We Will Remember in November

Although the votes haven’t been taken yet, it’s nearly certain witnesses will be blocked and Trump will not be removed from office. No surprise.

David Lauter of the Los Angeles Times writes that impeachment could cost Trump dearly.

Johnson’s acquittal in May 1868 turned quickly to ashes: He ended his tenure less than 11 months later, reviled and rejected by much of the country. Clinton had a happier, but still mixed, fate: He remained personally popular, but the ethical cloud that remained over him after the Feb. 12, 1999, acquittal vote helped cause the defeat of Vice President Al Gore, who lost one of the closest presidential elections in history less than two years later.

And although he resigned before he was impeached, the stigma attached to Richard Nixon also. He is remembered mostly for being a crook.

Although polls are close on whether Trump should be removed from office, a substantial majority of voters think the Senate should have called witnesses. A Quinnipiac poll from this week:

On week two of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, registered voters say 75 – 20 percent that witnesses should be allowed to testify in the impeachment trial, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pea-ack) University national poll released today. Support for witness testimony includes 49 percent of Republicans, 95 percent of Democrats, and 75 percent of independents.

The 75 percent of independents is encouraging.

Many are calling for the Dems to keep investigating and calling for Trump to be held to account. See:

Josh Marshall, Bring Down the Hammer

Paul Waldman, What Democrats must do when impeachment is over

Martin Longman, If Trump is Acquitted, the House Democrats Should Press Ahead

And, I believe the congressional Democrats will press ahead. Even today there have been more damning revelations. A new leak from Bolton’s book says that Trump’s defense lawyer Pat Cipollone was present in the Oval Office when Trump pressed Bolton to apply pressure on Ukranians to extract damaging information on Democrats. He was part of the scheme, in other words.

And who knows what fresh hells await us? If Trump follows his pattern, he’ll do something even worse next week.

Can We Bridge the Dem Progressive/Moderate Divide? Please?

I mostly agree with what E.J. Dionne writes today, although I have some quibbles. In Progressives and moderates: Don’t destroy each other — The enemy is Trump, not Clinton or Obama, Dionne writes,

The Democratic campaign was destined to entail an argument about the party’s direction for the next decade. Is this election about restoration, after the madness of Trump’s time in office? Or should the accent be on transformation, to grapple with the underlying problems that led to Trump’s election in the first place? …

… Like so many of the binaries in politics, the restoration/transformation optic captures something important but is also a false choice. The country can’t simply pick up where it left off before Trump took office. The radicalized conservatism that dominates the Republican Party will not go away even if he is defeated. The inequalities of class and race that helped fueled Trump’s rise have deepened during his presidency. You might say restoring the norms that Trump threatens requires transformation. And the majority that opposes Trump is clearly seeking a combination of restoration and transformation. They want to bring back things they believe have been lost as a prelude to moving forward. What they want most to restore is progress.

I think this is true. While many people who aren’t politics nerds may be skeptical of Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, they do know they want change. People are frustrated out of their minds, and have been for many years, with government that takes their taxes but doesn’t ever seem to do anything for them. And I think that’s true across the political spectrum. Where we differ is how we understand the source of the problem. Leftists tend to blame massive corruption and the influence of big money. Those on the Right appear to have more amorphous fears of foreigners, racial minorities, and multiculturalism.

Progressives and moderates need to realize that at this moment in history, they share a commitment to what public life can achieve and the hope that government can be decent again. They reject overt appeals to racism that have been Trump’s calling card and an approach to politics based on dividing the nation. Together, they long for a politics focused on freedom, fairness and the future.

Let’s assume for now this is true.

What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism.” The phrase captures an insight from each side of their debate: Progressives are right that reforms unhinged from larger purposes are typically ephemeral. But a vision disconnected from first steps and early successes can shrivel up and die. Vision and incremental change are not opposites.

I have developed an allergy to the word “incremental.” In theory, it sounds reasonable. In practice, it means not challenging the status quo at all but settling for minor tweaks to policies that need serious overhaul. At this point whenever some candidate extols the virtues of “pragmatism” and “incremental change,” I hear, but don’t expect me to do shit. Perhaps lip service is paid to what a glorious thing we might do “some day,” but some day never arrives.

And one reason some day never arrives is that the Democratic incrementalists are so lacking in vision they aren’t leading anyone anywhere. They win an election and maybe undo some of the damage the Right has done, and they call that a success. And then in the next election cycle the frustrated public votes for the Right again.

This is the pattern we’ve been dealing with for a long time. If Republicans screw up enough Democrats may win the White House and even hold a majority in Congress for a brief time, and then in the next election the Right will take Congress back because voters are still frustrated with the status quo and Democrats don’t seem to be addressing those frustrations. And every Republican administration that has taken the White House back from the Democrats has been more extreme and more corrupt than the last one. This is the pattern that’s got to stop. But it won’t stop as long as the “restorationists” and “incrementalists” are in complete charge of the Democratic party and refusing to listen to those who want change to start happening now, not some day.

What about the progressives, or “transformationists” as Dionne calls them? Although my sympathies are with them, many have naive ideas about how, and how quickly, transformation can happen even if Their Favorite Presidential Candidate is elected president. Presidents have no Constitutional power to write and pass laws that make transformational change, in spite of what Donald Trump thinks. The next Democratic president may push Congress in a more progressive direction, or not, but ultimately what we’ll get is what Congress passes, not necessarily what the President promised as a candidate. I agree with what Paul Walman wrote here:

Whether you think a social democratic revolution of the kind Sanders promotes is good or bad, the realities of Congress will make it impossible to bring about. In fact, if Sanders is elected, the major policy contours of his presidency will be nearly identical to those of almost any other Democrat.

That’s true to a great degree of Warren as well (though she has done more thinking about how to use regulatory power to achieve progressive ends). And to be clear, I’m not saying the individual in the Oval Office doesn’t matter. There will be differences in what they prioritize, whom they put into key executive branch positions, and how they react to crises.

But on the big picture, any Democratic president will do most of the same things.

Consider health care. Sanders wants immediate passage of what would be the most generous single-payer system in the world. So what will happen when he puts out that plan?

The answer is: basically nothing. Sanders believes he can pass Medicare-for-all through reconciliation, which requires only 50 votes instead of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. But even if Democrats take the Senate, the absolute best-case scenario would get them 52 seats. And not only aren’t there 50 Senate votes for Medicare-for-all, there probably aren’t even 40 votes. Maybe not even 30.

So what does a President Sanders do then? If history is a guide, he’ll compromise. For all we think about Sanders as a purist ideologue, in the Senate he has been happy to support things he considered half-measures, such as the Affordable Care Act, when it mattered. He has always had a pragmatic side. So after Medicare-for-all failed, he’d probably say, “Okay, let’s start with a public option.”

In fact, at that point he’d probably take the position Warren has during the campaign: Do a public option first, and if it works well, in a few years the public and Congress will be more open to Medicare-for-all. And every other Democratic candidate, including “moderates” such as Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, has also committed to pushing a public option. We don’t know whether that can pass either, but any one of the Democrats would wind up in the same place.

I know this isn’t what many Sanders supporters want to hear, but what Waldman describes is far more likely than any scenario in which Medicare for All becomes the law of the land in 2021. And this is why all the trashing of Liz Warren’s “gradual” plan and screaming that she “sold out” on Medicare for All is seriously stupid.

As Will Short wrote recently, candidates’ policy plans need to be taken seriously but not literally. “Whatever is typed in a report in 2019-20 won’t be what emerges from the sausage grinder of Capitol Hill,” he wrote. What’s important is that our leaders have a clear vision of the transformation change that is needed and will keep pushing to get us there.  Some of our more moderate, “incrementalist” candidates fall short in that regard, I fear, although of course they’d still be a huge improvement on Trump.

However, if we achieve victory in November, and take back the White House and both houses of Congress, if the tweakers remain in charge be prepared to lose Congress again in the 2022 midterms. (I don’t even want to think about what will happen if Republicans keep control of the Senate, frankly.)

A transformationist president could use the bully pulpit of the presidency to sell people on the benefits of transformational change. In that case, some day might arrive before the end of this decade instead of never.

That may be frustrating to the young folks, but most of you young folks will still be here at the end of this decade. Will change be happening then, or will you still be butting your head against the same wall? This really is up to you. If Millennials voted at the same rate as us geezers, the U.S. would be reborn.

Dionne goes on to consider the difference between “shrewd pragmatists” and “unprincipled sellouts.” Often that difference is in the eye of the beholder. Barack Obama, for example, got some things right but failed in other ways. His administration was successful in many ways, but some of what he failed to do helped set us up for Trumpism. This is something the incrementalists, and the current Democratic Party establishment, need to acknowledge instead of treating the Obama Administration as some kind of golden age.

Dionne’s column ends with his account of a  meeting with the Third Way organization, which emerged from the neoliberal New Democrats of the 1980s and 1990s. Third Way has been a stone around the neck of the Democratic Party for at least two decades now, and frankly I want to round them all up and deport them. These are people who want to enshrine the status quo in marble, in the name of “bipartisanship.” But surprisingly, even the executive vice president of Third Way, Matt Bennett, admitted to Dionne that the New Democrats had been wrong about some things.

“We need to be working to tame capitalism at this moment, because it is not functioning well,” Bennett told me. “We need to do in this century what the progressives and New Dealers did in the last century.”

Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious. But for a Third Way guy to admit that maybe capitalism needs taming is evidence that the messaging of Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren is breaking through their thick heads. And that’s something.

What I’m asking for here is for all of us to be both more visionary and more pragmatic.

The “centrists” need to understand that their lack of vision and tone deafness to voter frustration has a lot to do with their failures to win certain demographic groups (see: Hillary Clinton, 2016). To beat Trump a centrist candidate will need the votes of progressives, so bashing them throughout the primaries will hurt you in the general. If a centrist Democratic candidate wins the White House, that person needs to bring progressives into the cabinet and take their views seriously, or else Dems will continue to play defense and the next Republican president really will be Mussolini and not just a moronic wannabe.

And I’d say a lot of the progressives need to be more pragmatic, or at least realistic, and understand that there really aren’t enough progressive voters now to make all of our policy ideas popular and viable (although a big millennial voter turnout would help). To beat Trump and win the presidency, a progressive nominee will need the support of establishment Dems and the votes of skeptical centrists. So treating people who don’t see eye to eye with you in every detail as the “lesser of two evils” is not smart. Temper your rhetoric.

Political activists do tend to be passionate and opinonated, but as we get into the primaries please try to conduct yourselves in ways that don’t utterly alienate people whose votes and support Your Candidate, if nominated, will need in November. (And I’m looking right now at all you centrists who keep posting “Stop Bernie because he’ll lose” crap. That could backfire very badly. And the next time I see a Sanders supporter call for  Liz Warren to drop out “because she can’t win,” that person will be blocked. I’m serious.)

Trust the process, and may the best candidate win.

Impeachment, Bolton, the New So-Called Peace Plan

The question-and-answer portion of the trial is underway. From what I can tell, this is just an exercise in repeating points, or lies, as the case may be.

Late yesterday there was news that Mitch McConnell let it be known he doesn’t have the votes to block witnessess. It’s useful to hear what Lawrence O’Donnell has to say about this.

If you say last night’s show, you might remember O’Donnell also reminding us that McConnell is up for re-election, and McConnell wants to avoid the wrath of Trump at all cost.

The White House issued a formal threat to Bolton to stop the publication of his book.

The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

In a letter to Bolton’s lawyer, a top official at the National Security Council wrote the unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s book “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information” and couldn’t be published as written.

The letter, which is dated January 23, said some of the information was classified at the “top secret” level, meaning it “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security.”

“The manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter read.

Can the White House stop publication of the book? The story as I understand it: Bolton gave a copy of the manuscript to the National Security Council on December 30. He asked the NSC to review the manuscript for security issues, and gave them 30 days to do so. Bolton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, has announced a March 17 publication date, which means printing has to begin some time in February.

Bolton is a warmongering jerk, but he’s not stupid. I’m sure he has a pretty fair idea of what’s classified and what’s not, and he wouldn’t have written a book that wasn’t publishable. This is a bare-assed attempt at censorship.

What will Simon & Schuster do? S&S is owned by Viacom (now ViacomCBS), a really, really big multinational corporation. This means they have a big, robust legal department, and I doubt they are going to accept censorship meekly, especially when big money is at stake. The book is already the #1 best seller in Amazon’s political science category.

In other news, Today the White House announced a new Middle East Peace Plan brokered by Wonder Boy Jared Kushner. Trump called it “the deal of the century.” Even so, the plan was instantly met with derision, and the United Nations wasted no time in rejecting it. Juan Cole called it a “crime against humanity.”

See also Fred Kaplan, Trump’s Plan for the Middle East Has Nothing to Do With Peace.

First, the fact that the Palestinians played no role in negotiating or vetting the document means, by itself, that this is an imposition—something like the surrender terms handed down by a victorious army—rather than an accord reached by two parties.

Second, it declares the existence of a Palestinian state with a capital on the outskirts of east Jerusalem and the prospect of a U.S. Embassy—but it also prohibits this state from forming an army, meaning it is not really a sovereign state after all.

Third, it freezes the expansion of Israeli settlements for the next four years—but it sanctifies all the settlements erected to date, allows more houses to be built on land already held, and annexes most occupied land, including all the holy sites in all of Jerusalem, to become officially part of Israel. …

…Finally, it hands this Palestinian not-quite-state $28 billion for economic development—but only if it takes the deal. Yet without real control over the state and a formal surrender of territory, without reciprocation, no Palestinian leader could take this deal and stay in power.

Original photo by Evan Guest, flickr.com

The Pathetic Sham That Is Trump’s Defense

Have the John Bolton revelations changed the trajectory of the impeachment trial? Could be.

Dahlia Lithwick has a great summation of the Republicans’ defense strategy:

The Republican strategy for getting President Donald Trump off the hook in the Senate’s impeachment trial has largely been rooted in the denial of the existence of a little something we, in the reality-based community, call time. The Republicans would like to pretend that the past doesn’t exist, and also that the future won’t exist, because doing so allows them to confine the mountains of damning evidence against the president to a minimalist public display that consists of in-the-moment rantings about “no quid pro quo” and Adam Schiff and House Democrats’ impeachment strategy. Senate Republicans are also hyperfocusing on single pieces of evidence, like the “perfect phone call,” while blurring out every other witness or piece of evidence as irrelevant or untrustworthy. And as Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers highlighted in the preview of opening arguments on Saturday, the name of the game in the coming days will be to cherry-pick a handful of data points in their client’s defense case, and ignore mountains of corroborating testimonial evidence, leaked emails, and ongoing media reports, all of which establish a clear timeline of the Ukraine scandal. As soon as that defense is phoned in, Republicans could vote quickly to decline to call witnesses and hear testimony, and the impeachment trial would end in acquittal. Then time can start up again. Everything is too early and too late because only this moment matters.

The problem is that the past keeps crashing into the present in ways that drag the future into it. And if John Bolton had planned to hurt Donald Trump — I assume he did, although it’s possible the manuscript was leaked without Bolton’s permission — the timing of the release couldn’t have been better.

The defense soldiers on. I don’t have the stomach to watch it myself, but I’m following a liveblog of the Trump lawyer defense on TPM. I understand that Ken Starr is saying “impeachment is hell” and too terrible a thing to ever do, and he should know.  And he “urged President Trump to use his executive privilege to prevent the release of documents.”

“Don’t release the documents, Mr. President. If you do, you’re injuring the presidency. Go to court,” Starr said. “We’ve heard concerns about the length of time that the litigation might take. Those of us who have litigated know that sometimes litigation does take longer than we would like. Justice delayed is justice denied. We would all agree with that.”

Got that? He’s urging Trump to continue to obstruct justice so that he doesn’t have to face justice. See also Josh Marshall, The Executive Privilege Claims on Bolton Are Totally Fake. In brief, Marshall says “executive privilege” can be used to stop someone from being forced to testify, but it can’t block testimony that someone wants to give. Second, any subpoenas coming from the Senate — which the Constitution says has the sole power to try impeachments — and with the Chief Justice presiding would not be reviewed by any court, period.

Greg Sargent writes that “Bolton’s lawyer says he provided the manuscript to the White House on Dec. 30, 2019, for classification review — nearly a month ago.” And the New York Times is reporting that the White House apparently didn’t alert Senate Republicans about this.

Republicans are angrily pressing the White House in private about the revelations from the manuscript, saying they were blindsided by the former adviser’s account — especially because the administration has had a copy of it since Dec. 30. Many Republicans have adopted the arguments offered by Mr. Trump’s defense team, but Mr. Bolton’s assertions directly contradict them.

As Greg Sargent says, there is no question that Trump’s lawyers have read Bolton’s manuscript and knew all along that he was about to go public with testimony that directly contradicts Trump’s defense. They were playing Senate Republicans for fools.

Are the Senators pissed? Well, Miz Lindsey canceled a press conference scheduled for today. We aren’t told why.

Bolton’s book is scheduled to be released on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

Stuff to Read About Impeachment

ABC News has an audio tape of Trump screaming that Marie Yovanovitch must be “taken out.” Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were present at whatever event was taped. I’m seeing other news sources saying the tape was leaked by Fruman.

David Graham, The Atlantic: Republicans Are Making a Kafkaesque Argument.

If nothing else, the tape shows, again, how much evidence we still haven’t seen about the Ukraine affair. And it underscores the elaborate, slippery dance that Senate Republicans are performing. First, they vote against gathering new witnesses and evidence at the start of the impeachment trial. Second, they complain that Democratic managers are offering no new evidence. Third, they say that it is pointless to call witnesses who might provide new evidence, because the White House will simply block them. In Trump’s Washington, Kafka seems quaint.

Charles Pierce:

It is possible that the president* was suggesting Parnas treat Yovanovich to a nice dinner and a movie, but I doubt it.

It is here where we all should remember that, if he had wanted to, the president* could have fired and/or recalled Marie Yovanovich himself and not given any reason at all. He’s the president*. He can do that. Of course, there would have been gossip, and some inconvenient news coverage, and Yovanovich likely would have made a lot of noise, but there would have been no doubt that the president* was within his rights to do what he did.

Instead, because he left his guts somewhere in Queens, he had to get Rudy Giuliani and his band of Volga Bagmen involved, which ultimately forced every one of them, including the president*, to lie and obstruct Congress and, thereafter, lie about how they obstructed Congress. They are the Gang That Couldn’t Obstruct Straight. So now it is clear that both Parnas and Igor Fruman, his partner in sleaze, have flipped like circus acrobats, and god alone knows what else will come out. Who knows how many tapes exist of the president* proposing who knows how many crimes? I would think, given recent developments, the president*’s relationship with Saudi Arabia might be a target-rich environment.

This may be the best column Dana Milbank ever wrote — John Roberts comes face to face with the mess he made.

Roberts’s captivity [as the impeachment judge] is entirely fitting: He is forced to witness, with his own eyes, the mess he and his colleagues on the Supreme Court have made of the U.S. political system. As representatives of all three branches of government attend this unhappy family reunion, the living consequences of the Roberts Court’s decisions, and their corrosive effect on democracy, are plain to see.

Ten years to the day before Trump’s impeachment trial began, the Supreme Court released its Citizens United decision, plunging the country into the era of super PACs and unlimited, unregulated, secret campaign money from billionaires and foreign interests. Citizens United, and the resulting rise of the super PAC, led directly to this impeachment. The two Rudy Giuliani associates engaged in key abuses — the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the attempts to force Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents — gained access to Trump by funneling money from a Ukrainian oligarch to the president’s super PAC.

Gabriel Sherman writes at Vanity Fair that Trump is unraveling.

Trump’s circle is waking up to the notion that impeachment is a serious drag on his campaign. “Impeachment is drowning out all his accomplishments,” a Republican insider said. But impeachment is only one aspect of the problem. Inside the campaign there is an intensifying debate between Trump and his advisers about whether the campaign should run on base-incitement issues like immigration or a moderate-appealing message about the economy that could win back suburban voters. “They’re all trying to get Trump to run on general election issues and not get caught up in side issues,” a source close to the campaign said. “But Trump is focused on other stuff and going after [Joe] Biden.” …

… Meanwhile, Trump has been in a particularly foul mood as impeachment drags on. Trump recently told some Republicans that he decided to say “fuck it” and kill General Qasem Soleimani, according to a source briefed on the conversation. Trump’s mood has the West Wing bracing for a new round of staff turmoil. According to sources, Trump is unhappy with Kushner’s recent Time cover story, which showed Kushner posing solemnly inside the magazine’s iconic red border. One source said there is speculation inside the West Wing that Trump may rein in Kushner by bringing in Kushner antagonist Chris Christie to replace acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. According to one source, Kushner, perhaps realizing the problems the cover could cause, lobbied Matt Drudge not to link to the article.

During hours of arguments, on Thursday afternoon and late into the night, that were meant as a prebuttal to Trump’s forthcoming defense, the House managers sought to anticipate and undercut the arguments of the President’s lawyers. The best witnesses they called were all the President’s men. The managers presented video clip after video clip demolishing the President as a mere parrot of Russian propaganda, who repeated Russian-inspired falsehoods about the 2016 campaign and his Presidential rival Joe Biden, even as he withheld crucial aid to Russia’s enemy, Ukraine. There was “no information” to support Trump’s insistence that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election; it was “completely debunked,” a “fictional narrative” divorced from anything having to do with U.S. foreign policy or its national interest. Trump’s accusers were not #NeverTrump Republicans or Democrats. They were senior officials in the Trump Administration. It was devastating.

Glasser also writes that many Republican senators became excited at the mention of Biden. It turns out they were thinking this would give them an opening to subpoena Biden. Then some of them probably remembered they weren’t to allow witnesses, because Trump and McConnell want the trial over by the end of January. Can’t stomp on the SOTU, you know.

Republican Premeditated Ignorance

The term “premedicated incompetence” was coined by a woman I worked with back in the 1970s. It designated the phenomenon of college-educated men who could not figure out how to load a dishasher if there happened to be a woman handy.

Something like that is going on with Senate Republicans. Instead of refusing to learn how to load a dishwasher, they are refusing to listen to the arguments and evidence against Trump. It is clear they are determined to get their sham of a trial over with asap so that they can vote to keep Trump in office. To do that, they have to remain ignorant.

But why? Trump’s unfitness for office isn’t going away. More evidence will be made public, much of it sooner rather than later. Watchdog groups and investigating journalists are finding new documentation of Trump’s corruption all the time. There is even a remote chance we’ll get to see Trump’s tax returns and other financial records before the November election.

“The truth is going to come out,” Rep. Adam Schiff said to the Senate. “The only question is: Do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?”

And we know the answer. It is no. Greg Sargent writes,

GOP senators who vote against subpoenaing new witnesses and documents run the risk that more damning revelations will come out after any such vote, and after their inevitable acquittal. This could allow those revelations to be hung around their necks, as examples of what they sought to help Trump cover up.

But it’s now clear we’ve been looking at this from the wrong angle. The truth, plainly, is that in this scenario, the fact that the votes on evidence and acquittal will come before any future revelations is a feature of doing it this way.

That’s because a vote for acquittal (which, again, is inevitable) before more damning revelations are unearthed is politically less costly than a vote for acquittal after any such revelations.

Yes, future revelations will stand as evidence of what GOP senators covered up. But that’s still politically less risky, from their perspective, than taking the chance that new evidence could be still more damning than what’s already known, and that they’d have to then acquit at that point.

Clearly, if you think acquittal is your only option, but you know deep down the SOB is guilty, you might as well stay ignorant of the evidence. You’re better off that way, even. So some day when even the PBS News Hour crew is wailing about Trump’s violations of the Constitution, Senate Republicans can claim that the House managers of the trial just didn’t make their case.

Except they pretty much did make their case. What I have seen and heard this week allows no room for doubt that Donald Trump abused the power of his office to manipulate the 2020 election.  Tom Scocca:

The figurative gutters of Fifth Avenue are awash in blood and spent shell casings. What the Senate cameras recorded was a day-long showdown between reason and brute force. Schiff and the other impeachment managers have all the facts and principles on their side. The president’s defenders had nothing to counter them with but nonsense and lies. Nonsense, lies, and 53 votes.

Adam Schiff’s speech yesterday was especially brilliant. Were Republicans listening?

See also More Than One-Third of GOP Senators Reportedly Left Room During Schiff’s Speech.

So, here we are.

My understanding is that Trump’s lawyers may begin their presentation as early as Saturday. (Per Senate rules, during an impeachment the Senate meets six days instead of five.) One suspects they will have much less to say than the House managers did. When Trump’s lawyers are done, Senators may submit questions in wiritng that will be reviewed by the Chief Justice. He will decide which ones will be asked. Sixteen hours are allotted for questions.

When questions have concluded, the Senate will have a brief (four hours tops) debate about whether to call witness or acquire documents. If Republicans vote as a block to nix witnesses and documents, there will be nothing left but the final vote. So the “trial” might be over by the end of January, which is what Trump and McConnell want.

I suppose we can still hold out hope that at least three (the Chief Justice would break the tie) Republicans will choose to vote for witnesses, which at the very least would draw the trial out past the scheduled SOTU address. But I’m not holding my breath.

The Evil of Political False Equivalence

Last week WaPo published an op ed by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein called Five Myths About Bipartisanship that’s worth reading. I just want to quote a little bit here —

The bipartisanship that was common in the House through the mid-1970s began to fray as racial and cultural differences came to define the increasingly polarized and competitive parties. Partisan polarization began with these shifts in the coalitional bases of the parties, but Republicans, because of their increasingly homogeneous positions on race, religious traditionalism and other cultural issues, had more incentive to move right than Democrats had to move left. In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich and his allies fomented tribalism, using the House ethics process as a political weapon and uniting the GOP into a parliamentary-style opposition party. They had important and vocal allies in partisan media, starting with Rush Limbaugh and talk radio. Much the same happened a bit later in the Senate, where McConnell turned the filibuster into a weapon of mass obstruction and got his party to unite against every Obama initiative.

Today, Republicans are one of the most extreme (even radical) conservative parties in the democratic world, with no members in the House and arguably barely one in the Senate who would qualify as moderates or traditional conservatives, while Democrats look like a traditional center-left party. Though the “Squad” of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib receives much attention, a breakdown of voting records shows that the Democratic caucus is populated by more moderates than leftists. The asymmetric nature of this polarization makes bipartisanship almost impossible.

The radicalism of the Republican party has been normalized because our news media are stuck in both-siderism, or being so averse to taking sides that reporting is skewed to achieve false equivalence. This is a long-standing problem that has gotten worse in the era of Trump. See, for example, Aaron Rupar at Vox, NPR’s sanitizing of Trump’s Milwaukee rally shows how he’s broken the media.

By almost any standard, President Donald Trump’s rally on Tuesday evening in Milwaukee was a bizarre affair. The president went on a lengthy tirade about lightbulbs, toilets, and showers; touted war crimes; joked about a former president being in hell; and said he’d like to see one of his domestic political foes locked up.

I tried to capture some of the speech’s disconcerting oddness in my write-up of the event. In many ways, the remarks the president made were typical of him. And that provides the media with a challenge: Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.

But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal.

A brief report about Trump’s Milwaukee speech that aired Wednesday morning on NPR illustrates this phenomenon. The anchor’s intro framed Trump’s at times disjointed ramblings as a normal political speech that “ranged widely,” and the ensuing report (which originated from member station WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio) characterized his delivery as one in which he “snapped back at Democrats for bringing impeachment proceedings.”

“Trump was taking on Democrats on their own territory,” the reporter said, when in reality Trump heaped abuse on them, for instance, suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden is experiencing memory loss. …

… On Twitter, Georgetown University public affairs professor Don Moynihan noted that NPR’s report about the rally “mentioned specific topics like Iran and impeachment but carefully omit the insane stuff. This is one way the media strives to present Trump as a normal president.”

Right now, every American’s hair should be on fire in outrage over the blatant obstruction of justice and rape of the Constitution being conducted by the Republican Party to help Donald Trump evade justice. There is nothing normal or standard about any of it. This trial is a nightmare.

I don’t have to tell you that only the Democrats are trying to engage in a trial. I don’t know what you’d call what the Republicans are engaged in, but it isn’t a trial. One by one, the House managers make a factual, documented presentation, and all Trump’s lawyers present are lies and ridicule. They have no factual rebuttals. But they don’t need any; the Republican majority will vote as a block to protect Trump.

Jonathan Allen:

Rather than rebutting hours of evidence presented by House Democratic impeachment managers, White House lawyers opted to repeat Trump’s attacks on the process and the disjointed set of rejoinders he’s delivered to Democrats in public.

“If you can’t even rise to the challenge of trying to defend your client,” NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner said on NBC News Now, “it becomes painfully obvious that the emperor has no defense.”

But the emperor doesn’t need a defense. He owns a majority of the jury.

Get this — Trump, in Devos, bragged about how successfully he obstructed justice.

President Trump said he’s happy with the way the impeachment trial is going thus far because his administration has not released “materials” that would hurt his cause.

“When we released that conversation all hell broke out with the Democrats,” Trump said. “Because they said, ‘Wait a minute, this is much different than [what Adam Schiff] told us.’ ”

The president continued, “So, we’re doing very well. I got to watch [the impeachment trial] enough. I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

But most news media soldier on trying to present the impeachment trial as a normal trial and Republicans’ behavior as normal behavior, because if they tell the truth the American public might not be able to handle it. Heads would explode. They’ve been too well conditioned to believe all of this is normal and one party is just as bad as the other.

And this brings me to what Charles Pierce wrote — I Don’t Understand Why There Aren’t Thousands of People Protesting the Senate Trial.

Frankly, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get an anesthetized citizenry off its ass and realize what a threat the country is facing in having a criminal idiot as a chief executive, a guy who has put every part of the republic up for sale, and for cheap. (The latest? In the middle of a trade war with China, the president*’s business operation was teaming up with a state-owned Chinese company to build a golf course.)

I, myself, have run out of patience with people who can abide this dangerous foolishness—whether those people are elected Republican senators, timid Democratic politicians, wishy-washy journalists, or the great, massed, unmoving American public, which now has proved that it will tolerate just about anything except sign-stealing in baseball and a bad decision on The Bachelor.

If I were younger and healthier I’d be in Washington already. My marching days are over, I suspect. But where are younger people? I’m rather tired of having OK Boomer thrown in my face by people who can’t bother to vote or demonstrate. At least, back in the day, we could give the establishment fits. And we didn’t have the Internet to help us organize.

And the wimpy news media that won’t present truth have been an issue going way back. Remember Media Whores Online? It’s been gone for nearly 20 years, I believe.

In conclusion, false equivalence is killing America. It’s got to stop.


The Republican Show Trial

I am not watching the trial, mostly because I literally don’t have the stomach for it. Yesterday I had a colonoscopy and upper GI endoscopy, and while I’ve been assured I don’t have colon cancer, my insides are otherwise a bleeping mess. I’m still feeling a bit wobbly. Aging ain’t for the weak.

Anyway, I understand that Republicans voted unanimously to block a request to subpoena White House documents. That seems to me to kill the fantasy that there might be a few “reasonable” Republicans who would support a fair trial.

If you have anything to say about the doings so far, please feel free to comment. I’ll write more tomorrow.

McConnell’s “Kill Switch”?

Some right-wing media claim that McConnell’s proposed impeachment trial rules will include a “kill switch.” This claim appears to have originated with this tweet by the utterly worthless Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

The wingnuts say this is to keep Rep. Schiff from turning the trial into a “circus.” Oh, like Nunes and Jordan disgracefully behaved during the intelligence committee hearings? Schiff doesn’t do that.

Axios reports

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would leave room for President Trump’s lawyers to move immediately to dismiss the impeachment charges if they so choose, according to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. …

The big picture: Trump endorsed on Twitter the idea of outright dismissalof the charges against him. It could be an opportunity for some of Trump’s closest Senate Republican allies to register their contempt for the case that House Democrats marshaled against the president — even if the motion is doomed to fail.

It could also serve as a break-glass option if the trial took a turn and Trump’s allies felt they needed a mechanism to bring about an abrupt end to the trial.

In other words, if the trial is really going against Trump, McConnell and Trump’s clown-shoe legal “dream team” will try to pull the plug.

Rightie news coverage is claiming this is necessary because of the flagrant disregard for propriety exhibited by Democrats during the House hearings. Apparently, Demcrats were seen to breathe and occasionally speak, which isn’t allowed. Steve M quotes a large part of Breitbart’s reporting of the “switch,” so you can read it there; I won’t link to Breitbart. And then he adds,

This is such messaging overkill that there’s no excuse for being surprised at the Republicans’ next move — although highly paid mainstream journalists and pundits will be surprised anyway. Much of the Senate GOP, along with the White House and the right-wing media, is about to declare that virtually everything the House managers do is a flagrant violation of law, common sense, and the Constitution. Once this happens, even alleged moderates such as Mitt Romney and Susan Collins will join in the fauxtrage — and you can forget a successful vote to call witnesses or allow further documentary evidence to be considered. The plan is to say that the behavior of the Democrats was so out of bounds that the only way to conclude the process fairly is a vote to dismiss the charges — and that will happen.

I haven’t quoted every word of the Breitbart story, but these excerpts are representative — the impropriety of what Democrats did in the House is presented as a given; not one example of an inappropriate act is cited. Republicans know that most Americans have no idea what’s proper and what isn’t under these circumstances. The GOP will take advantage of this ignorance to smear the Democrats — unless a way is found to counter their phony protests. And I’m not sure what that would be.

McConnell also wants tight control on television coverage of the trial:

Journalists are up in arms about new restrictions on their movement inside the Capitol, which they say will prevent them from easily interviewing lawmakers about the proceedings. The rules, negotiated by Republican Senate leadership, have yet to be written down, causing confusion among reporters and the Capitol Police expected to enforce them.

Even sedate C-SPAN is aggrieved, calling on the Senate to allow its television crews to document the trial, instead of the government-controlled cameras that — as was the case during Bill Clinton’s trial 21 years ago — will limit what viewers see and hear inside the Senate chamber. …

…Instead of unfettered access to the hallways and corridors surrounding the Senate chamber — a tradition for decades — journalists will be confined to roped-off pens as senators come and go from the trial. Walk-and-talk interviews with senators, a staple of congressional reporting made famous by TV shows like “The West Wing,” will be curtailed.

You’d think they were afraid of something getting out they don’t want the public to know.

Regarding the vote to allow witnesses — Democrats in the House are saying that if Republicans block witnesses, they will hold new hearings and call new witnesses. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who really need to be heard from will not come unless physically forced to do so.

It’s said that Trump is anxious to get the impeachment trial over with before the State of the Union speech on February 4. There is also reporting that the bleeping moron is genuinely baffled why he’s being impeached.

Donald Trump has appeared “distracted” by the impeachment trial that begins on Tuesday, according to a source close to the White House who speaks to the President regularly.

“Why are they doing this to me,” the source quoted Trump as saying repeatedly, telling people around him this weekend at Mar-a-Lago that he “can’t understand why he is impeached.

Yeah, he may really be that stupid.