The McConnell Problem

It isn’t just Trump who is killing democracy in America; it’s the combination of Trump in the White House and Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader that’s killing democracy in America. Nothing, absolutely nothing, good can be accomplished now, including things that a majority of Senate Republicans might support.

Nancy LeTourneau describes McConnell’s Legislative Graveyard:

… he has blocked efforts to limit dark money in politics, net neutrality, background checks for all gun purchases, protections for Dreamers, paycheck fairness, and the Violence Against Women Act. We can now add that he is blocking attempts to protect our elections from foreign interference.

That last one, I think, would pass in the Senate fairly easily. But Mitch won’t allow it to come up for a vote. See Jamelle Bouie:

Why won’t Mitch McConnell protect our elections from outside interference?

His Republican colleagues in the Senate want to do something. That’s why some of the most conservative members of his caucus are working with Democrats to improve the nation’s election security.

One proposal, according to The New York Times, would “require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.” Another, devised by Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, would “impose mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks an American election.” Yet another, the brainchild of Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would “codify cyber information-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials.”

House Democrats have already introduced legislation to bolster election security and would most likely work with the Senate to put together a compromise proposal should a bill pass that chamber. But McConnell refuses to consider any legislation on election security during this congressional term. For the Senate majority leader, the problem has already been solved, and this rare show of bipartisan cooperation doesn’t matter. “I think the majority leader is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion,” Roy Blunt of Missouri, a McConnell ally, said.

It’s safe to assume he’s protecting Trump, but Bouie points out that McConnell has a long history of being “a tireless opponent of openness, accessibility and transparency in elections.” For years he has been driven entirely by what might help or hurt the GOP.  And there’s also the little matter of the Russian oligarch who plans to invest about $200 million in Kentucky. Entirely unrelated to Mitch’s blocking of the security measures, I’m sure.

It’s also being said that even if Dems take the White House and keep the House in 2020, the odds of Dems taking the Senate are pretty damn long. So Mitch will still be there, putting a stop to anything good and useful Democrats might like to do.

But wait, what? Mitch is up for re-election in 2020? And his approval rating has been underwater for quite some time? He’s currently down 14 points — 36 percent of Kentucky voters approve of Mitch, while 50 percent disapprove.

Now, I have no experience as a political strategist, but even I can see that unseating Mitch ought to be a top priority for the Democratic Party. But, so far, I can’t tell that it is.

Part of the problem is that the Democratic bench in Kentucky is, um, weak. All the more reason to get an early start.

An outside group called Ditch Mitch is raising money to defeat McConnell. News stories say that Ditch Mitch and also Chuck Schumer are trying to recruit Amy McGrath, a former Marine pilot who lost a House race to an incumbent in 2018. A sports radio host named Matt Jones is also being talked up as a potential McConnell opponent. There is one declared Dem candidate for the seat named Stephen Cox, about whom I know nothing except that his old dad needs dentures. Yeah, that’s how weak the bench is.

On the plus side, a former state representative named C. Wesley Morgan, a Richmond liquor store owner, has announced he will primary Mitch. Morgan lost his seat in the legislature in 2018, which makes me suspect he’s a long shot.

And I haven’t gotten to the part about his his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has been enabling grant money to flow to projects McConnell wants to fund. Welcome to the Banana Republic of America.

This Sounds Oddly Familiar

The “president” declares Iran is responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman yesterday. As evidence, U.S. Central Command has released a fuzzy video of a little boat next to a big boat. This allegedly shows a North Vietnamese torpedo boat Iranian patrol boat removing an aluminum tube unexploded mine from one of the tankers, but for all I can tell the footage was shot in Barron Trump’s bathtub. Or maybe Donald’s.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boat fleeing the scene?

Update from Charles Pierce:

I am not buying this in the least. I remember the Iraq lies. I know this administration is truthless from top to bottom and all the way out both sides. I don’t trust the Saudi government as far as I can throw a bone saw. And this president* feels very much like he’s being run to ground at the moment and needs a distraction. And his Secretary of State is a third-rate congresscritter from Kansas who once advised American soldiers to disobey lawful orders, and who’s fighting way above his weight class. Also, too, John Bolton is eight kinds of maniac.

Update: See also Japanese ship owner contradicts U.S. account of how tanker was attacked. Do tell.

Update: From the Onion — Bleeding John Bolton Stumbles Into Capitol Building Claiming That Iran Shot Him.

Stuff Happening Now

The so-called President told George Stephanopoulos he would happily take “dirt” on a political opponent from a foreign government and not tell the FBI about it. In other words, he’s not guilty of collusion … yet.

Your government at work, folks.

In defending himself, the “president” declared he is allowed to speak to foreign governments. “I meet and talk to foreign governments every day,” he tweeted. In fact, he had just met with the Queen of England and the Prince of Whales. Understandable hilarity ensued. But the distinction between being an international embarrassment during a state visit and being used by a foreign government to influence a U.S. election eludes him.

In other news: Sarah “Mouth of Sauron” Sanders is leaving the White House, finally.


Normalcy Is Dead

Excuse me for dumping on Joe Biden some more, but … this morning I woke up to headlines that Joe Biden would deliver a speech that would ““eviscerate” Trump. If only. I assume the speech is delivered and Trump is still intact.

It’s striking to me that Biden’s entire campaign message so far is “Donald Trump is bad.” Yeah, genius, we noticed. What else ya got?

Kate Riga writes for TPM,

Former Vice President Joe Biden is hellbent on insisting that he can and will extract cooperation and bipartisanship from his Republican peers — and less rosy-eyed observers are getting angry.

At a fundraiser Monday night, he shared his faith in his GOP counterparts.

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” he said per HuffPost.“Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

His statement has echoes of what he said last month, when he predicted “an epiphany” among his “Republican friends” when President Donald Trump leaves office.

Yeah, right.

Greg Sargent:

It has become a major fault line in Democratic politics: Is President Trump himself the chief cause of all that ails us?

Or does Trump’s ascendancy reflect much broader pathologies afflicting the Republican Party — its increasing comfort with ethnonationalism, authoritarianism, and procedural and policy extremism, all of which predate, helped create and will outlast Trump?

And if it’s the latter, shouldn’t all the Democratic candidates be explaining how they’d deal with all those things as president?

This debate will again be thrust to the forefront when Joe Biden campaigns in Iowa on Tuesday. He is set to hammer Trump as an “existential threat” to the country, which he will try to illustrate by training his firepower largely on the president.

Biden took a beating Monday night for offering a stark version of this rhetorical move, while explaining how he’d work with Republicans as president.

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” Biden said at a fundraiser. “Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

As many pointed out, this prediction is profoundly absurd. Biden should know this, having lived through scorched-earth GOP opposition as Barack Obama’s vice president.

For that matter, they weren’t exactly reasonable through the George W. Bush and Bill Cliinton years, either. There were still some reasonable Republicans around in the 1980s, I dimly remember, but the species became critically endangered in the 1970s.

Democrats have been running as The Party That’s Not As Bad As The Other Party for a long time, of course. That was Hillary Clinton’s principal appeal to voters in 2016 — I am not Donald Trump. Although she had a lot of policy proposals she didn’t run on them and instead tried to position herself as the experienced hand with a mile-long resume running against a big blob of vulgarity and stupid.

But the blob was entertaining and promised change. So there goes the upper midwest.

Too many Democrats for too long have been insulated from anything going on among real people and have failed to deliver what voters need from them, and IMO the strongest candidate in the primaries and the general is the one who can persuade voters that the D brand is new and improved. Running as The Candidate That’s Not As Bad As The Other Candidate might win the 2020 general, because the Other Candidate really is Awful Bad, but that’s not going to solve the problem of how shit doesn’t get done because Republicans are crazy and Democrats are spineless. And that’s a problem that really, really needs to be solved. Or else, even if Dems win the White House in 2020, down the road we’ll be dealing with a permanent Republican majority and a far worse version of Donald Trump.

See also Charles Pierce

… conventional metrics—hell, conventional anything related to politics—may well be unsuited to the current political moment, that with the election of this particular president* and with the animatronic zombie thrill-ride on which he’s taken the government, the country may have passed some kind of point of no return. This would mean bad news for Biden, who seems to be campaigning mainly on the theme of bringing back the golden age of 2009. Political historians would note that the “return to normalcy” was the theme on which Warren Harding was elected in 1920, and was explained by him as:

America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.

This sentiment was understandable in the period after World War I, but nodding off to sleep and pretending everything is just fine when it isn’t really is no way to run a country. Charles quotes Pete Buttigieg:

We’re not going to win by playing it safe, or promising a return to normal. We are where we are because normal…broke. We Democrats can no more promise a return to the ’90s — [Ed. Note: Hi, Joe!] — than the Republicans can deliver on a promise to return us to the 1950s.

Normal broke. It broke before Barack Obama took office and, unfortunately, he didn’t adjust. I wouldn’t call the George W. Bush years normal, either. I’m not sure when normal was, actually. There’s no political time period I can think of that I care to be rebooted to. News flash:

Nothing normal about the ’20s, either, although many people pretended as hard as they could, until it all came crashing down and they couldn’t pretend any more.

But there is something in us that wants to believe everything is fine even when it isn’t. Brian Beutler argues that Joe’s “return to normalcy” pitch could work with a lot of voters. But even if it works, is it smart?

Whether Biden believes what he says or not, and whether it’s the best way to win votes or not, are secondary to the question of whether it would be wise for a Democratic president to enter office in 2021 having campaigned on the premise that Republicans are one election away from redemption. If a critical mass of voters believes (or wants to believe) that politics will automatically depolarize once Trump is gone, should Democratic politicians pander to or level with them?

If telling fairytales were the only way for a Democrat to win the presidency, the answer to the question would be obvious. But in an environment where every prominent Democratic presidential candidate leads Trump in head-to-head matchups, the pandering approach is a worse choice.

There is indeed a new Quinnipiac poll out today showing that six Democratic contenders are ahead of Trump in head-to-head polls at the moment.

For too long Democrats in Washington have operated in the assumption that the way to appease the Right is through compromise — give them some of what they want. That worked for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, for a while, although a lot of the policy that came out of that appeasement exacted a price — crime bill, anyone? — that both constituents and Democrats are still paying.

It’s obviously just as naive to assume that hard-nosed realism about the nature of the modern GOP will unlock a progressive revolution all on its own. But candidates who understand what they’re signing up for can take steps to prepare for governing aroundRepublicans now, knowing it’s delusional to imagine they’ll govern in coalition with them. …

…That approach will be bruising, but the good news is candidates can help voters understand what lies ahead for the next Democratic government now, so that the GOP’s nihilism is on the ballot, and everyone knows what to expect and fight for in 2021. The alternative is a campaign of false hope far more unrealistic than Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, with demoralizing frustration at the end of it. The country deserves better than that but nobody running for the Democratic nomination should want that kind of presidency either.

This is the time for Dems to get real and be honest with themselves, and with voters. I don’t dislike Joe Biden, and he may end up with the nomination and the presidency. But I don’t think he’s capable of being the candidate and president the party and the nation needs.

Unfinished Business

There are many headlines today declaring that while Alabama bans abortions for rape victims it protects the parental rights of rapists. For example,

When a young woman came to the Family Services of North Alabama office last year for help with trauma, saying she had been raped by her step-uncle when she was 15, rape crisis advocate Portia Shepherd heard something that “killed me, shocked me.”

The step-uncle, who was getting out of jail after a drug conviction, wanted to be a part of their child’s life. And in Alabama, the alleged rapist could get custody.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Alabama legislators to rush to the statehouse to correct this. And apparently it’s a widespread problem.

I started to title this post “Feminism’s Unfinished Business,” but the issues we’re facing aren’t so much about the shortcomings of feminism but the fact that too many men are screwed up, and I’d like to see more effort coming from men to correct this. Women can only do so much by ourselves.

WaPo has an opinion piece on the incels, whom the writer, Christine Emba, calls “the bleeding edge of a generation of struggling men.” The incels, of course, are the perpetually adolescent losers who live in an internet subculture promoting self-pity and rage at women. I don’t think Emba comes anywhere close to plumbing the depths of the problem. Internet feedback loops combined with poor social skills don’t even begin to tell the whole story.

WaPo also has a very good in-depth piece on Scott Paul Beierle, the 40-year-old incel who shot six women, two fatally, in a Tennessee yoga studio before killing himself. The author, Steve Hendrix, ties women-haters like Beierle to a wide range of right-wing extremism in the U.S. “More and more, we see misogyny as the gateway drug for extremists,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“A deep-seated loathing of women acts as a connective tissue between many white supremacists,” explained the ADL report, titled “When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy.”

While old-guard white supremacists revered women as the mothers of the race, younger bigots despise them as just one more group responsible for eroding their status.

“Even if you become the ultimate alpha male, some stupid bitch will still ruin your life,” declared Andrew Anglin on the neo-Nazi website he founded, the Daily Stormer. Anglin has credited his site’s anti-women content with bolstering traffic even as other hate sites have seen a falloff.

Hendrix writes that the FBI began tracking hate crimes against women in 2013, but this has provided little information because local police departments are slugs about reporting hate crimes against women. And this, of course, is part of the larger pattern of not taking crimes against women seriously.

People are quick to make connections between mass shootings and video games, but the connections between mass shootings and domestic violence is ignored.

Last year a reader wrote this to WaPo after one of the mass shootings:

These incidents are commonplace in modern America. We can surely expect the same responses: Gun control will be debated, mental illness will be blamed, and politicians will send “thoughts and prayers” while doing little to prevent future attacks. Yet, these conversations often omit an important perpetrator warning sign: a history of violence against women. According to an Everytown for Gun Safety analysis , 156 mass shootings occurred between 2009 and 2016. Fifty-four percent of those shootings were related to domestic or family violence. Prior to the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, Nikolas Cruz was accused of being abusive toward his ex-girlfriend, having stalked a second female student with whom he was infatuated and having threatened his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Before Mr. Cruz, Devin Patrick Kelley, Omar Mateen, Robert Lewis Dear, Seung Hui Choi, Adam LanzaJames T. Hodgkinson and Stephen Paddock were also accused of having abused women. In the wake of the Capital Gazette shooting, it is already apparent that Jarrod Ramos’s harassment of a female former high school classmate played a key role in his alleged motivations.

See also:

While it often seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to mass shootings, there is at least one commonality among many of the perpetrators: a history of violence against the women in their lives.

This past Sunday, 26 people were killed and 20 were injured in a church Sutherland Springs, Tex. It quickly emerged that the shooter, a man by the name of Devin Kelley, was a domestic abuser. While serving in the Air Force, he was court-martialed on charges of domestic assault after he beat, choked and threatened his wife with a gun, as well as fractured her son’s skill.

He’s not the only shooter to have exhibited violent behavior towards his intimate partner. The gunmen responsible for deaths in Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Bernadino all have histories of abusing women. But the evidence isn’t simply anecdotal; here are just a few statistics that illustrate how closely linked domestic violence and mass shootings really are.

There is a strong argument that if violence against women were taken more seriously and prosecuted more rigorously, a lot of these mass shootings would never have happened. And maybe someday local cops and judges will figure that out. But I’m not holding my breath.

I believe the Violence Against Women Act is currently lapsed, by the way. The House passed a re-authorization bill that is sitting in the Senate. The NRA has been fighting tooth and nail to keep it from being re-authorized. That’s because it contains a provision that would allow police to confiscate a domestic abuser’s firearms.

And then there is the ongoing phenomenon of rapists who get convicted and given a pat on the wrist. The infamous Brock Turner was just the tip of the iceberg.

The rash of punitive anti-abortion legislation is part of this picture. The all-so-righteous anti-aborts don’t give a hoo-haw about babies. As I’ve written before, cruelty is the point.

No wonder the anti-abortion cause became so central to these men’s lives. It feels good. It lets them act out their inner ugliness, without compunction. And too many women go along with it because they are conditioned to submit to the patriarchy and to measure their self-worth by the approval of men.

It may be that all this pushback against women’s empowerment is the last hurrah of the patriarchy. If so, it’s about time the patriarchy is put down like a rabid dog. I hope I live to see it. But this pattern is not a “women’s problem.” It’s a societal problem, and it’s going to take all of us to change things.

Say It Ain’t Joe

First off, the moron in chief actually tweeted this today.

One commenter to the tweet noted that the MiC has tweeted in support of a new moon mission in the past, and in fact signed a directive in 2017 telling NASA to refocus its efforts to moon exploration. To which another commenter responded, “To every Trump tweet there is an equal and opposite Trump tweet.”

But what I really want to talk about is Joe Biden. His campaign is not going well.

As recently as this Wednesday, Biden’s campaign was saying he still supported the infamous Hyde Amendment that bans federal funding for abortion. But after angry posts about Joe’s record on abortion rights ripped through social media, Joe on Thursday night announced he had changed his mind. He cited the several recent draconian state laws limiting abortion access as his reason.

Well, okay. But then last month the Biden campaign told the world that Joe was working out a “middle ground” position on climate change, and he was promptly hammered for it by pretty much the entire political left. So the campaign hustled out a policy proposal that “contains a number of passages that seem to have been copied and pasted, at times with very superficial changes, from various advocacy organizations, policy shops, and in one instance a Vox article,” it says at Vox. The proposal may not be bad — although it has been criticized for going too easy on fossil fuel interests — but it does give the appearance that Biden and his campaign hadn’t thought about this stuff too much until recently.

How long has he had to think about running for and serving as president? Why isn’t he better prepared? One gets the impression that Joe thought he could run on charm and the strength of his resume. Maybe at some point in the past that was so; not this year.

I’ve already complained about why “electability” is a chimera (see also). What does Joe Biden offer the nation, really? I don’t want to go through all of Joe’s political history in this post; not even the Anita Hill debacle and his famous support for the credit card industy. Those happened several years ago, although we don’t know if he’s really learned anything since. Let’s focus on his record as President Obama’s Veep.

In response to someone who touted Biden’s experience with foreign policy, a writer at Talking Points Memo said,

This is, frankly, insane.

First, let’s look at Biden’s history and America’s foreign policy over that same time frame. We’re we REALLY so successful? Did we change the world in any beneficial way? Did we end our involvement in unnecessary wars? Did we help bring freedom and democratic governance to the oppressed? Did we really accomplish anything at all, or did we merely slow the foreign policy free-fall nightmare of the Bush/Cheney years?

Second, let’s not pretend this is something it isn’t. In general, foreign policy is EASIER than domestic policy. The Executive branch has more freedom of action, and the questions in play tend to be straightforward. Can anybody REALLY distrust that a Warren or Harris administration would make good decisions, considering the number of advisers and experts available to them?

How effective was Joe with domestic policy? It’s hard to say, but of course the Obama Administration wasted way too much time and political capital trying to “work with” Republicans, who consistently spat in their faces. Yet today Joe seems prepared to walk down that same Road of Fail and is talking about his talents for bipartisanship.

In April, John Long wrote for New Republic,

In his campaign launch video, Joe Biden echoed a refrain common among establishment Democrats, retiring Republicans, and legacy media pundits since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. The story goes like this: Trump is a malign interloper who swept in and “hijacked” the Republican Party, leading it astray from its true, noble ideals. Biden implies this in his opening pitch, saying that once we are rid of Trump, all will be more or less well.

Did Joe sleep through the Obama Administration?

See also Richard North Patterson:

In Biden’s account, Trump is an aberration—as though America got hit by a moon rock. His tacit slogan seems to be “back to the future”: all we need to restore the supposedly Halcion days of Obama-Biden is to excise Donald Trump.

No. As many have said, Trump is just a symptom. The Republican Party is the disease. Yes, Trump must be defeated, but our leadership has to understand where the sickness is coming from or some even more depraved version of Trump will be in the White House soon enough.

I was sorry Biden didn’t run in 2016, because I believe he could have taken the nomination away from Clinton and probably would have beaten Trump. But we can’t go back now. If he’s the nominee I will vote for him, but please, let it be somebody else.

Congressional Republicans Are Hearing from the 1 Percent

In WaPo:

Defiant Republican senators warned Trump administration officials Tuesday they were prepared to block the president’s effort to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, threatening to assemble a veto-proof majority to mount their most direct confrontation with the president since he took office.

During a closed-door lunch on Capitol Hill, at least a half-dozen senators spoke in opposition to the tariffs President Trump intends to levy next week in an attempt to force Mexico to limit Central American migration to the United States. No senator spoke in support, according to multiple people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The lawmakers told officials from the White House and Justice Department they probably had the Senate votes they needed to take action on the tariffs, even if that meant overriding a veto.

Still in London, Trump responded,

“Mexico shouldn’t allow millions of people to try and enter our country, and they could stop it very quickly and I think they will,” Trump said at a news conference alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May. “And if they won’t, we’re going to put tariffs on. And every month those tariffs go from 5 percent to 10 percent to 15 percent to 20 and then to 25 percent.”

This should terrify the stuffing out of all of us, because it would be a disaster for the U.S. economy. (And if you want to be genuinely terrified, see Paul Krugman.) There are frantic meetings going on right now between Mexican and White House officials to put together some kind of agreement that would give Trump a “win,” even a bogus one, so that he backs down on the threat. And let’s hope that works, because even if the Senate decides to override a Trump veto, Democrats do not have a big enough majority in the House to override by themselves — it takes a 2/3 vote — and House Republicans are nuttier than a peanut farm and probably think the tariffs are a grand idea.

So, while I would love to see Senate Republicans stand up to Trump, let’s hope Trump is talked off the ledge before it comes to that. And I still say Republican senators wouldn’t be talking about defying Trump if they weren’t being pressured by the Masters of the Universe, a.k.a. the 1 percent. I’ve said all along that when the day comes Trump pisses off those people, he’s toast.

In other news, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declares it’s time to open an impeachment inquiry.

U.S. President Donald Trump announces an agreement with Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque – RC1D94FA7CB0

Britain: Just Stay in the EU

The “president” is eager to make a trade deal with the UK in the event it leaves the EU. If this doesn’t scare Brits into putting a decisive end to Brexit, it should.

Brits: Trump is not your friend. He is more like a big, nasty vulture who just wants to pick over your corpse.

From the Financial Times:

The US president, on the second day of a UK state visit, claimed that transatlantic trade between the two countries could be “two and even three times what we’re doing now” after Brexit, but made it clear that it would involve painful choices for Britain. “Everything will be on the table — the NHS, everything,” Mr Trump said at a joint conference with UK prime minister Theresa May, as he looked ahead to a post-Brexit trade agreement.

Trump saying that the NHS must be “on the table” was not the smartest negotiating tactic. Let’s face it; Mr. “Art of the Deal” couldn’t negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag.

From the New Statesman:

Absent a free trade agreement, American healthcare providers already compete to deliver services in the UK where the NHS puts out contracts to competitive tender. This is not without its own controversy, but was a unilateral decision made by a British government seeking value for money.

However, US demands regarding reimbursement regimes for pharmaceuticals and medical devices give greater cause for thought. The US has long taken issue with the fact that the NHS’s approach to drug procurement — where it makes its own assessment as to the fair value of the drugs it buys — pulls down prices worldwide. Previously, in negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, the US backed away from trade asks on drug pricing in order to get agreements over the line, but due to the NHS’s global significance and market power, the incentives for the US to push the UK harder are more pronounced.

The idea of opening up the taxpayer-funded NHS to more US medical companies — the health service already buys in some capabilities from the private sector, including US groups — is highly controversial in Britain. A trade deal with the US could also potentially involve the NHS having to pay higher prices for drugs made by American companies. The NHS currently pays significantly less for medicines from US companies than American healthcare purchasers.

Such a deal, Britain. You, too, can watch your loved ones die because insulin and supplies cost up to $1,300 per month.

The U.S. also wants the UK to lower its agricultural standards so that we can sell them our famous chlorinated chicken and our soon-to-be uninspected pork. Some guy named Woody Johnson, identified in The Guardian as “a close friend of the US president,” suggests that Brits don’t have to buy the stuff.

Johnson was also pressed on whether the US would seek a loosening of agricultural standards, including the importation of chlorinated chicken. He said the products should be offered to British consumers who could decide whether to buy them.

“There will have to be some deal where you give the British people a choice,” he said. “American products can come over and be allowed to come over. Agriculture is extremely important to the president and to any American president … but if the British people like it, they can buy it; if they don’t like it, they don’t have to buy it.”

Johnson said complaints about US food standards were ill-informed. “It’s completely safe. They can have a choice, we have five million Brits coming over every year and I’ve never heard a complaint about anything to do with chicken,” he said.

And I’m sure Woody interviews every one of those five million and asks what they thought of the chicken. The issue is that the U.S. is really good at mass producing chicken very cheaply. For that reason we Americans eat more chicken than any other meat, in spite of the fact that our chicken carries more diseases like salmonella than any other meat. What would cheap American chicken do to the British poultry industry, hm?

In other stable genius news, some congressional Republicans actually are talking about taking away Trump’s tariff privileges.

Congressional Republicans have begun discussing whether they may have to vote to block President Trump’s planned new tariffs on Mexico, potentially igniting a second standoff this year over Trump’s use of executive powers to circumvent Congress, people familiar with the talks said.

The vote, which would be the GOP’s most dramatic act of defiance since Trump took office, could also have the effect of blocking billions of dollars in border wall funding that the president had announced in February when he declared a national emergency at the southern border, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on Mexico — with which the United States has a free-trade agreement — rely on the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border. But the law gives Congress the right to override the national emergency determination by passing a resolution of disapproval.

I say the only possible reason Republican lawmakers would even think about overriding Trump is that they are hearing from big-ticket corporate Republican donors who are losing money because of Trump’s tariffs and trade wars.

You might remember that Congress already passed one resolution disapproving the so-called emergency, but Trump vetoed it and there weren’t enough votes to override the veto. Maybe they’ll try again?

This time around, some GOP lawmakers and aides say there could be the votes in the Senate to overturn a presidential veto, because of the intense GOP opposition to tariffs. Such an outcome would be an embarrassing rebuke to the president by members of his own party — even if the veto override vote ultimately failed in the House, where Republicans have shown scant willingness to oppose the president. It takes two-thirds support in the House and Senate to overturn a presidential veto.

Traditional pro-business Republican groups have also announced strong opposition to the tariffs, and some are urging Congress to act. The Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday calling the proposed tariffs “the largest tax hike in modern history” and urging “it’s time for Congress to do its job.”

Seems to me Trump has put the GOP between a rock and his own hard head. They’re going to have to choose between their deep-pocket donors like the Kochs or Trump and his rabid voter base.

(Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Not Impeaching May Be the Bigger Risk

I’m pleased to note that Digby also thinks the Dems should go ahead and officially start the impeachment process.

…the Democratic party should probably pay a little bit more attention to their own base on this. 76% of Democrats favor impeachment! And a whole bunch of college-educated white people, many of whom used to vote Republican, are also on board. This is not a static opinion.

I don’t know if the leadership has some grand plan to wait for support to rise before they impeach. But Pelosi insists that she wants to know in advance that the Senate would convict, which means she doesn’t care if 100% of Democrats and Independents back impeachment, Republicans must be there too. Maybe she’ll change her mind. I hope so.

But what if the Senate doesn’t convict?

I don’t know if Pelosi and company have a grand plan. But if they believe what they are saying, which is that you can’t impeach Trump because Republicans won’t convict him, then I think they are playing with fire.

Trump may survive impeachment through the partisan solidarity of Republican Senators who are happy to show themselves to be shameless toadies to their 40% president. He will say he “”won.” But if they fail to impeach him in the House, he will run by saying that it was Democrats who exonerated him. After all, if they really thought he was guilty they would have done it, right?

Trump will run as the strongman who all alone defeated the Democratic House with his gigantic bare hands.

I don’t think this is a decision that should be made on political terms. But if it is, it seems to me that the Democrats have the political argument all wrong. They actually have a better chance of winning in the long run by forcing the Republican Senate toadies to save him.

Public hearings that bring out all the dirt that isn’t being reported on Fox News will damage Trump, and with him any Republican who tries to cover for him, enormously with independent voters. Not holding public impeachment hearings or making any attempt to impeach Trump will hurt the Dems among independent voters and leftie voters who think the Democratic Party is a spineless waste of time and there’s no point voting for those people.

Bottom line, there’s a good argument that not iimpeaching Trump is a bigger risk than going ahead with it, Senate conviction or no Senate conviction.

See Greg Sargent on what we can learn from polling on impeaching Nixon in 1973 and 1974:

Right now, independents are a key reason public support for impeachment is low. A recent Post-ABC News poll, which found that only 37 percent of Americans support beginning impeachment proceedings while 56 percent oppose it, also found that among independents, those numbers are 36 percent to 59 percent.

The Gallup numbers on Nixon suggest that big shifts among independents are possible and show that a substantially larger percentage of independents now support impeachment hearings than at the outset in Nixon’s day.

In other words, it might be possible to build majority support for an impeachment inquiry on Trump, even if Republican voters don’t ever move much on this question.

See also:

The House Is Right to Move Toward an Impeachment Inquiry by Quinta Jurecic at Lawfare.

Yet, there stands Nancy like a stone wall. At CNN, Ross Garber writes,

As an impeachment defense lawyer, I often warn about the perils of initiating impeachment proceedings. I emphasize that they should be undertaken only where there is credible information of egregious misconduct that would affect an official’s ability to continue in office, and in full recognition of the incredibly high standard for impeachment, the rigorous process involved, the inevitable disruption in governing and the potential political costs.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a bar for an impeachment process that even I haven’t dared advocate. And while she may believe an impeachment process would hurt Democrats in 2020, she has sought to justify her aversion to impeachment with statements that are unsupportable and erroneous. This undermines the public’s trust and could have consequences for future impeachment efforts.

For example, apparently Pelosi as argued that if Trump is aquitted by the Senate, criminal charges couldn’t be brought against Trump when he’s out of office. But that’s bogus, Garber says. Nancy also says that impeachment would “divide the country.” Uh, hello? We’re already divided Impeachment might bleeping bring us together.

I very much doubt that any evidence brought against Trump in an impeachment hearing would budge enough Republican senators to convict the Creature. But if the case has been made to the public, these same senators will pay a bigger price than the Democrats.

Back to Ross Garber:

The whole point of an impeachment process is to conduct a fair evaluation of the facts and constitutional standard. Initiating an impeachment process also provides a forum for the public to learn about the relevant facts and the constitutional burdens….

…Partisanship is to be expected, especially at the outset; it is the default posture in Washington. But let’s take a look at some history. The impeachment process involving President Nixon began as a largely partisan effort, but eventually members of the President’s own party came around, resulting in his resignation. Here too, Speaker Pelosi is wrong to suggest that uniform opinion be required about the result before even initiating an evaluation of the facts through the impeachment process.

The purpose of this piece is not to advocate for impeachment. It is to urge that the topic be approached responsibly. And it’s not just about Donald Trump. Someday a different House leadership will confront potential misconduct by a different president and will look for guidance to the words and actions of this speaker and this House of Representatives.

This is about protecting the integrity of the Constitution. If impeachment isn’t used against this walking cesspool of a president, when will it be used? That makes the Constitution even weaker.

Sometimes, you just have to do the right thing.

(Photo: Pat Bagley/The Salt Lake Tribune/

The Dirty, Filthy, Disgusting I Word

To impeach, or not to impeach — that is the question.

I have been of the school of thought that we must investigate Trump with everything we’ve got, but that impeachment itself is futile as long as Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. But I’m changing my mind.

James Reston, Jr., recalls a Republican congressman, Rep. Lawrence Hogan of Maryland, who wrestled with the impeachment question back in 1974.

“This is an occasion when party loyalty demands too much,” the elder Hogan said. “To base this decision on politics would not only violate my conscience but it would be a breach of my oath to uphold the Constitution. Those who oppose impeachment say it would weaken the presidency. In my view, if we do not impeach this president after all he has done, we would be weakening the presidency even more.”

That’s where I’m coming out, although I’m more concerned with the Constitution than with the presidency. Yes, Republicans in Congress are even crazier and more partisan now than they were then. But Reston makes the point that Republicans in Congress,, who held a majority in the Senate then also, stood solidly behind Nixon in 1974 — until they didn’t.

What happened in Washington in the summer of 1974 is a template for what could and perhaps should happen in the summer of 2019. The behavior of Republicans back then holds important lessons for the current situation. Hogan and his like-minded colleagues did not step forward at the outset of the impeachment process, but only at the very end, when historic votes loomed, votes that would force upon them the most profound personal consideration about what they valued and what they stood for.

Yet today’s House leader, Nancy Pelosi, and her group are demanding that Republicans step forward now, at a preliminary stage in judging President Trump, as a condition of proceeding with impeachment. No formal process should even be initiated, she says, without significant Republican buy-in. This position is untenable. It forecloses the possibility, strange as it may seem to some, that there are decent and thoughtful Republicans who are deeply troubled by the revelations of the Mueller report, but who would come forward only when they were forced to do so because of a vote to decide the president’s fate.

Whether there are decent and thoughtful Republicans who would, in the end, put principle before party is not something I would bet the house on. However, I sincerely believe that if even what we know to be true about Trump really came to the attention of the public and is not buried behind William Barr’s double-speak, there would be a lot of Republicans who would look hard at their own political futures and rethink their position.

And what do we not know? We don’t know what’s in Trump’s tax returns. We don’t know what’s in his Deutsche Bank records. We don’t know how Mr. Multiple Bankruptcies came to be flush with cash in 2006 and was still getting funded by somebody after the 2008 financial crisis. We don’t know what went on with the inauguration money. We don’t know a lot of things. But these things are know-able. Well, if court orders and subpoenas can be enforced.

This happened yesterday:

Federal prosecutors rebuffed a judge’s order to release by Friday highly classified transcripts of discussions that Michael T. Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, had with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

So what’s that about?

Impeachment is a process, and it’s a process with many steps. Voting on articles of impeachment comes at the end of the process. Pelosi speaks of it as if it’s the only part of the process. It’s true that congressional investigations don’t have to be called impeachment investigations, but there’s a widely held belief that doing so would give subpoenas and court orders more weight. Ignoring subpoenas related to an impeachment inquiry would be, seems to me, obstruction on its face and an impeachable offense in itself.

Of course, there’s  Alan Dershowitz, still on his sad journey from respected legal mind to punchline, embarrassing himself with an op ed claiming the Supreme Court could overrule an “unconstitutional” impeachment. He notes that all the other lawyers hoot at this idea, but cites a serious legal source — himself, in a book he wrote.

“This is all complete nonsense,” writes Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns & Money. “It would warrant a failing grade if put forward in a first-year law student’s Con Law final.”

Voices claiming the impeachment process would backfire and turn into a debacle that will hurt the Democrats tend to be … conservative. For example, there’s David Frum (citing the Clinton impeachment as an example) and George Will (citing a bunch of irrelevant legal opinion that makes it sound as if he doesn’t believe Trump did anything that wrong). But now even Bill Kirstol says that it’s time for impeachment inquiries, which makes me wonder if the solar system is about to implode.

I believe we’ve reached a point that the entire Trump Administration is such a threat to the Constitution that there is no choice but to begin the impeachment process. Indeed, if the process can’t be used on this president, we might as well erase the procedure from the Constitution.