*Joe Biden, to the surprise of nobody who’s been following the vote counts, is now the President-Elect. It isn’t the outcome I wanted, but it is what it is. If we’re true patriots, we wish him well, line up as the loyal opposition and carry on.
*We’re undoubtedly in for a bumpy month while we await state certifications. It seems a foregone conclusion the President will unleash every legal tool available to him to stave off the inevitable. That’s his right, but history is not on his side. The courts (properly) prefer not to be involved in elections, unless there is clear evidence of malfeasance.
*We can only hope when all is said and done, the President concedes. I’m not asking him to be gracious about it, that would be totally out of character. But failure to do so will only validate every tweet, op-ed, and media commentator who has labeled him as a wannabe dictator.
*Finally, those of us who call ourselves conservatives need to ask if the last four years were about fealty to a single man, or loyalty to our founding principles? Because if the last four years for you was about loyalty to a person, then you’ve lost. If it was about loyalty to principles, then you understand that this is just a temporary set back, and a narrow one at that.
Apparently, there’s a hubbub around whether the President suggested people should inject bleach and other household disinfectants to ward of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I did not watch the press conference live, so I didn’t hear the comments or the context at the time. I was, like millions of other Americans, getting ready for the NFL draft. In fact, if I’m being totally honest, I probably haven’t watched a full briefing in two weeks – I find most of it to be a tedious bore, with reporters springing “gotcha” questions in attempts to sow division and hatred, instead of asking real questions about policies or findings.
Anyway, President Trump seemed to suggest injecting household cleaners would be worth studying. Or he was, once again, thinking out loud – which is one of his more notable (and regrettable) traits. Regardless, he did say something that could be misconstrued along those lines.
So here’s where common sense comes in. I think most of us learned by age 4 or so that ingesting chemicals is a really bad, not good, horrible idea (except for those of you on YouTube eating laundry soap, y’all came to that knowledge later). But if you didn’t, here’s a protip: DO NOT INJECT YOURSELF WITH BLEACH OR LYSOL.
I can’t believe I’m taking time out of my day to write this, but here we are. By the way, if you’re one of the select who think every suggestion by the President carries the same weight as the Gospels, now might be a good time to do a little self-reflection. As with all politicians, their words should be measured against what they actually do. But never, ever lend credence to anything they say in a vacuum.
Now, if the President decides to inject himself with bleach, then you might consider it. Despite this president’s notable germophobia, I don’t think he will be anytime soon. And neither should you.
I’ve been sitting here, replaying yesterday morning’s events over in my mind. I’ve been trying to figure out what particular sort of insanity affects the Democratic Party. I mean, let’s face it. If ever there were a Republican President you would think Democrats could have a good working relationship with, it would be a guy who spent more than 40 years being a loyal, card-carrying Democrat. You would think it would be the Republican who fully embraces the concept of Big Government Doing Big Things.
You would certainly think negotiations over spending another $2 trillion on domestic spending wouldn’t be contentious. Yet… Here we are.
The Democrats are so obsessed with forcing this particular President from office that they have induced a near total paralysis on governance. Bills languish. The budget is left unattended. Honest, responsible oversight of government agencies is abandoned for sham investigations and soundbite laden grillings of Cabinet officers.
The overarching question surrounding all of the drama of the last 2+ years is WHY? WHY are they so obsessed with desperately trying to find some sort of criminal offense? WHY are they so obsessed with blocking every proposal, even ones these same legislators supported in the past? WHY are they so obsessed with blowing every little rumor into a “constitutional crisis” that they’ve elevated people they once shunned (Michael Avenatti, Jeff Flake, James Comey, etc.) into national spokespeople for the DNC? WHY are they so obsessed with denying him any sort of triumph they were willing to resort to character assassination of a Supreme Court justice?
There are a few plausible answers to the question.
- Donald Trump had the temerity to run against Saint Hillary – and won: This possibility immediately rises to the top of the list. Democrats fully anticipated that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected as the 45th President of the United States. They had practically ordered a crown for her. To ensure that Hillary made it, they cleared the primary field of anyone they anticipated might actually challenge her in 2016. Yes, Bernie Sanders put up a spirited fight. But the DNC and Democrat establishment had almost no control over Bernie, and then they strong-armed him into supporting her before their convention. They spoon fed her debate questions, engaged in some shady campaign financing, and did everything they could to push her over the finish line. Then, despite every pundit and opinion poll, Donald Trump swooped in on election night and “stole” her coronation.
- Donald Trump represents those Gawd awful, backwards, deplorable people who bitterly cling to their guns and religion: Look, it isn’t a big secret that the country’s essential divide isn’t between “haves” and “have-nots.” It isn’t between liberals and conservatives. It is that, perhaps, we are the most geographically divided since before the Civil War. There are the “Coastal Elites” and “Flyover Country,” and politically, culturally and economically, those regions are quickly becoming separate nations within a country. Democrats tend to populate the nation of Coastal Elite and Republicans, Flyover Country. Democrats were certain that Barack Obama’s two terms marked the demise of the despised Bitter Clingers in Flyover Country. Then Donald Trump not only returned the Bitter Clingers of Flyover Country to prominence, but showed the Democrats that there are a quite a few Deplorables living in their midst. The Democrats are still reeling from that revelation.
- Donald Trump is the only non-politician who knows where everyone in DC’s skeletons are buried: The only thing that really scares a Washington insider is the realization that someone who isn’t one of them, but has done tons of business with them, is now going to assume the reins of power. Everyone knows Donald Trump has done some shady business in the past. He made his fortune developing real estate in New York and Atlantic City, after all. Likewise, everyone knows 99.9% of those in Washington are corrupt. The reason major scandals didn’t rock the Capital over the last 40 years is that everyone always knew where everyone hid the bodies. Now, we have a President where virtually nobody knows where he’s hid his skeletons – but whose team knows where all the DC power players have theirs hidden. The realization that at any time, he can drop the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the governing establishment and they cannot reply in kind has them frightened and angry. Just like any other frightened, angry animal who’s been cornered, they’re lashing out.
- All of the above: This one makes the most sense. Any of the previous three possibilities would explain a certain level of partisan vitriol, but nothing on the scale we’re witnessing. But destroying their dreams of having a woman president that epitomizes everything Democrats believe in culturally and politically, and who was so much one of them they could trace here DC roots back the Nixon investigations, by upending their world view and forcing them to deal with a part of the population they would rather enslave and by holding a virtual sword of Damocles over everything Washington, Donald Trump has earned their undying, distorted, absolute hatred.
So, how do the rest of us combat this? By getting out next November and doing the one thing we can: voting for Donald J. Trump and every down ballot Republican. No, it won’t make the Democrats any less crazy. One of the things you can’t do with a demented person (or political party) is force them to confront their delusions. But you can deny them the ability to act on them. That, my friends, is what we must do.
In case you were off enjoying yourself this past weekend (or dodging tornadoes in Kansas), this tweet from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) set the political world on fire:
You can read the full thread on Twitter and I suggest you do just that, rather than listen to the dozens of talking heads that populate the airwaves. They have quickly assumed their usual fighting stances. For the Trumpsters, Amash is a traitor to the cause, giving cover to the most corrupt deep state coup in history. To the Resistance, Amash is a hero, speaking the truth about the most corrupt administration since King George III.
Further down in his thread, Amash hints at this response to his conclusions:
Indeed, when you read the full thread, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to understand why Amash reached the conclusions he did. To his reasoning, Barr is covering for presidential misdeeds out of partisan fervor. Whether those misdeeds are, in fact, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is not the matter for debate. Rather, it is that they reveal a pattern of “otherwise dishonorable conduct.”
Anyone who has paid attention to Justin Amash’s career shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. He has always been the most reluctant of Republicans; a man who hoped to bring the GOP closer to his libertarian inclinations than the conservative bent of the party when he was first elected to Congress. Based on his past, this was the only conclusion Amash could come to that is consistent to his principles.
While I disagree with his conclusion, I have to respect the man for being true to who he is. I heard one of those talking heads say something to the effect of Amash is angling to switch to being a Democrat, as he has a primary challenger and wants to avoid a primary election fight. While nothing in politics would surprise me these days, that would come close. Amash is a small “l” libertarian. While many of his views are not in step with the typical GOP voter, the idea he is more aligned to the party of Big Government is ludicrous.
I would argue that while some find his views on some subjects seem to be political contrivances, they are anything but. It’s just that as a libertarian, his political views are not easy to pigeonhole. In this case, he takes umbrage with the fact that there is a subset of the body politic that deifies President Trump. Amash sees danger with this, in that such fealty to an individual can cause that subset to willingly overlook corrupt practices by a Chief Executive. But such slavish devotion to a sitting President is not an impeachable offense of that President. If it were, then there are at least a dozen past Presidents who were worthy of impeachment, from Obama, through Reagan, Kennedy, FDR and so on, all the way back to Washington. Amash correctly identifies a problem with politics, in that elections are rarely more than popularity contests of personalities. His solution, however, would paralyze our system of government every time the opposition party assumes control of the House of Representatives.
Regardless of how misguided he might be on this issue, I can’t help but wish we had more politicians who were true to their ideals. Yes, it has put Justin Amash outside the political mainstream. But if that is the only offense you can take with him, then he’s doing a better job than 95% of those in the House today.
I’ve been desperately hoping the President would get back to doing the things we expect Presidents to do. Negotiating trade deals, trying to work with Congress, yada yada. But Trump, being Trump, has now spent a week in full grievance mode, blasting everyone and everything. It is the type of behavior that anyone with any sense expects from a preschooler – not the President of the United States.
His visit to Ohio yesterday was the last straw. At what was a campaign event hidden inside a rally to celebrate a tank factory, he said this:
It’s worse than it was 19 years ago? 19 years ago, Al-Qaeda was in the middle of prepping for 9-11. 19 years ago, we were enforcing a no-fly zone while Saddam Hussein was gassing his citizens and giving both material and moral support to terrorists. You can take issue with how the war was conducted (I have) and the fact we never figured out what winning looked like (I have), but to definitively say the region is worse off because of the US is unconscionable. To even insinuate that the millions of US servicemen who volunteered and served in that theater made things worse is to trample on every single one of their legacies. For the President of the United States, the commander-in-chief, to make a statement like that is beyond the pale and should never be supported by anyone who considers themself a patriot.
The President’s most recent temper-tantrum began last week, as I mentioned. Among the long list of grievances he aired, this was the one that pretty much grabbed everyone’s attention:
Now here’s the thing: John McCain has been dead and buried for 7 months. Was McCain a saint? No. In fact, the McCain/Trump feud extends to well before Trump took the oath of office – in fact, it dates to the Clinton administration. Like Trump, McCain was a man who had a hard time letting grudges go. However, the man is dead and you triumphed. The persistent, continual attacks on him convey that you are nothing more than a spiteful, miserable little old man.
Of course, Trump is not content with just punching down at dead people. One of his principal aides is Kellyanne Conway, who’s husband is a long-time Democratic operative. Outside of political circles, George Conway isn’t well-known. His comments on the President’s behavior haven’t received much airplay, aside from ten-second blurbs as Kellyanne is interviewed. Still, that doesn’t stop President Trump:
Now, I don’t know what exactly that’s supposed to do other than cause all kinds of trouble in the Conway’s marriage. I’m not sure what the President think it does for him, except get what should have been a “meh” moment off his chest.
There are talking heads pronouncing the President’s mental health in decline. I disagree with that assessment. This is the worst of Trump, the Page Six Trump, the man who has never been able to handle losing very well. And let’s face it, he’s been losing “bigly” since November. His signature issue – the border wall – was soundly rejected by Congress. The GOP abandoned him again on the issue just last week. His grand bargain with North Korea ended in a very public disaster. His promised trade deal with China is not only hanging by a thread, but the Chinese premier told Trump to stay out of it and let Robert Lighthizer handle the negotiations.
Oh, and let’s not forget the number one issue in the districts lost to the GOP as the Democrats resumed control of the House was the President’s demeanor. Now, add in that the Democrats have begun really to put the screws to not only the President but the the President’s business empire, and his rage is predictable.
As has been his lifelong pattern, when pressured, he lashes out at everyone and everything. The raging temper-tantrums (and that’s what they are), once cute when he was Donald Trump, billionaire playboy, are beyond unseemly for the man who holds the most powerful position in the world. They remind us of the 8 year old whose parents never told “no” picking on the kindergartners during recess because the teacher gave him an F on his homework.
Well Mr. President, I’m giving you the same advice I give those petulant 8 year olds. Do your homework and stop punching down.
Yay! The government shutdown is over. So what was gained by the political games over the past five weeks?
Well, nothing if you’re a fan of the President. Even less if you’re a small government conservative. To wit: the President shut down the government for better than a month in order to secure funding for a wall on the southern border. Then he changed that to steel slats. Then he changed it again to a down payment on steel slats. Finally, he agreed to a continuing resolution in exchange for revisiting the entire thing on February 15. However, the Democrat’s leader has already made clear she will not allow any funding for a wall, or steel slats, or any other sort of border barrier.
In other words, Donald Trump got rolled like a drunk in Hell’s Kitchen.
Now he can try to go around Congress come February 15 and declare an emergency on the border in order to build his wall (or steel slats, or… you get the idea). By midnight on the 16th, the courts will enjoin him from carrying out that order. It will make its way through the court system, eventually winding up before SCOTUS. The likely result? SCOTUS will affirm the lower court order, as there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the President to bypass Congress.
The shame of all this is, the shutdown could have been much more instructive if handled better. The President could have moved to privatize both the ATC and TSA. He could have pushed for funding the IRS and Border Patrol separately. (To their credit, some House Republicans did offer bills to do just those things). He could have activated the Coast Guard into the Navy, thereby funding them. The shutdown could have been used to showcase how little the federal government does that positively affects the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.
But since Trump is, at heart, a big government guy, such a tactic never even occurred to him. Think about it: a Republican president shut down the government because a Democrat-controlled House wouldn’t give him more money. I can’t recall any other time in our history such a thing has happened. He can’t be said to have abandoned the most fundamental policy of conservatism since he never embraced it. But it was that lack of understanding that ultimately led to his defeat.
The question is what Trump does next. The main thing those die-hard Trump supporters believe in is his infallibility in negotiations and his ability to turn losses into wins. However, unlike his failures in the private sector, there is no Deutsche Bank ready to ride in with loans to save his businesses. There is no Carl Icahn showing up with a bailout. There is no Jeffrey Zucker willing to be complicit in an identity makeover. He is on his own, against a foe who’s implacable in her opposition and much better versed at holding a political party together.
This isn’t to say some sort of compromise isn’t available. They can fudge on the wording allowing everyone to declare a victory. The President has already demonstrated that he’s willing to call a bunch of steel slats shoved into the desert sand “a big, powerful wall”, even though nobody with a functioning brain cell thinks it is. But in order to get that, he’ll need to be gracious enough to allow the Democrats to say they aren’t funding a border wall. It’s a trait that is not part of Donald Trump’s character.
There seems to be much confusion these days over political labels. What do these terms even mean any more? What is a centrist? A liberal? A libertarian? A conservatarian? A classical liberal? A neo-liberal? A neocon?
What is a conservative, in today’s world?
To begin answering that question, it is helpful to understand where modern conservative thought in America comes from, and how it evolved.
There were two dominant themes of conservative thought in the middle of the 20th century. One was what we refer to as Buckley Conservatism. This strain of conservatism emphasized the role of traditions and established hierarchical organizations in promoting social order; preferred limited government, recognized the roles of religion and shared culture in social cohesiveness, distrusted rationalizations and promoted the view that people are, at our core, emotional beings. Buckley conservatives accept that private ownership of property, capitalism and free trade economics are the surest path to economic prosperity for everyone.
The other predominant view of conservatism was Coolidge Conservatism, which traced its roots back to the mid-19th century. This version of conservatism differed from Bucklian conservatism in that it viewed the corporation as the principle driver of both economic and social policy. It eventually merged with Objectivist theory to form the modern Libertarian party.
During the 1970s, a third strain of conservatism arose. We came to call this version of conservative thought neoconservatism, although it might also be called Bush or Kristol Conservatism after the men who exemplified its ideas. This version arose from disaffected liberals, although it hews close to the pre-existing Northeastern Republican thought of the day. Neocons espouse that military adventurism in replacing totalitarian regimes with democratic ones is a laudable use of military power, that government intervention in society to promote social change is not only acceptable but necessary, and a general belief in capitalism, but not free markets (Irving Kristol referred to this as “bourgeois capitalism”). While they agree with their forebears that people are not rational beings, they accept the idea that rationally developed plans, implemented by people who were educated and trained to ignore their emotional impulses, could improve the lives of everyone. This includes a belief that a strong welfare state is a requirement for a modern society.
Buckley conservatives were represented by Barry Goldwater’s quixotic presidential run in 1964 and reached its zenith with the Reagan presidency of the 1980s. But the GOP soon shifted from Buckleyism to Neoconservatism under the leadership of George HW Bush. Interventionist foreign policy and regime change became the order of the day, along with increased taxes and government intrusion into some of the social ramparts, such as local schools and civic organizations.
It is the neoconservative view that most Americans came to associate with being a conservative by the time of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign of 2012. While a great many conservative thinkers, politicians and writers paid lip service to the Bucklian concept of limited government and free markets, they only took that so far as limited taxation on businesses. Beyond that, they still practiced government regulation like a Rockefeller, practiced foreign interventionism like a Bush, and railed for government solutions to social problems like a liberal. Buckley Conservatism seemed an outdated anachronism by this point.
The funny thing about that is neoconservatism was actually the least conservative of the three dominant conservative philosophies that came to be in the 20th century. It owes its existence to liberals who were repulsed by the leftward lurch of mainstream liberal thought during the late 1960s. Neoconservatism shares many views with its liberal roots, although in attenuated form. As Irving Kristol once remarked, “A neoconservative is a liberal who got hit in the face by reality.”
That being said, neoconservatives also adopted Bucklian language in deference to the last truly successful Republican president, in Ronald Reagan. So, we have neoconservatives praising free markets when in reality they haven’t actually practiced free market economics. We have neoconservatives pledging fealty to fiscal responsibility, but refusing to actually do anything about it. We have neoconservatives decrying the welfare state, but refusing to do anything about the two biggest social welfare programs managed by the federal government.
Indeed, it is this aspect of the neoconservative takeover of the Republican party that has led many voters to think of it as nothing more than the flip side of the Democratic party coin. Is it any wonder the average person has no idea what a conservative is?
Into this vacuum stepped one Donald Trump. While almost nobody would consider Trump a died-in-the-wool conservative, he was able to capture the nomination of the Republican party by espousing many conservative views on issues, such as fealty to the letter of the Constitution, lower taxes, less regulation, an end to foreign adventurism, etc. At the same time, he promoted ideas that should have been anathema to any conservative: trade barriers, managed economies and a personal moral code that could be best described as immoral.
Some have described Trump, and his policy goals as a form of right-wing populism. It may well be, but I suspect that Trump has so completely rebranded the moniker of conservative (abetted by a very liberal press that wants nothing more than to permanently discredit conservatism, in all forms) that conservatives will need to re-examine their ideals to see which can be modified, and which of the new ideas can be absorbed, into a 21st century conservatism.
For instance, many conservatives are loathe to accept the idea of nationalism as being a conservative goal. At the same time, one of the core tenets of conservatism – irregardless of the particular flavor of 20th century conservative thought to which one might subscribe – is the notion of a cohesive society, built around a shared history and culture. That is the very essence of nationalism. To some, this smacks of the jingoism and xenophobia associated with the extreme nationalism that punctuated the 1930s. But it need not be. Acceptance of the United States as unique among nations extends back throughout our history, there’s no reason we should deviate from that today.
The best way to judge whether conservatism, as both a political and societal philosophy, is at all compatible with elements of Trumpism is to see if the general tenets of conservatism are compatible with them. Perhaps no finer mind than that of Russell Kirk laid out those general principles 25 years ago in a terrific essay (you can find it here). So, if we do that comparison, which are – and which are not?
- Human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent. – NO
- Trumpism doesn’t address human nature at all, nor does it consider it as a guiding principle in any policy decision. Morality is paid lip service, but in practice ignored, both by Trump and most of those in his inner circle.
- The conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity. – MAYBE?
- Trumpism has a dichotic relationship with this idea. On one hand, Trump was elected precisely to upend conventional politics and institutions. On the other, many of his supporters want a return to the customs and conventions they recall from their youth.
- Conservatives believe in the principle of prescription. – NO
- This is one area in which Trump’s liberal roots come shining through. Rather than base his decisions on what worked in the past, he very much is out to completely remake the world order in his own image.
- Conservatives are guided by prudence. – NO
- Not unlike most other politicians of the current era, this principle does not apply to Trump. Every decision he makes is weighed against immediate impact, not the effect on the nation or world five or ten years hence.
- Conservatives pay attention to variety. – YES
- Kirk wrote, “The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law…” This is a principle that is upheld under Trumpism, much to the chagrin of liberals – who are determined to end the inequality of outcomes.
- Conservatives understand that humans are not perfect, and cannot be made to be perfect. – NO
- This is another area in which Trump demonstrates his liberal leanings. By action, he shows he believes himself to be perfected. He believes he can also bring perfection to any number of situations. Such self-confidence is a key part of his appeal, even if it is misguided.
- Freedom and property are closely linked. – NO
- The Trump administration has fought efforts to end the abysmal practice of civil forfeiture, and followed Trump’s long history of supporting using eminent domain to seize property. That speaks for how strongly this principle is detested by Trumpism.
- Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. – NO
- Trumpism is all about big, beautiful, federally driven solutions to problems that certainly would be better left to states and localities. Repealing Obamacare would be great, replacing it with another monster federal program not so much. A $1 trillion infrastructure program, with funds doled out by bureaucrats in Washington, will be as much a boondoggle as the “shovel ready jobs” Obama stimulus program.
- Government and government officials need restraints on power and human passions. – NO
- One glance at the headlines or Twitter on any given day tells you all you need to know how Trump (and due to their slavish devotion, most of his supporters) feel about this principle. That Trump came into the Oval Office thinking he had near kingly powers is pretty obvious, and the fact he doesn’t chafes at him probably more than anything else about the job.
- Permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. – NO
- Kirk meant this in terms of the tension between a normal society’s natural desire towards social progress versus its foundational aspects. As noted previously, Trump is in many ways out to obliterate many of those foundations, without regard to what may replace them. Yet at the same time, his supporters look to return many established norms of prior eras while removing some of the progressive aspects of modern society.
So based on Kirk’s criteria, Trumpism is not particularly conservative, although there are parts of his agenda that will certainly appeal to conservatives – particularly conservatives who have been able to divorce their societal impulses from their views of governance and morality. Still, we can safely say that most who subscribe to Trumpism are NOT conservatives.
Likewise, we can safely say that those who subscribe to neoconservatism are not conservative, either. The entire philosophy of neoconservatism disagrees with Kirk on points 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10. Think of the headlong rush to impose a Pax Americana by force of arms, to alter the nature of education and force federal intrusion into the same, and so forth. None of those policies nor the reasoning behind them were conservative in nature.
Thus, the confusion for us in determining what conservatism is and who in our country actually is a conservative. Our media, for 30 years – two generations – has conflated “conservative” with Republican. In no small measure, Buckley is responsible for this. He once wrote, “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.” This led the publication that Buckley founded, over the years, to support all four Bush candidacies, along with the McCain candidacy in 2008 and Romney candidacy in 2012. That sort of cover is precisely what the media (which has been unabashedly liberal for at least 40 years) has needed to paint the neoconservative movement as actually conservative. Likewise, the principle espoused (despite NR’s vociferous objections to Trump during the 2016 election) by Buckley has allowed them to paint Trump as a conservative.
So the answer to the question “what is a conservative” is the same as it has always been. If the question is, “who is a conservative,” though, and you refer to national leaders and politicians, then there is no obvious answer these days.
This morning, news broke that President Trump intends to end “birthright citizenship” for illegal aliens by executive order. It is certainly a bold stroke, and undeniably a blatant political move coming right before the midterm elections next week. But before everyone gets themselves into a lather over the announcement, we need to stop and realize that this is a dance in multiple parts. Specifically, there are questions it raises and we don’t even have the text of the proposed order to begin working with yet. However, we can break the announcement into three distinct parts, just based on the interview the President gave to Axios. The first is, does the President have the authority to make this change to citizenship requirements? Secondly, if the President does have the authority, would such a change to citizenship standards pass Constitutional review? Finally, assuming questions 1 and 2 can be affirmed, how would such a change be implemented?
As to the first question, it is extremely doubtful the President can unilaterally change citizenship standards. There are steps he could include in a concurrent executive order that would have the same effect as changing citizenship standards without actually touching on any of the relevant Constitutional issues a Presidential end run would create (I’ll touch on those when I discuss the third question).
The reason I doubt a President can ignore the wishes of Congress when setting citizenship standards is found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution:
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
I have little doubt the President will attempt some weird workaround. The most likely method will be by declaring that since Congress has failed to act on the question of citizenship in any meaningful way since the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 (or as it is commonly referred to, the McCarron-Walter Act, 8 USC Chapter 12), nor has it even attempted to amend the law in 17 years, then he can by means of his powers in the Opinion Clause amend the law on his own. This is a serious misreading of the powers enumerated in Article 2, Section 2, and I cannot see any possible way any court in the country would let this stand.
So, what is to be gained by a move any pre-law student can see is futile? Well, this was one of the President’s campaign planks. What’s more, while I am certain the media will hyperventilate while mentioning “the President’s base” when talking about this, what they won’t tell you is that ending birthright citizenship for illegal aliens has consistently polled around 65% approval. It is a winning issue for him, and this Kafkaesque method of getting people talking about it again will prove that, even if the “Morning Joe” panel begs to disagree.
So, as to the second question, should Congress move on the President’s request to limit birthright citizenship, would it pass Constitutional muster? This is the biggest question that needs to be answered, and you can bet the legal challenges will be flying should such a bill ever get passed. I posted the relevant portion of the Constitution at the top of this post. This is referred to as the Citizenship Clause, or Section 1, of the 14th Amendment, and on first blush, it reads as simply being born in the United States immediately confers citizenship to you. This is actually the furthest thing from the truth, and the key part is the part that states “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” In other words, the authors of the 14th Amendment understood from the outset that not everyone born on US territory should automatically be granted citizenship.
That’s because their principle concern in authoring the 14th Amendment was redressing some of the more pernicious aspects of readmitting former Confederate states into the Union. Among these were citizenship, the right of representation, due process protections, and debts incurred by the former Confederate states to foreign powers (yes, all those questions are addressed in the 14th Amendment). They understood the amendment would cover the issues in broad brush strokes, but that further tweaks over time would be needed. So they included section 5, which states
“The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
In fact, it was by this clause that Congress finally granted citizenship to Native Americans in 1924, under the Snyder Act, as well as to residents of most American territories (Puerto Rico by 8 USC 1402, the US Virgin Islands by 8 USC 1406 and Guam by 8 USC 1407). Those last three acts were passed in the 1950’s. Even though those territories had been part of the United States since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, persons born there were not considered US citizens prior to that. We’ll be revisiting this shortly.
Now back to the Citizenship Clause. The authors understood that not everyone born on US soil should automatically be entitled to US citizenship. The phrase “subject to the jurisdiction of” has been hotly debated in Constitutional circles for better than a century. There are plenty of articles arguing the exact meaning “jurisdiction” as it applies to the 14th Amendment, and you’re certainly welcome to do the research for them. However, they break down into two general categories. The first holds that “jurisdiction” refers to allegiance to the United States, and requires the person does not hold allegiance to a foreign power or be in a state of rebellion against the United States. This is backed by the intent of the Citizenship Clause: it was intended to ensure that prior to re-obtaining their citizenship, the former Confederates had renounced their rebellion. The secondary purpose was to override the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857, which held that former slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore not entitled to due process protections (also addressed in the Due Process Clause of the amendment).
The second interpretation is the one most commonly held by the media types, that “jurisdiction” refers to being liable to the laws of the United States. Under this explanation, anyone born on US soil is a citizen, unless recognized as a citizen of a foreign power (for instance, the child of an ambassador), since everyone is subject to US law.
You might think this is already settled law, based on the common narrative. Actually, it is anything but. The question has only partly come before the Supreme Court once, in 1898. In US v Wong Kim Ark, the court held that the children of legal immigrants are entitled to birthright citizenship. The precedent of jus soli (or by soil) was affirmed for this purpose, but the principle of jus sanguinis (or by parental right) was not disavowed, either. Further, the idea that sanguinis takes precedence over soli is further affirmed by those acts I mentioned above: the ones that granted citizenship to residents of certain territories. And if you’re ready for your head to explode, there are still two US territories where birthright citizenship is not granted: those born on American Samoa or the Swains Islands are considered US nationals, but not citizens.
What all of this means is there is enough ambiguity to ensure that should Congress act under their Section 5 powers of the 14th Amendment to restrict the establishment of the Citizenship Clause to legally admitted residents, then a Supreme Court case is certain. The outcome isn’t, but given the current court’s alignment, an affirmative decision in the President’s favor is most likely.
Finally, I mentioned that the third question – what can the President do in the meantime – is rather substantial. I’ve already demonstrated the President does not have the authority to rewrite the laws around citizenship on his own. However, he does have the authority to affect how those laws are enforced. There is a multitude of actions he can order that, while not ending birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, would severely curtail their ability to exercise it. This could begin at birth, by requiring the Social Security Administration to have all parents complete a paper form that would include proof of parentage and parental citizenship, with documentation, prior to issuing a social security number to any newborn. It would inconvenience everyone, but you have to imagine the change to the process (it currently takes about ten minutes to get a social security number for a newborn) and document requirements would scare off most illegal parents. He could order that all birth documents be submitted to the National Archives. He could require all parents be fingerprinted and run through the FBI NICS, similar to how we require background checks for purchasing a firearm, prior to a birth certificate being issued.
These are all hypothetical possibilities, of course. But they serve the same purpose. They telegraph in clear terms that the children of illegal aliens are not welcome, and the “anchor baby” concept is effectively over – regardless of what the Supreme Court eventually decides.
You could be excused for thinking it’s 2016 again.
After all, we’re litigating the President’s character and moral compass again. That was the central theme of the 2016 general election. I argued against his selection as the Republican nominee on those very grounds, often and vociferously. And you know what? The problem with those arguments was always that the people he ran against are hardly paragons of moral certitude.
Thus it was during the general election. Those arguments that Hillary Clinton tried, casting aspersions on Donald Trump’s character, might have held water – except they were being made by Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t that anyone thought Trump is a man of virtue. His 40+ years in the public spotlight have proven to all but the most blinded that he is anything but virtuous. But if there is one politician alive who is even more corrupt and morally bereft than the Donald, it is the former First Lady.
So, Americans went to the polls, held their noses, and elected Mr. Trump to be the 45th President. Contrary to what professional punditry claims, it wasn’t personality that landed him in the White House. It was the difference in what each party, and candidate, proffered as policy prescriptions for the United States. They chose the more conservative of those two visions. They chose Trump.
As expected, the Democrats have continued to hammer away at character, because they really have no other tools with which to engage in political debate. While there are policies President Trump has pursued that are anathema to doctrinaire conservatives, and he’s been a little squishy on some others, for the most part he has stuck to the conservative script. The adoption of those policies has resulted in an economic boom unlike anything this nation has seen in a generation. Moreover, his judicial appointments (considerable in that they are mostly Constitutionalists and in number) promise to begin stemming the tide of judicial activists that have largely torn the social fabric of the nation.
So long as he continues to deliver a robust economy and solid appointments, Republicans will continue to support him, character be damned. After all, that issue was litigated and determined to be of little importance to the general public.
Now we’ve reached another inflection point. We can be reasonably certain that not only is the President a cad, his choice in women remains…juvenile. We know this because his fixer has all but admitted he directed payments to a pornographic actress and a nude model at then candidate Trump’s instruction.
Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans have seized on this latest revelation as if it proves the President is a mass murderer. Even their attempts at at saying he violated campaign finance laws and therefore deserves immediate impeachment have proven more hyperbole than fact, as even the FEC admits Mr. Trump didn’t endanger our republic any more than candidates Obama, Clinton, McCain, Bush, Kerry, et al. So now, they’re back to pressing the character question, as if it were a question at all.
What all of this hew and cry fails to do is respect the judgement of the voting public. The typical American hears all about yet another President who can keep his pants on around the fairer sex and thinks, “How does this affect me?”. The answer, of course, is it doesn’t. We’ve suffered (if that’s the right word) through philandering presidents more often than we care to remember, and provided they delivered results all was forgiven.
Would I prefer the President were the virtuous sort? Of course I would. But I look at our current crop of politicians and quite frankly, the only one who matches that description is the current Vice President. So, I’ll stick with the current President, thank you very much.
This weekend has brought forth another wave of editorials, essays and TV commentaries lamenting that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. In the wake of his primary loss, Mark Sanford wrote a piece lamenting the fact that he “wasn’t Trump enough” and that voters wanted someone who is obsequious to the current Commander-in-Chief. George Will, in his usual excessive verbiage, urged Republicans to *gasp* vote for Democrats in this years mid-terms. Why the apostasy? In his eyes, Congressional Republicans have abandoned their principles to get a tax cut.
What these gentlemen, and the other old-guard types seem incapable of fathoming, is that it isn’t allegiance to Trump is not the defining ethos of the modern GOP. What they haven’t come to terms with is for the vast majority of Republicans, their views on issues, and which issues should take precedence, do not match the Bush (read: neocon) value structure at all. Elected Republicans who fail to recognize this and represent their constituents values are being removed from office at the ballot box. The intelligentsia that refuses to accept this change is being asked, often impolitely, to leave.
President Trump is the embodiment of those values, same as Barack Obama or George Bush were the embodiments of their party’s values during their terms of office. Yes, there are aspects of his personality that are grating – but it is those same aspects that are particularly appealing to the Republicans who gave their allegiance for last quarter century to the Bush wing of the party and got very little in return for it. Those erstwhile pundits place the locus of their attention on the President’s personality while ignoring, misunderstanding or worse, belittling the values President Trump epitomizes.
During the nearly 30 years that the Bush family and their values were ascendant within the GOP, they emphasized the “neoconservative” value structure: multinational cooperation in military and economic affairs, acquiescence to multinational corporate interests, loose immigration controls, compromise on societal issues. They thought the Tea Party movement was either a validation of that value structure, a personal repudiation of Barack Obama, or perhaps both. In reality, it was a repudiation of both Barack Obama (and the post-modern liberalism he represented) and the existing GOP power structure. The 2016 election, in which the last champions of neocon ideology were electorally trounced, should have told them their days were over.
There are aspects of this new, much more conservative ideology I am uncomfortable with. I do not support trade tariffs, nor am in agreement with increasing the power of the federal government. The spending increases and failure to address – indeed, ignore – the fiscal crisis is particularly galling to me. But I’m adult enough to admit that certain aspects of Republicanism that I supported in the past – in particular, multinational trade agreements – have turned out to be abject failures for most Americans. It would behoove the most ardent neocons to look around and recognize where they failed, and to start working out the reasons.
Much of the current GOP platform is things to which the Bush wing paid lip service. They never quite understood that for the rank-and-file, the parts of the platform the elites held in disdain are the important parts. The rank-and-file was willing to back the elites play on the idealistic parts of their agenda in return for their work on those things the elites found, to borrow a phrase, “deplorable.”
The professional politicians forgot that politics is less about ideals than results. Something I constantly hear is that politics has become “too transactional.” What they forgot is that our Founding Father’s devised a system of transactional politics. Politicians who fail to deliver the results their constituents want are not reelected. For 30 years, Republicans were waiting for the GOP candidates to deliver. They didn’t. They got fired. As for the rest, they can get with the program. Failing that, they can find a new political home. They stole the GOP in the late 1980’s. Trump’s voters reasserted their control in 2016, and are continuing that purge today.
A recurring theme among our media betters is a disbelief that President Trump would treat the other members of the G-7 with so much more disdain than he treats Russia, China and North Korea. Their difficulty is because for all of their expertise and hubris, they can’t get past their navel gazing. If they simply opened their eyes and thought about it, the reason for this would be so obvious it would jump up and slap them in the face.
The reason is not that Trump is a bombastic crybaby, nor that he lacks empathy, nor that he misunderstands history. It isn’t that he disregards what are regarded as diplomatic and foreign policy norms. It has nothing to do with his narcissism or love of McDonald’s burgers.
Indeed, he gave us the biggest clue to the one driving theme of his foreign policy in the impromptu news conference prior to the start of the G-7 confab this past weekend. Mr. Trump said, “We have a world to run.” Was he talking about the assembled “world leaders” of the G-7? Or was he alluding to something else?
One of the most interesting things I constantly hear is that President Trump has no grasp of history, no concept of the United States role in shaping world affairs, or the post-WWII international order. I don’t think that’s the case whatsoever. If anything, he has demonstrated a more focused understanding of those things than the talking heads on TV, or the failed diplomats who clutter the airwaves with their talking points. They prattle incessantly about a world order that has never existed anywhere except in their minds. It was the relentless pursuit of this fiction that led to many of the disastrous American foreign policy actions over the last 25 years.
Trump regards the lesser members of the western alliance (what we usually refer to as “first world nations”) as nothing more than vassal states. For those of you who don’t understand the concept (Hi, cast members of Morning Joe!), a vassal state is one that has pledged loyalty to a larger state. It receives a promise of security from external threats and financial assistance, along with a pledge of limiting interference in internal politics. In exchange, the vassal provides some military forces and pays tribute to the dominant partner.
Vassal states have existed for as long as human civilization. The Egyptians and Hittites both had clients in the Middle East even before anyone invented writing. (We know this because the earliest written tablets known to us, from both Egypt and Anatolia, describe those civilizations relationships with everyone from the Ammorites to the Sumerians). And contrary to popular myth, they did not disappear with the end of the First World War.
If you stop to think about the post-WWII order, this is exactly the scenario the world found itself in. There were two dominant states (the USA & USSR), and each had a collection of vassals. For the US, those vassals were the members of NATO, Japan, Australia, and other various small countries. The Soviets had vassal clients in the Warsaw Pact, China, Cuba and most of the Arab world. The occasional squabbles between vassals on opposing sides led to conflagrations that would involve the sponsors (the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1950’s and 60’s, or Vietnam, or the Korean War). Presidents from Truman through Bush 41 might have smiled at their allies, but they never treated them as equals. If they had, Jimmy Carter never would have been able to strong-arm Menachem Begin into the concessions needed for the Camp David Accords. Bush never would have rounded up the international force to launch Desert Storm. And so on, and so forth.
Like it or not, this is the world view that the President has. He sees Russia reasserting its control over her vassals (Ukraine, most prominently). He sees China moving to gain an equal footing as the United States, without any actual vassals (but not for lack of effort). He sees North Korea as a vassal of China, but one that is recalcitrant and one that China refuses to hold tight enough rein on.
Within this framework, he sees the other members of the western post-war coalition as forgetting their rightful place. He won’t treat them as equals because in his world view, they are NOT equals. They are vassals, subservient and reliant on the United States for their very existence. Additionally, he sees the fecklessness of the three administrations immediately prior to his as largely responsible for the sad state of affairs between the US and our “clients.”
In the same vein, he treats Russia and China as equals because in his world view, they are our equals. Each is a dominant nation, like the United States. While the vassals, like bratty children kicking at our shins, complain about unfair treatment, Trump is staying focused on where he believes the real international political struggle begins and ends: the battle between the three superpowers for world supremacy. He sees an opportunity to, at worst, turn North Korea into an independent player (much like Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia was) or at best, reunify the Korean Peninsula as a client state of the USA.
He may be right in his view of a modern realpolitik. The problem he runs into as that while the client/sponsor relationship was an unacknowledged fact for the late 20th century, the 21st is somewhat different. Yes, the client states are still dependent on the US for their international security. But whereas once their economies were independently reliant on the US, that is no longer the case. The last 25 years has seen the global economy changed from one of many clients subservient to one dominant economy, to a symbiotic economic relationship between nations. What’s more, the tangle of trade agreements and international corporations is such that any disruption anywhere in the flow of goods threatens the economic order of the planet., threatening a conflagration that would make the last two world wars pale by comparison.
This is the conundrum facing the American President. During the height of the Cold War, the US economy accounted for nearly half of all global economic activity. As of last year, we accounted for less than 18%. While we may hold all the cards militarily, we are now trying to draw to an inside straight economically. The notion of returning international trade to one where most economic activities is controlled by US companies is less an economic decision than a militarily strategic one. Heck, the President said as much when he imposed the latest tariffs. In the face of this situation, our nation is faced with two choices. We can attempt to rebuild the original postwar order, or we can remove ourselves from a position of global dominance, recalling and reducing our military strength.
When you look through the prism of vassal state relationships, you can see which option the President has opted for. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, it has been his stated world view for the better part of 40 years now. That nobody in the media seems capable of grasping this is the only surprising thing about it.
I find myself, once again, having to cut through the bullcrap like a light saber through Ben Kenobi.
Look, here’s the deal folks: when Donald J. Trump, current President of these United States, was nothing more than an old lech (ok, a rich old lech), he paid to get laid by a porn star. He did this while his third wife, a former high-class skin model, was knocked up with his kid and while simultaneously having an affair with a Playboy playmate. Now, if I had more money than God (or at least, more than 90% of other Manhattan residents), I would waste my money on other things, but it’s his money. Besides, it’s part of his life-long pattern of keeping STD clinics in business.
The thing is, none of this should surprise anyone. After all, Trump has been a braggart about his sexploits since he first started appearing on Page Six. (What did you think was going on at Studio 54?) This is a guy who cheated on his first wife with his second wife, who he then dumped when she had the temerity to get pregnant. Long before achieving a career rebirth as a sort of lovable reality show host, he was famous for being the cad who turned Atlantic City into a hedonistic pleasure dome (albeit a badly managed, over-the-top version).
Indeed, this is the last scandal I ever expected to besiege the Trump White House. After all, only the wilfully ignorant would have thought Donald J. Trump hasn’t spent the last 50 years trying to hump every female human that crossed his path. For Pete’s sake, he’s bragged about. Loudly.
So, why wouldn’t he just fess up this time around? Surely he remembers 20 years ago. Yes, we were all skeeved by the middle aged dude boffing a barely legal intern in the Oval Office – but only the wilfully ignorant were surprised by the behavior. But what got that president into a heap of trouble was lying about it, even though nobody believed him. It cost him his legacy. 50 years from now, the only thing he’ll be remembered for is being the second President to be impeached.
The only thing I can think of is, he’s afraid of losing his base of support. But those of you who are rabid Trump fans wouldn’t abandon him over this. I mean, 5 minutes on Twitter proves that, right? So, it’s up to y’all. Already, the lawsuits are in motion. It’s Monica all over again. Shortly, the President will be forced to submit to being deposed and any missteps or misstatements in those, and he’ll have fallen into the same self-imposed trap that ensnared Bill Clinton. So, Trumpkins, save us all the spectacle. Urge him to fess up to doing the horizontal bop with a porn star named Stormy (and yes, having quite ordinary sized hands) and pay the settlements so we can all move on. There are real problems. We don’t need a lecherous old fool’s hubris to create new ones.
There are days when I feel like I fell asleep and woke up in an alternate dimension. You know, kind of like Rod Serling kidnapped me and threw me into an episode of “The Twilight Zone” without asking first. There’s been more of them over the past 26 months than in the previous 50 years of life, but I’m beginning to think all of that was just a warm-up for the past month.
You see, that’s when people suddenly became aware that men will, given the opportunity, think of women as sexual objects (and vice versa).
I know, that’s a shocking concept. Prior to a month ago, every woman in every nightclub around the world was dressed in a potato sack. Those jokes you heard about men thinking about sex every ten seconds (personally, I think those overestimate the time between thinking about sex by around 8 seconds) were invented somewhere around October 15. Marilyn Monroe was the most talented actress of all time, which is why she’s so well remembered.
Of course, all of that is bunco, but judging from the hew and cry over the past month you would never know it. This isn’t to excuse the behavior of a Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer. I’m going to be honest, before either of those guys hit the news I hadn’t even heard of the mating ritual that involved jerking off to a potted plant while your intended watched. But the sudden shock that anything of this sort was going on is, well, disingenuous, to say the least. Look, I’m not one who reads Page Six or watches TMZ. But even I recall hearing stories about the infamous Hollywood “casting couch” as a kid. You know, how wannabe starlets would trade sexual favors in exchange for roles in movies and television. To pretend that any of this is new, or that every woman who participated, was somehow abused is laughable on its face.
Now, we’ve moved on to the next target: politicians. Somehow, in all this recent fervor, we’ve discovered that not every politician is a great guy (or gal). Their effectiveness as a legislator, jurist or executive is of no matter when judging their fitness for office. Nope, the only thing that counts now is if they ever grabbed somebody’s ass in a hotel room (or, in Al Franken’s case, a dressing room). This is about as ridiculous an idea as has ever been thrown into public discourse.
The simple fact is history is replete with examples of horrible, terrible people who excelled in public service. Think where the civil rights movement would be today if Martin Luther King or Lyndon Johnson (or John Conyers, for that matter) were held to these absurd standards. The world might well be a cinder if JFK had been subjected to them. We might all be speaking German if FDR’s peccadilloes had forced him from office. The US might not even exist if Thomas Jefferson (or if John Hancock or Samuel Adams) were held to this sudden contempt we have for men who act like boors. And just imagine where the #MeToo movement would be if the sexual predations of Eleanor Roosevelt had been splashed across the front pages of her day.
And please, let’s not even get started on the sexual career of William Jefferson Clinton. He may not have been a great President, but he did introduce all of us to other unique mating rituals. *ahem*
So, grow up people. Get past the junior high titillation and get back to the real issues at hand. Lord knows we have things facing our country, things that really matter, than to allow ourselves to be distracted by all this folderol.
Oh, and guys? If you feel the need to make love to a potted plant, seek professional help.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about President Trump being removed from office via the 25th Amendment (thanks, Steve Bannon). I thought all that had gone away months ago, but suddenly talking heads can’t get enough of the latest talking point. Since everyone seems to have forgotten what the 25th Amendment says, I thought I would share the following Roll Call video. It’s by far the most unbiased presentation on the topic I’ve come across.
After a year of what may go down as the dumbest protest in American history, it seems the National Football League is ready to listen to their fans and end the shenanigans, once and for all. The NFLPA should thank them, before any more of their members are made to look like communist sympathizers.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began this hairbrained scheme on September 11, 2016. At the time, I thought it was nothing more than a very idiotic marketing ploy by a former starter whose poor play had landed him on the bench of a bad, and dysfunctional, team. He may have claimed it was to protest police brutality, but his actions since (appearing at press conference in Miami wearing a Fidel Castro t-shirt & drawing little pigs on his socks among them) only bolstered my opinion: either he was a wannabe Che Guevara (but without the cajones), or he was desperately trying to force the league to keep him employed. When the season began with him not having a job and the outcry went up from certain segments of the sports commentariat that Kaepernick “deserved” a job, I felt vindicated. After all, his terrible play the previous three seasons certainly didn’t justify his being on an NFL roster. But that didn’t stop that rather vocal group of commentators from assuring us the only reason Kaepernick was watching the games from his couch was racism.
(As a side note: 22 of 87 NFL quarterback are black, as are 9 of the 32 starters. The NFL, as are all pro sports leagues these days, is the most egalitarian of employers. The only thing that matters is performance on the field, not race or religion.)
The NFL is a league that employs rapists, murderers, drug fiends and wife beaters, among other sundry malcontents. And until a week ago, approximately a quarter of those players were engaging in on-the-field behavior 90% of the country finds reprehensible. The outcry and backlash was the result of a few players who may have thought they were doing something principled, and a bunch of guys who get paid to have their brains routinely bounced around their skulls falling for what President Trump does best: troll.
And that was the insanity of this protest from the get-go: perceived police brutality in American cities is a topic worthy of discussion. But the moment you start using the National Anthem and the US flag as the center of your protest, the cause gets drowned out. It isn’t very positive imagery. Look, I get it: the First Amendment allows political speech involving the national symbols as props. But it doesn’t excuse you from widespread ridicule and scorn when you’re even perceived to be disrespecting them. The result in that case tends to be that your cause gets lost in the noise. Nobody cares, nobody wants to hear it – worse, your cause becomes anti-American. If you need a better example, the Supreme Court rulings that upheld disrespecting the flag as political speech were over the flag burning incidents in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Does anyone remember what those protests were about? No. All we remember is seeing the images of people burning a flag, and the outrage and anger it sparked.
Prior to the President’s calling out the players, only a handful were engaging in carrying on Kaepernick’s egregious demonstration. But, Trump Derangement Syndrome combined with the idea of team unity, and that Sunday nearly every team was protesting the flag and anthem. The blowback has been fierce, to say the least: attendance and viewership have cratered in the intervening two weeks. The league and networks have been scrambling, and the proposed rule change is a result of all that. Of course, the better option for the NFL might be to forgo the nearly $6 million they get annually from DoD for their contrived displays of patriotism prior to kickoff. But somehow, unless Congress expressly forbids it in the next budget, I don’t see that happening.
As for the players who feel strongly about police brutality and targeting, they have plenty of outlets to do something. After all, these are all multimillionaires with public megaphones in their adopted communities. They can arrange rallies and protest marches, and actually do more than simply stage ridiculous publicity stunts. They can endow scholarships. They can engage in outreach between their communities and the local police departments. Money and fame both talk, and neither is in short supply for a Cam Newton or Marshawn Lynch.
As for Mr. Kaepernick, he gave an interview on Saturday that amounted to him begging for a job. Of course, his girlfriend came out Sunday and tried to claim he was misquoted, but I suppose the cat is out of the proverbial bag now. As I thought from the beginning, he was trying to use the BLM activists to ensure his employment. Rather than celebrating him, they should be seething at this point. He used them, and in the process, turned their protest movement into a mockery of responsible public demonstration, making it a subject of abject ridicule.
As for me, I don’t watch football for political stunts and could care less about them. I tune in on Sundays to watch young men get their brains routinely bounced around their skulls, not unlike the Roman gladiators of old. Much the same as I don’t care a whit about the idiocy of the people who entertain me from Hollywood, the same goes for the ones on the gridiron. So I’ll keep watching, at least until they decide to switch from tackle to flag football.
Update: looks like the NFL isn’t going to force players to stand, only “encourage” them. Whatever, it’s their funeral. -10/11/17
Since everyone else is weighing in on the issue of DACA, I figure I might as well, too.
First, although I am opposed to illegal immigration in general, I think this particular class (children raised in the US, although not born here or granted legal immigration status) merits special consideration. For the most part, these are people who didn’t choose to come to the United States. That decision was made for them while they were minors. When we’re talking about DACA, we’re talking about people who have been raised here and are American in every sense of the word – except legally. Moreover, there are at least 800,000 of them. There could be as many as 1.7 million.
Some have become high achievers in their chosen fields, some have served in the military with distinction, others are just ordinary folk, trying to find their way in this world. Yes, some are bad apples – as you can find in every demographic group. But it is a small minority, and they can be dealt with as any nation deals with crappy immigrants.
All that being said, I applaud President Trump’s decision to terminate the existing DACA program, and for one reason: our Constitution says immigration decisions are the responsibility of Congress, not the Executive. Before President Obama created the DACA program, he acknowledged (often) that any such executive action was unconstitutional. When he issued that executive order in June 2012, it was not his intention to make it a permanent fixture. The EO included a sunset period, since renewed twice. Obama had dual intentions; first, he wanted to try to force Congress to tackle immigration reform. Secondly (and cravenly), was his intent to shore up his support in the Latino community prior to the 2012 election. He failed on the first count, but succeeded on the second.
President Trump is, in large measure, copying the Obama administration’s playbook. By announcing that he is ending the program, but delaying enforcement for six months, he is attempting to force Congress to act and giving them a window of opportunity. At the same time, he is trying to reinforce his standing among his base by at least appearing tough on immigration.
So, are Trump’s chances of getting Congress to act any better than Obama’s were? First, there is the House leadership, which so far has demonstrated that it is extremely consistent in running from their own shadows. If they can be forced to address the issue, the chances of something happening are pretty good.
In fact, something could conceivably pass this week. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) has had HR 496 pending for nearly 8 months, and it specifically addresses the DACA situation. Had the leadership scheduled it for a vote in the Spring or Summer, this issue would already be behind us. But, again, leadership is afraid of doing anything that might possibly bring about a challenge from the right, even if they personally support it. (Where I come from, we call that cowardice – but whatever). However, Coffman has about had it with the cowards in his party and is filing a discharge petition to force a floor vote. He might just get it, too. As of this writing, he was only 3 votes shy of forcing Speaker Paul Ryan’s hand.
That would be half of the equation, because as we all learned on Schoolhouse Rock, a bill has to pass both houses of Congress before it can be sent to the President’s desk. There is a companion bill pending in the Senate, S128. Unfortunately, the Senate leadership is as afraid of their shadows as their House counterparts (see: Obamacare repeal). So how could the bill make it’s way to the floor if Mitch McConnell decides to go into a corner and cower? Believe it or not, this is where the filibuster can be useful. Any senator who supports passage can tie the Senate in knots until S128 is voted on. This is the perfect time to engage in such tactics, too. In case you’ve missed it, virtually every fiscal matter facing the country needs to be addressed over the next 3 1/2 weeks. Even losing a day to a filibuster would seriously crimp on Mitch’s ability to get out and fundraise.
So yes, there is a better than 50/50 chance something finally gets done. In fact, if Congress wanted put the President on the spot, they could pass the BRIDGE Act, as is, ignoring the White House’s request to include border wall funding. But again, I doubt that happens. Congressional leadership is too cowardly to even consider it..
It’s official: Steve Bannon was fired from his role as the President’s Chief Strategist earlier today.
But before anyone starts thinking this signals that the administration will now pivot to the center, you need to stop and think about something. Bannon wasn’t much of a strategist. Rather, he was the guy who came aboard the Trump Train after last year’s Republican National Convention to help streamline and polish Donald Trump’s existing “America First” positions into something more palatable to the general electorate. In terms of strategy, he proved (at best) to be a man playing checkers on the “swamp” chessboard. Otherwise, the President would have actual legislative victories he could point to as wins – and not be where he is, almost 8 months in. Which is to say, his efforts to remake Obamacare into Trumpcare defeated, with no movement on the other big campaign promises, either: the border wall still without funding (and Mexico thumbing their noses at us), no movement on tax reform or infrastructure legislation, and efforts to renegotiate our trade deals actually going backwards.
However, this is the second major administration official in two weeks to cross the new Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, and find themselves being sacked as a result. If nothing else, I’m certain other acolytes who may have thoughts of taking similar approaches – of operating the way they did for the campaign and the first 6 1/2 months of this Presidency – are having misgivings now. Kelly has made his imprimatur on the administration. Whether or not the President can abide Kelly’s style and handling remains an unresolved issue, but it’s apparent that Kelly is running the White House as he sees fit. For now, anyway.
Trump will, of course, continue to be Trump. He will continue to push his agenda, focusing on the culture wars that originally earned him electoral support. His economic agenda is actually pretty much straight from the Republican playbook (tax reform, job growth, etc) and he will find congressional support for that, regardless of whatever else he does.
As for Bannon, expect him to return to his previous vocation, agitating for a nationalist agenda. Near term, I foresee him excoriating lawmakers over the border wall funding (given the proximity of budgeting and the debt ceiling on the calendar), and making Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s lives miserable. Longer term, he’ll look to undermine the forces in the West Wing that undermined him from the outside. Expect to see all kinds of hit pieces on Kelly and National Security Advisor HR McMaster, along with Jared and Ivanka Kushner. I also suspect “normal” conservatives, such as Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson, could find themselves with banner headlines on Breitbart or the National Enquirer. As for the President’s economic team, Gary Cohn, Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin were part of the “establishment” long before the term became fashionable. Only a fool would think Bannon doesn’t have something special up his sleeve for them.
Removing Bannon won’t end the chaos surrounding the administration. If anything, the noise is about to get louder and more ferocious (although it will almost be funny to watch the NY Times and CNN suddenly forced into defending people like Perry and Mnuchin). Strap in, it’s going to be an even bumpier ride.
In case you haven’t noticed, North Korea has been doing a lot of saber rattling over the past few weeks. If you listen to only the talking heads on television, you could easily believe the world stands on the brink of nuclear war. You would believe that Kim Jong Un is certifiably crazy, and is engaged in showing the USA (and President Trump, in particular) that he doesn’t have tiny hands.
Whatever else Kim might be, a crazed megalomaniac looking to annihilate Guam for the sake of a show of force is not it. He was literally bred to lead his country. Like his father and grandfather, he is dictator for life, assuming the reins only after the death of his predecessor. In olden days, we would have called him the third king of the Kim dynasty. Like monarchs of previous centuries, after assuming the throne he engaged in a purge of anyone who might challenge his power: family members, military leaders and others. To the modern mind, those moves seem outdated, bizarre, surreal; the actions of a madman.
Put in the proper context, they are anything but the actions of an insane megalomaniac. They are the actions of a cold, calculating monarch entrusted not only with leading his nation, but ensuring that the dynasty continues unabated. And if you judge Kim by that standard, then the current situation becomes much easier to understand.
North Korea is a small, isolated country of limited resources and not much material wealth. As it’s leader, Kim has certain responsibilities and like the monarchs of ages past, one of the most important is ensuring his subjects are fed. World history is replete with examples of monarchs who failed in that respect and the results have never been particularly good for them or their families. King Louis XVI lost not only his empire, but his head in the French Revolution. Czar Nicholas II was forced to watch his family’s executions before finally losing his life during the Russian Revolution. Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to flee to the Netherlands when even his army turned against him.
Rest assured, Kim is well aware of all those historical precedents and has no intention of joining their ranks.
His current situation is dire. As mentioned above, his nation is isolated and materially poor. Historically, ensuring the North Korean people are fed is difficult enough – and this year, they’ve suffered their worst drought since at least 2001. Kim knows unless he can secure an imported food source, and the means to pay for it, he faces a winter of mass starvation, a discontented populace and internal unrest. Even if the people are unable to overcome generations of indoctrination and rise up against the regime, there still exists the very real possibility of the army deposing him.
So, what stands in Kim’s way of securing enough food to keep his nation fed? As it has been for the past 67 years, the United States and South Korea.
What Kim wants is to enter into direct negotiations with the both countries, with three ultimate objectives: 1, getting the current sanctions against North Korea lifted; 2, getting grain from the US and 3, obtaining a security guarantee. To that end, he has reverted to a standard North Korean negotiating tactic, threatening to tear up the 64 year old armistice and resuming hostilities.
After all, threats of open warfare worked for both his father and grandfather. It works for one reason: nobody wants to see a shooting war on the Korean peninsula again, particularly South Korea. During the 1950-53 war, the US suffered nearly 60,000 deaths – but South Korea lost over a half million people. (Nobody is certain how many North Koreans died, but most estimates put the number just shy of a million). The capital city, Seoul, was conquered and recaptured on 4 separate occasions. Fast forward to today: Seoul is home to over 10 million people (with another 15 million living in its suburbs) and sits only 35 miles from the border. It is within easy striking distance of conventional artillery, to say nothing of aircraft and rockets. Should the Korean War get “hot” again, it’s generally accepted that South Korea would suffer over a million civilian casualties on just the first day.
This is why ratcheting up the rhetoric always worked in the past. Even if the US is reluctant to grant anything to the North, pressure from the South (who desperately wants to avoid reopening hostilities) has led to begrudging acquiescence.
The calculated gamble Kim is making now is based on that history. The reason he’s amped up the rhetoric even more than in the past is he knows that unlike previous administrations, the current US leadership is unlikely to be swayed only by the pleas from what is currently a scandal-plagued South Korean government. By threatening a US territory, he is hoping to force Washington to the negotiating table.
It’s not that Kim actually wants a war with the US, He knows that in such an event, he wouldn’t last long. During the 1950-53 conflict, it took the combined power of China and the Soviet Union to stave off total defeat for North Korea. Of course, the wild card in all this is President Trump. He is unconventional, for certain. But what Kim has certainly factored into his consideration is that, thus far, the Trump administration has not deviated all that much from the past 25 years of US foreign policy, despite all the bluster.
Of course, the possibility of open conflict remains if Kim thinks he has no way out of the box he’s created – or if Trump decides that enough is enough and preemptively strikes. But I still don’t think that either will happen. I suspect that even as we bustle about our daily lives, backchannels are being opened and the first tentative steps towards negotiation are under way.
Unless you’re living under a rock (and frankly, I can’t blame you if that’s where you’ve moved), then you’ve probably heard more about collusion than you ever imagined possible. Loretta Lynch colluded with Hillary and Bill. James Comey colluded with Barry, or Trump, or maybe both. And of course, the real biggie: the President of the United States colluded with the Russian government.
People, stop already. You’re throwing around the word “collusion” in place of the words you should be using to describe the things you’re actually trying to describe. Collusion is, by it’s very definition, a secretive quid pro quo arrangement whose aims are so nefarious the very history of the world would be changed. By it’s very definition, it goes beyond corruption as we normally think of it. Bribery, extortion, conspiracy – those all pale in comparison. Yet, in almost every case I keep hearing cited by the MSM, the right- and the left-wing alternatives, nothing actually rises to the level of collusion.
The reason I’m bringing this up is simple. After being unable to win any national election not featuring Barack Obama for a decade, the Democratic Party and their media shills have come to realize that a platform based on sowing division and silly “social justice” issues isn’t working. But lacking an alternative, they have seized on an issue that would be a sure-fire winner, if it were true: the President of the United States is a traitor. Make no mistake about it. That is what they are claiming every time you hear a Democrat politician talk about collusion. Every time Rachel Maddow spins a Glenn Beck-ist conspiracy theory tying the President’s youngest son’s hamster to the FSB, she’s claiming the President is a traitor. Every time Chuck Todd writes (as he did this morning) “The bombshell New York Times report from Sunday afternoon might not be the smoking gun in the Trump-Russia 2016 story, but it sure looks close to one,” he’s claiming the President is a traitor.
This is the worst kind of politics, in which innuendo is claimed as fact in order to hurl the most serious of all charges at a political opponent. Anyone who regularly follows this blog, or my social media feeds, already knows I am not a fan of the President. I think he is a dishonest, self-dealing, narcissistic, unprincipled human being of such poor character he should never be anywhere near public service. But it’s one thing to find a person’s character lacking and quite another to think them a traitor. It’s fine to disagree with someone on policy choices. It is quite another to say those policy choices are treasonous.
None of this is to say that I don’t think the Russians did their level best to interfere in the election on the President’s behalf. Of course they did. Vladimir Putin is as trustworthy as a desert scorpion and has been part of Russian attempts at destabilizing the US government since 1976. But a big part of the reason the FSB and SVR were as successful as they were in 2016 was because the Democrats ran Hillary Clinton, who staffed her campaign team with Clinton loyalists from the 1990’s. Their candidate was the only person in America whose character was even more questionable than that of Donald J. Trump.
Indeed, if the President weren’t such a blatant narcissist, this story would have been put to bed long before he even took the oath of office. All he would have had to say last fall was, “Sure the Russians interfered. But their interference amounted to reminding the American people why they hated the Clintons” and the whole story would have been over. But that deep-seated character defect does not allow him to acknowledge that anyone else might have had a hand in his victory. So be it.
I am certain the rest of the summer will be consumed by this nothingburger of a story, to the detriment of the major policy decisions we need to grapple with before October. That’s a shame. But if you claim to be part of the #resistance, than you are just as guilty. You’ve moved from principled opposition to a flat-out attempt to remove a duly elected President.
Now THAT’S treason.
If there’s one thing the latest political kerfluffle has revealed, it is the lengths which some Trumpkins will go to defend the indefensible.
I’m not talking about the morons who either don’t care about, or don’t understand, the national security implications of divulging allied deep-cover intelligence operations to the Russians. I’m not referring to the people who think a President trying to derail investigations into his associates is just peachy. Those people will never be happy living in anything less than a dictatorship, and there is no hope for them.
The people I am directing these comments to are the ones who know the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is engaging in (at best) immoral and irregular activities or (at worst) about to plunge the nation into a crisis that will make the Watergate era look like the days of wine and roses. Instead of admitting their guy has character flaws that are manifesting themselves daily, they attempt to justify it with statements like:
“When is Hillary getting locked up?”
“What about the tarmac?”
“Seth Rich! Seth Rich!”
Yes, there is a Trump Derangement Syndrome on the left. That is indisputable, unless you suffer from it (in which case, I know a good psychiatrist). But it also shows there is still a Clinton Derangement Syndrome running rampant through the right. Just like those with TDS can’t self-identify their problem, the same seems to be the case with CDS on the right.
If you are one of those people, I have a news flash for you: SHE LOST.
The result of that loss is a fate far worse than jail for someone who’s entire way of life was built on running a political machine. The machine was taken away. The money, the swag, the hobnobbing, the ability to influence others – all gone. The Clinton’s find themselves in political purgatory, which is a fitting place for them.
Now, here’s the thing: trying to excuse Donald Trump’s excesses by complaining about the Clinton’s only does one thing, in the end. It says to rational people that you think what the Clinton’s did would be just fine, if only they had put an elephant on their family crest instead of a donkey. You undercut your own arguments by suggesting that what was fine for one was terrible for the other.
Here’s your reality check. If the Clinton’s actions (attempting to influence investigations into political corruption, stealing public funds, etc, etc) are reprehensible, what makes those same actions by the Trump’s any less reprehensible? There is an old adage: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
You would be well served to remember that.
The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?
It’s been a nagging question for something like 18 months now: what is the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? The questions first arose during the campaign, when Trump seemed to be sending public love notes to Putin. The questions reappeared after President Trump, rather than accept that Putin is a diabolical dictator, preferred to argue that the US government operates in the same nefarious manner as the Russian. And they roared into prominence this week, with the revelations about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s tête-à-tête with the Russian ambassador and the leaks about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian SVR.
The President’s conduct towards Russia and Vladimir Putin certainly engender some questions.
1. Why is Trump so reluctant to condemn Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular?
I’ve given this some thought, and I have a sort of good news/bad news idea about the subject. The good news: I do not think President Trump is being blackmailed by, or in any other way criminally beholden to the Russian Federation. Do I think he has business interests there? It would be ludicrous to think a man who once held a beauty pageant in Moscow and has at least minority interests in resort properties around the world doesn’t have some sort of similar arrangements in Russia. Do I think those holdings are substantial enough that the Russian government could leverage them to their advantage? No. Not even someone as vain as Donald Trump would be willingly complicit in treason over a few hotel rooms. If he is, then we’ve plumbed new depths of depravity.
I suspect the reason is simpler, but far more disturbing. Based on public statements going back nearly 30 years, I believe our President wants to be Vladimir Putin. He admires and respects the way Putin handles things, with an autocratic iron fist wrapped in a cement glove. Killing political opponents? Perfectly fine (remember, Trump once praised the Chinese for running down dissenters with tanks). Invading foreign countries and plundering them? It’s cool – just keep the oil. Operating above, below and in conflict with established law? From abusing eminent domain in the 1980’s to his “so-called judges” remarks in the last few weeks, Trump has consistently demonstrated that he thinks laws apply to everyone BUT him. Even Stephen Miller’s outburst last Sunday (“the President’s authority will not be questioned!”) demonstrates a very totalitarian view of government, the kind of government prevented by our Constitution. That he’s constrained by the Constitution and its provisions against executive overreach galls Trump (and, sadly, his supporters) to no end. Putin has no such constraints and when he did, he was able to just ignore them until the Russian constitution was changed.
2. Why was his campaign in “constant” contact with Russian officials?
This is, of course, still unproven. However, the fact is that there is an investigation into the likelihood of contact between the SVR and the Make America Great Again campaign, and that it’s been partially leaked, suggest there’s more than just smoke to this question. As for why it would have occurred, see the above conclusion that Donald J. Trump stars in “Crazy about Vladdy.” The one thing that nobody seems to recall is that Vladimir Putin actually won a democratic election in 2000, on a platform eerily similar to the one Donald Trump ran on in 2016. If the person you venerate over all others might be in a position to offer advice and encouragement, any of us would seek their counsel.
3. Why didn’t Trump tell Vice President Pence that former national security adviser Mike Flynn wasn’t being honest about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador?
3a. Why wasn’t Flynn fired the second Trump learned he was deceiving the vice president?
Once again, if the President is attempting to model his administration on that of his favorite Russian dictator, neither of these questions is difficult to answer. In fact, they both have the same answer: Flynn was ordered to lie to Pence by Trump. As to why Trump would have Pence lied to, there are two reasons. The first is that Trump was certainly aware that having Flynn reach out to the Russian ambassador regarding the latest Obama sanctions was a clear violation of the Logan Act. He also knows that despite decades in public office, nobody has ever accused Mike Pence of malfeasance or corruption. He knew then that Pence’s reaction would, at best, be another tepid endorsement of the President’s orders and Flynn’s duplicity in carrying them out.
The other thing to remember on this point is that part of Vlad’s governing style, and one that has thus far proven true of Trump’s, is a dedication to the idea of equal but rival teams in open competition. Pence is the de facto leader of the ‘establishment’ group. Flynn was very much part of the ‘apocalyptic’ group. In effect, Trump was already pitting those two groups against each other before he even took office. That he waited nearly 72 hours before firing Flynn after the first revelations about that phone call, and Flynn’s duplicity towards Pence, looks for all the world like Trump was waiting to see if there would be any blow-back on Pence. After all, Trump is also aware that of all the people in his administration, the two most admired on Capitol Hill are Mike Pence and James Mattis. Pence, being his Constitutionally appointed successor should he be unable to complete his term, therefore presents a clear and pressing danger. The fact that unlike Obama with Joe Biden, or George HW Bush with Dan Qualyle, his VP is considered one of the few sane members of his inner circle poses the threat, essentially giving cover to Democrats if they decide to implement clause 4 of the 25th Amendment.
The larger question that needs to be answered is: does the President’s infatuation with Russian style politics and deep admiration of authoritarianism endanger the nation? So far, the answer is not in any lasting way. The Constitution was written by men who were intimately familiar with being ruled by a tyrant and designed to ensure that no one person could unilaterally impose his will on the government. As they intended, the structures they built have soundly defeated Trump’s every move to emulate his idol’s governing style, much to his chagrin. The separation of powers works.
That is not to say Trump cannot inflict serious damage, at least on the United States and the western democracies strategic position. But dealing a fatal blow to the Constitution does appear to be beyond his scope.
There are other questions, but we don’t have enough information to speculate on the answers. For instance, who in the campaign was speaking to the Russians? Are they now in the administration? Were any of those people responsible for the leaks to the Washington Post that started this ball of wax? The President could, of course, put an end to all this by issuing a statement that answers those questions.
But then again, we know Trump isn’t about to do that. He’ll continue his current method of dealing with this crisis, attacking the press for asking the questions and attacking the leaks themselves. Because, after all, that’s what Vladimir would do.
The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?
One of the more interesting results of the Flynn Fiasco is the President’s relentless damning of the news articles that forced his hand and the leaks that made those news articles possible. While part of the attacks are typical hubris that nobody, except the Trumpers, takes seriously (sorry, the stories weren’t “fake news”), as with all good propaganda there is an element of truth to them. We’re all aware that Trump takes criticism about as well as a child. Those stories weren’t the opinion-filled pieces that Trump has been able to dismiss as terrible journalism. They are hard-hitting, factual articles that were made possible by the type of inside information that isn’t ever supposed to see newsprint.
In short, the President is rightly incensed about the leaks which have plagued his administration from Day 1. Regardless of the fact that we know Trump values personal loyalty above all other traits, leaks of this sort can constitute a national security threat.Take away that Trump feels personally slighted by what he perceives as an internal attack from the “deep state,” and we’re still left with the reality that someone (or several someone’s) within the National Security Council staff went and blabbed to the Washington Post about Flynn’s violations of the Logan Act, and to the New York Times and CNN about the Trump presidential campaign’s contacts with the Russian intel services as far back as 2015.
Americans have always had a love/hate relationship with government leaks. We celebrate Mark Felt, the leaker later famously revealed as “Deep Throat,” whose information exposed the corruption and malfeasance of the Nixon administration. We vilify Bradley Manning, whose leaking apparently drove him/her/it to finally lose whatever grasp on reality him/her/it ever had. Then there are figures like Edward Snowden, about whom we are ambivalent: the leaks were damaging and showed illegal government activity, but we can’t quite make up our mind whether he’s a whistleblower, a pawn or a traitor.
Now add in that often, our government will purposely leak information. Whether it’s Scooter Libby giving David Ignatius “deep background” about Iraqi WMD, or James Jones’ leaking Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan plan, the previous two administrations have used strategically timed leaks from the National Security Council to advance their agenda. That’s not inconsequential; the last 16 years have seen increasingly aggressive actions against leakers.
So the question before us is this: when is a leaker a whistleblower? Felt was undoubtedly a whistleblower, Manning a leaker.
The answer seems to be more one of public opinion than anything else. Had the nation simply shrugged off the Constitutional breaches of Richard Nixon as “Nixon being Nixon” and “politics as usual,” Jeffrey Zeifman would have been tasked with hounding Woodward and Bernstein to reveal their source. If we had publicly decided that Wikileak’s publication of Manning’s data dump revealed a pattern of illegal conduct by US forces, he might not be trying to get the taxpayers to pay for having his genitals whacked off. As for Mr. Snowden, he will probably find himself in permanent exile – while the NSA spying certainly violated the 4th Amendment, that Constitutional protection isn’t terribly popular at the moment.
Another factor is whether the government wants to pursue charges against the leaker. An example of such a situation is Scott Davis, the man responsible for exposing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs allowing veterans to die before ever seeing a doctor. He leaked internal documents showing VA was well aware of the problem but not doing anything to address it, a clear violation of 18 USC 793, 794. Yet, even the notoriously anti-leak Obama administration passed on filing charges against Davis. This was despite the fact that few leaks embarrassed the former President quite as badly as the revelation that even as he was sending American servicemen into harm’s way, he was turning a blind eye to their care upon their return.
And so, in this way, we’ll be able to eventually determine which of these leaks merit whistleblower status. That Gen. Flynn broke the law is beyond doubt; that he demonstrated woefully poor discretion likewise. (Seriously, a career spook who didn’t know a phone call to the Russian ambassador was being recorded by both the NSA and the Russian FSB? That’s…terrible). The level of demonstrated incompetence alone should have resulted in his dismissal, much less the willful lying to the Vice President. Similarly, if the ties between the Russian intel service and the Trump campaign are proven, then those leakers will likely rise in American lore to match that of Deep Throat. If it results in nothing more than innuendo, the President will be fully justified in rooting out and charging the people responsible.
It’s late one evening. Behind the bar at Andy’s Cafe in Cincinnati, a spray tanned older gentleman laughs quietly with his guests when the phone rings.
“Andy’s, where the beer is cold and the music is hot,” he answers.
“Hey, John! It’s Paul – Paul Ryan, remember me? Well, I’m sure glad I caught you. I need some advice.”
“Well, you know I left that life behind, Paul. Breaking up bar fights is easier on a 67 year old body than those squabbles on Capitol Hill.”
“I know, I know. But look, I’m in a real pickle here. Was kind of hoping to bounce some ideas off you and see what you think.”
“Are you recording this? Is this some sort of practical joke? You know, like when y’all ran that celebrity real estate developer for President. Man, that was a doozy!”
“No, no, this is serious. And yeah, glad you liked that one. But there’s something you may not have heard about, yet.”
“That guy is now the President of the United States. And I don’t mean the United States of Benetton. And he’s part of the reason I need your help.”
“You mean, you idiots ran the only man in America who uses more spray tan than me and lies more than Nancy? Wasn’t that script for ‘Trading Places 2’ rejected by Hollywood?”
You can hear the pause before Ryan responds, “Maybe it was. But he and that gawd-awful combover are in charge now.”
“Oh, you are truly and greatly screwed. Like Big Green Weenie screwed. No, better yet…”
“John, this is serious. Everyone thinks he’s a Russian spy or something, and DC is so busy not tripping over one another over they haven’t noticed the Chinese star-and-sickle tattoo he got the other day.”
“Right, serious. Speakering of which, you haven’t introduced that tooth repair kit I invented yet, have you? Give me a couple a days Head Start.”
“I know, hahahahahahaha! ”
“So, do you have any advice for me?”
“Retire. Buy a bar in Wisconsin. You can get royally drunk and nobody gives a shit.”
“No, look, this is serious. Do you know what he asked me to do this morning? He asked me to draw up legislation selling Alaska back to the Russians!”
“Well, he is a real estate developer. I imagine he got a good price.”
“Mitch is beside himself over this. Jeb Hensarling wants to know if he can get something similar from Spain for California. This whole thing is going off the rails.”
“You guys are the ones who nominated him. If I remember right, you had a chance to turn him away at the convention. You gotta deal with him now.” The old bartender belches loudly. “Damn, that was a GOOD one! Did you hear that, Paulie boy? Rattled the doors with that one, I did!”
Ryan sighs, loudly. “That’s history. What do I do now?”
“I told you. Retire. Buy a bar. Get drunk.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“Sure I am. I did and look at me now. I’m hanging out with my friends, only using spray tan once or twice a week and I’ve only cried once in the last year. Best move I ever made was coming back to this bar.”
“Thanks, John. You’ve been a real help.”
“Glad I could be, Paul. And next time you’re in Cincinnati, the beer is on me.”
A little over a week ago, I posted my thoughts on why the election turned out the way it did. As I wrote,
When you’ve already been painted as a racist misogynist homophobe, a dolt incapable of anything other than collecting welfare and shooting heroin, you’re not going to worry too much about voting for a guy who actually is a racist misogynist – after all, it’s not like you have anything left to lose.
Since then, I’ve seen some postings on various blogs (like these, here and here) that show a few liberals have figured this out. But far too many have taken the wrong lessons from the election, or no lesson at all. The recent kerfluffle over the the way the cast of Hamilton has reacted is one example. The Democrat party’s seeming determination to shift even further left is another. And finally, there is the unending grief I and other conservatives are receiving from the on-line liberal tribe, as well my liberal friends. None of them seem capable of recognizing, much less understanding, what happened in this election.
So here’s a quick synopsis for you.
- Donald Trump did not win this election, so much as Hillary Clinton lost this election. This is an important point to remember.
- This was not an election about issues. Equally important to remember. This was not about emails, Benghazi, immigration, or “identity politics”. In the end, none of that mattered. The great swath of undecideds didn’t break for Trump because they agreed with his plans, or because of Hillary’s probable corruption. They didn’t abandon Hillary because she’s a woman, or out of racism.
- This was an election about attitudes and respect. This is the point that liberals are getting especially hung up about. If the election was about respect, how could the least respectful candidate since George Wallace win? It’s because they ignore the first half of that statement: attitudes. For a generation, the great swath of middle America has endured an attitude from the genteel class that says their values and lifestyle are worthless. This was the year when they finally told the genteel class to go to hell.
In short, for 30 years the vast middle of America was told by cultured elite that they need to respect everyone, but no one need respect them. They were called “bitter clingers” and “deplorable” and “trailer park trash.” Their values, which also happen to be the ageless values of hard work, loyalty, family, church and patriotism, were derided as passe.
Now, as I’ve said, I’ve found very few who lean left who seem able to grasp this simple concept. It might be the heavy indoctrination that turns one into a liberal precludes them from recognizing that heaping scorn on half of the country is not going to endear you to the masses. Instead, I see comments like these:
A significant reason Hillary lost this election was because men (mostly white) came out in unprecedented numbers to remind us – violently & vehemently – that a woman is not welcome at the table.
If you voted for Trump, you might not be a racist, but you support one
The only difference between a Trump voter and a Nasi (sic) is the Nazi has a brain
I’m not saying Trump’s people are idiots, but they can’t spell cat if you spot them the C and A.
And those are the mild ones. The left is intent on casting Trump’s voters as racists, woman haters, gay haters, idiots – in other words, as “deplorable.” When I’ve mentioned that no, most of Trump’s voters are telling you eggheads they’re tired of having their values trashed and lives stepped on, I get replies amounting to, “Who cares? They voted for Trump.”
If I were purely partisan, I wouldn’t much care. As long as the left maintains this tone deafness about America, their electoral chances remain concentrated in the cities. They will never regain any strength in the Congress, and they will continue to lose elections at the local and national level. One of the most shocking results of this election is that Democrats only won 57 counties this year. 57 out of nearly 3200. Now THAT’s deplorable!
But I am not a pure partisan. I am an American, and while we on the right understand the left’s POV (we haven’t been given a choice, really – it’s crammed down our throats), if the left doesn’t understand ours, the country will remain hopelessly divided. Regardless of which side of the political divide you find yourself, I think we all agree that would be a horrible, no good, very bad result.