in the upcoming impeachment trial. The problem is that the Mittbot is programmed for political caution.

Romney is under pressure to do something, anything major on the impeachment front. Here’s what the Salt Lake Tribune had to say about his prospective role:

Romney has been a rare bird among Republicans, being sometimes willing to criticize the president over specific actions and utterances, not just during the 2016 campaign but since the administration took office. In the current unpleasantness, he has at least tried to hold himself out as an impartial juror, attempting to not prejudge the matter before the evidence has been heard.

It would thus be helpful to his own cause if Romney could muster whatever influence he has to make sure that the Senate does, indeed, hear the evidence.

While the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote to actually remove a president, a mere 51-member majority can make the rules for the proceedings. If all 47 Democrats, and their two allied independents, stick together, the vote of Romney and two other Republicans could force a process where not only the evidence gathered in the House process is placed on the record, but documents so far withheld and witnesses thus far silenced are seen and heard.

If nothing else, such action will expose as a lie the protests of the president that he has not had the benefit of full due process, when it is the president himself who had blocked so much necessary information and so many knowledgeable witnesses.

Romney is, of course, perfectly positioned to play such a role: Trump is unpopular in Utah. It may be a red state, but the Mormon church opposes his xenophobic immigration policies. They view immigrants as souls to be harvested. The Mormon style stresses personal modesty, which is alien to the Impeached Insult Comedian. It’s no surprise that two of the GOPers willing to criticize Trump are Mormons: Romney and Jeff Flake.

Romney is as popular in Utah as Trump is unpopular. Beehive Staters felt honored that he ran for the Senate in 2018. He’s descended from a long line of LDS elders as well as the man who “rescued” the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics. He came perilously close to being the first LDS POTUS in 2012. He has the status and stature to become a hero in 2020. What he’s lacking is the temperament. He’s a cautious motherfucker whose political style is best summed up by a cartoon I’ve posted twice before:

I feel another movie analogy coming on. Willard Mittbot Romney has something important in common with the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, he lacks the nerve to be bold:

Willard *could* once again be the King of the Republican forest if he summons forth the nerve to be bold. It took a medal from the Wizard for the Cowardly Lion to be a hero, not a pussy.

What will take for the Mittbot to stand up to the pussy-grabber-in-chief? Perhaps a similar editorial from the Deseret News, which is the organ of the Mormon church. Otherwise, it beats the hell outta me. I’ve overestimated the man who wanted to be the first robot president before and am reluctant to do so again. Stay tuned.

I nearly called this post The Wind Cries Willard Too. It’s a minor classic, after all. It struck me as equally funny to call it Willard’s Political Hangover since the Mittbot is programmed to be a teetotaler. Besides, it aptly describes his status on the national political stage: he’s under extreme pressure to act, which would drive lesser mortals to drink. In his case, inaction speaks louder than words. It’s time to stop blowing with the wind and have the nerve to act.

The last word goes to Squeeze:

The Decayed Decade

There’s nothing like the end of a decade to inspire what I like to call Listomania. I succumbed to that temptation at the end of the aughties myself. I’m going to spare you another list after going on and on and on with the Best of Adrastos.

Instead of a list, I’m going to reflect on the downward national political trajectory of the Decayed Decade. I had forgotten that my 2009 list was called Listomania: The Decayed Decade so I’m repeating myself title-wise. Good wordplay is a terrible thing to waste.

The dawn of the 2010’s found us with a Democratic Congress and the first African American president in our history. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, which was a first step in the direction of universal health care. The combination of “death panels, socialized medicine” and racism led to the Tea Party backlash midterm election of 2010.

The 2010 election was just the first backlash against the social changes sweeping the country. It’s not much discussed in 2019 but it opened the door for Trumpism, which is teabaggery without any pretense to principle. The Tea Party wave election dumbed down Congress and brought birtherism to the forefront of the national dialogue, which was capitalized upon by rank opportunists such as the Insult Comedian. The Koch brothers found Trump distasteful, but they set the table for a president* with lousy manners. The Trump regime belches Koch policy preferences without so much as an excuse me:

The political scene got dumber and grosser as the Decayed Decade marched on. Things got so bad in the House of Representatives that Speaker Boner stepped aside in 2015 as he couldn’t control his caucus because of all the yahoos and proto-Trumpers. It’s revealing of our current circumstances than I feel nostalgic for the Cryin’ Ohioan. He at least told the truth as he saw it as opposed to the rank fantasists who currently control the Republican party.

Lies and conspiracy theories became increasingly popular on the right as the Decayed Decade advanced. Democrats and Republicans now live in alternate universes. This is as good a time as any to re-quote a great American:

I wrote about the avalanche of mendacity and bullshit that overwhelmed our political dialogue in a recent post, Sound of Lies. The teabaggers and birthers got the ball rolling, then Fox News and Donald Trump brought mendacity into the mainstream, which is now muddier and more stagnant than a backwater swamp. The word fetid comes to mind.

The backlash was perfected with the 2016 election. The least qualified candidate in American history was elected president* with the help of the Russians and an archaic electoral college system. We’ve had rich businessman candidates before-Wendell Wilkie and Ross Perot spring to mind-but they had longstanding interests in public policy. Wilkie in foreign policy and Perot in the budget deficit. They both brought something to the table: Trump brought nothing but his ego and hollow rhetoric about “the swamp” and “forgotten man.” Both of which he forgot about upon his inauguration.

I don’t have to tell you in detail about the Trump regime’s small-minded and vindictive parade of policy horrors. Suffice it to say they were cooked up by Republican extremists long before Trump was taken seriously as a potential Oval One. Trumpism is Republicanism gone haywire. Extremists such as Stephen Miller realized that Trump was an empty vessel ready to be filled with xenophobic and hateful notions that had been percolating on the far right forever.

The result of the Decayed Decade is a GOP unrecognizable to Eisenhower Republicans such as my late father. They’ve gone so far off the schneid that I believe that Ronald Reagan would find it impossible to vote for the Impeached Insult Comedian in 2020.

A reminder that Reagan was a moderate on immigration and anti-Russian to his core. Putin is a KGB colonel who runs the successor state to the Soviet Union. His goals are indistinguishable from those of pre-Gorbachev Soviet leaders: destruction of NATO and the EU as well as a passion to regain lost territories such as the jewel in the crown of the Russian Empire, Ukraine. It’s called irredentism and Putin has a bad case of it. And Trump has a bad case of loving Putin:

Now that I’ve bummed you out, there are two positive indicators that the Twenties will be better than the Decayed Decade. Images of flappers and Gamaliel are dancing through my head now. The 1920’s roared until they didn’t.

First, the 2018 midterms were a pointed rebuke to the GOP and Trumpism. If not for gerrymandering, the seat pickup would have been greater as Dems won the popular vote by 8 points. For point of reference, the Reagan landslide in 1980 was by the same margin.

Second, impeachment. It shows that Democrats have become battle hardened by three years of resisting Trumpsim. I still hope that some Senate GOPers will vote against the party line BUT impeachment was a major triumph for the resistance. House Democrats did the right thing regardless of the political implications, which I happen to think will be positive. Of course, I’ve been wrong before and will be again. At least I get to call the president* the Impeached Insult Comedian. Thanks, Nancy and Adam.

It’s a relief that the Decayed Decade is just about done. Here’s hoping that the 2020’s will be politically kinder to the country. Who knows: perhaps the Charleston and Lindy-hop will stage a comeback? You never can tell.

The last word goes to Roy Orbison and Squeeze with different tunes titled It’s Over:

Quote Of The Day: Doug Jones On Impeachment

When it comes to the fecklessness of contemporary politicians, the MSM is part of the problem. They are so used to horse race coverage of politics that even good reporters ask questions that are crafted to ensure a craven answer. Alabama Senator Doug Jones surprised ABC’s Martha Raddatz yesterday:

ABC News “This Week” host Martha Raddatz pointed out to Jones that GOP strategists believe a vote to convict Trump would doom the Democratic senator in a ruby-red state that voted overwhelmingly for the President in 2016.

“Are you worried about that?” Raddatz asked.

Jones shook his head.

“I took an oath as a U.S. senator,” the Alabama Democrat said. “I’m going to take another oath, and that’s where my duty is.”

“I think the problem that we’ve got in America today, and the problem we have sometimes, with all due respect, in the media, everyone wants to talk about this in the political terms, in the political consequences term,” he continued. “This is a much more serious matter than that.”

Jones said the impeachment trial is about the future of the presidency and “how we want our presidents to conduct themselves,” along with “how a Senate should handle impeachment.”

“That’s how I’m looking at this,” he told Raddatz. “If I did everything based on a pure political argument, all you’d need is a computer to mash a button.

“It’s just not what this country’s about, it’s not what the Founders intended, it’s not what I intend to do,” the lawmaker added.

In an age of widespread political cowardice, it’s a pleasure to hear someone say that they’ll do the right thing and worry about the electoral consequences later. In fact, the House Democratic caucus is full of swing district members who voted to impeach the president* based on the merits, not the politics.

Doug Jones is the most endangered Senate Democrat up in 2020. He’s determined to do the right thing whatever the consequences. Here’s hoping that enough Senate Republicans will find the nerve to vote to hold a real trial next year. It only takes 51 votes and they don’t even have to commit to remove Trump. It shouldn’t take a Superperson to stand up for:

Long Day’s Journey Into Impeachment

Fog Of History

It’s all over but Republicans are still shouting. Is every annoying white guy in the country a House GOPer? Their lack of diversity was stunningly obvious today as old white dude after old white dude yelled at the cameras. Democratic house members used their inside voices and looked like America.

I have some random comments and remarks about a long, long day. I’m pooped, y’all. Thanks to Eugene O’Neill for inspiring the title. Dead men still tell tales.

I watched all day and my ears hurt from all the shouting. They seem to think that saying something really loud makes it true. I gave up counting all the lies from the Party of Trump. It reminded me of a famous film scene:

There were times when the debate could have been called Ridiculous Analogy Theater. Trump was compared to Jesus, impeachment = Pearl Harbor. It was a debate which will live in infamy.

Doug Collins is almost as annoying as Gym Jordan and Louis Gohmert Piles. He does, however, prove that Southerners can talk as fast as anyone. His delivery combines the worst aspects of an auctioneer and a car salesman. Schmuck.

I am proud to be a Democrat. Our members stood their ground and were 99 times smarter than the Republicans. Schiff was brilliant as usual and Nadler exceeded my expectations as did Steny Hoyer. In contrast, the GOP has Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, and the tin foil hat brigade. Kev did have one nifty malaprop when he said “enrode” instead of “erode.”

The mendacious minority whip from Metry, Steve Scalise, tore a piece of paper and was booed by Dems for saying they hate all Trump voters. I seem to recall many Democrats sending Scalise best wishes when he was shot. The malakatude it burns.

The voting has started as I write this. I’ll have more to say about to say about this in the coming days. Right now, I need a drink. You probably do too.

The last word goes to ADAM FUCKING SCHIFF:

Quote Of The Day: Pat Moynihan Edition

I had the pleasure of making Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s acquaintance when I was a young Congressional aide. I can even say I drank with him at the Washington Mardi Gras ball. We didn’t have any epic conversations but a brush with greatness however brief is still a brush with greatness.

Watching today’s House debate on the impeachment rules, reminded me of one of the late New York Senator’s pithiest aphorisms:

Today’s Republican party disagrees: they swim in fact and ethics free waters. It’s why the Republic is in such peril.

A parting shot at MSNBC. Their chyron proclaims “House Votes On Impeachment Guidelines.” Wrong. They’re rules. It’s not the Guidelines committee, it’s the Rules committee. Oy just oy.

Regular Order, Irregular Times

I took most of the weekend off from the political brouhaha. Call it a mental health break, call it what you will, it’s necessary to retain a measure of sanity. I briefly saw a panel of accomplished people on AM Joy freaking out over statements from McConnell and Graham. What did they expect? The Marquis of Queensberry Rules? This is a time for bare knuckle brawling as our opponents fight dirty. Above all else, this is no time to freak out.

Freaking out never helped anyone. I’ve known several people who freak out over everything that comes at them in life. It makes them and everyone around them miserable and I’ve chosen to have little or nothing to do with them. I’m not talking about venting: I’m talking about melting down. That never helped anyone. Ever.

I know about the dangers of freaking out because I had some of the same tendencies when I was younger. I confused anger with passion. Using Star Trek mythology, I was like the Vulcans before they discovered logic. I’m not quite Vulcan icy but I lean in that direction while maintaining my human sense of humor. Nobody ever called Spock, Shecky, after all.

I try to apply the lessons of everyday life to my life as a political pundit. There are things that piss me off, but I prefer to process the facts and figure out how to respond in a way that won’t make matters worse. Freaking out over the predictable Senate GOP response to impeachment helps the Trumpers, not those who see him as a clear and present danger to our national security and political system. Repeat after me: freaking out never helped anyone.

I’m not saying there’s nothing to be angry about, there certainly is. Anger is not the problem, wallowing in it is. Get it out and channel it in a positive direction. Let the GOP be the angry party. Their president* is the one who tweeted 123 times in a day recently. And they claim he welcomes impeachment and thinks it will help him. Another day, another dozen lies.

You’re probably wondering about the post title. I find it reassuring that, amid all the tumult and fear in the air, the House is processing impeachment via regular order. The investigating committees wrote reports, the Judiciary Committee wrote articles of impeachment, which are headed to the Rules Committee before being voted on by the full House. In a time when GOPers are trashing the norms and mores of our system, this adherence to regular order shows us a way forward as we try not to become the thing we hate. Who wants to be an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop their head?

I hope that Senate Democrats show the same steely resolve as Chairman Schiff and the Speaker. It doesn’t come naturally to the genial Chuck Schumer, but he needs to channel his inner Harry Reid, get in the ring, and start throwing punches. He’s showing signs of doing so but he better wear a cup, McConnell and his underlings fight dirty.

It’s easy for those of us who follow politics closely to forget that most people do not. I genuinely believe there’s a large slice of conservative leaning voters who are sick and tired of the daily drama involving Trump and his party. They’ll do what the Senate is unlikely to do and help vote the Insult Comedian out of office. Some call it a restoration of normalcy, I call it regular order in irregular times.

The last word goes to Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. His spirit sat on my shoulder as I wrote this, you can get off now, sir.

Starring Steve Scalise

I mentioned a top-secret party in an undisclosed location last Saturday. Now that it’s over, I can unbutton my lip: it was Krewe du Vieux’s annual fundraiser, the Brew Dieux. It raises money for both the mother krewe and for sub-krewes like Spank, We sold food and booze and had our annual sideshow game: the dirty weiner drop.

In past years, our targets have included Bobby Jindal, John Besh, Sidney Torres, and David Vitter. This year it’s the mendacious minority whip from Metry, Steve Scalise.

IMG_2954

Courtesy of the Krewe of Spank.

IMG_2955

Courtesy of the Krewe of Spank.

We made just south of $100 on this gross-n-grotty game. Winners received a trip to the Spank world of crap to win a crappy gift. I am not making this up.

Merry Schiffmas

I know that Adam Schiff is Jewish but Schiffmukkah sounds like a Republican slur. In dubbing this holiday season Schiffmas, I’m inspired by Fitzmas, which referenced the special prosecutor on the Scooter Libbey case. Fitzmas was something of a letdown because Karl Rove was not indicted in that Plame affair related case.

Adam Schiff deserves a season in his honor because he personifies a new generation of Democratic politicians. After the disastrous 1994 mid-term election, our pols became known as battle averse and overeager to compromise. Chairman Schiff is tough and steely. He refuses to take any shit from intelligence committee GOPers and those who want to call him to testify as a fact witness.

Schiff has become a hate object on the far right. There’s even a Schiff target on a gun nut web site. I’m neither posting it nor linking to it because I don’t want to encourage the lunatic fringe in their violent fantasies. I leave that to President* Pennywise.

I’m only going to watch part of today’s hearing. I have it streaming as I write this. Ranking member Collins is currently annoying the living shit out of me with his molassey drawl and nutty arguments. Perhaps he’s extra cranky because the Georgia Bulldogs were wiped out by my LSU Tigers last Saturday. Either way, Adam Schiff doesn’t give a shit. He and his colleagues have a job to do and they’re going to do it.

Finally, I’d almost forgotten how unintentionally hilarious Newt Gingrich is:

Who among us can forget all images such as this:

The Gingrich himself is blessed with a conveniently selective memory.

Have yourself a Merry Little Schiffmas. The last word goes to Aimee Mann:

Talking Turley

I only watched bits and bobs of the Con Law seminar on the Hill yesterday. Watching Louie Gohmert Piles causes my blood pressure to spike and Gym Jordan gives me a headache, so I need to ration my exposure to them. I am, however, acquainted with the GOP’s witness, Jonathan Turley who, as far as I know, is not a Republican and didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. I was relieved to hear that.

Turley was for impeachment before he was against it. It was a repeat performance: He testified before the Judiciary committee during the Clinton impeachment inquiry as did Michael Gerhardt, I’m not sure why they missed Professor Karlan back then. Perhaps their premonitive powers told them she’d make a joke about a future president’s* then unborn child. The Barron flap was right up there with Barack Obama’s tan suit as a phony “scandal.” It was barren of genuine outrage, but everything is phony about the Trumps.

Back to Jonathan Turley. I knew him when he was a baby law professor at Tulane, and I was a student. He was among the friendlier and more approachable faculty members. I can’t say that I knew him well, but I socialized with him in groups because of the POPS program. When I was a 2L, Tulane Law instituted a community service requirement, that’s when Turley launched the Program for Older Prisoners.

The premise of POPS is that older prisoners have mellowed with age and are unlikely to commit crimes upon release. It’s pitched to conservative pols as a cost-saving measure and to liberals as a humanitarian policy. Law students were dispatched to prisons to interview candidates for the program, reports were prepared, and passed on to the authorities. It’s more involved than that but, as you’ll soon see, my personal experience with the process is limited.

I made two trips to Angola State Prison to meet with prisoner/candidates. I seem to have drawn the short end of the straw: both convicts were convicted rapists and pedophiles. One was a very muscular, heavily tattooed 65-year-old who was unrepentant about his perverted predilections. I asked him why he’d applied given his lack of remorse. He hadn’t a visitor in years and wanted someone to talk to. The other guy was a repentant perv, but a poor candidate for early release. Suffice it to say I didn’t recommend either of them. My skin crawls recalling the first guy whose name I’ve withheld to protect the guilty.

Turley was a surprisingly subtle choice for committee GOPers to make. His position is not that Trump is a good guy who should never be impeached but that Congress should wait for the courts to rule on the pending witness and document cases before proceeding. In the abstract, there’s some merit to this argument BUT given the Trump regime’s relentless stonewalling it’s a terrible idea in the real world. The reason for the expedited process is a genuine concern that Team Trump will stage an encore performance of 2016 in next year’s election. Two stolen 21st Century elections aren’t enough; they want to complete a trifecta in 2020.

Unlike the House Republicans who called him to testify, Jonathan Turley is neither a bad nor venal person but he’s wrong about the Trump impeachment inquiry. I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t link to Dana Milbank’s hilarious takedown of the Turley testimony in the WaPo. I can’t resist quoting Milbank quoting Turley:

“I get it: You are mad,” he testified. “The president is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad — and Luna is a goldendoodle and they don’t get mad. So we’re all mad.”

Damn right we are! But nowhere in the Constitution does it state that a president shall not be impeached if people — or their dogs — are mad.

I’ll be doggone. Lawyers say the darndest things.

The last word goes to Aaron Neville and the Neville Brothers:

Quote Of The Day: Impeachment Report Edition

I’m working my way through the House Intelligence Committee’s report. It’s essentially a narrative history of what happened with Ukraine and why it matters. It’s more readable than the Mueller Report. It doesn’t hedge its bets and calls an Igor an Igor and a Lev a Lev.

Today’s quote comes from Chairman Adam Schiff’s preface:

Nevertheless, there remain unanswered questions, and our investigation must continue, even as we transmit our report to the Judiciary Committee.  Given the proximate threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election, we cannot wait to make a referral until our efforts to obtain additional testimony and documents wind their way through the courts.  The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress.  Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began.

The damage the President has done to our relationship with a key strategic partner will be remedied over time, and Ukraine continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support in Congress.  But the damage to our system of checks and balances, and to the balance of power within our three branches of government, will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.  Any future President will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.

Jerry Nadler says that he’s not going to “take any shit” from committee GOPers. Let’s hope so. Some of the looniest members of the Republican caucus are on the Judiciary Committee. The first day sounds as dry as a bone so perhaps they’ll nod off. I’m not sure if Louie Gohmert Piles, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz will understand all the big words used by the law professors. I’m skipping it. I’m not in the mood to watch them throw shit against the wall just to see how much of it sticks. Now if Larry Tribe were testifying, I’d be there.

The phone records are particularly interesting. What was the man who puts the cow in Moscow, Devin Nunes, doing on the phone with the conspirators?

A phone song is in order. The last word goes to the Kinks: