Tag Archives: Trump

I Guess It Can Happen Here–In Fact, It’s Beginning

The reports from Portland have been more than frightening.

Armed men in unmarked camouflage uniforms have been jumping out of unmarked vans and arresting–kidnapping might be a more accurate word–peaceful protesters.  Thus far, they have subsequently been letting them go, but only after a demonstration evidently intended to terrify and disorient.

Trump insists that he is sending “troops” to Portland to “help” local officials quell violence. Presumably, he is signaling to his cultish base that he’s a “strong leader”able to take on (nonexistent) violence in America’s cities, perpetrated by “those people”–and not so incidentally, distracting from the mounting death toll caused by his mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There has been considerable blowback.

Local officials insist that they can handle any incidents arising from the protests–and note that the activities were subsiding until the appearance of these storm troopers. Portland’s mayor has demanded that he withdraw these forces, evidently part of Homeland Security. The Governor of Oregon has demanded that he withdraw them. The Oregon Attorney General and the ACLU have sued. 

The House Judiciary Committee issued a statement questioning the legal basis for this use of force.

Frankly, it is not at all clear that the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary are authorized to deploy federal law enforcement officers in this manner. The Attorney General of the United States does not have unfettered authority to direct thousands of federal law enforcement personnel to arrest and detain American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. The Acting Secretary appears to be relying on an ill-conceived executive order meant to protect historic statues and monuments as justification for arresting American citizens in the dead of night. The Administration’s insistence on deploying these forces over the objections of state and local authorities suggest that these tactics have little to do with public safety, but more to do with political gamesmanship.

The blowback has even included self-identified moms, wearing yellow shirts, helmets and masks. Reportedly, several hundred women, calling themselves the Wall of Moms, formed chains between the officers and the protesters. 

This resistance–and the very negative press coverage–has evidently not deterred the administration. According to Huffington Post, 

The Trump administration is preparing to roll out a plan this week to send military-style federal assault squads already in Portland, Oregon, into other cities, warned White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who only named locations with Democratic mayors.

Attorney General William Barr is “weighing in on that” with acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Meadows said Sunday on Fox News.

“You’ll see something rolled out this week, as we start to go in and make sure that the communities — whether it’s Chicago or Portland or Milwaukee or someplace across the heartland — we need to make sure their communities are safe,” he added.

All three cities named are run by Democrats.

President Donald Trump also indicated that federal squads would likely target cities run by the party that opposes him. He said on “Fox News Sunday” that “violence” was on the increase in “Democrat-run cities.”

Yesterday, there were reports of similar activities in Columbus, Ohio.

This is eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s SA.

The SA — Sturmabteilung, meaning ‘assault division’ — also known as the Brownshirts or Storm Troopers, was a violent paramilitary group attached to the Nazi Party in pre-World War Two Germany.the SA functioned as a ‘security’ force at Nazi rallies and meetings, using threats and outright violence to secure votes and overcome Hitler’s political enemies.

The Germans who objected were obviously unable to mount an effective resistance to the use of extra-legal thugs to subdue Hitler’s political enemies. 

 Americans have long believed “it can’t happen here.” We’re now testing that belief.

Undermining Efforts To Vote–And Not Just By Mail

As the polls get grimmer for Trump and the GOP, the party’s efforts to sabotage November’s election get more frantic.

Trump has especially attacked efforts to expand vote-by-mail, in the face of a pandemic that has not only made voters fearful, but made it nearly impossible for election officials to find people willing to staff voting centers. It isn’t just threats and tantrums; the Washington Post reported on his installation of another crony as Postmaster General.

A top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business.

The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general.

Trump had already been carrying on a vendetta against the Postal Service as part of his grudge match against Jeff Bezos; he is convinced that Bezos is “getting a deal” on the delivery of Amazon packages. His fear of vote-by-mail has ramped up his antagonism considerably.

Despite the wild allegations, voting by mail has been widely used in U.S. elections for many years and previously had widespread support from both parties. A recent Brennan Center poll found that four out of five Americans think that all voters should have a mail ballot option for Election Day, including 57 percent of Republicans. Every state allows at least some of its voters to cast mail-in ballots, and most states allow all voters to cast mail-in ballots. (And as many people have pointed out, Trump himself votes by mail.)

Nevertheless, Trump has ramped up its rhetoric, characterizing mail-in ballots as fraudulent, and expansion of the option as a way to “rig” the election. (Ironically, those attacks seem to be convincing mainly Republican voters–leading GOP operatives to worry that it will hurt their own turnout efforts.)

Paul Waldman recently pointed out that GOP efforts at vote suppression aren’t limited to the party’s frenzied assault on vote-by-mail.

Voter suppression is at the very heart of Republican electoral strategy, and, as the New York Times reports Monday, they plan to go all-out in November:

The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious. That is part of a $20 million plan that also allots millions to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting-rights advocates seeking to loosen state restrictions on balloting. The party and its allies also intend to use advertising, the internet and President Trump’s command of the airwaves to cast Democrats as agents of election theft.

The efforts are bolstered by a 2018 federal court ruling that for the first time in nearly four decades allows the national Republican Party to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. The court ban on Republican Party voter-fraud operations was imposed in 1982, and then modified in 1986 and again in 1990, each time after courts found instances of Republicans intimidating or working to exclude minority voters in the name of preventing fraud. The party was found to have violated it yet again in 2004.

Waldman notes that, for Republicans, “Voters deemed suspicious” is shorthand for “black people, Latinos, students, black people, and also black people.”

He also reminds readers of what happened in Wisconsin, when Republicans stymied efforts to postpone a primary during the initial spike of COVID-19 cases. The effort backfired. Voters were pissed off enough to stand in long lines and literally risk their lives to cast a ballot.

The lesson Waldman takes from that election is that, the more attention is given to GOP voter suppression efforts– the more voter suppression itself becomes a campaign issue– the more likely it will be to boost turnout among Democrats.

Pass it on.

November Danger Signal

There is nothing that makes my heart drop down to my knees more quickly than a headline that reads “Trump Gets Some Good Election News.” But that was a Politico headline a week or so ago, and it was and is very troubling.

Late last month, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that while new voter registrations had plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, those who were registering in competitive states tended to be whiter, older and less Democratic than before.

When he saw the numbers, Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, said he “got nervous,” and other Democratic-leaning groups felt the same.

The report seemed to confirm what state elections officials and voter registration groups had been seeing in the field for weeks: Neither Democrats nor Republicans had been registering many voters during the pandemic. But Democrats were suffering disproportionately from the slowdown.

Unlike countries like Australia, America doesn’t have mandatory voting. If U.S. voters want to ignore the political process, if we want to leave the outcome up to those most passionate about it, if we just don’t care and want to stay home, we can. One of the reasons polls can so often be misleading is that pollsters have to make educated guesses about who will actually show up on election day.

Unlike a lot of countries, America doesn’t have a national agency that administers federal elections, either. Election day isn’t a national holiday–it isn’t even on a weekend–and very few states have made it easier, rather than harder, to register and vote. Add to that the GOP’s determination to use every suppression method it can muster–including some recent “enthusiastic” purges of the voter registration rolls– and the fact that a substantial majority of Americans want Donald Trump and the GOP defeated becomes irrelevant.

As one political observer puts it, “The electoral dynamics have already hardened. Donald Trump will lose if everyone who wants to vote can. His remaining hope is to choose his own electorate.”

In our system, what matters isn’t what a majority of Americans think or want. What matters is who shows up.  

November has always been about turnout. Democrats need to turn out a blue wave–a blue tsunami–if voters are going to decisively defeat Trumpism. Whatever happens in the wake of such a defeat–further erosion and ultimate disappearance of the cult that was once the GOP, or a thorough housecleaning by the sane remnant–is less important than the decisiveness with which we defeat the corrupt and traitorous cabal that currently controls the White House and the Senate.

That tsunami cannot happen if Democratic registrations lag.

We know that Trump’s cult will show up at the polls. If rational Americans don’t register and vote in numbers sufficient to overwhelm them, we can kiss America goodby.

As Politico concluded:

The months-long lull in registration, at a minimum, has added an additional measure of uncertainty to the fall campaign, muddying the likely composition of the electorate. In some areas of the country, a swing of even several hundred voters could tilt the registration balance on Election Day.

Ask everyone you know whether they are registered. If they aren’t–or don’t know–get them registered. In Indiana, you–and they–can check whether they are registered by going here.

We can’t afford to let the polls lull us into false complacency. Again.

Joe Biden Is Coming For Your Windows

If it wasn’t so serious–and terrifying–it would be funny. 

Anyone who watched Trump’s Rose Garden “press conference” and still thinks that the guardian of the nuclear codes is sane, is equally demented. 

Dana Milbank shared his bemusement in the Wednesday Washington Post.

President Trump’s window is closing.

All signs suggest it’s closing on his presidency because of his world-class incompetence with the coronavirus pandemic, the protracted economic collapse that resulted, and the increasingly overt racism Trump has embraced.
 
But it also appears the window is closing on his connection to reality, if it hasn’t already.

Milbank described Trump’s use of the ostensible press conference to launch a bizarre and lengthy attack on Joe Biden– “attributing a platform to his Democratic opponent that bore hardly any resemblance to anything occurring in the real world.”
 
Trump informed the assembled White House reporters that Biden would “incentivize illegal alien child smuggling,”  “abolish immigration enforcement,” “abolish police departments” and “abolish our prisons.” According to Trump, Democrats are “calling for defunding of our military” and “wouldn’t mind” if terrorists blew up America’s cities.

He also said “Biden and Obama stopped their testing– they just stopped it.” (Presumably, they are also culpable for failing to prevent 9/11.)

The weirdest accusation was that Biden’s energy plan would require eliminating windows. According to Trump’s unhinged diatribe, Biden’s energy plan “basically means no windows” in homes or offices by 2030.

Uh-huh.

Lest you think Milbank was exaggerating for comic effect, his description of the “press conference” (note quotation marks) was echoed by a number of other observers. Cody Fenwick attributed the performance to Trump’s longing for the rallies he has been unable to hold.

There was no consistent thread or argument to his ramblings, aside from his own supposed greatness. It was pure stream of consciousness, supplemented by factoids apparently printed on notes on his lectern. He claimed to be the defender of African Americans at one moment because he favors school choice, but then slipped into attacking low-income housing and saying he’d preserve the suburbs — an unsubtle code for protecting white neighborhoods.

He lied so constantly that CNN’s Daniel Dale, one of the president’s most assiduous fact-checkers, noted that he couldn’t cover the speech in real-time on Twitter because there were just so many falsehoods.

The Lincoln Project tweeted out: “We’re watching the self-destruction of the president in real time.”

And back at the Washington Post, in a column that was far from amusing or bemused, Paul Waldman argued that people who aren’t furious with Trump and the GOP just aren’t paying attention.

Let me take you for a moment to a fantasy land. In this place, the coronavirus pandemic was bad for a couple of months but now it is largely under control. If you lived there you’d still be a little uncertain about going to a concert or a movie, but your life would have largely returned to normal.
 
You wouldn’t have lost your job; the government would have had a comprehensive support program that kept unemployment low. You’d be able to see your family and friends without fear. Your children would be returning to school in September. There would be some precautions to take for a while longer, but there would be no doubt that the pandemic was on its way to being defeated.

As Waldman says, this isn’t a fairy-tale; it’s life in numerous other countries around the world. (I know it’s true of the Netherlands, because I have a son who lives in Amsterdam, and that’s been his experience.)

Waldman provides data that should enrage us: new case totals from Monday. France: 580; UK: 564; Spain: 546; Germany: 365; Canada: 299; Japan: 259;  Italy: 200; Australia: 158; South Korea: 52.

The United States? 55,300.

There are many reasons we have experienced this catastrophe (and it quickly became two catastrophes, an economic crisis added to the public health crisis), but one stands above all others: President Trump.

Is there a single aspect of his response to this pandemic that has not been a miserable failure? For weeks he ignored warnings and denied that the pandemic would be a problem. He didn’t prepare the equipment and systems we’d need to respond.

Waldman lists the failures, then focuses on the President’s disconnect from reality.

And he demanded that everyone around him echo his insane claims that everything is under control and the pandemic is being vanquished. It was a month ago that Vice President Pence pathetically proclaimed that “we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy,” and the administration’s great success was “cause for celebration.”

And now (since nothing bad can ever be Trump’s fault) the White House is trying to discredit Dr. Fauci.

As Waldman points out, we should all be furious–because we’ve been robbed:

Even if you’re lucky enough not to have gotten sick or lost a loved one, you’re the victim of a robbery. Trump stole so much from all of us — our time with friends and family, our mental health, even our faith that our country could meet a challenge.

I can just hear the Trumpers’ response: but think how angry we’ll be when Joe Biden steals our windows…

 

 

 

 

Law And Order

No mentally-competent American still believes that Donald Trump is (1) honest (2) intelligent (3) informed or (4) sane. In a way, we are probably fortunate that he is so incredibly incompetent and unable to restrain himself from broadcasting his idiocy–if he was smart and just as corrupt, he could pretend to be other than what he is. Fortunately, he is too stupid to hide what he is.

Give him credit for one thing, though: he knew enough to commute Roger Stone’s sentence rather than pardoning his creepy co-conspirator.

The difference is significant: a pardon erases the conviction of guilt. A President’s decision to commute a sentence, however, doesn’t eliminate a federal conviction or imply that the person was innocent. It doesn’t even remove the ramifications of a criminal conviction, such as losing the right to vote or inability to hold elected office.

So–since even Trump must have recognized that letting Stone off the hook via either mechanism would engender huge blow-back–why not give his old pal a pardon?

Mother Jones asks–and answers–that question.

Why the second-class treatment of a commutation instead of a pardon? Wasn’t Stone important enough for a pardon?

But wait. Someone who gets a pardon can no longer invoke the Fifth Amendment as a justification for refusing to testify in court. If Stone were called in some other case, he’d be required to spill any beans he had. But if I understand the law correctly, a commutation is more limited. The conviction stands, and the possibility of putting yourself in further jeopardy remains. Thus your Fifth Amendment rights stand.

So if you wanted to help out a buddy, but you also wanted to make sure he couldn’t be forced to provide dangerous testimony in the future, commutation sure seems like the best bet, doesn’t it?

Reactions to the commutation have reminded us that Trump has either pardoned or commuted the sentences of a long list of other truly despicable–and unambiguously guilty– men: Joe Arpaio (Contempt of Court) Michael Milken (Fraud)  Scooter Libby (Perjury) Eddie Gallagher (War Crimes) and Rod Blagojevich (Corruption) come to mind.

There is another interesting wrinkle, legally, to Trump’s latest favor to the dark side.

Seth Abramson, an attorney and commentator, has characterized Stone’s commutation as that of a “co-conspirator,” and opined that–because it amounts to a “self-pardon”–it is obstruction of justice and thus unconstitutional. Nancy Pelosi has weighed in by recommending passage of a law forbidding a President from pardoning or commuting a sentence if the conviction was for illegal behavior to protect the President–which Stone’s quite obviously was.

Perhaps the most succinct summary of the situation came from Mitt Romney–who seems to be the only Republican in the Senate with either scruples or a backbone. Romney tweeted

Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.

There is broad recognition that another four years for this grotesque buffoon would be the end of America’s experiment with democratic self-government. Inconceivable as it seems, however, he continues to have the devotion of his base/cult. They won’t desert him and they will turn out for him.

If we want to save America in November, we’d better get massive turnout of people who come prepared to “vote blue no matter who.”