Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I've become a fan of Heather Cox Richardson and shared a few of her posts in various threads.  She has indicated she will be posting her thoughts every day, through President-elect Biden's first 100 Days.  I'll be sharing them, here.  I'm starting with the day after the Insurrection.

January 7, 2021 (Thursday)
The tide has turned against Trump and his congressional supporters, and they are scrambling.
Yesterday’s insurrection at the Capitol has brought widespread condemnation. Today all four of the living presidents—Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama-- called out Trump and his party for inciting the rioters. Bill Clinton summed it up: “The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another…. The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost. The election was free, the count was fair, the result was final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates.”
Last night, Trump lost his social media platforms as Twitter suspended him for 12 hours and Facebook and Instagram suspended his account indefinitely, leaving him isolated and unable to reach out to his supporters.
Calls mounted today for his removal from office. Republicans as well as Democrats joined the chorus. Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal called for Trump’s impeachment or removal from office by the 25th Amendment, whichever is faster. “Get rid of him. Now.” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, widely perceived to be in the running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, agreed that “there’s no question that America would be better off if the president would resign or be removed from office.” Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was the first Republican congress member to call for Trump’s removal.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called Vice President Mike Pence to urge him to begin the process of removing the president through the 25th Amendment, but after keeping them on hold for 25 minutes, Pence’s staffers told them he would not take their call. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin were apparently more willing to discuss the possibility, but have so far decided against it because it would take too long, it is unclear whether acting secretaries could vote, and forcing him from office could stoke ill-will from his supporters. Still, pressure from members of both parties continues to mount as the president falls into what one aide called “a dark place.”
If Pence will not support removing the president through the 25th Amendment, Pelosi says, the House will move to impeach him. Congressional Democrats circulated articles of impeachment today, and Schumer told reporters: “I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican liberal, conservative, from the Northeast, South or West… if what happened yesterday doesn’t convince you that the president should be out of office now, then something is very wrong with your beliefs about democracy.”
Members of the administration are resigning. This morning, Mick Mulvaney, who was a key player in the Ukraine scandal from his post at the Office of Management and Budget and who is now Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, resigned, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box”: “I can’t stay here. Not after yesterday.” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), also resigned, saying she is “deeply troubled” by yesterday’s events. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos added her resignation to the mix, writing to Trump: “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”
The resignation of the Cabinet officials means that they will not have to weigh in on removing Trump under the 25th Amendment.
Last night, after Congress counted the electoral votes that put Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the top to become the nation’s next president and vice-president, the White House issued a statement guaranteeing an “orderly” transfer of power. Today, as calls mounted for Trump’s removal from office, the White House called for the resignations of 4000 political appointees, a traditional step in the transfer of power to a new administration but one which Trump had refused to announce until today.
As calls for his removal still continued, he faced video cameras tonight, giving a speech that revealed his realization that he’s on the ropes. He tried to rise above the partisan crises of the past months and to pretend that he had, all along, simply been defending democracy. He condemned yesterday’s violence but did not concede the election to President-Elect Biden although he acknowledged that Biden would take power. He also did not tell his supporters it was over. “To all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed,” he said, “but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
Trump is not alone as he scrambles to cover over his complicity in yesterday’s crisis. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), whose willingness to join the House members who were going to challenge the counting of the votes, and who thus was a key figure in making their false accusations seem legitimate, watched his star plummet today. His key mentor, former Senator John Danforth (R-MO), said supporting Hawley was the “worst mistake of my life.” One of Hawley’s major donors called him “an anti-democracy populist” who provoked the riots, and called for his censure.
When Simon & Schuster canceled Hawley’s new book contract, the senator fought back, insisting that he was a victim of “cancel culture,” with “the Left looking to cancel everyone they don’t approve of.” He insisted this was a “direct assault on the First Amendment,” and that all he had been doing with his challenges to counting the electoral votes from certain states was “representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity.” It was a desperate statement that he must have known to be false. The First Amendment protects us from censorship from the government: a private publishing company is under no obligation to publish anything. And the courts have rejected the idea that preventing Congress from counting the certified votes from citizens of other states is a legitimate way to represent his constituents.
The editorial board of the St. Louis Dispatch from Hawley’s home state wasn’t having it. “Americans have had enough of Trumpism and the two-faced, lying, populist politicians who embraced it,” the board wrote. “Hawley’s presidential aspirations have been flushed down the toilet because of his role in instigating Wednesday’s assault on democracy. He should do Missourians and the rest of the country a big favor and resign now…. Trumpism must die before it morphs into Hitlerism.”
Some of those arrested yesterday took to the media to express regret for their behavior. Bradley Rukstales, CEO of a marking consulting firm near Chicago expressed his “extremely poor judgment” when he “followed hundreds of others through an open set of doors to the Capitol building to see what was taking place inside.” He condemned the violence and offered “my sincere apologies for my indiscretion.”
Criticism also mounted today over the actions of the Capitol Police yesterday. The Capitol Police have exclusive jurisdiction over the Capitol Building, and rejected help from National Guard troops and from the FBI before they were overwhelmed yesterday as the mob attacked. They were late calling for help when they finally did, leaving the building underprotected. They arrested only 14 people and let hundreds simply walk out of the building as the crisis wound down, leaving Metropolitan police to arrest 70 people primarily for violating the city’s curfew. Law enforcement officers are now trying to chase down the people who breached the Capitol by examining the videos and selfies they posted to social media.
For all that, the Capitol Police were hampered by limits the Pentagon placed on the Washington, D.C., National Guard, essentially limiting them to traffic control. The chief of the Capitol Police made an urgent call for help early Wednesday afternoon only to be refused as an official from the Secretary of the Army worried about the optics of having soldiers inside the Capitol building.
In short, the overlapping jurisdictions and chains of command meant a haphazard response to yesterday’s threat. Tonight, a Capitol Police officer died from the injuries he sustained yesterday.
The weak response of the Capitol Police to the insurrectionists yesterday highlighted the difference in police responses to Black Lives Matter protesters last summer, when officers under the control of the Executive Branch used tear gas and flash bangs to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so Trump could walk across it for a photo op, and to the right-wing rioters who invaded the Capitol. Although they were different law enforcement branches, and although then-Attorney General William Barr, who ordered the summer’s attack, is now gone, no one could miss that Black protesters could never in a million years have broken in the windows of the Capitol, invade, and wander around taking selfies before leaving without arrest.
Today, spokespeople for the Capitol Police noted that their main job is to protect lawmakers—which they did—not the building, and that no one could have predicted that the president would egg on the rioters. Nonetheless, the chief of the Capitol Police resigned today, along with the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate.
The disparity in treatment of yesterday’s rioters and Black Lives Matter protesters reflects the reality that authorities treat protesters differently according to their perceived political identification. FiveThirtyEight’s Maggie Koerth interviewed Roudabeh Kishi, whose research team tracked police violence in the U.S. from May 1 to November 28, 2020, and Koerth writes that authorities were “more than twice as likely to attempt to break up and disperse a left-wing protest than a right-wing one.” When they did intervene, they used force 51% of the time for the left and only 34% of the time for the right.
Arizona State University Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Ed Maguire told Koerth: “I think protesters on the right, because they view the police as in their corner, they feel a sense of tacit permission.”
 
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 270
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

I've become a fan of Heather Cox Richardson and shared a few of her posts in various threads.  She has indicated she will be posting her thoughts every day, through President-elect Biden's first 100 D

February 9, 2021 (Tuesday) Today began the second impeachment trial for former president Donald J. Trump, this time for incitement of insurrection against the American government. St

By definition, elected officials represent voting individuals, not companies, unions or other special interests.  Individuals can vote, companies and unions cannot. A candidate for office should not b

Posted Images

January 8, 2021 (Friday)
More information continues to emerge about the events of Wednesday. They point to a broader conspiracy than it first appeared. Calls for Trump’s removal from office are growing. The Republican Party is tearing apart. Power in the nation is shifting almost by the minute.
[Please note that information from the January 6 riot is changing almost hourly, and it is virtually certain that something I have written will be incorrect. I have tried to stay exactly on what we know to be facts, but those could change.]
More footage from inside the attack on the Capitol is coming out and it is horrific. Blood on statues and feces spread through the building are vile; mob attacks on police officers are bone-chilling.
Reuters photographer Jim Bourg, who was inside the building, told reporters he overheard three rioters in “Make America Great Again” caps plotting to find Vice President Mike Pence and hang him as a “traitor”; other insurrectionists were shouting the same. Pictures have emerged of one of the rioters in military gear carrying flex cuffs—handcuffs made of zip ties—suggesting he was planning to take prisoners. Two lawmakers have suggested the rioters knew how to find obscure offices.
New scrutiny of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before the attack shows Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), Don Jr., and Trump himself urging the crowd to go to the Capitol and fight. Trump warned that Pence was not doing what he needed to. Trump promised to lead them to the Capitol himself.
There are also questions about law enforcement. While exactly what happened remains unclear, it has emerged that the Pentagon limited the Washington D.C. National Guard to managing traffic. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested support before Trump’s rally, but the Department of Defense said that the National Guard could not have ammunition or riot gear, interact with protesters except in self-defense, or otherwise function in a protective capacity without the explicit permission of acting Secretary Christopher Miller, whom Trump put into office shortly after the election after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
When Capitol Police requested aid early Wednesday afternoon, the request was denied. Defense officials held back the National Guard for about three hours before sending it to support the Capitol Police. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, tried repeatedly to send his state’s National Guard, but the Pentagon would not authorize it. Virginia’s National Guard was mobilized when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the governor, Ralph Northam, herself.
Defense officials said they were sensitive to the criticism they received in June when federal troops cleared Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters so Trump could walk across it. But it sounds like there might be a personal angle: Bowser was harshly critical of Trump then, and it would be like him to take revenge on her by denying help when it was imperative.
Refusing to stop the attack on the Capitol might have been more nefarious, though. A White House adviser told New York Magazine’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi that Trump was watching television coverage of the siege and was enthusiastic, although he didn’t like that the rioters looked “low class.” While the insurrectionists were in the Capitol, he tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” Even as lawmakers were under siege, both Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani were making phone calls to brand-new Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) urging him to slow down the electoral count.
After Trump on Wednesday night tweeted that there would be an “orderly” transition of power, on Thursday he began again to urge on his supporters.
With the details and the potential depth of this event becoming clearer over the past two days—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia, tweeted her support, and state lawmakers as well as Republican attorneys general were actually involved—Americans are recoiling from how bad this attempted coup was… and how much worse it could have been. The crazed rioters were terrifyingly close to our elected representatives, all gathered together on that special day, and they were actively talking about harming the vice president.
By Friday night, 57% of Americans told Reuters they wanted Trump removed from office immediately. Nearly 70% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s actions before the riot. Only 12% of Americans approved of the rioters; 79% of Americans described the rioters as “criminals” or “fools.” Five percent called them “patriots.”
Pelosi tonight said that she hoped the president would resign, but if not, the House of Representatives will move forward with impeachment on Monday, as well as with legislation to enable Congress to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment. The most recent draft of the impeachment resolution has just one article: “incitement of insurrection.” As a privileged resolution, it can go directly to the House without committee approval.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has no interest in further splitting the Republicans over another impeachment, or forcing them onto the record as either for or against it. Timing is on his side: the Senate is not in session for substantive business until January 19, so cannot act on an impeachment resolution without the approval of all senators. It can take up the resolution then, but more likely it will wait until Biden is sworn in, at which point the measure would be managed not by McConnell, but by the new House majority leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY). A trial can indeed take place after Trump is no longer president, enabling Congress to make sure he can never again hold office.
Whether or not the Senate would convict is unclear, but it’s not impossible. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), for one, is so furious she is talking of switching parties. “I want him out,” she says. Still, Trump supporters are now insisting that it would “further divide the country” to try to remove Trump now, and that we need to unify. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who led the Senate effort to challenge Biden’s election, today tweeted that Biden was not working hard enough to “bring us together or promote healing” and that “vicious partisan rhetoric only tears our country apart.”
Trump, meanwhile, has continued to agitate his followers, and today began to call for more resistance, while users on Parler, the new right-wing social media hangout, are talking of another, bigger attack on Washington.
Tonight, Twitter banned Trump, stating: “we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” As evidence, it cited both his claim that his supporters would “have a GIANT VOICE long into the future,” and his tweet that he would not be going to Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Twitter says that Trump’s followers see these two new tweets as proof that the election was invalid and that the Inauguration is a good target, since he won’t be there. The Twitter moderators say that “plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.”
Twitter also took down popular QAnon accounts, including those of Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his former lawyer Sidney Powell, who is having quite a bad day: the company that makes election machines, Dominion Voting Systems, announced it is suing her for defamation and asking $1.3 billion in damages. After taking down 7,000 QAnon accounts in July, Twitter continued by today taking down the account of the man who hosts the posts from “Q.”
While Twitter officials might well be horrified by the insurrection, the ban is also a sign of a changing government. With the election of two Democratic senators from Georgia this week, the majority goes to the Democrats, and McConnell will no longer be Majority Leader, killing bills. Social media giants know regulation of some sort is around the corner, and they are trying to look compliant fast. When Twitter banned Trump, so did Reddit, and Facebook and Instagram already had. Google Play Store removed Parler, warning it to clean up its content moderation.
Trump evidently couldn’t stand the Twitter ban, and tried at least five different accounts to get back onto the platform. He and his supporters are howling that he is being silenced by big tech, but of course he has an entire press corps he could use whenever he wished. Losing his access to Twitter simply cuts off his ability to drum up both support and money by lying to his supporters. Another platform that has dumped Trump is one of those that handled his emails. The San Francisco correspondent of the Financial Times, Dave Lee, noted that for more than 48 hours there had been no Trump emails: in the previous six days he sent out 33.
This has been a horrific week. If it has a silver lining, it is that the lines are now clear between our democracy and its enemies. The election in Georgia, which swung the Senate away from the Republicans and opens up some avenues to slow down misinformation, is a momentous victory.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 9, 2021 (Saturday)
In 1856, work began on a replacement for the original Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.. When the Civil War broke out five years later, it was unfinished.
President Abraham Lincoln and the wartime Congresses insisted on continuing construction despite the conflict, determined to show to the world their faith that the nation would endure and that it would, eventually, grow into its ideals.
The Capitol dome was completed, for the first time, in 1866. It has needed repairs periodically ever since.
(It's been quite a week, folks. I'll see you tomorrow.)
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 10, 2021 (Sunday)
Unbelievably, it was only a week ago—last Sunday—that we learned Trump had called Georgia’s Secretary of State and pressured him to change the results of the 2020 election. Trump demanded that Brad Raffensperger “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win Georgia. The news of the attempt to get an election official to overrule the will of the people was astonishing: at the time, it was the worst domestic attack on our democracy ever, coming, as it did, from a sitting president.
At the time.
Over the past several days, the picture of what happened on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, has become clearer, and it’s bad. While Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser gave a press conference Wednesday night, there has been not a single official briefing from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, or Capitol Police.
The federal government has gone dark.
What we do know is that on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, egged on by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Don Jr., and especially Trump himself, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol just as Congress was meeting in joint session to confirm Democrat Joe Biden as our new president. They overpowered the Capitol Police—perhaps with the help of some of the officers—breached the doors, and smashed their way through the historic building, shouting for Vice President Mike Pence—whom Trump insisted was at fault for not overturning the count-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and “traitors” who were counting the electoral votes for Biden. While many of the early pictures from inside the Capitol showed rioters gawking like tourists, ones released this weekend showed violent thugs, carrying plastic handcuffs and seeming to have information about where to find specific members of Congress. They breached the Senate chamber at 2:16, just a minute after the senators made it out.
The Capitol Police got the lawmakers to safety, but were not in control of the building. Lawmakers huddled quietly behind barricaded doors waiting for police that took hours to come. When they did arrive, they cleared the area and regained control of the Capitol. After janitors had cleaned the building, lawmakers counted the electoral votes that established Democrats Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president of the USA.
As videos have emerged and timelines been established, it has become apparent we came perilously close to seeing our elected representatives taken hostage or even executed on the makeshift gallows the rioters set up outside the building.
But here’s the thing: these were not outside insurgents; they were supporters of the Republican president. Trump enflamed the insurgents but he did not create them: years of demonizing Democrats and suggesting they must not be allowed to govern did that. As NPR reporter Kirk Siegler noted, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, infamous for years of standoffs with the federal government, wrote on Facebook that Trump “pointed towards Congress and nodded his head… [and said] go get the job done.” Republicans are now caught in a vise of their own making. They have to stand either with their own voters or with democracy.
The night of the attack, more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives and several senators, led by Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), continued to endorse Trump’s lies by voting to reject the electoral votes for Biden in key states. The next day, Trump’s supporters tried to argue that the rioters were “Antifa,” despite their Trump garb and the fact Trump invited them, incited them, urged them to go to the Capitol, and after the riot told them he loved them. (An AP investigation establishes that they were right-wing agitators.) When that didn’t take, supporters tried “whataboutism,” comparing the Black Lives Matter protests of this summer to the storming of the Capitol.
They are trying to rewrite the history of this week to downplay that we have suffered an attempted coup that killed at least five people, and that the people behind it are still in the highest levels of our government.
The realization that we are in the midst of a coup, abetted by Trump’s use of social media, prompted Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to ban Trump permanently, and to take down QAnon accounts. That, not the Capitol attack and the murder of a police officer, has created outrage among Trump, who is allegedly “ballistic,” and Trump supporters. Republican lawmakers spent the weekend noting how many followers they were losing as Twitter took down QAnon, Nazi, and fake accounts. (Trump opponents noted that this was not actually a good thing to call attention to.) Parler has lost almost all of its supporting businesses and might go out of business itself.
Democrats are appalled by what Trump has wrought, and they are joined by plenty of Republicans. In the National Review, for example, Ed Whelan called the Capitol attack “an outrage that ought to have every genuinely patriotic American seething with anger.” He blamed Trump for inciting the attack, and said that “impeachment and conviction of Trump is an appropriate, and probably a necessary, response.”
In a powerful video, former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger called the Capitol attack the American equivalent to Kristallnacht, which marked the beginning of German Nazis’ systemic destruction of the Jews. To puncture the idea that the sort of behavior on display on Wednesday was manly, Schwarzenegger told the private story of his abuse at the hands of his father, who had been swept up in the Nazi movement in Austria, and celebrated the sword from his starring role in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian as a symbol not of toxic masculinity but of democracy, tempered by adversity. He called on all Americans to rally around Biden and to work to make his administration a success.
White House appointees’ resignations show which way the wind is blowing. Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney took to Fox News Sunday to say he had no idea that people might actually do something like attack the Capitol. “People took him literally,” Mulvaney told MSNBC. “I never thought I’d see that.”
Similarly, the rioters themselves, once found and arrested, are either apologizing and saying they were swept up in the moment, or denying they were part of the mob. One man apologized for his “indiscretion.”
Both Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, and health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield have suspended their donations to lawmakers who voted against the counting of Biden’s electoral votes late Wednesday or early Thursday morning. The anti-Trump Lincoln Project has promised to target companies that donate to any lawmakers who voted against the counting of the electoral votes. Hitting closer to Trump, Stripe, the vendor that handles online credit card payments for Trump’s campaign, has announced it will no longer handle his account. And tonight, the Professional Golfers Association of America Board of Directors took the 2022 PGA Championship away from Trump Bedminster, his New Jersey club.
At the end of last week, Democratic leaders set out a three-part plan to punish the president for inciting an insurrection. They gave Pence an option to begin the process of invoking the 25th Amendment, which, considering the president had tried to get him killed, was not necessarily a long shot. Pence refused. They gave McConnell the weekend to convince Trump to resign. Trump refused. They announced that, if both of those things failed, they would begin impeachment proceedings on Monday.
McConnell promptly noted that the Senate could not take up such a proceeding until the day before Biden’s inauguration at the earliest. He is bargaining. It is possible to hold an impeachment trial even after a president is out of office, but he knows that Biden does not want the beginning of his term crowded with more Trump business, especially as coronavirus is raging and Biden wants to get it under control. McConnell doesn’t want Republicans to have to vote either for or against the president because such a vote will slice the Republicans in two and make it clear that some of them stand for insurrection. In the Senate, only Republicans Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have endorsed impeachment.
McConnell is hoping Pelosi will blink and the moment will pass.
She will not, and it will not. She notes, correctly, that the president is “an imminent threat” to “our Constitution and our Democracy,” and she is trying to give the Republicans cover to do the right thing. Tonight, she announced that the House tomorrow will begin proceedings on a resolution by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) calling on Pence to mobilize the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment within 24 hours. If he declines, the House will turn to impeachment. She has asked for unanimous consent for the resolution to enable the Republicans to avoid a vote. If they refuse, the measure will go forward the next day anyway.
She also fired a shot across the bow of Republican lawmakers by asking her colleagues for their views on the third section of the 14th Amendment, the one that prohibits anyone who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” from serving in Congress.
As I watch Republican lawmakers try to slip away from the crisis they have made, I think of Black Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, armed only with a nightstick, luring the insurgents in the wrong direction to buy the time Senators needed to escape with their lives.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 11, 2021 (Monday)
This morning began with House Democrats filing one article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection.” It makes its case by noting that Trump’s months of lies about the election and his inflammatory speech to the rally on January 6-- including lines like “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore”—led directly to “violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.”
The article also noted Trump’s attempt to subvert the election through his phone call on January 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding he “find” enough votes to overturn the results of the presidential election in the state. Including this in the impeachment article will prevent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp from pardoning Trump for it.
The article says that Trump is, and will remain, “a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.” He must be removed from office and disqualified from any future positions in the U.S. government.
This document and the procedures around it tell us far more than their simplicity suggests.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced the day before that the House would take up a resolution, advanced by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), that called on Vice President Mike Pence “to convene and mobilize the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the President incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting President.” The resolution did not speak to the physical or mental health of the president, but focused on his inability to fulfill his duty to respect the legitimate results of the Presidential election, accept the peaceful transfer of power, protect the people of the United States, and see that the laws be faithfully executed.
This resolution was a generous offer to Republicans. It limited its condemnation of Trump to his quite obvious refusal to accept the election results, rather than digging deeper into his behavior. Pelosi also called for Unanimous Consent to bring up the Raskin resolution. This was a way to give cover to Republicans who didn’t want to go on the record against Trump, but who want him out of power in favor of Pence.
Although extremist Republicans are trying to argue that removing Trump shows Democratic partisanship, in fact, Pelosi was trying to give Republicans as much cover as possible.
It was a Trump Republican who shot that down. Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) objected to Unanimous Consent, which means that when the measure comes up again tomorrow, each Republican will have to vote either for it or against it. Mooney has condemned his fellow Republicans who would not go along with Trump’s election claims, and now he is forcing them to go on record. In other words, he is making a play to force Republicans behind Trump.
The House will vote on the Raskin resolution tomorrow and will take up impeachment on Wednesday. There should be enough votes to pass both.
The tide is running strongly now against Trump and those who have supported him in his attack on our democracy. What had been shock on Wednesday is hardening into fury. Yesterday, Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI) tweeted: “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the President of the United States was completely MIA while the next three individuals in the lines of succession (VP, Speaker of House, Senate Pres[ident] Pro Tempore) were under assault in the Capitol. Unconscionable.”
As of tonight, the government remains MIA. We have had no briefings from the White House, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or the Justice Department about what happened on January 6, or what has happened since. And now acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has resigned, effective at midnight tonight. He will be replaced by FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor.
The crisis is breaking the Republican Party in two. Newly elected House members have expressed dismay that they have not gotten clear instructions from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on how they should approach this week’s votes. They say they only have the sense he would like them to support the president: pretty weak sauce to hold a coalition together.
McCarthy has his own troubles. He is closely tied to the president—Trump called him “my Kevin”-- and has been telling people that the Republicans will take the House in 2022 as voters turn against Biden, who is inheriting a colossal mess that it appears Republicans are working to make as bad as possible. But suddenly Trump is toxic. All of a sudden, McCarthy is talking about unity and working across the aisle: “As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people.”
McCarthy is facing the same problem Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is: they are supposed to bring in campaign cash, but suddenly corporations are announcing they will no longer make political donations… at least to Republicans. Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria at Popular Information yesterday broke the story that Marriott, BlueCross BlueShield, and Commerce Bank would not contribute to the 147 Republicans who objected to the counting of the electoral votes in Congress. That’s more than half the Republicans in Congress. Verizon, AT&T, and Amazon have now joined that boycott. Citigroup, 3M, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and JPMorgan Chase have all halted political giving for several months, and a number of other companies say they are reevaluating their giving. T-Mobile told Popular Information: “The assault on the U.S. Capitol and on democracy was unacceptable.”
It is no wonder that both McCarthy and Scott are madly backpedaling from their former pro-Trump stances and now calling for an end to partisan rancor. According to Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a phone call this morning, Trump tried to tell McCarthy it was “Antifa people” who stormed the Capitol. But McCarthy was having none of it: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there.” When Trump tried to rant about election fraud, McCarthy interrupted: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”
But the crisis is not. Army and police forces are investigating their officers who either did participate or may have participated in the riot. The FBI warned today that online activists are planning armed protests in Washington, D.C., and at all fifty state capitols between January 16 and 20, although it is not clear that their plans will translate into mass protests. In the wake of the attack, Trump supporters are harassing lawmakers, making them fear for the safety of themselves and their families.
As Yale historian Joanne Freeman noted, threats of political violence are a means of intimidation, a way to dominate a situation when a party does not have the support of the majority. Trump’s approval rating has dropped to 33%, with 60% of voters disapproving of his job performance. Fifty-six percent of voters blame Trump for the storming of the Capitol.
Trump supporters are growing more violent perhaps because the wave against them is building. Today Hillary Clinton called for impeachment and condemned white supremacy, hardly a surprise coming from the former Democratic presidential candidate, but the news that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a well-regarded retired four-star general and Republican senior statesman, has rejected the Republican Party sits a little harder. Perhaps even worse is that Bill Belichick, general manager of the New England Patriots and previously a Trump supporter, today declined to accept Trump’s offer of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Insurgents now face institutional pressure, as well. The Department of Justice and the FBI are tracking down more than 150 suspects for prosecution—so far—and hackers today claimed to have captured the personal data of Parler users from Parler servers, including material that users believed they had deleted after the January 6 Capitol riot. Since rioters stole laptops and documents that included items relating to national security, they are not going to be able to drop off the radar screen.
Trump is also under pressure, the pressure of impeachment, of course, and the loss of his social media platforms. He is also under financial pressure, as Deutsche Bank, the only bank that would still lend to him, has announced it will no longer do business with him. But, according to Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, what is upsetting him most is that the PGA has pulled its 2022 golf championship from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
That, not the riots, not the deaths, not impeachment, and certainly not the coronavirus--which has now killed more than 375,000 of us—has “gutted” him.
 
 
 
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 12, 2021 (Tuesday)
The news continues to move at a breathless pace.
After making no comments on the January 6 coup attempt since the day after, when he continued his assault on the validity of the 2020 election, Trump today refused to acknowledge he has done anything wrong. He told reporters his speech to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., that prompted the assault on the Capitol, was “totally appropriate.” He insisted that “other people” had said that the “real problem” was “the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places.”
Instead of addressing his role in the crisis, on his way to Alamo, Texas (not The Alamo, which is in San Antonio, Texas, about four hours away from Alamo), Trump blamed the Democrats for attacking him unfairly. He said that the Democrats who were pushing for impeachment were once again on a “witch hunt” that was “causing tremendous danger to our country.”
No one is buying it.
There are three real stories right now with regard to this crisis. The first is that what happened on January 6 when rioters stormed the Capitol, and what led to that attack, is getting clearer, and none of the details are good. The second, and related, story is that the Republicans are splitting, and their leadership is trying desperately to find a way to remain powerful. The third ties the first two together: lawmakers are preparing to throw Trump out of office.
Today the FBI finally briefed the public on the events of January 6. Contradicting reports that said there was no sign of trouble in advance, an FBI official said that on Tuesday, the bureau warned that extremists were going to muster in Washington, D.C., to launch a “war.” Today, the bureau announced 160 case files on the insurrection and said this was just the beginning. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said people will be shocked about some of the things that happened inside the Capitol. He also said the Department of Justice is considering filing charges of sedition against some of the riot’s participants.
A separate briefing for House Democratic committee chairs seemed to leave them shaken by the scope of the insurgency. “This was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand,” they said in a statement. “This was an attempted coup to derail our Constitutional process and intimidate our duly elected leaders through violence.” “[W]e have grave concerns about ongoing and violent threats to our democracy. It is clear that more must be done to preempt, penetrate, and prevent deadly and seditious assaults by domestic violent extremists in the days ahead.”
Calls for Trump’s impeachment continue to escalate. Today the New York Times editorial board blamed Trump and his supporters in Congress and in the right-wing media for the Capitol attack, “a crime so brazen that it demands the highest form of accountability that the legislature can deliver.” Perhaps of more interest to Trump’s accomplices is that today Walmart joined other corporations in refusing to donate money to the Republican lawmakers who voted against counting the electoral votes for Biden in the states Trump falsely insisted had voted for him.
The pressure of those two things made Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third most powerful House Republican, today come out in favor of impeachment. McConnell acknowledged that Trump had committed impeachable offenses and told other Republican leaders he welcomed the House's actions. In the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposes impeachment personally, but has decided not to try to lobby fellow Republicans against it, turning them loose to vote as they wish. For her part, Cheney announced she will vote to impeach the president.
Cheney’s statement suggests that part of what is driving the Republican willingness to entertain impeachment is that there will be more coming out about January 6 and Republicans want to dump Trump rather than be associated with him. She wrote: “Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
It is undoubtedly also of great significance to McConnell that the actions of Trump and his supporters in Congress have led major donors to close their wallets. The less money McConnell has to dole out, the less power he has, and the weaker the Republicans’ chances of retaking the Senate in 2022. McConnell wants that spigot of money to reopen.
He would also like to use this moment to get rid of Trump and his supporters from Republican leadership. Trump has led the party to a major defeat and made it so reviled that it has lost the White House and the Senate, defeats for which McConnell blames the president. Indeed, the Trump administration is so reviled that today European officials took the unprecedented step of refusing to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a scheduled trip to Europe this week. He was forced to cancel his trip at the last minute. McConnell may have been announcing his support for impeachment to put pressure on Trump to resign, which would enable Republicans to avoid voting on the issue and head off an irreparable split.
For their part, the Trump Republicans are doubling down. Law enforcement has installed metal detectors for congress members to enter the House chamber, and Louis Gohmert (R-TX), for one, simply walked around it. “You can’t stop me; I’m on my way to a vote,” he told the police officers.
Tonight, by a vote of 223-205, the House passed the Raskin resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing Trump from office. Pence had already told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he would not do so. In a letter to Pelosi, Pence said, “I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.” He maintains that the 25th should be used only in cases when the president is incapacitated or disabled, neither of which, he says, is the case now. Pence’s statement gave Republicans in the House cover to vote against the Raskin resolution. Only one, Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) voted in favor.
That leaves Congress to move forward with impeachment, which it will do tomorrow. As of today, five House Republicans have announced they will join the Democrats in support of the measure.
Meanwhile, all eight of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military, including chair Mark Milley, today reminded service members of their oath to the Constitution and warned against “violence, sedition and insurrection.” They reminded members of the military that “any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our tradition, values, and oath; it is against the law.”
“On January, 20, 2021," they wrote, "in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 13, 2021 (Wednesday)
At 4:22 this afternoon, the House of Representatives passed the number of votes necessary to impeach Trump. In the end, 232 Representatives—222 Democrats and 10 Republicans—agreed that the president had incited an insurrection and must be removed from office. But 197 Republicans disagreed.
And so, Donald Trump makes the history books as the first president of the United States of America to be impeached twice.
This is an indictment of him, of course, but also of the Republican Party that let him off the hook a year ago for undermining the national security of the United States as he tried to steal the 2020 election. Shortly before the Senate vote on conviction almost exactly a year ago, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) charged his Republican colleagues to look to the future, telling them, “you know you can’t trust this President to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.”
But every Republican senator other than Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to acquit the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And now, here we are.
A week ago, our Capitol was overrun by insurgents seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and install Trump in the White House for at least another term. In their fury, they murdered a Capitol Police officer and came within a hair’s breadth of getting their hands on our elected officials.
The insurgents were answering the call of their president, who urged them to fight for him and claim a victory he insisted, without evidence, had been stolen from him. As they stormed the Capitol and aid did not come for the besieged lawmakers, Trump watched events unfold on the television, pleased… and, as people have begun to note, curiously unsurprised.
In the week since the attack, emerging information indicates the insurgency was planned, not spontaneous, and that lawmakers might be involved. Democrats have stood up to this attack on our democracy, but Republicans are in the same bind they’ve been in for years: how can they both keep Trump’s voters and reject Trump himself? Some establishment Republicans who have their own bases of power--Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Romney, for example-- have finally said enough is enough, and have come out against the president.
But Republican lawmakers whose only base is Trump supporters have downplayed the attack that killed five people, including a police officer, and wounded many others; defended Trump; and argued that any attempt to remove him is simply a dangerous Democratic effort to create divisions in society. They warn that holding Trump accountable will anger his supporters even more, an observation that many interpret as a threat.
This Republican split showed up today. Liz Cheney (R-WY), chair of the House Republican Conference, blamed the president for the attack on the Capitol and voted to impeach him. But only nine other Republicans joined her. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to split the baby by blaming the president for the attack on the Capitol but voting against impeachment. Trump loyalists like Jim Jordan (R-OH), who just received the Medal of Freedom from Trump, continued to allege that the election was tainted. They supported Trump wholeheartedly and attacked the Democrats. Refusing to acknowledge that their attacks on the election created the crisis in the first place, they called for unity and blamed the Democrats for dividing America.
One hundred and ninety-seven Republicans voted against impeaching the president. A year ago, Schiff infuriated Republicans by repeating a rumor published by CBS News that White House officials had warned party members: “Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.” Today, rumors swirled that a number of Republicans did not dare to vote in favor of impeachment because they feared for their safety and that of their loved ones.
While the House debated impeachment, the FBI continued to hunt down the insurgents, companies withdrew support from Republicans who supported the attacks on the election, and New York City canceled $17 million worth of contracts with the Trump Organization.
The article of impeachment now goes to the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested yesterday that he supported impeachment, but today said he would not change the Senate’s schedule to permit a trial before January 19. McConnell was likely pushing impeachment to pressure Trump to resign but, having failed, will do the bare minimum to guide the Republican Party past this moment. He needs to bend just enough to loosen up the purse strings of the companies who are saying they won’t continue to support Republicans who attacked our elections and launched a coup.
In the next week, Trump Republicans might be able to convince Americans that holding Republican insurrectionists responsible for their actions is Democratic overreaction. In that case, the Republicans can avoid taking a stand either for or against Trump while they turn this moment into a referendum on the Democrats just as they take power in the national government. They are running this play headlong, complaining bitterly, for example, about the new metal detectors installed at the entrance to the House chamber-- even as National Guard personnel patrolled the Capitol to protect them-- and complaining about “censorship” to television cameras after Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube removed QAnon accounts and Trump’s accounts.
It could also be that, as more information comes out, the story will get even worse, and it will be easier for senators to vote to convict, especially once Trump is out of office. Yesterday’s briefings by the FBI and acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin gave notice that the evolving story of what happened on January 6 will be shocking and could well involve figures in government. More than 30 House Democrats have called attention to an unusual number of Capitol tours held on January 5, at a time when coronavirus restrictions have largely ended tours. Those tours, combined with the fact that the insurrectionists appeared to have a detailed knowledge of the Capitol complex, have led to suspicions that some members of Congress might have offered aid to the rioters.
A sign that there is something big still hanging out there came tonight in the form of a taped video by Trump himself, emphasizing that he disavowed violence and defending the right to free speech protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It sounded like a charge and a defense. To release such a video means he must be worried indeed about his legal exposure.
Another sign is that virtually no one in the White House tried to defend Trump from today’s impeachment. There were no talking points, no briefings, no interviews, no calls to lawmakers. Even White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who defended the president at his first impeachment last year, wanted people to know he was not defending him this time.
Furious and isolated, Trump is lashing out at those he blamed for getting him into this mess. He has told aides that he wants personally to approve any expenses his lawyer Rudy Giuliani ran up as he traveled around the country to challenge election results, and he has told them not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees.
Trump had largely given up governing after the election anyway, but now our government seems to be operating haphazardly. Today, Israeli warplanes hit Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions in Syria. Israeli forces are often active in this area, but this was the hardest attack in years, hitting missiles recently brought to the area and killing around 40 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted Trump to pressure Iran before he left office, and this strike seems intended to demonstrate a U.S.-Israeli partnership against Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, made this message obvious by being seen together Monday at Café Milano in Washington, D.C., a restaurant the Washington Post described as “Washington’s ultimate place to see and be seen.”
Also yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced new coronavirus vaccine schedule guidelines, as the U.S. reported 4,327 deaths from Covid-19. In the first 13 days of 2021, we have seen more than 3 million new infections. More than 23 million Americans have been infected so far.
Almost exactly a year ago, on January 23, 2020, Adam Schiff urged Senate Republicans to convict Trump for abusing his power and obstructing Congress, and to remove him from office. “Now,” he said, “you may be asking how much damage can he really do in the next several months until the election?
“A lot,” Schiff said. “A lot of damage.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 14, 2021 (Thursday)
“Come Wednesday, we begin a new chapter.”
So said President-Elect Joe Biden tonight as he laid out a plan for a $1.9 trillion emergency vaccination and relief package to get the country through and past the coronavirus. The Trump administration created no federal program for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, leaving us woefully behind where we need to be to get our population vaccinated. And the virus is spreading fast. Over the past week, we have had an average of almost 250,000 new cases a day of coronavirus, with daily deaths on either side of 4000. We are approaching 390,000 recorded deaths from Covid-19.
Biden’s plan calls for $50 billion to ramp up Covid-19 testing, including rapid tests, and to help schools and local governments establish regular testing systems. It calls for an investment of $30 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund to make sure it can provide supplies for the pandemic.
It starts by addressing the pandemic, for both Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris believe that until people are comfortable circulating again, the economy will not rebound. But the plan also calls for federal support to rebuild the economy, a reflection of the ongoing crisis that in the last week led 965,000 Americans to turn to unemployment insurance for the first time, joining more than 5 million who have already filed claims.
The plan calls for $1400 stimulus checks for individuals, expanded unemployment benefits through September, an end to eviction and foreclosure until September 30, $30 billion to help people meet payments for rent or utilities, and a $15 minimum wage. Biden is calling for aid for child care, a $3 billion investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and $350 billion for state, local, and tribal governments to support front line workers.
Biden laid out his ambitious plan even as fallout continued from the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., when Trump supporters tried to overturn his victory in the 2020 election. Today the FBI continued to track down and arrest rioters, while the pro-Trump faction of the Republican Party continued its attempt to wrest control from establishment Republicans.
But while Republican lawmakers are calling for “unity” to deflect attention from the riot and to avoid accountability, Biden used this speech, at this time, to calm tensions and call for unity to move all Americans forward.
He emphasized, as he always does, that he wants to be a president for all Americans, not just those who voted for him, and that if we work together we can accomplish anything. He tried to appeal to disaffected Republicans by highlighting his plan to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, as well as to create new, well-paying jobs in new fields and in long delayed infrastructure projects. To reach out to religious voters who were horrified last week by the vision of those who self-identify as Christians calling for the death of Vice President Mike Pence, Biden emphasized the morality in the plan: a good society should not let children go to bed hungry.
He made a sharp contrast with the current president, not only by sharing an actual plan to confront real problems, but also by empathizing with Americans who have lost loved ones to the pandemic and who are hurting in the stalled economy. “Every day matters, every person matters,” he said.
But Biden’s plan is far larger than a way to address our current crisis. It outlines a vision for America that reaches back to an older time, when both parties shared the idea that the government had a role to play in the economy, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure.
That vision was at the heart of the New Deal, ushered in by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the Great Crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed it illustrated that the American economy needed a referee to keep the wealthy playing by the rules. Government intervention proved so successful and so popular that the Republican Party, which had initially recoiled from what its leaders incorrectly insisted was communism, by 1952 had adopted the idea of an activist government. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower added the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to the Cabinet on April 11, 1953, and in 1956 signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which began the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways.
While this system was enormously popular, reactionary Republicans hated business regulation, the incursion of the federal government into lucrative infrastructure fields, and the taxes it took to pay for the new programs (the top marginal tax rate in the 1950s was 91%). They launched a movement to end what was popularly known as the “liberal consensus”: the idea that the government should take an active role in keeping the economic playing field level.
The liberal consensus was widely popular, these “Movement Conservatives” turned to the issue of race to break it. After the Supreme Court unanimously declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Movement Conservatives warned that an active government was not defending equality but redistributing the tax dollars of hardworking white men to grasping minorities through social programs.
By 1980, Movement Conservatives were gaining power in the Republican Party by calling for tax cuts and smaller government, slashing regulations and domestic programs even as they poured money into the military and their tax cuts began moving money upward. By the 1990s, Movement Conservatives had gained the upper hand in the party and, determined to take the government back to the days before the New Deal, were systematically purging it of what they called “RINOs”—Republicans in Name Only. They would, they said, make the government small enough to drown it in a bathtub.
As they dragged the country toward the right, Republicans pulled the Democrats from the New Deal toward reforms Democratic lawmakers hoped could attract the voters they had lost to the Republicans. “The era of big government is over,” President Bill Clinton famously said, although he continued to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from Republican cuts.
The Democratic defense of an active government was popular—people actually like government regulation, social welfare programs, and roads and bridges. But Republicans continued to be determined to get rid of the liberal consensus once and for all, insisting that true liberty would free individuals to organize a booming economy. Trump’s administration was the culmination of two generations of Republican attempts to dismantle the New Deal state.
But now, the dangers of gutting our government and empowering private business to extremes have become only too clear. For four years, we have watched as a few privileged business leaders got rid of career government employees and handed their jobs to lackeys. The result has been a raging pandemic and a devastating economic collapse, as money has moved dramatically upward. Even before the pandemic, the Trump administration had added 50% to the national debt despite cuts to domestic programs. In the 2020 election, Trump offered more of the same. Americans rejected him and chose Biden.
Biden’s speech tonight marked a resurrection of the idea of an activist government as a positive good. He is calling for the government to invest in ordinary Americans rather than in the people at the top of the economy, and is openly calling for higher taxes on the wealthy to fund such investment. “Asking everyone to pay their fair share at the top so we can make permanent investments to rescue and rebuild America is the right thing for our economy,” he said. Unlike the New Dealers and Eisenhower Republicans of the mid-20th century, though, Biden’s vision is not centered on ensuring that a white man can take care of his family. It is centered on guaranteeing a fair economy for all, focusing on an idea of community that highlights the needs of women and children.
The idea of a government that supports ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy was first articulated by Abraham Lincoln in 1859 and was the system the Republicans first put in place during the Civil War. They paid for the programs with our first national taxes, including an income tax. After industrialists cut back that original system, Republican Theodore Roosevelt brought it back, and after it lapsed again in the 1920s, his Democratic cousin Franklin rebuilt it in such a profound way that it shaped modern America. With that system now on the verge of destruction yet again, Biden is making a bid to bring it back to life in a new form.
It is a new chapter indeed, but in a very traditional American story.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 15, 2021 (Friday)
Two stories jump out at me tonight.
The first is the question of why Trump seems so desperate to stay in a job he clearly has no interest in doing. Today, reporters caught sight of Michael J. Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, going into the White House. Lindell has been a strong advocate of the idea that the 2020 election, which Democrat Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes and by a vote of 306 to 232 in the Electoral College, was fraudulent. Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford snapped an image of the papers Lindell was carrying with him, and the words on it seem to offer a plan for Trump to invoke martial law through the Insurrection Act.
Lindell later told reporters his meeting with Trump had been brief and unproductive, but the very fact he got a hearing testifies to Trump’s desperation.
That desperation suggests that Trump knows he is facing something bad the minute he is out of the presidency. It is reasonable to assume that trouble will come from the fact his immunity from prosecution under the 1973 Department of Justice memo saying that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted will end at noon on January 20, 2021. It also seems likely that the American people are going to learn that some of the actions of the Trump administration cannot bear scrutiny.
Signs that there might be damaging information about the January 6 attack on the Capitol showed today. Stories of the fighting inside the building continued to emerge today, and the stories reveal armed insurgents who attacked with the belief that they were doing Trump’s bidding. Officers were badly outnumbered, and beaten with their own batons, American flags, and the “thin blue line” flag that those who fly it have insisted represents support for the police. Officer Christina Laury told NBC’s Jackie Bensen, ““I remember people swinging metal poles at us,” she said. “They were pushing and shoving. They were spraying us with bear mace and pepper spray.”
The assistant director of the FBI Washington Field Office, Steven M. D’Antuono, today told reporters that the department, working together with the Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney’s Office, has identified more than 270 suspects involved in criminal activity around the Capitol on January 6, and law enforcement officers have more than 100 of them in custody. He noted that the FBI had received more than 140,000 photos and videos from the public, and warned perpetrators: “To those of you who took part in the violence, here’s something you should know: Every FBI field office in the country is looking for you.” He told reporters that the investigation was still in its earliest stages.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that she has asked retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore to lead a review of the security arrangements for last week, and warned that if lawmakers are found to have aided the insurgents, they will face consequences in Congress and also in court. While several agencies are investigating what led to last week’s crisis and why the Capitol Police were left unsupported for hours, Pelosi’s public statement was the first to acknowledge the swirling rumors that the insurgents might have had inside help.
News broke today that prosecutors in Georgia appear to be considering a criminal investigation against Trump for his efforts to bully election officials in the state into changing the results of the election. Michael J. Moore, the former United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, told New York Times reporters Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim: “If you took the fact out that he is the president of the United States and look at the conduct of the call, it tracks the communication you might see in any drug case or organized crime case. It’s full of threatening undertone and strong-arm tactics.”
We also learned today that New York prosecutors met yesterday with Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to ask about Trump’s finances, especially his relationship with Deutsche Bank, which continued to lend to him even after other sources of financing dried up.
And yet another story emerged today that reflects badly on the administration. Its vaccination rollout is far behind where officials had promised it would be by now, and three days ago, on January 12, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced the government would no longer hold back second doses of the vaccine, expecting that pharmaceutical companies could keep pace and produce enough vaccines for the second dose as it was needed. The popular understanding was that they had held back half the available doses for that second necessary shot.
But today we learned that when Azar made that announcement, there was no reserve; the available vaccines had already been distributed. State health officials are outraged that vaccines they had counted on are not available, another sign of just how chaotic the vaccine rollout has been. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady told Washington Post reporters Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lena H. Sun, “I have stopped paying a whole lot of attention to what is being said verbally at the federal level right now.”
Tonight, Azar handed his resignation to Trump, effective at noon on January 20, the minute Trump leaves office. His resignation letter touts the administration’s “remarkable response to the pandemic” and insists that “our early, aggressive, and comprehensive efforts saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of American lives.” It goes on to list what he considers the many triumphs of the administration in health care. Azar appears to suggest that he is resigning because of “the actions and rhetoric following the election,” although he never identifies Trump as being behind those actions and rhetoric.
In light of all that has happened in the past two weeks, it seems noteworthy that Trump’s appointees in the Pentagon stopped sharing information with Biden’s team in mid-December. Trump appointees also refused to share information with Biden’s people about their plan for the coronavirus vaccine. When they finally did, Biden expressed concern at what seemed to him a lack of a detailed plan. Azar dismissed Biden’s concerns as “nonsense.”
If Trump’s eagerness to cling to the presidency and cover up his actions is one of today’s stories, the other is that President-Elect Joe Biden is stepping into the space the current president has abandoned. He is taking on the coronavirus crisis with the seriousness it deserves. The pandemic has reached appalling levels, with well over 3000 deaths and more than 200,000 infections every day. Almost 390,000 of us have died of Covid-19 to date, and a far more contagious version of the disease is spreading.
In a speech today, Biden announced he will use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to build clinics to distribute the coronavirus vaccine, and that he will make sure doses are available at local pharmacies. He promised to invoke the Defense Production Act—a law that lets the government tell a company what to make and then guarantees a market for all of that item it produces-- to guarantee there are enough supplies of vials, syringes, needles, and so on, to move the vaccine and get it into people’s arms.
“This will be one of the most challenging operation efforts ever undertaken by our country, but you have my word,” Biden said. “We will manage the hell out of this operation.”
EDIT AT 1:00 JANUARY 16: I INCORRECTLY IDENTIFIED LIEUTENANT GENERAL HONORE AS A LIEUTENANT (SOLELY BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH A TRIUMPH TO SPELL LIEUTENANT CORRECTLY I FORGOT TO ADD THE NEXT WORD. HE, AND HIS TITLE, ARE VERY WELL KNOWN). I APOLOGIZE FOR THE ERROR.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 16, 2021 (Saturday)
Since right-wing insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6 with the vague but violent idea of taking over the government, observers are paying renewed attention to the threat of right-wing violence in our midst.
For all our focus on fighting socialism and communism, right-wing authoritarianism is actually quite an old threat in our country. The nation’s focus on fighting “socialism” began in 1871, but what its opponents stood against was not government control of the means of production—an idea that never took hold in America—but the popular public policies which cost tax dollars and thus made wealthier people pay for programs that would benefit everyone. Public benefits like highways and hospitals, opponents argued, amounted to a redistribution of wealth, and thus were a leftist assault on American freedom.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that fight against “socialism” took the form of opposition to unionization and Black rights. In the 1920s, after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia had given shape to the American fear of socialism, making sure that system never came to America meant destroying the government regulation put in place during the Progressive Era and putting businessmen in charge of the government.
When Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt established business regulation, a basic social safety net, and government-funded infrastructure in the 1930s to combat the Great Depression that had laid ordinary Americans low, one right-wing senator wrote to a colleague: “This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty…. The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The president has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom.”
The roots of modern right-wing extremism lie in the post-World War II reaction to FDR’s New Deal and the Republican embrace of it under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Opponents of an active government insisted that it undermined American liberty by redistributing tax dollars from hardworking white men to those eager for a handout—usually Black men, in their telling. Modern government, they insisted, was bringing socialism to America. They set out to combat it, trying to slash the government back to the form it took in the 1920s.
Their job got easier after 1987, when the Fairness Doctrine ended. That Federal Communications Commission policy had required public media channels to base their stories on fact and to present both sides of a question. When it was gone, talk radio took off, hosted by radio jocks like Rush Limbaugh who contrasted their ideal country with what they saw as the socialism around them: a world in which hardworking white men who took care of their wives and children were hemmed in by government that was taxing them to give benefits to lazy people of color and “Feminazis.” These “Liberals” were undermining the country and the family, aided and abetted by lawmakers building a big government that sucked tax dollars.
In August 1992, the idea that hardworking white men trying to take care of their families were endangered by an intrusive government took shape at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Randy Weaver, a former factory worker who had moved his family to northern Idaho to escape what he saw as the corruption of American society, failed to show up for trial on a firearms charge. When federal marshals tried to arrest him, a firefight left Weaver’s fourteen-year-old son and a deputy marshal dead. In the aftermath of the shooting, federal and local officers laid an 11-day siege to the Weavers’ cabin, and a sniper wounded Weaver and killed his wife, Vicki.
Right-wing activists and neo-Nazis from a nearby Aryan Nations compound swarmed to Ruby Ridge to protest the government’s attack on what they saw as a man protecting his family. Negotiators eventually brought Weaver out, but the standoff at Ruby Ridge convinced western men they had to arm themselves to fight off the government.
In February of the next year, during the Democratic Bill Clinton administration, the same theme played out in Waco, Texas, when officers stormed the compound of a religious cult whose former members reported that their leader, David Koresh, was stockpiling weapons. A gun battle and a fire ended the 51-day siege on April 19, 1993. Seventy-six people died.
While a Republican investigation cited “overwhelming evidence” that exonerated the government of wrongdoing, talk radio hosts nonetheless railed against the Democratic administration, especially Attorney General Janet Reno, for the events at Waco. What happened there fit neatly into what was by then the Republican narrative of an overreaching government that crushed individuals, and political figures harped on that idea.
Rush Limbaugh stoked his listeners’ anger with reports of the “Waco invasion” and talked of the government’s “murder” of citizens, making much of the idea that a group of Christians had been killed by a female government official who was single and— as opponents made much of— unfeminine (reactionary rocker Ted Nugent featured an obscene caricature of her for years in his stage version of “Kiss My Glock”).
Horrified by the government’s attempt to break into the cult’s compound, Alex Jones, who would go on to become an important conspiracy theorist and founder of InfoWars, dropped out of community college to start a talk show on which he warned that Reno had “murdered” the people at Waco and that the government was about to impose martial law. The modern militia movement took off.
The combination of political rhetoric and violence radicalized a former Army gunner, Timothy McVeigh, who decided to bring the war home to the government. “Taxes are a joke,” he wrote to a newspaper in 1992. “More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement…. Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.”
On April 19, 1995, a date chosen to honor the Waco standoff, McVeigh set off a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children younger than six, and wounded more than 800. When the police captured McVeigh, he was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis.” The same words John Wilkes Booth shouted after he assassinated Lincoln, they mean “thus always to tyrants,” and are the words attributed to Brutus after he and his supporters murdered Caesar.
By 1995, right-wing terrorists envisioned themselves as protectors of American individualism in the face of a socialist government, but the reality was that their complaints were not about government activism. They were about who benefited from that activism.
In 2014, Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy brought the contradictions in this individualist image to light when he fought the government over the impoundment of the cattle that he had been grazing on public land for more than 20 years. Bundy owed the government more than $1 million in grazing fees for running his cattle on public land, but he disparaged the “Negro” who lived in government housing and “didn’t have nothing to do.” Black people’s laziness led them to abort their children and send their young men to jail, he told a reporter, and he wondered: “are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life… or are they better off under government subsidy?”
Convinced that he was a hardworking individualist, Bundy announced he did not recognize federal power over the land on which he grazed his cattle. The government impounded his animals in 2014, but officials backed down when Bundy and his supporters showed up armed. Republican Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) called Bundy and his supporters “patriots”; Democrat Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader at the time, called them “domestic terrorists” and warned, “it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”
It wasn’t. Two years later, Bundy’s son Ammon was at the forefront of the right-wing takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, arguing that the federal government must turn over all public lands to the states to open them to private development. The terrorists called themselves “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.”
For the past four years, Trump and his enablers have tried to insist that unrest in the country is caused by “Antifa,” an unorganized group of anti-fascists who show up at rallies to confront right-wing protesters. But the Department of Homeland Security this summer identified “anarchist and anti-government extremists” as “the most significant threat… against law enforcement.” According to DHS, they are motivated by “their belief that their liberties are being taken away by the perceived unconstitutional or otherwise illegitimate actions of government officials or law enforcement.” Those anti-government protesters are now joined quite naturally by white supremacists, as well as other affiliated groups.
Right-wing terrorism in American has very deep roots, and those roots have grown since the 1990s as Republican rhetorical attacks on the federal government have fed them. The January 6 assault on the Capitol is not an aberration. It has been coming for a very long time.
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 18, 2021 (Monday)
The Trump administration is winding down as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prepare to take office on Wednesday.
Trump will leave office with an approval rating of 34%, dismal by any measure. He is the first president since Gallup began polling never to break 50% approval. After the attack on the Capitol on January 6, the House of Representatives impeached him for a second time, and a majority of Americans think he should have been removed from office.
In the last days of his term, the area of Washington, D.C., around our government buildings has been locked down to guard against further terrorism. Our tradition of a peaceful transition of power, established in 1800, has been broken. There is a 7-foot black fence around the Capitol and 15,000 National Guard soldiers on duty in a bitterly cold Washington January. There are checkpoints and road closures near the center of the city, and 10,000 more troops are authorized if necessary. Another 4,000 are on duty in their states, protecting key buildings and infrastructure sites.
In the past two days, there have been more indications that members of the Trump administration were behind the January 6 coup attempt. Yesterday, Richard Lardner and Michelle R. Smith of the Associated Press broke the story that, far from being a grassroots rally, the event of January 6 that led to the storming of the Capitol was organized and staffed by members of Trump’s presidential campaign team. These staffers have since tried to distance themselves from it, deleting their social media accounts and refusing to answer questions from reporters.
A number of the arrested insurrectionists have claimed that they were storming the Capitol because the president told them to. According to lawyers Teri Kanefield and Mark Reichel, writing in the Washington Post, this is known as the “public authority” defense, meaning that if someone in authority tells you it’s okay to break a law, that advice is a defense when you are arrested. It doesn’t mean you won’t be punished, but it is a defense. It also means that the person offering you that instruction is more likely to be prosecuted.
The second impeachment, popular outcry, and continuing stories about the likely involvement of administration figures in the coup attempt seem to have trimmed Trump’s wings in his last days in office. He is issuing orders that Biden vows to overturn, and contemplating pardons (stories say those around him are selling access to him to advocate for those pardons), but otherwise today was quiet.
He has tried to install a loyalist as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency, either to burrow him in or to get the green light for dumping NSA documents before he leaves office; Biden’s team will fight what is clearly an attempt to politicize the position. Tonight, Census Director Steven Dillingham resigned after whistleblowers alleged that he and other political appointees were putting pressure on department staffers to issue a hasty and unresearched report on undocumented immigrants.
According to news reports, Trump is planning to leave Washington on the morning of January 20 and should be at his Florida club Mar-a-Lago by the time Biden and Harris are sworn in. The last president to miss a successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson, who in 1869 refused to attend Ulysses S. Grant’s swearing-in, and instead spent the morning signing last-minute bills to put in place before Grant took office.
There is a lot of chatter tonight about the release today of the 1776 Report guidelines on American history. This is the administration’s reply to the 1619 Project from the New York Times, which focused on America’s history of racism.
As historian Torsten Kathke noted on Twitter, none of the people involved in compiling today’s 41-page document are actually historians. They are political scientists and Republican operatives who have produced a full-throated attack on progressives in American history as well as a whitewashed celebration of the U.S.A. Made up of astonishingly bad history, this document will not stand as anything other than an artifact of Trump’s hatred of today’s progressives and his desperate attempt to wrench American history into the mythology he and his supporters promote so fervently.
But aside from the bad history, the report is a fascinating window into the mindset of this administration and its supporters. In it, the United States of America has been pretty gosh darned wonderful since the beginning, and has remained curiously static. “[T]he American people have ever pursued freedom and justice,” it reads, and while “neither America nor any other nation has perfectly lived up to the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent,” “no nation… has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them.”
America seems to have sprung up in 1776 in a form that was fine and finished. But, according to the document’s authors, trouble began in the 1890s, when “progressives” demanded that the Constitution “should constantly evolve to secure evolving rights.” It was at that moment the teaching of history took a dark turn.
The view that America was born whole, has stayed the same, and is simply a prize worth possessing reminds me of so much of the world of Trump and the people around him, characterized by acquisition: buildings, planes, yachts, clothing, bank accounts. Trump and his people seem to see the world as a zero-sum game in which the winners have the most stuff, and America is just one more thing to possess.
But there is a big difference in this world between having and doing.
America has never fully embodied equality, liberty, and justice. What it has always had was a dream of justice and equality before the law. The 1776 Report authors are right to note that was an astonishing dream in 1776, and it made this country a beacon of radical hope. It was enough to inspire people from all walks of life to try to make that dream a reality. They didn’t have an ideal America; they worked to make one.
The hard work of doing is rarely the stuff of heroic biographies of leading men. It is the story of ordinary Americans who were finally pushed far enough that they put themselves on the line for this nation’s principles.
It is the story, for example, of abolitionist newspaperman Elijah P. Lovejoy, murdered by a pro-slavery mob in 1837, and the U.S. soldiers who twenty-four years later fought to protect the government against a pro-slavery insurrection designed to destroy it. It is the story of Lakota leader Red Cloud, who negotiated with hostile government leaders on behalf of his people, and of his contemporary Booker T. Washington, who tried to find a way for Black people to rise in the heart of the South in a time of widespread lynching. It is the story of Nebraska politician William Jennings Bryan, who gave voice to suffering farmers and workers in the 1890s, and of Frances Perkins, who carried his ideas forward as FDR’s Secretary of Labor and brought us Social Security. It is the story of the American G.I.s, from all races, ethnicities, genders, and walks of life who fought in WWII. It is the story of labor organizer Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who faced down men bent on murdering her and became an advocate for Black voting. It is the story of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who 60 years ago this week warned us against the “military-industrial complex.”
And it is, of course, the story of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrate today. King challenged white politicians to take on poverty as well as racism to make the promise of America come true for all of us. “Some forty million of our brothers and sisters are poverty stricken, unable to gain the basic necessities of life,” he reminded white leaders in May 1967. “And so often we allow them to become invisible because our society’s so affluent that we don’t see the poor. Some of them are Mexican Americans. Some of them are Indians. Some are Puerto Ricans. Some are Appalachian whites. The vast majority are Negroes in proportion to their size in the population…. Now there is nothing new about poverty. It’s been with us for years and centuries. What is new at this point though, is that we now have the resources, we now have the skills, we now have the techniques to get rid of poverty. And the question is whether our nation has the will….” Just eleven months later, a white supremacist murdered Dr. King.
These people did not have a perfect nation, they worked to build one. They embraced America so fully they tried to bring its principles to life, sometimes at the cost of their own. Rather than simply trying to own America, the doers put skin in the game.
Today, the Trump administration issued the 1776 Report that presented the United States of America as a prize to be possessed. And yet, the country is demonstrably still in the process of being created: tonight, there are 15,000 soldiers in the cold in Washington, D.C., defending the seat of our government against insurgents.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 19, 2021 (Tuesday)
On January 20, 2017, Trump took the oath of office and gave his “American Carnage” speech describing America as a hellscape, and we were off to the races.
Trump vowed he would smash norms and boundaries to “drain the swamp.” He filled positions in his administration with political operatives and appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to manage so many projects it would have been funny if it weren’t so deadly serious. The policies the administration advanced were usually hastily and poorly conceived; when the courts overturned them, Trump complained of “the Deep State.”
Days after he took office, he issued the travel ban aimed at Muslims, the first in a series of actions throughout his presidency designed to subordinate people of color to white Americans. The racism in his rhetoric and regulations pulled white supremacists behind him. On August 11-12, 2017, they rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia. Their protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee became an attempt to create a political vanguard.
The “Unite the Right” rally turned violent, injuring more than 30 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, whose last Facebook post before she joined the counter protest in Charlottesville read: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Three days after the riots, asked about the violent protests in Charlottesville, Trump said that “you… had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” People took that, rightly, as Trump’s support for white supremacy and the gangs that advanced it, a support illustrated dramatically in summer 2020, when he and his attorney general, William Barr, used federal troops against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.
By spring 2017, there was another crisis on the horizon. The FBI was investigating the cooperation of Trump’s presidential campaign with Russian spies. Trump’s former National Security Adviser, retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, had lied to the FBI about conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Trump pressured then-FBI Director James Comey to stop the agency’s investigation of Flynn. When Comey refused, Trump fired him, prompting the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Special Counsel Robert Mueller (then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself because he, too, had lied about conversations with Russians) to investigate the ties between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.
Both Mueller’s report and the report of the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee established that Russian operatives had interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. They indicated that Trump campaign officials knew what the Russians were doing and were willing to accept their help. The Senate Intelligence Committee also noted that Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort gave sensitive internal information about the campaign to a Russian operative in Ukraine. Trump continued to call these allegations the “Russia hoax,” but observers noted that, for all his feuds with other leaders, he seemed oddly solicitous of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump came to office with an expanding economy. In the first three years of his presidency, the economy continued to grow, in part because of tax cuts that slashed the corporate tax rate by 40%. Trump promised that these cuts would be “rocket fuel for our economy,” but economic growth stayed at about 2.9%, the same as it had been in 2015, and more than 60% of the benefits from the cuts went to those at the top 20% of the economic ladder. Even before the pandemic, Trump’s economic policies were projected to add about $10 trillion to the national debt by 2025, an increase of more than 50%.
And then the pandemic hit. Trump first downplayed the crisis, then insisted that Democrats demanding he address the crisis were overplaying it: he called it a Democratic “hoax.” The pandemic tanked the economy, undercutting his best argument for reelection, and by summer 2020 the administration had decided its best option was to reopen schools and the economy and to try to achieve herd immunity through infections. The result was a disaster. Today, on the last day of Trump’s administration, the number of Americans we have officially lost to Covid-19 has topped 400,000. That’s about the same number of people we lost in World War Two.
The pandemic threw about 22 million people out of work and forcing businesses into bankruptcy. As the faltering economy undercut Trump’s plans for reelection, he tried to destroy faith in mail-in ballots, trying to drive people to in-person voting sites. Then, when that didn’t work, he pushed the idea that Democrats would steal the election. Although his Democratic challengers Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election by more than 7 million popular votes and secured the Electoral College by a vote of 306 to 232, Trump and his supporters continued to insist the election was stolen.
On January 6, 2021, Trump and key members of his administration rallied his supporters to attack the counting of the certified electoral ballots for Biden and Harris. Encouraged by the president, the crowd marched to the Capitol with the plan of disrupting the vote. They overpowered the police, killing one officer; broke into the building; and came within a minute of taking our elected leaders hostage, or perhaps executing them on the gallows they built.
In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for the second time—the first was in 2019 after he withheld congressionally-approved money to Ukraine in an attempt to bully the newly-elected Ukraine president into announcing an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter in the hopes of weakening Biden as a potential rival in the 2020 election.
So, Trump leaves the White House tomorrow facing a second Senate impeachment trial.
Trump has split the Republican Party. His true loyalists intend to turn America into a right-wing, white, Christian nation as embodied in the 1776 Report the administration released yesterday. In the last days of the administration, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pretty clearly trying to position himself for a 2024 presidential run, tweeting from the official government account of the State Department a long list of what he considers his accomplishments. Others are likely planning to give him a run for his money. Today Senator Josh Hawley, under suspicion of inciting the January 6 rioters with his support for throwing out Biden’s Electoral College votes, slow-walked Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security because Hawley objects to Biden’s plans to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Establishment Republicans are trying to regain control of the party. After the January coup attempt, some corporations announced they would no longer donate to Republicans who had voted to challenge the certified electoral votes, while others declared a moratorium on all political spending. The corporate turn against the Trump wing of the Republican Party strengthened the backbone of the establishment Republicans. Today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stood on the floor of the Senate and put Trump at the center of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. "The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people."
But McConnell went on. He claimed that neither party has a broad mandate after the 2020 elections, which, he said, meant that the Democrats have no call to advance “sweeping ideological change.” He is referring, of course, to the plans of incoming President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, which he has every intention of stopping.
Today, President-Elect Joe Biden arrived at Joint Base Andrews. He traveled in a private plane since Trump refused to extend him the traditional courtesy of a military plane offered from an outgoing president to an incoming one. Trump will not attend Biden’s swearing-in; he will leave for Florida in the morning. In his place, three of the other living ex-presidents will be attending the inauguration: Republican George W. Bush, Democrat Bill Clinton, and Democrat Barack Obama. It’s a party of ex-presidents, together to emphasize the peaceful transition of power. Trump won’t be there.
The tide is already turning against him. Vice President Mike Pence has announced he will not be able to attend Trump’s farewell ceremony as he is attending Biden’s inauguration instead. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and McConnell—who will become minority leader tomorrow after the two new Democratic senators from Georgia are sworn in—are not going to see Trump off, either: they will be attending church with Biden before his inauguration.
Tomorrow at noon, President-Elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office. He intends to return the government to the principles the Democratic Party has held since the late nineteenth century: that the federal government has a role to play in responding to the needs of ordinary Americans. He has also embraced the traditional Democratic idea that the government should actually look like the people it represents. In an implicit rebuke of Trump’s white nationalism, he has tapped the most diverse set of officials in American history. They are also extraordinarily well-qualified and have many years of experience in government.
Biden and Harris have already outlined a very different administration than Trump’s. Their first task is to combat the coronavirus. Biden wants 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, and is mobilizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to make that happen. To rebuild the economy, they have advanced a coronavirus relief package designed to protect children, first, and then women and families. It calls for expanded food relief and rent and mortgage protection, as well as expanded unemployment benefits and a one-time relief payment.
Trump’s administration is, perhaps, ending where it began. This weekend, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to Russia after his near-fatal poisoning by Putin’s agents in August. Upon his return to Russia, authorities immediately detained him. Trump refused to join other nations in condemning the poisoning, but yesterday, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) demanded that the U.S. hold Putin accountable for “the corruption and lawlessness of the Putin regime.” Joining Romney in calling for new sanctions against Russia were a range of senators from both parties.
The act is called the “Holding Russia Accountable for Malign Activities Act.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 20, 2021 (Wednesday)
“Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” America’s 22-year-old poet laureate Amanda Gorman asked today as she spoke at the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States: Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.
For the past four years we have lived under an administration that advanced policies based on bullying; a fantasy of a lost, white, Christian America; and disinformation. We have endured the gutting of our government as the president either left positions empty or replaced career officials with political operatives, corruption, the rise of white supremacists into positions of power, the destruction of our international standing, an unchecked pandemic that has led to more than 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, an economic crash, and unprecedented political polarization.
“And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it,” Gorman reminded us.
That light was us.
In these terrible years, our politicians often failed us… but the American people did not. Our national guardrails often failed us… but the American people did not. Many of our neighbors often failed us, but the American people did not.
Beginning on January 21, 2017, when women marched on Washington in the largest single-day protest in American history and dwarfed the new president’s inauguration numbers of the previous day, more and more of us worked together to keep the dream of American democracy alive. Last November, more than 81 million of us braved the coronavirus pandemic and voter suppression to reject a divisive president who seemed bent on turning our nation into an oligarchy. By more than 7 million votes, we elected Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to take the highest offices in the land.
Today, President Biden and Vice President Harris took their oaths of office in a ceremony that was sparsely attended because of the pandemic, in a city that was locked down out of concerns of violence from those who tried just two weeks ago to overturn the election.
Trouble, either in Washington, D.C., or in state capitals across the nation, did not materialize. Over the past two weeks, law enforcement officers have tracked down and arrested the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, and the realization that committing federal crimes brings consequences might have taken some of the wind out of rioters’ sails. Today, one of the riot’s organizers, Joseph Biggs of the far-right Proud Boys, was arrested in Florida. For their part, the Proud Boys have turned on the former president, calling him “extraordinarily weak” for leaving office, and “a total failure.”
Kamala Harris took the oath first today, becoming the first woman, the first Black person, and the first person of South Asian heritage to become a vice president. She was dressed in purple in honor of Shirley Chisholm, the seven-term New York Representative who was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress and who ran for president in 1972. Chisholm used the colors purple and yellow in her campaign, and Harris picked them up for her own presidential bid.
Biden came next.
After taking the oath, Biden delivered an inaugural address that was not simply the call for unity that he has been making for the past year. It was a call for Americans to come together to rebuild America, one that echoed that of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, when he told us: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Biden recalled the Civil War, the Great Depression, the World Wars, and the attacks of 9/11, noting that “n each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.” He urged today’s Americans to do the same in what he called “a time of testing” that brings together great crises: “an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis.”
“Are we going to step up, all of us?” he asked. “It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do. And this is certain. I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era…. Will we master this rare and difficult hour?”
If we do, he said, “we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. An American story of decency and dignity. Of love and of healing. Of greatness and of goodness…. The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”
After the ceremony, the new president and vice president and their spouses visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and then Biden headed to the Oval Office. "I thought there's no time to wait. Get to work immediately," he said.
Biden began the process of signing more than a dozen executive actions, most of which either take us back to where we were four years ago or address the coronavirus pandemic. The executive orders will enable the United States to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, and revoke new oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments. They reverse Trump’s own order not to count undocumented immigrants in the census, and call for a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” about a million undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Biden ended the travel ban that restricted travel from Muslim-dominated countries, one of his predecessor’s signature issues. He also stopped border wall construction.
Biden established a mask mandate on federal property and by federal employees, and reorganized government coordination on the coronavirus response. He revoked his predecessor’s limits on diversity and inclusion training and took down the partisan 1776 Report that attacked progressives and whitewashed our history that was issued just two days ago.
Tonight, Press Secretary Jen Psaki held her first press briefing. She began by saying: "I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play," then went on to answer questions. She will hold another press conference tomorrow, saying that Biden wants to bring truth and transparency back.
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished,” Amanda Gorman said today. And then, she concluded her inaugural poem with a reminder of the lesson that many of us have learned over the last four years: “[T]here is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 21, 2021 (Thursday)
Today’s big news was not entirely unexpected: There was never any plan for a federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. "What we're inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined," said President Biden's coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients in a call with reporters. Another official said: “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch."
Biden says he is approaching the coronavirus with a “wartime” strategy, moving the power of the federal government behind the effort to get everyone vaccinated. He warned today that the death toll, which is at 407,000 Americans today, will likely rise to 500,000 by the end of February. Today, he invoked the Defense Production Act, which enables the government to direct private companies to produce goods for national needs at the same time that it provides a market for the goods the companies produce. He wants more testing, faster vaccinations, and more funding for state and local governments to enable them to provide more vaccination sites. He has announced he hopes to vaccinate 100 million Americans by April 20.
The new president is also facing bad economic news as almost a million more people filed for unemployment benefits this week. This is the worst jobs market any modern president has ever inherited.
Biden is trying to get a handle on our national intelligence. This morning, Avril Haines, former Deputy National Security Adviser and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration, became the Director of National Intelligence, overseeing the nation’s intelligence community. The Senate confirmed her appointment yesterday evening by a vote of 84 to 10.
Today, Biden asked the U.S. intelligence community to assess the recent hack of United States businesses and government agencies, the poisoning of Putin opponent Alexei Navalny in August, and the story that Russia offered to Taliban-linked militias bounties on U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. These events are all linked to Russia and Vladimir Putin, whom the former president refused to criticize or investigate.
If that is what is happening specifically in Washington today, there are more general stories in the news, too, as Americans take stock of where we are and how we got here.
The January 6 attack on the Capitol made Americans acutely aware of the danger that disinformation poses to our democracy. Evidence indicates that the people who stormed the Capitol were radicalized by online QAnon conspiracy theories and by Republicans who pushed the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen. In the face of this disinformation, many different voices are now talking about the 1987 lapse of the Fairness Doctrine, which required companies that held broadcast licenses to present issues honestly, giving equal time to opposing opinions. People are talking about how its principles might be restored even in an era when modern technology means that we no longer need broadcast licenses to share news.
On Tuesday, Shepard Smith, a reporter who worked at the Fox News Channel until 2019 and who now has a show at CNBC, explained to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour why he left his job at the FNC. " I believe that when people begin with a false premise and lead people astray, that's injurious to society," Smith continued, "and it's the antithesis of what we should be doing."
"I don't know how some people sleep at night,” Smith said, “because I know there are a lot of people who have propagated the lies and have pushed them forward over and over again, who are smart enough and educated enough to know better. And I hope that at some point, those who have done us harm as a nation — and I might even add as a world — will look around and realize what they've done. But I'm not holding my breath."
Over the years, people fed up with the Fox News Channel have organized boycotts of businesses advertising on one show or another, but a big source of FNC’s income is not advertising, but rather cable fees. FNC is bundled with other channels, so many people who do not want it pay for it. Today on Twitter, lawyer Pam Keith noted that a simple regulatory change ending this sort of bundling would force FNC and similar channels to compete on a level playing field rather than being able to survive on fees from people who might not want to support them.
The other story from today with a long history behind it is that the Senate is currently unable to organize itself because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is insisting that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The filibuster is peculiar to the Senate, and is a procedure designed to draw out the session to prevent a vote on a measure. It is an old system, but it is not exactly hallowed: it was a bit of a mistake.
The Constitution provides for the Senate to pass most measures by a simple majority. It also permits each house of Congress to write its own rules. According to historian Brian Bixby, the House discovered early on that it needed a procedure to stop debate and get on with a vote. The Senate, a much smaller body, did not.
In the 1830s, senators in the minority discovered they could prevent votes on issues they disliked simply by talking the issue to death. In 1917, when both President Woodrow Wilson and the American people turned against the filibuster after senators used it to stop Wilson from preparing for war, the Senate reluctantly adopted a procedure to end a filibuster using a process called “cloture,” but that process is slow and it takes a majority of three-fifths of all members. Today, that is 60 votes.
From 1917 to 1964, senators filibustered primarily to stop civil rights legislation. The process was grueling: a senator had to talk for hours, as South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond did in 1957, when he spoke for 24 hours straight to stand against a civil rights act. But the need to speed up Senate business meant that in the 1960s and 1970s, senators settled on procedural filibusters that enabled an individual senator to kill a measure simply by declaring opposition, rather than through the old-fashioned system of all-night speeches. The Senate also declared some measures, such as budget resolutions, immune to filibusters. Effectively, this means that it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to get anything--other than absolutely imperative financial measures-- done.
In 2013, frustrated by the Republicans’ filibustering of President Obama’s judicial nominees and picks for a number of officials in the Executive Branch, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prohibited filibusters on certain Executive Branch and judicial nominees. In 2017, when Democrats tried to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, as well.
The filibuster remains in place for legislation.
The Democrats currently have no plans to try to kill the filibuster altogether—they do not have the votes, as Joe Manchin (D-WV) has openly opposed the idea and others are leery—but they want to keep the threat of killing it to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.
This impasse means that senators are not organizing the Senate. New senators have not been added to existing committees, which leaves Republicans in the majority in key committees. This is slowing down Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed.
What’s at stake here is actually quite an interesting question. While the new Senate is split evenly—50 Democrats, 50 Republicans—the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. Essentially, then, the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority.
We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s actually a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to adapt the rules of our system to our changing nation.
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 22, 2021 (Friday)
For all that the news has gotten much calmer and more straightforward since Wednesday, we did indeed get an old-fashioned (or at least a past-administration typical) news dump tonight.
It turns out that, in the last, desperate days of his attempt to keep his grip on the presidency, Trump plotted with a lawyer in the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Clark, to oust the acting attorney general. The plan was to replace Jeffrey A. Rosen, who replaced Attorney General William Barr when he left on December 23, with Clark himself. Clark would then press Trump’s attacks on the election results.
A story by Katie Benner in the New York Times explains that as soon as Rosen replaced Barr, Trump began to pressure Rosen to challenge the election results, appoint special counsels to investigate disproven voter fraud, and look into irregularities in the Dominion voting machines (Dominion is now suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation). Rosen refused. He told Trump the Justice Department had found no evidence of anything that would have changed the election results.
Trump complained about Rosen and moved to replace him with Clark, who promised to stop Congress from counting the certified Electoral College votes on January 6. This struggle came to a crisis on Sunday, January 3, 2021, when the news broke that Trump had called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to pressure him to “find” the votes Trump needed to win the state. That evening, the senior officials at the Department of Justice agreed to resign as a group if Trump put Clark in as the new acting attorney general.
The vow that the leaders of the Department of Justice would quit if Trump tried to demote Rosen and put Clark in his place made Trump back off from his plan to pervert the Department of Justice. Three days later, rioters stormed the Capitol.
In addition to this bombshell story, there is more news about the Capitol attack. Court documents filed on Tuesday reveal that some of the rioters had made plans ahead of time to attack the Capitol, and had planned to “arrest” lawmakers on charges of “treason” and “election fraud.”
An investigation by NPR reveals that nearly 1 in 5 of the rioters charged so far have a history of serving in the military (only about 7% of Americans in general are military veterans). Prosecutors have indicated they are planning to bring charges of seditious conspiracy against some of the suspects, charges that, if proven, bring up to 20-year jail terms.
President Biden has asked new Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to assess the dangers of domestic violent extremism. Press Secretary Jen Psaki today said of the effort: "We are committed to developing policies and strategies based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis and on our respect for constitutionally protected free speech and political activities."
Congress today set the calendar for the impeachment trial of the former president for incitement of insurrection. The House will formally deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday evening. The senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, and then the Senate will turn to confirming Biden’s nominees and considering the coronavirus stimulus package Biden wants while Trump’s lawyers and the House impeachment managers prepare their briefs and arguments. The trial will begin February 9, and is expected to be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment trial, since the charges are simpler and the evidence clearer.
At stake in this impeachment trial is more than the fate of Donald Trump, who is, after all, no longer president. At stake is, in part, the fate of the Republican Party. A number of Republicans who themselves egged on the rioters by claiming to distrust the election results are trying to discredit the trial and say it is pointless.
This wing of the party is led by former chair of the Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, who is especially eager to have the issue go away since one of its charges reflects on him. The article of impeachment notes that Trump had tried “to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election” with, among other things, “a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”
We know about that phone call because Raffensperger recorded it, and Raffensperger said he did so because Lindsey Graham had made a similar call. Raffensperger said he wanted some insurance in case Trump misrepresented his call as Graham had.
As pro-Trump Republicans are defending the former president and downplaying the attempted coup, along with their own role in the discrediting of Biden’s victory, other party members would very much like to see the party purged of the Trump element. With his speech condemning Trump for feeding lies to the rioters and provoking them, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seems to be trying to lead his party away from the Trump personality cult.
Meanwhile, the Senate still has not begun to organize since McConnell is insisting on a promise from Democrats that they will not end the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that proposal is unacceptable.
Press Secretary Psaki reiterated today that Biden’s position on the filibuster hasn’t changed; he does not want to end it. But she tied that declaration to his desire to get a coronavirus relief package through Congress on a bipartisan basis. There is a carrot and a stick in that statement: the carrot is that Biden is offering to share the credit for such a package with Republicans; the stick is that if they block such a measure entirely, Biden will likely back whatever Schumer does to get a bill through.
There are two places where lawmakers have agreed lately, though. Last night, the leadership of the Capitol Police abruptly moved National Guard soldiers to a garage for their break time. These troops are deployed to protect Washington, D.C., against domestic insurrectionists and have worked grueling hours. When news of the soldiers lying down in parking spaces reached lawmakers of both parties, they rushed to get the service members back indoors.
This morning, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited the troops bearing chocolate chip cookies. This move was reminiscent of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1933 visit to the Bonus Marchers after the Herbert Hoover administration had tried to destroy their encampment with troops. Dr. Biden thanked the soldiers and recalled her son Beau’s time with the Delaware Army National Guard in Iraq. “The National Guard always holds a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens,” she told them. Dr. Biden’s visit was an important indicator of the tenor of this White House.
In another bipartisan move, lawmakers of both parties have introduced measures in both houses of Congress to award Officer Eugene Goodman a Congressional Gold Medal. Goodman is the Capitol Police officer who led rioters away from the Senate chamber on January 6 and thus bought enough time for the senators there to escape to safety. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States. In our history, only 163 of them have been cast.
The Senate bill reads: “By putting his own life on the line and successfully, singlehandedly leading insurrectionists away from the floor of the Senate Chamber, Officer Eugene Goodman performed his duty to protect the Congress with distinction, and by his actions Officer Goodman left an indelible mark on American history.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 23, 2021 (Saturday)
Three days into the Biden administration and lots of commenters are noting the return of calm in the media, and the return of a sense of stability in the government. People are sleeping so much better that the word “slept” trended on Twitter the day after the inauguration.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appear to be eager to reestablish expertise as the foundation for public service. Biden is appointing what the Washington Post calls “technocrats” and what others have called “nerds” to public service. The former president tried to “burrow” his loyalists into office, politicizing positions that were supposed to be nonpartisan. Biden asked for the resignations of those political appointees and, when they refused to resign, fired them.
While some right-wing Republicans have howled that Biden’s firing of burrowing Trump loyalists betrays his promise of “unity,” in fact the new administration’s quick restoration of a qualified, nonpartisan bureaucracy is an attempt to stabilize our democracy.
Democracy depends on a nonpartisan group of functionaries who are loyal not to a single strongman but to the state itself. Loyalty to the country, rather than to a single leader, means those bureaucrats follow the law and have an interest in protecting the government. It is the weight of that loyalty that managed to stop Trump from becoming a dictator—he was thwarted by what he called the “Deep State,” people who were loyal not to him but to America and our laws. That loyalty was bipartisan. For all that Trump railed that anyone who stood up to him was a Democrat, in fact many—Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for example—are Republicans.
Authoritarian figures expect loyalty to themselves alone, rather than to a nonpartisan government. To get that loyalty, they turn to staffers who are loyal because they are not qualified or talented enough to rise to power in a nonpartisan system. They are loyal to their boss because they could not make it in a true meritocracy, and at some level they know that (even if they insist they are disliked for their politics).
In the previous administration, the president tried to purge the government of career officials, complaining they were not loyal enough to him. In their place, he installed people like acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who had been a lobbyist before his meteoric elevation to a Cabinet-level position and whose appointment a court ruled illegal. Wolf was never confirmed in his position by the Senate. He was dependent on the goodwill of the president and, deeply loyal, was a key player in the deployment of law enforcement personnel against the Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.
Another example of a functionary loyal to a person, rather than to the government, is Jeffrey Clark, identified last night as the relatively unknown lawyer in the Department of Justice who aspired to replace the acting attorney general by helping Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election. We have another example of such a character tonight: Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, who brought Clark to Trump’s attention. Perry is a conspiracy theorist who suggested that ISIS was behind the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and who joined the chorus falsely claiming the election had been fraudulent. These are not people who would be serious players in a nonpartisan, merit-based bureaucracy, but they came within a hair’s breadth of enabling Trump to overturn the election. What stopped them was bureaucrats loyal not to Trump, but to our laws.
Trump’s politicization of the government during his term is a problem for the success of the Biden administration as well as for American democracy. Trump supporters in the government remain loyal to the man himself, rather than to the country. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has suggested that the Senate will not confirm Biden’s Cabinet appointments if the Democrats proceed with the Senate trial to decide whether Trump is guilty of inciting the deadly riot on the Capitol on January 6. Johnson is explicitly threatening to prevent the confirmation of “the Biden admin’s national security team” if the trial proceeds. “What will it be” he tweeted. “[R]evenge or security?”
That lawmakers tried to keep Trump in office by discrediting our electoral system was a terribly dangerous attack on our democracy. That they are threatening to leave the country vulnerable to foreign and domestic threats in order to try to stop the Senate impeachment trial--the constitutional process for evaluating the president’s role in overturning our election-- is alarming.
The attempt of Trump and his supporters to overturn our democracy has created a split in the Republican Party. Strongmen demand loyalty from their followers, who give it because their leader is their only hope of advancement. But loyalty to an individual, rather than to laws, means that supporters’ jobs, finances, and possibly lives all depend on the leader’s good graces. This is no environment for legitimate businesses, whose operators certainly want laws that benefit them as a group but cannot operate in a world in which the leader can tank their stock with a tweet, or destroy their businesses on a whim.
The business wing of today’s Republican Party has preserved its power with the votes of Trump supporters but appears to be eager to get back to a system based in the law rather than on a single temperamental leader. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is under enormous pressure from business leaders who were appalled not only by Trump’s attack on the election but also by the Republican lawmakers who objected to the count of the certified electoral votes. Those business leaders want to purge the party of the Trump faction.
But there is one more complicating factor in this volatile mix. While Biden is trying to restore the merit-based bureaucracy that stabilizes our democracy, he is also honoring the original Democratic philosophy that a truly democratic government ought to look like the people it governs. His appointments are exceedingly well qualified institutionalists… and they are also the most diverse in history.
It is reasonable to think that, along with Biden and Harris, Biden’s Cabinet and administration officers will try to change the direction of the government, defending the idea that it has a role to play regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure. Certainly, they have promised to do so.
The trick for business Republicans will be to see whether they can get rid of the authoritarian Trump supporters without enabling Democrats to rebuild the New Deal state the Republicans have just spent decades gutting. Hence McConnell’s desperate ploy to get the Democrats to promise not to touch the filibuster, which enables the Republicans to block virtually all Democratic legislation.
Reporters for the Washington Post called it “obfuscation” when Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to say what Biden’s position was on whether Trump should be convicted of inciting the Capitol riot. “Well, he’s no longer in the Senate, and he believes that it’s up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former president accountable and what the mechanics and timeline of that process will be,” Psaki said.
In fact, Biden, a long-time institutionalist, seems to be trying scrupulously to restore the precise functions of different branches of government, as well as the nonpartisan civil bureaucracy that, so far, has protected our democracy from falling to a dictator.
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I find this passage to be particularly important to note.

Authoritarian figures expect loyalty to themselves alone, rather than to a nonpartisan government. To get that loyalty, they turn to staffers who are loyal because they are not qualified or talented enough to rise to power in a nonpartisan system. They are loyal to their boss because they could not make it in a true meritocracy, and at some level they know that (even if they insist they are disliked for their politics).
In the previous administration, the president tried to purge the government of career officials, complaining they were not loyal enough to him. In their place, he installed people like acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who had been a lobbyist before his meteoric elevation to a Cabinet-level position and whose appointment a court ruled illegal. Wolf was never confirmed in his position by the Senate. He was dependent on the goodwill of the president and, deeply loyal, was a key player in the deployment of law enforcement personnel against the Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.
Another example of a functionary loyal to a person, rather than to the government, is Jeffrey Clark, identified last night as the relatively unknown lawyer in the Department of Justice who aspired to replace the acting attorney general by helping Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Sen Rand Paul was just on one of the talk-talk shows and started screaming about election fraud, when asked if he would simply get past the "stolen election" bullshit.

In other words, no.

All-in on despotism

Unfortunately they are using the fairness and openness of our system to destroy it, and it is absolutely necessary to rebuild the professional and non-partisan machinery of the gov't. This is a terrible dilemma and there are not many people I would trust to fight this battle.

- DSK

Link to post
Share on other sites
January 24, 2021 (Sunday)
A peaceful, oh-so-quiet day in the cold of a Maine January. First peaceful day since I don't know when. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like I've got bandwidth again.
Lots of interesting things going on in the news, but all parts of longer trends. Nothing that won't keep for a day.
So I'm going to take an early night, and we'll pick it all up again tomorrow.
 
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 25, 2021 (Monday)
My guess is that the story of today that will stand the test of time is that President Biden is governing according to our traditional practices while he pushes the country into the future.
Biden hit the ground running. In the first three days of his presidency, he has taken 30 executive actions (these are orders, memoranda, and directives). Most of these are directed toward fighting the coronavirus pandemic, but he has also overturned some of Trump’s policies: he has stopped construction of the border wall, ended the Muslim travel ban, cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris climate accord, and rejoined the World Health Organization. He also ended the ban on transgender soldiers in the military. These measures fulfill campaign promises and are widely popular.
Today, Biden also launched out in a new direction. He signed an executive order requiring the federal government to buy more of the things it needs here in the United States, rather than buying cheaper products overseas. The directive is a middle ground between protectionism and free trade. The plan is to protect the supply chains for goods the federal government sees as vital, thus bolstering manufacturing in crucial areas.
Recently, the United States has been more willing than other nations to buy foreign goods for government contracts in the interests of keeping federal costs down. This measure will increase costs, but will give that money to Americans. The president of the labor organization the AFL-CIO called the measure “a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing,” but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it would increase the costs of government procurement and was unlikely to create jobs.
Today the new administration also swore in the first Black secretary of defense, retired general Lloyd Austin, and the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as the first woman to hold the position of treasury secretary.
But what is taking oxygen today is the war between the two factions of the Republican Party: the Trump faction and the business faction. Republican leaders embraced Trump—unwillingly—in 2016 because he promised to bring energized voters to a party whose pro-business policies were increasingly unpopular.
During his presidency, Trump delivered to business Republicans their wish list: tax cuts and appointments of right-wing judges who are generally opposed to federal government power, which will benefit the businesses who oppose regulation. Trump played to his base and did his best to politicize the U.S. government and make it loyal to him. He seemed eager to turn the government into an oligarchy overseen by him and his children. Business Republicans looked the other way, refusing to convict him in his first impeachment trial.
But when Trump botched the coronavirus response, tanking the economy and turning the U.S. into an international laughingstock, business Republicans began to slide away from the Trump administration. His increasingly unhinged behavior over the course of the past year increased their discomfort. And then, his refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election sparked their alarm.
In contrast, Republicans who were hoping to pick up Trump’s supporters in future elections signed on to his challenge of the election outcome. For some of them, pushing the idea that there were questions about the election was a safe way to signal support for Trump and his supporters, knowing that argument would fail. Others, though, apparently intended to take that idea forward to attack our government.
The January 6 attack on the Capitol split the party. It was a profound attack on our government, in which a group of the president’s supporters overpowered police, broke into the Capitol while Congress was counting the electoral votes, and threatened the lives of the elected representatives who refused to throw out the results of the election and name Trump president.
The attack implicated a number of Republicans: the president, of course, and also Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was the first senator to agree to challenge the counting of the certified electoral votes for Biden, and Ted Cruz (R-TX), who jumped on board the challenge, along with about ten other senators. More than 100 Republican representatives also signed onto the challenge.
Arizona Republican representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs reportedly asked Trump for pardons before he left office because of their participation in the events leading up to the attack on the Capitol. Seven Democratic senators filed a complaint with the Senate Committee on Ethics asking for an investigation of how Hawley and Cruz might have contributed to the January 6 attack. Hawley is trying to brazen it out: today he filed a counter-complaint continuing his objection to the election results and attacking the seven senators who asked for the investigation.
The actions of the insurgents spurred corporate donors to flee, refusing to donate money either to them or to the Republican Party, at least in the short term. Today, Dominion Voting Systems, the company Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other supporters accused of falsifying the election results, announced it was suing Giuliani for defamation, seeking damages of more than $1.3 billion.
In contrast, Republicans who care about the survival of our democracy joined Democrats to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection. Some Republicans are taking a principled stand. Others are aware that Trump’s attack on our government destabilizes the country and hurts business. Further, they are aware that, if Trump or his supporters do manage to put a dictator in charge, the end to the rule of law would make it impossible to do business in this country. Finally, some business Republicans—like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—are furious with Trump for working against Republican Senate candidates in Georgia in his attempt to pressure party members to overturn the election results for him. Trump now has nothing to offer that they want.
The two Republican factions are struggling for control over the party. The Trump faction is organizing around the former president, who is launching broadsides at business Republicans he fears will vote to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial. Over the weekend, he threatened to start a new political party—the Patriot Party—with the idea of backing Trump challengers to Republican politicians in upcoming Republican primaries. He took in a lot of money after the election on the promise to fight for his reelection; he may or may not have significant money to spend on new candidates. Determined to continue to pressure Republicans, today he launched an unprecedented “Office of the Former President.”
His supporters—including the Republicans implicated in the January 6 insurrection—are downplaying the attack on our government and suggesting that impeaching the president or holding accountable the lawmakers who helped the attack is “cancel culture.” They are insisting that questioning the election is simply free speech. “Give the man a break… move on,” former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in opposition to Trump’s conviction in the Senate.
With Trump blocked from most major social media channels, state Republican parties are acting on his behalf. This weekend the Arizona Republican Party voted to censure Republicans Jeff Flake, the former Senator; Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain’s widow; and current Governor Doug Ducey, who got swept up in their dislike of Trump opponents because he didn’t try to switch the state’s electoral votes to Trump. The Oregon Republican Party did them one better, suggesting that the January 6 insurrection was a “false flag” operation by Democrats to discredit Trump. The Texas Republican Party is now openly supporting the QAnon conspiracy theorists.
Other Republicans are running away from the party as it becomes a personality cult. More than 2000 Florida Republicans switched parties after January 6, and today former Representative David Jolly of Florida, a Republican who has criticized Trump, floated the idea of running for Congress as an independent. About 7500 Republicans switched parties in Arizona. In North Carolina, 6000 Republicans switched out. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from January 10-13 discovered that almost 70% of Americans said the Republican Party should move away from Trump.
But business Republicans still need Trump voters, and the Wall Street Journal today urged them back into the fold. It will not be an easy sell: they are now wedded to Trump, not the party, and his interests are in pressuring Republican senators not to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial and in keeping his supporters loyal to whatever he decides to do next.
Republicans have a problem. As an aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Alayna Treene of Axios, “We’re eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch, and dinner right now.”
Lawmakers will soon have to make a choice about where they stand. The House managers took the article of impeachment to the Senate this evening.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 26, 2021 (Tuesday):
We are now a week into the Biden administration, and President Biden has set some clear and surprisingly dominant markers at the beginning of his presidency.
He has kept firmly to his constitutional responsibilities in what appears to be an attempt to remind Americans of the official roles in our democracy. He has deliberately refused to intrude on the Department of Justice, saying he would leave up to it which cases to pursue. When a reporter asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki whether Biden believes the Senate should convict the former president of incitement of insurrection in his upcoming Senate trial, Psaki answered: “Well, he’s no longer in the Senate, and he believes that it’s up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former president accountable and what the mechanics and timeline of that process will be.”
Within his sphere in the executive branch, though, Biden is carving out a distinctive presidency. He is restoring the norms and guardrails of the office. We have had daily press briefings all week, which is the way things used to be done. The press secretary either answers questions respectfully or dodges them, as is her job, but there are no insults or accusations of “fake news.” We also get the traditional “readouts” when the president speaks to a foreign leader, giving us a sense of where the country stands with regard to its allies and rivals.
But Biden is also striking out in a surprisingly authoritative way. He has hit the ground running. He began work on the very afternoon of his inauguration and has not let up since. He has signed a pile of executive measures, seemingly adapting the policy of the Trump administration to change the direction of the nation quickly through executive actions.
But while Trump introduced measures that were applauded by his base but widely opposed, Biden’s measures are genuinely popular. Many of them rescind policies of the previous administration, but others move the country in a new direction, resurrecting the idea that the government has a role to play in regulating our economy and protecting individuals in our society. He has rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accords, scrapped the transgender ban in the military, expanded food assistance programs, and created new mechanisms to fight Covid-19. Today, he directed the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with private prisons, which prospered under the previous administration.
Biden has also made a mark already in foreign affairs. Exactly four years ago today, the entire senior administrative team of the State Department resigned, unwilling or unable to stay in office under the Trump administration and its original secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive officer of ExxonMobil. In foreign affairs, Trump tried to reassert American power unilaterally, much as the nation had been able to do during the Cold War, but weakened traditional alliances in Europe and instead turned the nation toward Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Today, the Senate confirmed Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, a deeply experienced diplomat who was first the deputy national security advisor and then the deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama. “This is the man for the job,” the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), told Lara Jakes of the New York Times. Blinken set out immediately to rebuild alliances that were weakened over the past four years, recognizing that the world is now a multilateral one.
Notably, the Biden administration immediately parted from its predecessor with its approach to Russia. While Trump refused to question Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden has taken a much more traditional position, one that reflects the position of both the Democrats and the Republicans of four years ago. Just three days before Biden took office, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to his homeland after a near fatal poisoning in August by Putin’s operatives. Navalny’s return forced the hands of both Putin and, within days, Biden. Putin had Navalny arrested, sparking nationwide protests by Russians who are tired of the nation’s poor economy and like Navalny’s skewering of Russian government corruption.
The collision of Putin and Navalny just as Biden took office permitted Biden to use the moment to indicate the direction of his own foreign policy. Just three days after Biden took office, the State Department released a statement condemning the Russian government’s suppression of its people and its media and calling both for Navalny’s release and for an explanation of his poisoning. It concluded, “The United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners in defense of human rights – whether in Russia or wherever they come under threat,” a statement that indicates America is resuming its traditional stance.
Today, Biden and Putin spoke for the first time, and the readout indicates that the equation of the last four years has changed. The leaders talked of extending nuclear and arms control treaties. Then Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine and called out the recent Russian hack on U.S. businesses and government departments, the reports of Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Navalny’s poisoning, and interference in the 2020 U.S. election. According to the readout, “President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies.”
Biden has refused to get drawn into the drama taking place in Congress, simply forging ahead with his own agenda. Congress, meanwhile, is also adjusting to having a new game in town. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to gum up the works, refusing to permit the Democrats to organize the Senate unless they promised not to end the filibuster, the Senate rule that enables a minority to stop any measure that can’t command 60 votes. New Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he had no plans to end the old rule (for legislation—it is already gone for judicial appointments) but refused to make any such promise. The filibuster would permit McConnell to stop any Democratic legislation, and Schumer needs at least the threat of it to prevent McConnell from abusing the rule. Last night, McConnell backed down.
Interestingly, though, tonight McConnell tweeted, “Today, I made clear that if Democrats ever attack the key Senate rules, it would drain the consent and comity out of the institution. A scorched-earth Senate would hardly be able to function. It wouldn’t be a progressive’s dream. It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it.” McConnell is, of course, the person primarily responsible for the current scorched-earth Senate, so his comment was a bit rich, but it was nonetheless an interesting statement. It is a truism that threats are a sign of weakness.
Today, as state-level Republicans embraced Trump and QAnon, 45 Republican Senators led by Rand Paul (R-KY) agreed that the former president should not be tried for inciting the January 6 insurrection or trying to overturn the 2020 election results. Also today, Google joined the many other corporations that say they will not give money to any Republicans who voted against the counting of the certified ballots on January 6. The collision between these two warring groups cannot be avoided once the Senate impeachment trial starts two weeks from today.
While the Republicans split and congress people struggle for power, Biden has stayed strictly within his constitutional role, where he has worked at breakneck speed. Staying out of the partisan fray in Congress, he has earned good marks from Americans for his first week, ending it with an approval rating of 56%.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 27, 2021 (Wednesday)
The contours of politics today look much like they did yesterday. President Biden is forging ahead through executive actions—today pausing oil and gas leases while switching the government to electric vehicles— while the two factions in the Republican Party claw for supremacy.
Dead center of both of these political fights is the future of this country. Will Trump and his supporters seize control of the government—by means legal or illegal—or will the country steer itself back to the norms and values of democracy?
The dangers of Trumpism are becoming clearer each day. Today, for the first time, the Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin that warned of violence from domestic extremists angry over “perceived grievances fueled by false narratives” and emboldened by the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The bulletin expires at the end of April.
Law enforcement has moved National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., in part to guard against violence on March 4, a day that QAnon supporters who still believe Trump is part of an elaborate trick to reclaim the nation from the Democrats think will be the day on which the former president is finally sworn in for his second term. (March 4 was the nation’s original inauguration date; it changed under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937.)
In testimony yesterday, the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington told the House Appropriations Committee that at least 65 officers filed reports of injury after the January 6 attack. The chair of the Capitol Police officers’ union, Gus Papathanasiou, put the number closer to 140. "I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake," he said. One officer died of injuries sustained on January 6. Two officers have since taken their own lives.
Meanwhile, a video emerged today of the new Republican representative from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, harassing David Hogg, who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018. Greene followed Hogg down the street in Washington, D.C., in March 2019, with an accomplice filming as she badgered him, called him a crisis actor paid by George Soros, told him she was armed, demanded he talk to her, and called him a coward. He walked on, without engaging her.
The video emerged the day after reporters discovered old Facebook activity on Greene’s page in which she responded positively to a commenter talking of hanging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama and another talking of killing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) has called for Greene’s expulsion from Congress, leading Republicans in the House responded to the Facebook news simply by saying they condemned violent rhetoric on both sides. Today, Republican House leadership assigned her to the Education and Labor Committee.
Republican lawmakers seem to be siding with Trump’s supporters, turning against the ten House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment. In the House, Trump supporters are trying to throw Liz Cheney (R-WY) out of her spot in the party’s leadership, and the former president’s new political action committee is ginning up anger against her as it urges primary challengers to jump into the race in 2022.
Increasingly, Republican lawmakers are pushing to let Trump off the hook on impeachment. In the Senate yesterday, Rand Paul (R-KY) insisted that a former president could not be tried on an impeachment charge, and 45 Republicans agreed with him. This is not necessarily a signal of how the eventual Senate vote will go, but Paul said it was: he insisted this was a sign that Trump would not be convicted. Republican lawmakers seem to be coming down on Trump’s side as polls show that while most Americans are horrified by the attack on the Capitol and blame Trump for it, most Republicans- 78%-- don’t blame him. Republican lawmakers are accusing Democrats of divisiveness in their move to hold the president accountable.
Some Republicans are, though, alarmed at the idea that a president might get away with inciting an insurrection that endangered our elected representatives and our government itself—remember the next three people in line for the presidency were in the Capitol when the rioters stormed it—and which came perilously close to making good on threats against individuals, including then-vice president Mike Pence.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) dismissed the idea that the country could have unity without addressing the causes of the current anger. “I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States? If you said that, then I’m happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness,” he explained to Dennis Romboy of Deseret News. “But if you haven’t said that, that’s really what’s at the source of the anger right now.”
Also notable is the firm stance of Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who has bucked his party to speak out against the former president’s attacks on the election and incitement of the rioters. “I’ve felt very isolated in my party,” Kinzinger told Ellen McCarthy of the Washington Post.
While the Republican Party’s apparent embrace of Trump and all he now stands for is grabbing headlines, Biden and his administration officials are taking on the radicalization of his opponents in a new and promising way. They are demonstrating an approach to sidelining Trumpism by shifting the focus off the exhausting drama of the former president and his supporters and onto a functioning government that is working for ordinary Americans.
When a reporter today asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki if the administration had any comment on Greene, Psaki made it clear the administration was not going to give any oxygen to her or those like her. “We don’t, and I am not going to speak further about her, I think, in this briefing room,” Psaki said.
While Biden is starving the Republicans of oxygen, he is also working to address the conditions that have fed desperate conspiracy theories and divisions. In America, such societal breakdown is associated with periods in which ordinary people face economic hardship. Biden is moving quickly on a range of issues that are popular among ordinary voters of both parties, including addressing the country’s extreme inequality. After all, one of the complaints that drew voters to an outsider in 2016 was the belief that government no longer worked for the people and needed to be shaken up.
Today’s executive order on addressing climate change talks at length about creating “good-paying union jobs” and “tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers.” It calls for the government to buy zero-emission vehicles made in the U.S., and to rebuild federal infrastructure, creating construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades jobs. Job creation and infrastructure development were both promises the previous president made in 2016 that boosted his support but which never really came to pass. If Biden can actually deliver on them, he could reclaim those Trump voters for the Democrats, as well as addressing climate change and our failing infrastructure.
Biden’s people are also making sure we see a White House that is addressing issues that created concern in the past administration. They are upholding old norms—holding daily press briefings, for example—honoring science, restoring government websites, and treating members of the media with respect.
They seem to be trying to remind us how our democracy is supposed to work.
Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:

I know the attention span of many precludes them from reading more than a Tweet-length post, but I HIGHLY recommend all take the time to read these posts.  

Keep it up.  These are good..  

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Bus Driver said:

I know the attention span of many precludes them from reading more than a Tweet-length post, but I HIGHLY recommend all take the time to read these posts.  

Thanks for posting, after the first couple of these I signed up to get them in my mailbox. She writes well. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Ishmael said:

Thanks for posting, after the first couple of these I signed up to get them in my mailbox. She writes well. 

My pleasure.  I, too, signed up and love having something intelligent and well-reasoned to read and reflect upon.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it almost disorienting to once again read intelligent, factual and truthful commentary on the American political scene.

Link to post
Share on other sites
January 28, 2021 (Thursday)
It has been just three weeks and a day since a crazed mob, egged on by the former president and his supporters, stormed the U.S. Capitol to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.
They smashed into the building, carrying handcuffs and searching for our elected officials, whom they threatened to harm. They killed one police officer and wounded 140 more. Our vice president, senators, and representatives, along with their staff, had to be evacuated to secure quarters, and then to hide, while rioters took over the building, rifling through their offices and smearing excrement on the floors.
That anyone is trying to downplay that attempt to destroy the central principle of our democracy—fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power-- is appalling.
And yet, Republican lawmakers are doing just that. Within the party, the pro-Trump faction and the business faction are struggling to take control. Those in the business wing of the party are not moderates: they are determined to destroy the government regulation, social welfare legislation, and public infrastructure programs that a majority of Americans like. But they are not openly white supremacists or adherents of the QAnon conspiracy, the way that Trump’s vocal supporters are.
Members of that second faction have risen to power by grabbing headlines with more and more outrageous statements that play well on right-wing media, although they appear to have no program except hatred of the “libs.” Members of this faction are going after the business wing of the party, seemingly with glee. Today Florida Representative Matt Gaetz held a rally outside the Wyoming state capitol to lead a challenge against Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives. Cheney was one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 riot.
Cheney is no “lib”: she is a hard line right-winger. Trump and his supporters are targeting her to make it clear that no one is too powerful for them to go after. The former president wants loyalists across the Republican leadership. The dividing line in the party now is not between moderates and extremists; they are all extremists. It is whether a lawmaker supports the former president and his false accusation that the Democrats “stole” the 2020 election from him.
As if to underscore this reality, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who originally blamed the former president for the January 6 insurrection, has backed down and caved to the Trump wing of the party. Over the past two days, McCarthy met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, apparently discussing how to retake the seven seats the Republicans need to regain the House majority in 2022. To accomplish that, Republicans in Georgia as well as other states are backing laws to suppress voting.
Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged that in this atmosphere Democratic members of Congress and staffers are facing harassment and violent threats. Representatives wrote a letter to leadership asking for stronger security measures, and Pelosi responded by agreeing that “the enemy is within the House of Representatives.” When asked to clarify her statement, she said: “[W]e have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”
We’ll see how this plays out in the next two weeks as Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate approaches. Mounting evidence suggests that at least some members of the president’s circle planned for trouble on January 6—presidential adviser Steve Bannon, for example, and new representative Lauren Boebert from Colorado, both recorded on social media their expectation that January 6 would see a fight or a revolution—and it seems unlikely that an examination of the president’s behavior before and during the attack of January 6 will bear close scrutiny.
News broke yesterday that extremists began planning for an attack on the Capitol in November. The Alabama Political Reporter broke the story on Tuesday that new Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) met on January 5 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., with the then-director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, an organization that backed the January 6 rally, and with members of the Trump family and the family’s advisors, including Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. One of the attendees wrote on Facebook that he was standing “in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth.”
Former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center Robert Grenier noted yesterday in the New York Times that the United States is facing a violent insurgency and should apply the lessons we have learned about counterinsurgency to head off political violence. Grenier notes that the nation must insist on criminal justice, tracking and trying those responsible for crimes. We must also return the nation to a fact-based debate about issues.
Crucially, Grenier noted that it is a national security imperative to convict the former president and bar him from future elective office. “I watched as enraged crowds in the streets of Algiers, as in most Arab capitals, melted away when Saddam Hussein was ignominiously defeated in the Persian Gulf war,” Grenier wrote. “Mass demonstrations in Pakistan in support of Osama bin Laden fell into dull quiescence when he was driven into hiding after Sept. 11. To blunt the extremists, Mr. Trump’s veneer of invincibility must similarly be crushed.”
In all my years of studying U.S. politics, seamy side and all, I never expected to see the name of an American president in the New York Times in a list comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But then, I never expected to see an American president urge a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol to overturn an election, either.
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 29, 2021 (Friday)
While the anti-democracy crusaders in the Republican Party are drawing headlines, President Biden has resolutely refused to engage with the craziness and has instead continued to move forward at a pace that feels remarkable after years of what seemed to be governmental inaction on matters ordinary people care about.
Pressed again today to speak about Republican congress members who are in the news for their antisocial behavior, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to comment. “We don’t want to elevate conspiracy theories further in the briefing room, so I’m going to leave it at that,” she said.
The White House has also declined to comment on Congress, taking the constitutional position that the president should stay in the executive branch’s lane and let the legislative branch handle its own affairs.
Instead, Biden is moving his agenda forward quickly. He has signed at least 33 executive actions that direct the members of the executive branch on how they should implement laws. In addition to the military, the executive branch has more than 4 million people in it, and it includes the State Department, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Interior Department, and so on—a lot of people in a lot of positions.
The breadth of the executive branch is enabling Biden to turn the direction of the government by coordinating changes across a number of departments. So, for example, in an article in the New Yorker, environmentalist Bill McKibben called out Wednesday, January 27, as “the most remarkable day in the history of America’s official response to the climate crisis…. The Biden Administration took a series of coordinated actions that, considered together, may well mark the official beginning of the end of the fossil-fuel era.”
McKibben notes that Biden adjusted rules in the Justice Department, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency, and involved the Pentagon by making climate change a national-security priority. He also asked the Secretary of Agriculture to confer with farmers and ranchers on how to encourage adoption of “climate-smart” agricultural practices. Anticipating the usual accusations that ending the fossil-fuel industry will cost jobs, he explicitly tied jobs to the new measures, ordering new, American-made, electric vehicles for the government and promising “good-paying” union jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades as the nation switches to clean energy.
Biden is using executive orders to undercut the partisanship that has ground Congress to a halt for the past several years. While Biden’s predecessor tended to use executive actions to implement quite unpopular policies, Biden is using them to implement policies that most Americans actually like but which could never make it through Congress, where Republicans hold power disproportionate to their actual popularity.
According to a roundup by polling site FiveThirtyEight, Biden’s executive actions cover issues that people want to see addressed. Eighty-three percent of Americans—including 64% of Republicans—support a prohibition on workplace discrimination over sexual identification, 77% (including 52% of Republicans) want the government to focus on racial equity, 75% want the government to require masks on federal property, and 68% like the continued suspension of federal student loan repayments. A majority of Americans also favor rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accords, and so on.
Republicans are insisting that Biden is not practicing the unity he promised in his campaign, but here’s the interesting thing: work by political scientists Dr. Shana Gadarian and Dr. Bethany Albertson shows that most Americans actually agree on problems and solutions so long as politicians do not take on those issues as partisan ones. But as soon as politicians adopt a partisan stance on an issue, voters polarize over it. So it is possible that by keeping these issues out of the current partisanship in Congress and handling them from the White House, Biden is doing exactly what he promised: creating unity. He is also making Americans feel like the government is doing something for them again.
This attempt to avoid partisan polarization will be tested by his determination to pass a new, $1.9 trillion economic aid package through Congress. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve and the chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, has urged a fast injection of stimulus into the economy after it slowed down significantly at the end of 2020. Republicans have expressed concern at the passage of another large spending bill, but some are willing to negotiate, especially since the Democrats can pass a bill without them through a process called reconciliation (it will almost certainly be significantly pared down from this first version).
Today, as he went to the Walter Reed hospital to visit wounded soldiers, Biden said, "I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it…. But the COVID relief has to pass. No ifs, ands or buts." Psaki said that the White House would not agree to breaking the package up and passing only the parts the Republicans like. "But the size and the scope of the package – this is the legislative process, this is democracy at work now."
The Democrats’ hand has likely been strengthened this week by the media frenzy over the so-called “GameStop short squeeze,” in which hedge fund managers got squeezed by ordinary investors driving up the price of the stock of a video game retailer so that the hedge funds could not cover short sales. Investment firms promptly cried foul, only to be greeted with derision, since it is not at all clear that their own stock purchases have a better effect on the markets than those of the smaller investors, and since they made huge money betting on the Covid-19 crisis. Observers see the short squeeze as a populist attack on unscrupulous Wall Street types.
While the entire story behind the short squeeze is not yet clear, it does already have a political meaning. The GameStop story reinforced the growing sense that the system has been rigged for the wealthy. People from across the political spectrum are demanding more thorough regulation of the stock market, a dramatic cultural change.
It didn’t help that Leon Cooperman, a hedge fund trader worth $2.5 billion, took to CNBC to vent his fury. “The reason the market is doing what it’s doing is, people are sitting at home, getting their checks from the government, basically trading for no commissions and no interest rates,” he said, referring to relief for people thrown out of work by the pandemic.
With calls for unity in the air, Cooperman offered his own definition. Democrats’ suggestion that the rich should pay their “fair share” of taxes is “bullsh*t,” he said. “It’s just a way of attacking wealthy people, and you know I think it’s inappropriate…. We all got to work together and pull together.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
January 30, 2021 (Saturday)
No news dump last night, no big breaking news today.
I could learn to like this.
Tonight is an early night for me... and it's a lovely one here on the coast of Maine.
Sleep well, everyone. I'll see you tomorrow.
Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Bus Driver said:
January 29, 2021 (Friday)

...   ...

With calls for unity in the air, Cooperman (worth $2.5 billion) offered his own definition. Democrats’ suggestion that the rich should pay their “fair share” of taxes is “bullsh*t,” he said. “It’s just a way of attacking wealthy people, and you know I think it’s inappropriate…. We all got to work together and pull together.”

 

So there you have it.

Paying your fair share is bullshit. Because the rich should have it ALL, and I do mean all.

- DSK

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Chris in Santa Cruz, CA said:

She's clearly not into the whole brevity thing. 

I appreciate her willingness, and ability, to do such a masterful job of giving background and explaining the significance of several issues in a 3 minute read. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:
9 hours ago, Chris in Santa Cruz, CA said:

She's clearly not into the whole brevity thing. 

I appreciate her willingness, and ability, to do such a masterful job of giving background and explaining the significance of several issues in a 3 minute read. 

It's a carefully judged dive; I think of her as being too brief given the complexity of most of these issues... but a good read given the constraints of media time & attention. Rarely found a commentator I enjoy more, and as a bonus, my wife also is reading her columns

- DSK

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Bus Driver said:

Tonight is an early night for me... and it's a lovely one here on the coast of Maine.

Odd, somehow I never suspected you of being a Mainer. Lovely night last night... brittle cold and bright moon!

Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Willin' said:
12 hours ago, Bus Driver said:

Tonight is an early night for me... and it's a lovely one here on the coast of Maine.

Odd, somehow I never suspected you of being a Mainer. Lovely night last night... brittle cold and bright moon!

I'm not.  As stated in the OP, I am simply reposting the posts from Heather Cox Richardson and SHE is.

Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

So there you have it.

Paying your fair share is bullshit. Because the rich should have it ALL, and I do mean all.

- DSK

Greed is good.

We've known it since the 80's.

Link to post
Share on other sites
January 31, 2021 (Sunday)
The most prominent story these days is that the Republican Party is sliding toward a full-on embrace of authoritarianism. Former president Trump’s exit and ban from his favorite social media outlets has left a vacuum that younger politicians imitating Trump’s style are eager to fill by rallying people to the former president’s standard.
Notably, Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have tried to step into the former president’s media space by behaving outrageously and becoming his acolytes. Gaetz last week traveled to Wyoming to attack Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third most powerful Republican in the House, for her vote in support of Trump’s impeachment. Not to be outdone, yesterday Greene tweeted that she had spoken to Trump and has his support, although neither her camp nor his would comment on her statement.
Republican state parties have also thrown in their lot with the former president. In Arizona, the state party voted to censure former Senator Jeff Flake, the late Senator John McCain’s wife Cindy, and Governor Doug Ducey for criticizing the former president. In South Carolina, the state party formally censured Representative Tom Rice for voting to impeach Trump, and Republican lawmakers are starting to consider stripping Cheney of her party position, a development that led former President George W. Bush to indicate his support for her this weekend. She has already drawn a primary challenger.
Across the country, Republican-dominated legislatures are trying to suppress the voting that led to the high voter turnout that fueled Democratic victories in 2020. According to the Brennan Center, which tracks voting rights, 28 states have put forward more than 100 bills to limit voting. Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, whose voters chose Biden this year after going for Trump in 2016, all have introduced plans to lower voting rates. So have other states like Texas, which have voted Republican in recent years but show signs of turning blue.
The former president would like to solidify power over the party, but he has his own problems right now. The top five lawyers in his team defending him against the article of impeachment in his Senate trial all quit this weekend. Trump apparently wanted them to argue that the attack on the Capitol was justified because Democrats stole the election from him. Recognizing that this is pure fantasy—courts have already thrown this argument out more than 60 times—which could put them in legal jeopardy, the lawyers instead wanted to argue that it is unconstitutional to try a former president on charges of impeachment.
Tonight, Trump’s office announced that David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr., will lead his defense. Schoen represented Trump advisor Roger Stone when he challenged his convictions; Castor was the district attorney who promised actor Bill Cosby he would not be prosecuted for indecent assault. The impeachment trial is scheduled to start on February 9.
There are signs that some Republicans have finally had enough of their party’s march toward authoritarianism, especially as pro-Trump Republicans grab headlines for their outrageous behavior, including shutting down a mass vaccination effort at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for about an hour yesterday.
Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a 2010 Tea Partier but now one of the ten Republicans in the House to vote in favor of impeachment, told Anthony Fisher of Business Insider that “My dad’s cousins sent me a petition — a certified letter — saying they disowned me because I’m in ‘the devil’s army’ now….”
Kinzinger announced today that he has started a political action committee (PAC) to finance a challenge to Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. Calling Trump’s loyalists in the Republican caucus “political terrorists,” Kinzinger said in the video launching the PAC, “Republicans must say enough is enough. It’s time to unplug the outrage machine, reject the politics of personality, and cast aside the conspiracy theories and the rage.”
It also appears to be sinking in to Republicans that momentum is on the side of the Democrats. Biden’s executive actions have generally been popular, and his support for workers threatens to shift a key constituency from the Republicans to the Democrats.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus proposal offers to give to ordinary Americans, hurting badly from the coronavirus recession, the kind of government attention that has lately gone to wealthier Americans. Among other things, it calls for $1400 stimulus payments, extends unemployment benefits, provides funds for state and local governments, and establishes a higher minimum wage. While Biden has said repeatedly that he would like Republican support for this measure, the Democrats have enough votes to pass a version of it without Republican support.
This would put Republicans in the position of voting against a measure that promises to be popular, and at least ten Republican senators would prefer not to do that. Today, they offered their own $600 billion counterproposal, and asked for a meeting with President Biden to discuss it.
In their letter to the president, they hinted that they think the nation has devoted enough money to the economic crisis already, noting that there is still money unspent from the previous coronavirus packages. But they did not state that reasoning explicitly, perhaps recognizing that this argument will not be popular from people who voted for Trump’s 2017 tax cut, which disproportionately benefited the wealthy, when one in seven adults say their households don’t have enough food to eat.
“We want to work in good faith with you and your administration to meet the health, economic and societal challenges of the covid crisis,” the senators wrote. After years in which Republican senators refused to discuss bills with the Democrats, this is a change indeed.
But perhaps not enough of one. In the Washington Post, James Downie noted that a proposal that is less than a third of Biden’s package is not a compromise. It also cuts stimulus checks down to $1000, cuts supplemental unemployment insurance, gives no local or state aid, and kills the minimum wage increase.
When asked why Democrats should compromise rather than go ahead without them, as Republicans repeatedly did when they held the majority, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) told “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” respectively, that Biden should honor his call for unity and that refusing to do so would kill future hopes for bipartisanship.
In an article in The Guardian today, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich dismissed Republican concerns about the national debt, noting that if they were worried about it, they could just tax the very wealthy. “The total wealth of America’s 660 billionaires has grown by… $1.1 [trillion] since the start of the pandemic, a 40% increase,” he noted. Those billionaires could fund almost all of Biden’s proposal and still be as rich as they were before the pandemic hit.
Reich suggested that “[t]he real reason Republicans want to block Biden is they fear his plans will work.” A successful government response to coronavirus, the economic crisis, inequality, the climate crisis, and poverty would devastate modern-day Republicans’ insistence that the solution to every problem is tax cuts and private enterprise. If Biden’s plans succeed, Reich wrote, Americans’ faith in government, and in our democracy, will be restored.
Tonight, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that Biden has spoken with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and has invited her and the other nine signers of the letter to the White House (we later learned they will meet tomorrow).
But Psaki’s statement did not give ground. It reiterated the need for fast action, and noted that “$1400 relief checks, a substantial investment in fighting COVID and schools, aid to small businesses and hurting families, and funds to keep first responders on the job (and more) – is badly needed. As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much: it is in doing too little. Americans of both parties are looking to their leaders to meet the moment.”
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
February 1, 2021 (Monday)
Today’s two big domestic stories are developments that will help to determine the future of our democracy: President Biden’s insistence on a major new coronavirus relief bill and Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection.
President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion economic relief bill, called American Rescue Plan, to get the country over the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. This is a bold move that rests on the idea that the government must help to manage the economy. Republicans abandoned this idea in the 1980s and even today continue to insist that tax cuts and private enterprise are the keys to a secure economy.
But that theory took a beating even among previous adherents under the previous president, as corporate leaders invested money from tax cuts into stock buybacks, driving money upward, and as the administration refused to coordinate a coronavirus response and thus helped to create a disaster that has led more than 440,000 Americans to their deaths. Biden’s attempt to pass a big coronavirus bill that supports ordinary Americans, as well as cities and states, contradicts the Republican orthodoxy that has come to dominate the nation.
Republicans don’t like the plan, and even the Republicans willing to entertain the idea of another relief bill think Biden’s proposed number is far too high. For nearly two hours today, Biden met with ten Republican senators who offered a $618 billion counterproposal. This was Biden’s first meeting with lawmakers of either party, and giving that first meeting to Republicans was a sign that he is willing to entertain good-faith bipartisanship. After the meeting, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) expressed optimism that the two sides could continue to work together.
But the tide seems to be running away from Republicans toward the Democratic plan. On Friday, a bipartisan group of more than 400 mayors across the country begged Congress to provide aid to cities, aid that is in Biden’s package and not in the plan of the Republican senators. Mayors and governors actually have to make government work and thus are often more practical and less ideological than national lawmakers.
Explicitly calling for Congress to pass Biden’s plan, the mayors noted that “American cities and our essential workers have been serving at the frontlines of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic for nearly a year” without direct federal assistance. Because cities and states cannot borrow to cover budget shortfalls, they look to the federal government—which can—to tide them over in times of crisis. This time, though, that aid was not forthcoming. Left with no choice, local governments have cut nearly a million local government jobs. Direct, flexible aid to cities will help suffering families and fuel a recovery, the mayors say, as well as enabling cities to vaccinate people. “Your quick action on President Biden’s plan is a crucial step to making meaningful progress in one of the most challenging moments in our country’s history,” the mayors wrote to congressional leadership.
This morning, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, also backed the larger coronavirus package. “I absolutely believe we need to go big…. We need to quit counting the egg-sucking legs on the cows and count the cows and just move. And move forward and move right now.” Justice’s interview on CNN puts pressure on West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, who has expressed concerns about a big relief package.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders began the process of advancing the Senate process that will enable the Democrats to pass their own proposal without Republican votes. This process is known as “budget reconciliation,” and it requires only a simple majority to pass. When they were in power, the Republicans used it to advance policies like ending the Affordable Care Act, so the Democrats’ invoking of this rule is not unprecedented.
“Congress has a responsibility to quickly deliver immediate comprehensive relief to the American people hurting from covid-19,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement. “The cost of inaction is high and growing, and the time for decisive action is now.” Later Schumer tweeted: “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just told us: ‘The smartest thing we can do is act big.’ And that is just what this Senate is going to do: Act Big.”
Tonight, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement that gave generous credit to the ten Republican senators who offered the counterproposal for “a substantive and productive discussion” and a “shared… desire to get help to the American people, who are suffering through the worst health and economic crisis in a generation.”
But the statement also gave notice to the Republicans that the Democrats were willing to go it alone on a bold package. It noted that Biden had told them Congress must respond “boldly and urgently,” and that their proposal did not address major issues. He told them he is eager to find common ground and to strengthen the measure, but he is willing to pass it with Democratic votes alone if he must. “He reiterated… that he will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”
If Biden gets this bill passed and Americans feel that it relieves the economic crunch, it will go a long way toward erasing people’s distrust of government action to regulate the economy.
While the Biden administration moves forward with an aid package, a clearer picture is emerging of the events of January 6, as well as of the road to them. Yesterday, the New York Times published a long exploration of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the January 6 rally that led to the attack on the Capitol; today it published a shorter synopsis of that material. The shorter article, written by Matthew Rosenberg and Jim Rutenberg, began: “For 77 days between the election and the inauguration, President Donald J. Trump attempted to subvert American democracy with a lie about election fraud that he had been grooming for years.”
The picture they paint is of a man who insisted on a lie—that he really won an election he clearly lost—until he found enablers who would agree with him. Key lawmakers, including former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, indulged the former president because he wanted Trump’s help electing two Republicans to the Senate in the Georgia runoffs. As reality-based Republicans backed away from the challenge to the election outcome, more radical lawyers and financiers stepped in to support the former president.
A coalition put together by activists in a group called Women for America First, funded by Trump advisor Stephen Bannon and the founder of the MyPillow company, Mike Lindell, pressured key senators to contest the election outcome. Women for American First began to organize the January 6 rally, but Trump decided to take it over. Several former members of the Trump campaign and the administration—including the former president-- began to work on the event. They were the ones who added a march from the rally to the Capitol.
The nonpartisan Coup D’état Project at the Cline Center of the University of Illinois, which analyzes and categorizes political violence, last week determined that the storming of the Capitol "was an attempted coup d’état: an organized, illegal attempt to intervene in the presidential transition by displacing the power of the Congress to certify the election.” Its statement about the coup warns that “coups and attempted coups are among the most politically consequential forms of destabilizing events tracked by the Cline Center.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
February 2, 2021 (Tuesday)
Today, on the same day that the remains of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was killed in the January 6 insurrection, lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, the House impeachment managers filed their trial brief for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump. The charge is that he incited the insurrection attempt of January 6, 2021, in which a mob stormed the Capitol to stop the counting of the certified electoral ballots for the 2020 election.
Led by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a former professor of constitutional law, the managers laid out Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election and his incitement of a violent mob to stop Congress from confirming the victory of Joseph Biden in the election. They note that Trump bears “singular responsibility” for the tragedy of January 6 and dismiss his argument that the Senate cannot convict him now because he is no longer in office, countering that such an understanding would give a president “a free pass to commit high crimes and misdemeanors near the end of their term.”
The managers detailed Trump’s deliberate attempt to convince his followers of a lie: that he won the election in a “landslide,” and that Democrats had “stolen” the apparent victory. They say he “amplified these lies at every turn, seeking to convince supporters that they were victims of a massive electoral conspiracy that threatened the Nation’s continued existence.” But the courts rejected his arguments, and state and federal officials refused to cave to his demands that they break the law to alter the election results. So Trump announced a “Save America Rally,” urging his supporters to come to Washington, D.C., to “fight” for his reelection. He promised the rally would be “wild.”
Trump, they note, “spent months insisting to his base that the only way he could lose the election was a dangerous, wide-ranging conspiracy against them that threatened America itself.” He urged them to stop the counting on January 6, “by making plans to ‘fight like hell’ and ‘fight to the death’ against this ‘act of war’ by ‘Radical Left Democrats’ and the ‘weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party.’”
On January 6, he urged his supporters to go to the Capitol to stop what he called the massive fraud taking place there. He told them, “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Carrying Trump flags, the mob marched to the Capitol and broke in, searching specifically for Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump blamed for counting the votes accurately, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One shouted, “What are we waiting for? We already voted and what have they done? They stole it! We want our f*cking country back! Let’s take it!” Others shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Tell Pelosi we’re coming for that b*tch.”
Allegedly “delighted” at the interruption to the vote count, Trump retweeted a video of his rally speech telling his supporters to be “strong” and, even as Pence and his family were hiding from the violent mob, tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” This sent the mob into a frenzy.
Then, while the Senate was evacuated, Trump tried to reach the new senator from Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, to urge him to continue to delay the counting of the electoral votes.
Members of both houses from both parties called the president to urge him to call off the mob, but for more than three hours, he refused. When he finally issued a video telling his followers to go home, he said, “t was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side.” He told them: “We love you, you’re very special.”
Later that night he tweeted: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Trump’s new legal team issued its response to the House impeachment managers today, as well. They stand on the ground that, because Trump is no longer president, it is unconstitutional to try him on an article of impeachment. They also deny that the former president incited the insurrection and say he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights when he repeatedly attacked the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Far from backing down from his position, Trump is continuing to assert his argument that he won the election. “With very few exceptions,” his lawyers’ response reads, “under the convenient guise of Covid-19 pandemic ‘safeguards’ states [sic] election laws and procedures were changed by local politicians or judges without the necessary approvals from state legislatures. Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false.”
Trump’s argument has been dismissed in more than 60 court cases, so there is plenty of evidence to conclude that it is false. But he is doubling down on what scholars of authoritarianism call a “big lie:” that he was the true winner of the 2020 election, and that the Democrats stole it. The big lie, a key propaganda tool that is associated with Nazi Germany, is a lie so huge that no one can believe it is false. If leaders repeat it enough times, refusing to admit that it is a lie, people come to think it is the truth because surely no one would make up anything so outrageous.
In this case, Trump supporters insist that there was massive fraud in the 2020 election (there wasn’t) and that Trump really won (he didn’t). As Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) pointed out last week, the Republicans who supported Trump’s big lie and challenged the counting of the electoral votes on January 6 still have not admitted they were lying.
Big lies are springboards for authoritarian politicians. They enable a leader to convince followers that they were unfairly cheated of power by those that the leader demonizes. That Trump and his supporters are continuing to advance their big lie, even in the face of overwhelming proof that it is false, is deeply concerning.
If there is any need to prove that Trump’s big lie is, indeed, a lie, there is plenty of proof in the fact that when the leader of the company Trump surrogates blamed for facilitating election fraud threatened to sue them, they backed down fast. The voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems was at the center of Trump supporters’ claims of a stolen election, and its leadership has threatened to sue the conservative media network Newsmax for its personalities’ false statements. When the threat of a lawsuit first emerged, Newsmax issued an on-air disclaimer.
Today, even as Trump’s lawyers were reiterating his insistence that he really won the election, the issue came up again. When MyPillow founder Mike Lindell began to spout Trump’s big lie on a Newsmax show, the co-anchor tried repeatedly to cut him off. When he was unsuccessful, the producers muted Lindell while the co-anchor said, “We at Newsmax have not been able to verify any of those kinds of allegations…. We just want to let people know that there’s nothing substantive that we have seen.”
He read a legal disclaimer: “Newsmax accepts the [election] results as legal and final. The courts have also supported that view.” And then he stood up and left the set.
Link to post
Share on other sites
February 3, 2021 (Wednesday)
While Republican lawmakers continue to grab headlines with outrageous behavior and obstructionism, President Biden has been derailing them in the only way no one has tried yet: ignoring them and governing. Only two weeks into his administration, this approach appears to be enormously effective.
The two Republican factions continue to compete for control of the party. That struggle has been personified this week by the relative standing of new Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and established Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference Chair, who is the third person in the line of Republican House leadership.
In her two weeks in Congress, Greene has made the news with her support for the extremist QAnon movement, harassment of school shooting survivor David Hogg, and past support for executing Democratic politicians, among other things. After news emerged that she had agreed with a Facebook commenter that the 2018 Parkland school shooting was a “false flag” operation, Democrats were outraged that Republican leadership assigned her to the House Education and Labor Committee. They demanded House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy strip her of committee assignments.
Meanwhile, Cheney has won the ire of pro-Trump Republicans by voting to impeach the former president for instigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Trump’s supporters, including Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), want to strip Cheney of her leadership role in the party, and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) traveled to her home state of Wyoming to urge voters to turn her out of office. Still, some observers think the Trump faction is attacking Cheney simply to provide the kind of sound bites that will please their voters.
Today, McCarthy said he would not punish Greene for her statements, and the Republicans on the House Rules Committee said they would not strip her of committee assignments (although McCarthy stripped former Representative Steven King [R-IA] of his assignments after racist comments). Later, when the House Republicans met for the first time this session, about half of them gave Greene a standing ovation when she rose to speak.
Thrilled at the attention she is getting, Greene told the Washington Examiner that there is no difference between establishment Republicans and the Democrats, and she is eager to bring more action-oriented people like her to Congress to help Trump with his plan, “whenever he comes out with [it.]”
And yet, at the same meeting, when party members held a secret vote on leaving Cheney in her leadership position after she voted to impeach Trump, they did so, by a vote of 145-61-1. Increasing numbers of Republicans—including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—are eager to put daylight between themselves and the Trump wing, likely because they know that the political and legal calculus has changed now that the Democrats are in power.
Biden continues to put the government on firm footing. He came into office with a series of executive actions at hand to do exactly what he promised during the campaign: combat the coronavirus pandemic and bolster the weakening economy.
To that end, he is moving forward quickly with a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Today, the Democratic Congress took steps to prepare the way to pass the measure without Republican votes if necessary, although Biden met yesterday with ten Republican senators and says he is willing to talk with Republicans if they are serious. What he refuses to do, though, is what tripped up President Barack Obama, who negotiated with Republicans for months over the Affordable Care Act, only to have all but one of them refuse to vote for the measure.
Biden has also launched a sweeping set of plans to combat climate change—including today calling on Congress to end the $40 billion taxpayer subsidies to fossil fuels-- bringing a wide range of interests behind the plans.
The new administration has also reestablished norms. Yesterday, for example, the Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This is a big deal because it gives DHS an actual Senate-confirmed head, which it has not had since at least 2019 as Trump appointed various acting heads, including Chad Wolf. According to the Government Accountability Office and a number of judges, Wolf was in the office illegally.
Biden has also reinstituted the oversight that was largely ignored by the previous administration. Today, Robert Stewart Jr., who won more than $38 million in federal contracts to deliver N95 masks despite the fact he had none and had no way of getting any, pleaded guilty to three counts of making false statements, wire fraud, and theft of government funds. Also today, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the hiring of a number of officials who will be part of a crackdown on enforcement of tax laws both at home and abroad; the Internal Revenue Service estimates that about $441 billion a year in taxes owed are not collected.
Also today, in his first interview since taking office, Biden promised that none of his family members will work at the White House.
Biden has moved quickly to get rid of the political appointees Trump tried to burrow into the federal government. Yesterday, Biden fired all ten of the anti-labor activists Trump had put on the Federal Service Impasses Panel, the panel in charge of resolving disputes between unions and federal agencies when they cannot resolve issues in negotiations. The head of the union of federal employees, representing 700,000 federal employees, thanked Biden for his attempt to “restore basic fairness for federal workers.” He said, “The outgoing panel, appointed by the previous administration and stacked with transparently biased union-busters, was notorious for ignoring the law to gut workplace rights and further an extreme political agenda.”
The two themes of Republican factionalism and the Democrats’ return to American norms came together today. After negotiating for weeks, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) finally came up with a plan to organize the Senate, which will turn the chairs of committees over to the Democrats.
This means that Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, should finally get a hearing for his confirmation. The attorney general is a leading figure in our national security apparatus, overseeing our legal system as well as the FBI. Former Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was slow walking a hearing for him, but as soon as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) takes the gavel, Garland will be on the schedule.
If he is confirmed, Garland will oversee the prosecution of those involved in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Garland is known as a straight shooter who will uphold the law impartially.
Today, Reuters broke the news that the Justice Department is considering charging those engaged in the Capitol riot under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO cases are complicated and take a long time to put together, but the law was designed to enable prosecutors to reach those, like criminal ringleaders, who keep their own hands clean but tell others to commit crimes.
If the Department of Justice is indeed considering RICO, which sweeps in a wide range of participants in a crime, Republicans not associated with the attack on the Capitol might have good reason to back away from those who are.
Link to post
Share on other sites
February 4, 2021 (Thursday)
Today Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) proposed giving at least $3000 annually per child to American families. This suggestion is coming from a man who, when he ran as the Republican candidate for president in 2012, famously echoed what was then Republican orthodoxy. He was caught on tape saying that “there are 47 percent of the people who… are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Romney’s proposal indicates the political tide has turned away from the Republicans. Since the 1980s, they have insisted that the government must be starved, dismissing as “socialism” Democrats’ conviction that the government has a role to play in stabilizing the economy and society.
And yet, that idea, which is in line with traditional conservatism, was part of the founding ideology of the Republican Party in the 1850s. It was also the governing ideology of Romney’s father, George Romney, who served as governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, where he oversaw the state’s first income tax, and as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon, where he tried to increase housing for the poor and desegregate the suburbs. It was also at the heart of Romney’s own record in Massachusetts, where as governor from 2003 to 2007, he ushered in the near-universal health care system on which the Affordable Care Act was based.
But in the 1990s, Republican leadership purged from the party any lawmakers who embraced traditional Republicanism, demanding absolute loyalty to the idea of cutting taxes and government to free up individual enterprise. By 2012, Romney had to run from his record, including his major health care victory in Massachusetts. Now, just a decade later, he has returned to the ideas behind it.
Why?
First, and most important, President Joe Biden has hit the ground running, establishing a momentum that looks much like that of Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. Roosevelt had behind him stronger majorities than Biden’s, but both took office facing economic crises—and, in Biden’s case, a pandemic as well, along with the climate crisis--and set out immediately to address them.
Like FDR, Biden has established the direction of his administration through executive actions: he is just behind FDR’s cracking pace. Biden arrived in the Oval Office with a sheaf of carefully crafted executive actions that put in place policies that voters wanted: spurring job creation, feeding children, rejoining the World Health Organization, pursuing tax cheats, ending the transgender ban in the military, and reestablishing ties to the nation’s traditional allies. Once Biden had a Democratic Senate as well as a House—those two Georgia Senate seats were huge—he was free to ask for a big relief package for those suffering in the pandemic, and now even Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who had expressed concern about the package, seems to be on board.
FDR’s momentum increased in part because the Republicans were discredited after the collapse of the economy and as Republican leaders turned up as corrupt. Biden’s momentum, too, is likely gathering steam as the Republicans are increasingly tainted by their association with the January 6 insurrection and the attack on the Capitol, along with the behavior of those who continue to support the former president.
The former president’s own behavior is not helping to polish his image. In their response to the House impeachment brief, Trump’s lawyers made the mistake of focusing not on whether the Senate can try a former president but on what Trump did and did not do. That, of course, makes Trump a witness, and today Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead impeachment manager, asked him to testify.
Trumps’ lawyers promptly refused but, evidently anticipating his refusal, Raskin had noted in the invitation that “if you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.” In other words: “Despite his lawyers’ rhetoric, any official accused of inciting armed violence against the government of the United States should welcome the chance to testify openly and honestly—that is, if the official had a defense."
The lack of defense seems to be mounting. This morning, Jason Stanley of Just Security called attention to the film shown at the January 6 rally just after Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke. Stanley explained how it was an explicitly fascist film, designed to show the former president as a strong fascist leader promising to protect Americans against those who are undermining the country: the Jews. Stanley also pointed out that, according to the New York Times, the rally was “a White House production” and that Trump was deeply involved with the details.
Trump’s supporters are not cutting a good figure, either. Today, by a vote of 230-199, the House of Representatives voted to strip new Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) of her assignments to the Budget Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. It did so after reviewing social media posts in which she embraced political violence and conspiracy theories. This leaves Greene with little to do but to continue to try to gin up media attention and to raise money.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had declined to take action against Greene—although in 2019 he stripped assignments from Steve King (R-IA) for racist comments-- and only eleven Republicans joined the majority. The Republican Party is increasingly associated with the Trump wing, and that association will undoubtedly grow as Democrats press it in advertisements, as they have already begun to do.
McConnell has called for the party’s extremists to be purged out of concern that voters are turning away from the party. Still, the struggle between the two factions might be hard to keep out of the news as the Senate turns to confirmation hearings for Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Justice, Merrick Garland.
Going forward, the attorney general will be responsible for overseeing any prosecutions that come from the attempt to overturn the election, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will question Garland, has on it three Republican senators involved in that attempt. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been accused by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of calling before Trump did to get him to alter the state’s vote count. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) both joined in challenging the counting of the electoral votes.
It is hard to imagine the other senators at the hearing will not bring the three compromised senators into the discussion. The Republicans have so far refused to schedule Garland’s hearing, although now that the Senate is organized under the Democrats, it will happen soon.
Trump Republicans are betting the former president’s endorsement will win them office in the future. But with social media platforms cracking down on his disinformation, his ability to reach voters is not at all what it used to be, making it easier for members of the other faction to jump ship.
In addition, those echoing Trump’s lies are getting hit in their wallets. Today, the voting systems company Smartmatic sued the Fox News Channel and its personalities Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro, along with Giuliani and Trump’s legal advisor Sidney Powell, for at least $2.7 billion in damages for lying about Smartmatic machines in their attempt to overturn the election results.
Republicans rejecting the Trump takeover of the party are increasingly outspoken. Not only has Romney called for a measure that echoes Biden’s emphasis on supporting children and families, but also Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) today released a video attacking the leaders of his state’s Republican Party after hearing that they planned to censure him for speaking out against the former president.
“If that president were a Democrat, we both know how you’d respond. But, because he had ‘Republican’ behind his name, you’re defending him,” Sasse said. “Something has definitely changed over the last four years … but it’s not me.”
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Eh, gotta disagree.  I don't know if you've been paying attention, but Harris is casting her vote to break the tie in the senate.  Republicans are still hanging together, suggesting they aren't worried about their base all that much.  There isn't a groundswell of support.  Biden barely got elected, and barely has the majority in the senate.  Romney has long been a liar and a duplicitous bitch (to both sides) flipping and flopping whenever convenient.

The democrats have 2 years to do whatever it is they plan on doing.  Then they'll lose the Senate, because they'll get blamed for not doing enough.

Link to post
Share on other sites
February 5, 2021 (Friday)
Yet another Friday without a news dump from the federal government (woo hoo!) means that I have the room to highlight something really interesting that was buried in President Biden’s speech at the State Department yesterday afternoon. Not surprisingly, Biden announced a return to a more traditional foreign policy than his predecessor’s. But he did more than that: he tied foreign policy to domestic interests in a way that echoed Republican president Theodore Roosevelt when he helped to launch the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.
Biden’s predecessor wrenched U.S. foreign policy from the channel in which it had operated since WWII, replacing it with a new focus on the economic interests of business leaders. Trump chose as Secretary of State the former chief executive officer of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, who oversaw the gutting of career officers in the State Department. When the department lost 12% of its foreign-affairs specialists in the first eight months of 2017, it was clear that the Trump administration was abandoning a foreign policy in which the United States tried to defend the idea of democracy and to advance its interests through diplomacy.
Instead, in his first trip overseas, the former president traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he announced the largest single arms deal in American history, worth $110 billion immediately and more than $350 billion over ten years. The White House noted that the deal was “a significant expansion of… [the] security relationship” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
"That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States," Trump told reporters. "Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs." Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, cheered the sale.
It was a public relations victory for Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS and the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia at the time, coming as it did just a year after Congress voted to allow the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue the country from which 15 of the 19 hijackers came. It also would increase the U.S. supply of arms to his country’s intervention in Yemen, the country to its south, where a pro-Saudi president had been ousted in 2015 by the Houthi movement, whose members accused him of corruption and ties to Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
In his remarks during his May visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump backed away from the role the United States had claimed to take on since its war with Spain in 1898, aiming to defend democracy around the world. “We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said. “[W]e are here to offer partnership-- based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.”
For the rest of his presidency, Trump worked to weaken the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance among 30 nations of Europe, the U.S., and Canada, formed in 1949 to stop the spread of Soviet, and now Russian, aggression in Europe. Instead, he worked to strengthen U.S. ties to countries with strongman leaders, such as MBS and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. He sidestepped career diplomats to run his own, shadow diplomacy out of the White House, tapping his son-in-law Jared Kushner to secure peace in the Middle East, for example, and asking administration officials to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
And he continued to sell billions worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, even after Congress halted such transfers as indiscriminate Saudi bombing in Yemen created a deadly humanitarian crisis.
One of the first things Biden did when he took office was to freeze for review $23 billion in pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates negotiated by his predecessor (including 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets). Yesterday, he announced he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen.
In his speech to the State Department yesterday Biden immediately indicated that he was restoring traditional American diplomacy. The first thing he did was to acknowledge his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, a career diplomat with a degree from Columbia Law School and a long and impressive resume including work on U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
The next thing Biden said was to assure the world that diplomats around the world spoke for the country again: “when you speak, you speak for me.” Later on, he reiterated that idea: “I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back. This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you.”
Biden emphasized that he had spoken to “the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia — to [begin] reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse.” The message he wants the world to hear is: “America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”
Also back at the center of American diplomacy are “America’s most cherished democratic values,” Biden said, “defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.” The case of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned in August and returned to Russia in mid-January only to be thrown into jail, has enabled Biden to illustrate how dramatically his foreign policy differs from that of his predecessor. Biden called on Putin to release Navalny “immediately and without condition.”
Biden outlined his approach to Yemen, China, and Russia… and then he said something that jumped out.
Biden argued that foreign policy is an integral part of domestic policy. It requires that the government address the needs of ordinary Americans. “We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home,” he said. “That’s why my administration has already taken the important step to live our domestic values at home — our democratic values at home.”
This idea—that the U.S. must reform its own society in order to extend the principles of democracy overseas-- was precisely the argument Theodore Roosevelt and other reformers made in the late 1890s when they launched the Progressive Era. When Roosevelt became president in 1901, he used this rationale to take the government out of the hands of business interests and use it to protect ordinary Americans.
Roosevelt argued that the government must clean up the cities, educate children, protect workers and consumers, support farmers, and make business pay its fair share. Biden shared his own list on Thursday: ending the so-called Muslim ban, reversing the ban on transgender troops, defending the free press, respecting science, addressing systemic racism and white supremacy, and rebuilding the economy.
“All this matters to foreign policy,” he said, “because when we… rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back… authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.”
Link to post
Share on other sites
February 6, 2021 (Saturday)
A year ago yesterday, on February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate acquitted President Donald J. Trump of two charges for which the House had impeached him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in order to rig his own reelection.
A year ago today, February 6, 2020, 57-year-old Patricia Dowd of San Jose, California, died suddenly after feeling ill for several days. She is the nation's first known victim of coronavirus.
Now, a year later, on February 6, 2021, the official count of coronavirus deaths in the United States is more than 460,000, significantly more Americans than died in World War Two.
And on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, the second impeachment trial of former president Donald J. Trump will begin in the Senate. This time, the House impeached him for incitement of insurrection in a desperate attempt to retain control of the presidency despite losing the 2020 election.
It's been quite a year.
I'm going to take the night off. I'll catch you tomorrow.
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/28/2021 at 7:57 AM, Bus Driver said:

I know the attention span of many precludes them from reading more than a Tweet-length post, but I HIGHLY recommend all take the time to read these posts.  

TL;DR -- a Likely @Olsonist quote.

Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Bus Driver said:
and then he said something that jumped out.
Biden argued that foreign policy is an integral part of domestic policy. It requires that the government address the needs of ordinary Americans. “We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home,” he said. “That’s why my administration has already taken the important step to live our domestic values at home — our democratic values at home.”

I heard this the other day on the radio.  FINALLY someone gets it!  There is no such thing as "national security" if we do not also have domestic security and tranquility.  I've heard it postulated recently that the deep division in our politics and in our society is THE #1 threat to our National Security right now.  Not China, not Russia, not scary muslims.  But instead, how we get along with each other and cooperate with each other in order to advance our own society is they key to survival.  Our enemies and adversaries are laughing themselves to sleep right now in absolute glee at what we've become.  

And I don't give a flying fuck who started this or who's done more to the "other side" to cause the division...... unless we collectively work to fix this deep rift, we might as well stop trying right now and save the effort.  And even if one side or the other is unwilling to heal and fix this rift, all of us need to keep trying - because we're ALL going down with the ship if we don't try.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Burning Man said:

And I don't give a flying fuck who started this or who's done more to the "other side" to cause the division...... unless we collectively work to fix this deep rift, we might as well stop trying right now and save the effort.  And even if one side or the other is unwilling to heal and fix this rift, all of us need to keep trying - because we're ALL going down with the ship if we don't try.  

Well, maybe for openers, the Reich could stop engaging in the politics of death threats. 

And I will do the same. 

Well actually, I've never done that at all, but a promise is a promise. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, AJ Oliver said:

Well, maybe for openers, the Reich could stop engaging in the politics of death threats. 

And I will do the same. 

Well actually, I've never done that at all, but a promise is a promise. 

this is why we can't have nice things.

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, AJ Oliver said:

Well, maybe for openers, the Reich could stop engaging in the politics of death threats. 

And I will do the same. 

Well actually, I've never done that at all, but a promise is a promise. 

I agree with Jeff about the problem being us.

Your continued use of "the Reich" as a label is certainly part of it.  The use of the label is intentionally, and wholly, offensive. 

You'll never get to a point in which it loses venom and stops furthering the divide.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Bus Driver said:

I agree with Jeff about the problem being us.

Your continued use of "the Reich" as a label is certainly part of it.  The use of the label is intentionally, and wholly, offensive. 

You'll never get to a point in which it loses venom and stops furthering the divide.  

Well, can you suggest a different snappy term to describe those with an

authoritarian bent who have zero respect for the truth or the lives of those they oppose ??? 

Please don't succumb to the intellectual maelstrom of Both-Sidesism - therein lies madness 

Some of them I do refer to as "fascists". I consider "Reichista" a milder term - don't know if you agree. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, AJ Oliver said:

Well, can you suggest a different snappy term to describe those with an

authoritarian bent who have zero respect for the truth or the lives of those they oppose ??? 

Please don't succumb to the intellectual maelstrom of Both-Sidesism - therein lies madness 

Some of them I do refer to as "fascists". I consider "Reichista" a milder term - don't know if you agree. 

I think you are intentional about being as offensive as possible with that choice of label.  At least be honest about that.

And, I am not going to suggest an alternate.  If you really were interested in a different label, you'd find one on your own.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My alternate is Vichy elk. They lost me after they elected, or supported but sure didn't vote for, heaven forfend, their boy Shitstain. Up front and as a reminder, I will and do point out that their boy Shitstain is their boy and that any conversation will start and continue with that agreed upon fact firmly in mind. I'm not really certain what the point of any politeness in this case would be.

Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:

I think you are intentional about being as offensive as possible with that choice of label. 

Well, I am offensive because I am offended . .

and you should be as well. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, AJ Oliver said:

Well, I am offensive because I am offended . .

and you should be as well. 

I am offended.  I am trying to remain true to my ideals and not be sucked down into the swamp.

Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, Olsonist said:
21 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:

I am offended.  I am trying to remain true to my ideals and not be sucked down into the swamp.

That's OK, for you. But it does put the burden on you rather than on the bad guys. Indeed, it reminds me of the Hero Ball.

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HeroBall

I have shared many times in these forums I find it hypocritical to engage in behavior you object to others displaying.

I don't give a pass to those who try to stir the shit by using intentionally offensive and inflammatory labels and rhetoric.

Link to post
Share on other sites