Friday, January 15, 2021

THE GOP - Republicans Need to Fess-Up

IMO:  While I agree with the sentiment of this article, it fails to take into account that Republicans have been infected with greed for power and Trump gave them a way to do that.  The GOP will not change until they put America and our Constitution ahead of the party.

"Republicans need to show voters how badly Trump led them astray" by Henry Olsen, The Washington Post 1/14/2021

Republicans who want to move the party forward after impeachment will have to confront the election fraud myth that sparked the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.  That will require courage, because Republican voters have been fed a steady diet of lies and untruths about the vote since Election Day.  Tackling the issue head-on, however, will both show moderate Americans that Republicans love democracy and highlight to rank-and-file GOP voters how badly President Trump led them astray.

For months, the typical Republican has been steadily hearing that the election was stolen.  Few can probably recite specific facts to support that claim, but they know that people they trust, from Trump to his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to conservative media personalities, say this happened.  For many, liberals and Democrats are the only people they have heard say otherwise.  Naturally, they believe the people they trust over the ones they don’t.

Combating this means Republican officials must take to the conservative media to aggressively push back.  That, in turn, will mean confronting each of the voter fraud myths head-on, armed with clear and persuasive evidence.  The facts are there to support them, but they need to be aware of what the Trump propaganda machine has been spewing to make the case.

The fraud arguments fall roughly into three categories.  The first is that mail-in ballots — regardless of whether they were solicited by the voter or sent unsolicited by election officials — were misused to cast fraudulent votes for Joe Biden.  Specifically, it’s alleged that many states did not rigorously match signatures on the ballot envelopes to those on a voter’s registration card, thereby allowing votes cast by fraudsters to get into the mix.  It’s true that some states have lower rates of ballot rejection from mail ballots than they have in the past, but that could be due to a number of circumstances — the most important being that so many more people used mail ballots in 2020 than previously.  In any event, even applying prior rejection rates to the total of mail ballots cast in 2020 would not have changed the result of the election.  Biden’s margin in virtually every swing state far exceeds the number of votes that theoretically could have been disqualified under this fraud myth’s contention.

The second pro-fraud argument is that election officials in selected cities stuffed the ballot box during election-night counting.  The only evidence given to try to back this allegation are the alleged absence of GOP vote monitors in some locations and the videotape that supposedly shows an election worker in Fulton County, Ga., finding a stack of ballots under a table once GOP monitors were gone.  Neither allegation holds up under close scrutiny.

None of the counts produced by the supposedly fraudulent vote counters in Democratic (and usually Black-dominated) cities are inconsistent with those produced in prior elections.  Moreover, precinct data from large cities around the country show the same trends as those in the cities labeled as fraudulent by Trump.  This strongly suggests that the vote counts in the targeted cities were accurate, regardless of the presence of GOP monitors, unless one wants to believe that every single election authority in the country was in on the steal.  The Fulton County videotape is also easily explicable, as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has argued and Georgia law enforcement has found.

Finally, the claim that Dominion voting machines switched votes from Trump to Biden is also laughably easy to dismiss.  Dominion produces a number of machines, and the ones most commonly in use are ballot preparation machines and counting machines.  Ballot preparation machines record a voter’s choices and print the actual ballot.  If the alleged switching occurred then, the voter could have spotted it and protested, which would lead to him or her getting a new ballot.  Vote-counting machines are checked after the election during the canvassing period, when randomly selected precincts are hand-counted to match the hand counts to the machine counts.  Again, unless everyone, including the Republican Party canvassers, are in on the steal, machine count fraud would be caught.  Indeed, an analysis of Michigan’s county returns by the conservative election website RRH Elections ["Candidates, Elections, and Politics from the Right Perspective"] found no difference between counties that used Dominion machines and those that did not.

Republican officials who aggressively make this case will slowly but surely change Republican voters’ minds.  Once that happens, the people whose minds have changed will understand that they were duped by the man they trusted.  Once burned, twice shy — these people will never fall for Trump’s lies again.  That turn of mind is essential to taking the party back from the brink and preparing it for future election victories.

Monday, January 11, 2021

OPINION - Brooks and Capehart 1/8/2021

"Brooks and Capehart on the Capitol attack and Trump’s impeachmentPBS NewsHour 1/8/2021


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the rampage at the Capitol, President Trump's potential impeachment, and the future of the Republican Party.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  We mark this momentous week with the next chapter in a "NewsHour" tradition.  That is Brooks and Capehart.

Joining our longtime Friday analyst, David Brooks, New York Times columnist, is Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post and anchor of "The Sunday Show" on MSNBC, and successor, I should add, to Mark Shields.

Jonathan Capehart, welcome to the "NewsHour," to Friday nights.  And it is a long tradition.

And you join us, we are sad to say, on a week that's probably one of the worst, certainly in Washington history, and American history, with this assault on the Capitol.

And I want to start with you, Jonathan.  How are you processing what happened?

Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post:  Well, first, Judy, thank you very much for the welcome.

And I also want to thank Mark Shields for setting an incredible example that I hope to meet every Friday.

This has been an incredible week.  I am still processing what happened.  I'm not surprised by what happened, given who the President of the United States is and his track record over the last four years, in terms of inciting passions in people that go way beyond what they should be.

But I will admit that I was shocked to see a marauding band of — and I will use this phrasing — domestic terrorists storming the citadel of American democracy, brazenly breaking into the United States Capitol, breaking into the Senate chamber, and then that iconic photo that was on the front page of The Washington Post, and I'm sure other papers around the country, of law enforcement officers inside the House of Representatives pointing their guns at the doors, and seeing the faces of the people trying to burst inside.

These are images and pictures that the American people never thought they would see in their country and in their nation's capital.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David Brooks, as you're reflecting on this, what are you thinking?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, it felt like a desecration to me.  I mean, this is our holy of the holies.  This is where America comes, usually in awe.

You go in that building.  I remember the first time I went in, 14, and I was in awe.  And you go in there with a sense of reverence and respect.  And to see it just trashed, both physically and morally, is just — it produces a — sort of a bone-wearying sadness, as desecration tends to.

And I — Jonathan's right to pick up on the images, the images of the guns on the floor, the images of that wolf man shaman guy, people scaling the walls in the chamber, the Confederate Flag being carried down the hallways of the U.S. Capitol.

These are just shocking images, the result of four years of what has been a — four years of moral degradation for the country and humiliation.

And I only end on the upbeat note that one of the reporters saw some National Guardsmen in the Rotunda today.  And this one had been their first time in the Capitol.  And these guys were in awe.  They were young men, and they'd never been there.  And they were just so proud of their democracy.

And so that's what America really is, I hope, I hope.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, it's good to be able to pick out something to — as you say, that's uplifting, as we move on from this.

But the repercussions, Jonathan, are enormous, condemnation raining down on President Trump for calling for his supporters to come to Washington, for urging them to take on the Capitol, to turn over the — reject the election results.

I will just say quickly, we had a — we joined with Marist in a poll, and NPR.  We asked people if President Trump is to blame.  Among national adults, the result, is he to blame, a great deal, a good amount, 63 percent, not very much, not at all, 35 percent.

And I should say, even 30 percent of Republicans agreed that the President is to blame.

Where do we go from here?  As you know, there's talk of impeachment, serious talk, starting in just a couple of days, invoking the 25th Amendment.  What should happen?

Jonathan Capehart:  Something should happen.  The President needs to be held accountable.

It does not matter that he has 12 days left in office.  He needs to be held accountable for what he incited on Wednesday.  He needs to be — and if that means removing him from office using the 25th Amendment, so be it.  It doesn't look like that that's going to happen.  The vice President has sort of made it clear, from reports I have seen, that he's not terribly interested in that.

So, then you remove him or try to remove him by impeachment.  But, as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said in the interview with you, the emphasis, at least in the House is on impeachment.

And impeaching President Trump for the second time in his first term, I think, is a humiliation and a branding, a negative branding of his administration that would be well-deserved, precisely because of what he did to trash the United States Capitol, trash our American democracy, and once again show that he has neither reverence for or respect for the Constitution or the office of the presidency.

Judy Woodruff:  David, how do you see this question of what should happen with the President?

David Brooks:  Yes, I don't support the 25th Amendment.  That's for incapacitation.  The problem is, he's not incapacitated.

I would, I think, on the merits completely support impeachment.  If interfering with an election certification by sending an invading force is not an impeachable offense, I don't know what is.  And so I do support that.

I think it would be very useful.  Even if the House did it, and the Senate was deliberating, it would be an act of discipline.  It'd be a sword hanging over his [Trump's] head, which may restrain him in his final 12 days of office.  I think it's highly unlikely the Senate would ever convict.

The fallback position could be censuring him under Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prevents someone who's taken part in an insurrection against the United States from ever running for federal office.

And that's important, I think, because it would reduce his role as an intimidator in the Republican Party and reduce the possibility that he runs for office in 2024, which I do not think he has — deserves the standing to do right now.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, I should add that the social media platform Twitter has already stepped in tonight.  We have just learned that they have permanently blocked President Trump.  He will not be able to use Twitter anymore.

I know some people are asking, why now, after four years?  But this is a step that Twitter has taken.

And, Jonathan, I mean, it leads us to asking about the other Republicans.  So many Republicans in the House of Representatives, 138 of them, voted to block election — electoral vote results that had Joe Biden winning the election, in other words, rejecting Biden's win.

This is part of the fallout from all this.  Where does this leave the Republican Party?  Where does it leave the Biden presidency with this kind of rejection of him as he takes office?

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, where it leaves the Republican Party is destroyed.

Yes, 138 House Republicans voted in — voted for the objection.  But the key thing is, they voted for that objection after the Capitol was invaded by seditionists.  And so that tells me a lot about those people who are sitting in the House.

And then there are the, I believe, it's eight senators who voted for the objections after what happened earlier that day on Wednesday.  And Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley especially should be ashamed of what they did to that chamber and to — and to our democracy by doing what they're — doing what they did, and doing what they're doing.

So, when it comes to the Republican Party, they have a lot of soul-searching to do.

When it comes to President Biden, or now still President-elect Biden, regardless of what happened — let's say Wednesday had not happened — he still would be dealing with a 50/50 Senate, with his vice President, Kamala Harris, casting the tie breaking vote, the smallest majority, Democratic majority in the House in a very, very long time.

So, his governing ability was already going to be constrained.  But if there's one possible silver lining that could come out of what happened on Wednesday, is that what happened on January 6 was so shocking to the conscience of more than a few Republicans on Capitol Hill, that it will shock them into getting back to work, because this nation has a lot of issues that need to be attended to, least among them — actually, top of mind, the coronavirus pandemic, as we keep breaking…

Judy Woodruff:  Yes.

Jonathan Capehart:  … death toll averages every day, including today.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, touching on what Jonathan just said, Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, saying today she's considering whether she should even stay in the party.

But what about where this leaves the Republican Party and where our government, as Joe Biden prepares to take office?

David Brooks:  Yes, here, Jonathan and I are going to have our first disagreement.

I don't think the party is destroyed.  I think it's a 50/50 country.  There are going to be 50 senators.  There were — an extremely narrow minority in the House.

And I — my hope is that we break the fever here.  This is a couple days in which Lisa Murkowski, Chris Christie, a bunch, three Republican governors have called for the resignation.  We had The Wall Street Journal editorial page calling for the resignation of a Republican President.

There's — John Thune is coming out.  Mitt Romney was heroic Wednesday.  Ben Sasse is coming out.

I think, finally, at this late hour, after having their offices invaded, a lot of Republicans, not all, but a lot of Republicans are saying, this has gone crazy.

And I do think, finally, at this late hour — and they will get no praise and courage from this — but they are saying, we have got to redirect our party.

And the number of people who are even thinking about cooperating with an impeachment hearing on the Republican side surprises me.  I think I read correctly in our PBS poll 80 percent of Republicans opposed what happened on Wednesday, which is at least good news.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  And so I do think this is not the end of the Republican Party, but I hope it's the moment when the Trumpist fever broke.

Judy Woodruff:  We will see.

And, Jonathan, I'm going to give you the last word on that in about 30 seconds, because I just keep thinking back to what Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, said, one of his enduring memories from Wednesday is seeing Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney huddled together talking about what to do to get back to work.

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes.

And I hope they do get back to work.  Again, this country has a lot of issues and a lot of problems that need to be worked on.  And from the coronavirus pandemic, to the economy, to infrastructure, to the climate — to climate change, there's a lot of work to do.

And so, if Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney can sit and talk with each other, then I hope that that's something that happens with more frequency and more publicly, so that there is a signal that is sent to the entire nation that we're going to work together and we're going to get through this.

Judy Woodruff:  All right.

And I'm being told that I misheard Congressman Clyburn, that he actually said, Nancy Pelosi is talking with Mitch McConnell, and not with Mitt Romney.

Jonathan Capehart:  Even better.

Judy Woodruff:  So, that's my bad.  And I misheard it.

But thank you.  I think — I think the point is pretty much the same.

But thank you both very much, Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks.

Thank you.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks.

AMERICA DIVIDED - The Insurrection

MY OPINION:  No matter what others say, what happened at our U.S. Capitol on 1/6/2021 is Insurrection, plain and simple.  The people who did this were driven by the lies of the psychotic, self-centered, Fascist Donald J. Trump and his Four Horsemen.

It has not escaped me that these people are threatened by the changes in America especially since the election of President Obama.  Their version of America of white privilege and supremacy has changed, especially since non-white (both actual and those who do not identify by skin color) citizens now out number 'white' citizens.  They are angry, but that does not give them a right to attack our democracy and 'The People's House.'  These people need to be caught, arrested and charged under law.





"Mayhem erupts in the U.S. Capitol as Congress certifies electoral votesPBS NewsHour 1/6/2021


SUMMARY:  The nation on Wednesday witnessed a grave breach of its democratic traditions.  For the first time in American history, supporters of the losing presidential candidate have forcibly disrupted the official counting of electoral votes.  John Yang reports.



"Lawmakers continue vote count after violent incursion on Capitol HillPBS NewsHour 1/6/2021


SUMMARY:  In a historic and tragic day, lawmakers returned late Wednesday to continue certifying electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, a process that was disrupted by a chaotic scene, as protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol.  One woman was fatally shot by police in the violent intrusion.  Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor and Amna Nawaz join Judy Woodruff to break down the latest.



"Trump’s false election claims are ‘red meat’ for extremist groupsPBS NewsHour 1/6/2021


SUMMARY:  Hours after a pro-Trump mob broke into the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, the President continued to make false claims about the election results.  Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice [DOJ].  She now teaches at Georgetown Law School, and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss some of the extremist elements of his base.



"A day after rioters seized symbol of democracy, the fallout begins on Capitol HillPBS NewsHour 1/7/2021


SUMMARY:  The fallout from a day of fury in Washington was still very much in the air on Thursday.  While Congress has confirmed Joe Biden's election as President, many questions linger about the assault on the U.S. Capitol and about what price President Trump might pay.  John Yang reports.



"Calls for Trump’s removal from office grow louder across the political spectrumPBS NewsHour 1/7/2021


SUMMARY:  Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is among a growing number of lawmakers calling for President Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, or for Congress to impeach him again, and this time convict him.  She joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.



"Lax security at the Capitol prompts widespread demand for answersPBS NewsHour 1/7/2021


SUMMARY:  There were serious questions Thursday about security in and around the Capitol and why there weren't better preparations ahead of time.  William Brangham reports.



"Former head of Homeland Security on the dangers of Trump’s rhetoricPBS NewsHour 1/7/2021


SUMMARY:  Questions continued Thursday over President Trump's actions -- about how he stoked the mob at the Capitol and whether he's a danger as he continues to hold power.  Kevin McAleenan was acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under the Trump administration until November 2019.  He joins Amna Nawaz to discuss how he sees this moment and the road ahead.



"Police response at the Capitol brings claims of ‘white privilege’PBS NewsHour 1/7/2021


SUMMARY:  The treatment of the violent mob at the Capitol by law enforcement versus the heavy-handed tactics employed on peaceful protests over racial justice has been widely talked about since Wednesday.  Amna Nawaz spoke with Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, to learn more.



"Insurrection at Capitol draws condemnation across the globePBS NewsHour 1/7/2021


SUMMARY:  For years American adversaries argued democracy is too messy to be trusted, and Wednesday’s events gave them new ammunition.  But while many U.S. allies lauded that democracy has prevailed after Joe Biden was certified as the next President, some were worried about the fragility of freedom.  Nick Schifrin reports on reactions to the Capitol attack from around the globe.



"Momentum builds to remove President Trump from officePBS NewsHour 1/8/2021


SUMMARY:  The chaos that engulfed Washington, D.C. this week has taken a tragic new turn.  And with it, momentum is building to oust a sitting President in the final days of his term.  Lisa Desjardins and Nick Schifrin join Judy Woodruff to discuss.



"Rep. James Clyburn: Impeachment ‘a tool for protecting the integrity of our democracy’PBS NewsHour 1/8/2021


SUMMARY:  Momentum is building on Capitol Hill for impeaching President Trump for the second time.  House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss bipartisan calls for impeachment and the integrity of democracy.



"There’s an ongoing battle of words to describe Jan 6, 2021.  Here’s why it mattersPBS NewsHour 1/9/2021


SUMMARY:  Was it an insurrection?  A coup?  Should we call it domestic terrorism?  Or just a peaceful protest gone awry?  As a battle of politics becomes a battle for words to describe what happened in the capital and on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, Christopher Booker speaks to Joanne Freeman, a history professor at Yale University about why words used to describe the event today will shape its history.



"Dan Rather on the Capitol attack, the state of our nation and ‘What Unites Us’PBS NewsHour 1/10/2021


SUMMARY:  The January 6 attack on The U.S. Capitol was the staggering culmination of years of political division and misinformation.  Now, as debate rages over if President Trump should be held accountable for inciting the riot, President-elect Biden prepares to take the helm of a deeply divided country in a matter of days.  Former CBS anchor, host of the Big Interview with Dan Rather, and author of the new book “What Unites Us,” joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss how we move forward.



"Capitol riot: The ‘third world’ trope offends, misreads historyPBS NewsHour 1/10/2021


SUMMARY:  Condemning the Capitol Hill riot, President George W. Bush and Senator Marco Rubio likened it to political upheavals in “Banana Republics” and the “third world.”  But Lucia Dammert, a Wilson Center Global Fellow and Professor at the University of Santiago of Chile objects to the comparison to the Global South -- adding that the U.S. has played a key role in sparking the turbulence, especially in Latin America.  NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano reports.

Friday, January 08, 2021

AMERICAN POLITICS - The Republican Party 'Trumpified'

Man with the plan.....Sen. Josh Hawley (R)

"The Republicans Have an Insurrectionist Caucus" by Jordan Weissmann, Slate 1/7/2021

After a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday to stop the certification of November’s election results, smashing windows and storming offices while forcing lawmakers to cower in hiding, Republicans had to confront a simple question: Were they with the insurrectionists or against them?

Going into the day, 14 GOP Senators and more than a 100 House members had announced that they would object to the Electoral College count, on the baseless premise that there were unanswered questions about voter fraud, helping to ensure that the ordinarily ceremonial event would become another flash point in Trump’s flailing efforts to retain power.

After the mayhem, some chastened lawmakers had second thoughts, realizing that it might be best not to give any more oxygen to the delusions that had set in motion the attacks.  “What we have seen today is unlawful and unacceptable,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who had previously planned to object, said in a statement.  “I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness.”  Senators such as Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler, fresh off her runoff loss, and Oklahoma’s James Lankford, gave subdued speeches announcing that despite their concerns, they would drop their opposition to the results.  “The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now, in good conscience, object,” Loeffler said.

Meanwhile, Utah’s Mitt Romney, who has become the Senate’s principal voice of conservative never Trumpism, put the choice facing his colleagues as plainly as possible.

“Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy,” he said.  “They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history.  That will be their legacy.”

But most objectors shrugged and stuck to their plan.  Even after the breach, eight GOP Senators and 139 representatives—a solid majority of the party’s House members—ultimately voted against certifying the results from either Pennsylvania or Arizona.  It is hard to overstate just how frightening that end result is.

Up until the moment glass started to shatter, one could have at least made a case—albeit, a weak one—that objecting to the Electoral College results was nothing more than a symbolic gesture of loyalty to the President [Trump] and his base that would ultimately prove harmless.  There was nothing Republicans could actually do on their own to overturn the election’s outcome, since throwing out a state’s Electoral College results would have required a majority vote in both the Senate and Democrat-controlled House.  What’s more, small numbers of Democrats had pulled similar stunts in the past, objecting to certification after losing the 2000, 2004, and 2016 elections, and the republic hadn’t exactly collapsed as a result.

The obvious difference between those previous elections and this one is that the losing Democrats willingly conceded their races, while Donald Trump did not.  Instead, he spent two months whipping his followers into a frenzy with lies about a stolen election in a haphazard, often cartoonish effort to cling to office, then gathered them on the National Mall for a demonstration on certification day.  The chaos that ensued, in which four people ultimately died, illustrated in the bluntest terms possible that by fanning the flames of voter fraud conspiracies, the Republican objectors were playing a lethal game with American democracy.

And yet the vast majority of them decided to keep pumping away at the bellows.  The lawmakers just shook their finger at the mob’s rampage, while denying any responsibility for egging it on.  In a particularly brazen act of chutzpah, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who kicked off the whole objection effort in the Senate, suggested that the attack actually showed why debating the election’s validity in Congress was a good idea in the first place, since it would be a nonviolent way to resolve concerns about fraud.  (Never mind that politicians like Hawley helped conjure up those concerns in the first place.)  “Our Constitution was built and put into place so that there would be, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, no appeal from ballots to bullets, which is what we saw unfortunately attempted tonight,” Hawley grandiloquently declared.  “And that’s why I submit to my colleagues that what we’re doing here tonight is actually very important.“  Other Republicans, such as Reps. Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar, just gunned it straight to Looneyville, repeating the fast-metastasizing conspiracy theory that the people who attacked the Capitol were actually left-wing antifa members masquerading as Trump supporters.  One way or another, lawmakers found ways to justify themselves.

Ultimately, Wednesday night’s vote was another demonstration of how Trump has permanently reshaped much of the Republican Party in his own image.  Yes, his attempt at the history’s dumbest autogolpe has finally caused some of his allies to crack and staffers to resign, as well as brought about rebuffs from the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and erstwhile golf buddy Lindsey Graham, who seemingly declared his independence from the President (“Count me out, enough is enough,“ he said).  But most of its House caucus is now made up of members who are either terrified that they will be primaried by a Trumpier-than-thou challenger from the right or who outright share his lunatic fantasies.  Ambitious senators with their eyes on the presidency in 2024 know that for a large share of primary voters, the most important qualification may be loyalty to the current President.  The result is a group of legislators who, after witnessing firsthand the dangerous fury that their party’s rhetoric unleashed, decided it was best to more or less just go along.  Their ranks include not just rambling backbenchers and the newer class of QAnon-winking reactionaries, but also leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyWhat’s more, their ranks only seem likely to grow after redistricting this year, which will allow Republican legislatures to create a new batch of safe, Trumpified GOP seats.  The Republican Party’s insurrectionist caucus is going to be with us for years to come.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

AMERICAN POLITICS - Trump's Shakedown Attempt

"Donald Trump Should Be Prosecuted for His Shakedown of Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger" by Richard L.  Hasen, Slate 1/4/2021

President Donald Trump likely broke both federal and state law in a Saturday phone call during which he encouraged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s election results.  The President certainly committed an impeachable offense that is grounds for removing him from the office he will be vacating in less than three weeks or disqualifying him from future elected office.  His tumultuous term will end as it began, with questions as to the legality of conduct connected to manipulating American elections, and a defense based squarely on the idea that Trump’s mind is so warped that he actually believes the nonsense he spews.  Trump may never be put on trial for what he did, but a failure to prosecute him may lead to a further deterioration of American democracy.

The Washington Post’s bombshell report and audio recording of a Saturday conversation among Trump; his chief of staff, Mark Meadows; Republican election attorney Cleta Mitchell; and Georgia election officials featured a litany of unproven and debunked claims of voter fraud in Georgia.  Trump claimed he had actually won the state by hundreds of thousands of votes and suggested Raffensperger could face criminal liability for not going after this phantom fraud.

In the course of describing such fraud, Trump attempted fraud of his own, asking Raffensperger to engage in belated ballot box–stuffing to benefit him.  (Never mind that Georgia certified its vote totals weeks ago and has submitted its Electoral College votes for counting by Congress on Wednesday.)  Among the most damning things Trump said was the following:

It is more illegal for you than it is for [election officials] because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it.  That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense.  And you can’t let that happen.  That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan [Germany], your lawyer.  And that’s a big risk.  But they are shredding ballots, in my opinion, based on what I’ve heard.  And they are removing machinery, and they’re moving it as fast as they can, both of which are criminal finds.  And you can’t let it happen, and you are letting it happen.  You know, I mean, I’m notifying you that you’re letting it happen.  So look.  All I want to do is this.  I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.

Make no mistake: In that last sentence, Trump was asking Raffensperger to manufacture enough votes to overturn the results in Georgia based upon nothing but Trump’s false accusations of fraud and irregularities.  In the previous passage, it sounded very much as though he was threatening Raffensperger with some sort of criminal offense if he did not do as Trump commanded.  (No evidence has emerged that, in ensuring that Georgia’s election results were counted properly, Raffensperger has committed any crime.)  This request is easily the kind of corrupt conduct that could serve as a “high crime and misdemeanor” subjecting him to removal from office, though with his departure imminent it seems unlikely that Congress would take up the case.  The conduct, though, is much more egregious than the Ukraine threats that got Trump impeached one year ago, conduct that was also aimed at manipulating the election by pressuring Ukrainian officials to come up with fake dirt on Joe Biden.  Trump, of course, also entered office under a cloud of suspicion over his campaign’s links to Russia and Vladimir Putin’s successful efforts to manipulate the 2016 election on his behalf.  In the unlikely event that Congress were to make him the first President ever to be impeached twice—impeachments can happen even after elected officials leave office—then he could be disqualified from running for high office again in the future.  It has been reported that, when not attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Trump has been planning a possible third run for President in 2024.

Aside from being impeachable conduct, Trump’s actions likely violate federal and Georgia law.  A federal statute makes it a crime when one “knowingly and willfully … attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process, by … the procurement, casting, or tabulation of ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held.”  A Georgia statute similarly provides that a “person commits the offense of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud in the first degree when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony under this article, he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct.”

For both statutes, the easy part for prosecutors would be proving that there was no basis in fact for Georgia election officials to flip the lead in Georgia to Trump by adding 11,780 votes to his totals, giving him one more vote than Biden’s margin of victory.  The ballots in that state have been counted, and recounted both by hand and by machine, and Biden’s victory is certain.  And as Raffensperger pointed out repeatedly on the call, every court that has investigated Trump’s fraud claims has found them to be completely spurious.  Adding 11,780 votes to Trump’s column—or removing legal Biden ballots—would defraud Georgia voters of the actual outcome they chose.  Counting fake ballots or removing lawful ones would deprive Georgia voters of a fair and impartially conducted election process.  That is the definition of election fraud.

The hard part for prosecutors would be proving Trump’s state of mind, because the statutes require proof of knowledge and intent.  Prosecutors would have to show that Trump knew that Biden fairly won the election, and Trump was asking for Georgia officials to commit election fraud.  And it’s not clear prosecutors could make that case.

As with so many things in this presidency and President, the question is whether Trump is drinking his own Kool-Aid.  Reading the entire one-hour, rambling call transcript, it is hard to know if Trump actually believes the fever swamp of debunked conspiracy theories about the election or whether he’s just using the false claims as a cover to get the political results he wants.  It’s not much different than Trump’s statements denying Russian election hacking in 2016, his professed ignorance of the aims of QAnon and the Proud Boys, and his speculation about whether ingesting bleach can protect against the coronavirus.  And during the Ukraine impeachment saga, of course, nearly every Republican senator voted to acquit the President on the implausible basis that Trump was merely asking Ukraine to legitimately investigate Joe Biden for possible criminal conduct rather than seeking to corruptly advance his own electoral interests.  In all of these cases, Trump’s conspiratorial rantings display either profound ignorance, deep cynicism, or both.

Trump is the rare potential criminal defendant to have plausible deniability about whether he accepts truths as clear as gravity, making any prosecution difficult.  Add onto that concerns of prosecutorial discretion for both the new Biden administration and Georgia officials, possible claims of legal immunity, a Presidential self-pardon that could relieve Trump of liability under federal law, and other political hurdles, and a prosecution of Trump is unlikely.

Despite the long odds, I would hope at least Georgia prosecutors will consider going after Trump, or that the House of Representatives might impeach him again with the goal of disqualifying him from running in 2024.  Lack of prosecution or investigation demonstrates that there’s little to deter the next would-be authoritarian—perhaps a more competent one—from trying to steal an election.  Trump came a lot closer than he should have this time, and next time we may not be so lucky.

AMERICAN POLITICS - Election 2020 Coup Attempt

"The Senate’s coup-staging ‘Dirty Dozen’ shouldn’t be allowed to hold office" by Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post 1/4/2021

In a world in which lawmakers honored their oaths, Republicans would have voted to impeach President Trump for his conduct detailed in the Mueller report or for attempting to extort Ukraine to help his reelection.  They would have forced him to resign or induced him not to run in 2020.  In the real world, Republicans — in rationalizing his unacceptable behavior before the election and supporting his efforts to overturn the election results based on no evidence afterward — remind us they have irrevocably forfeited their moral authority to lead.  (Yes, I laughed putting “Republicans” and “moral” in the same sentence.)

The “Dirty Dozen” or the “Sedition Caucus,” as the senators who declared their plan to challenge the electoral college votes have been tagged on social media, has been attempting an anti-democratic putsch.  Remember the names of the Republican senators who seek to violate the results of an election and install their preferred candidate: Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Steve Daines of Montana, John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Roger Marshall of Kansas.  It may become a baker’s dozen with Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) telling Fox News on Sunday, “I’ve said from the start, everything is on the table here, and I’m seriously looking at that.”

It makes no difference if they pledge as Hawley did to challenge the results or, as the rest of the Sedition Caucus, challenge the results unless Congress gives way to their demand to set up a commission to investigate (nonexistent) fraud.  The votes have been certified, the electoral votes cast and a new President has been elected.

There is no basis for overturning the presidential results in an election in which, mind you, a third of the Senate (including many of the Dirty Dozen) and every House member were elected or reelected.  The argument to justify such seditious activity — that there are lots of “complaints” or “people don’t believe the results” — is circular and ludicrous.  People may believe something crazy because Republicans raised entirely crazy and baseless allegations of fraud.  In about 60 cases brought to contest the election, not one produced evidence of fraud.  In many instances, Trump’s lawyers did not bother to raise the allegation of fraud since they could not point to any.

In any event, it makes a mockery of our legal system to think that four of the Dirty Dozen — Cruz, Kennedy, Hawley and Blackburn — sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  These four have shown themselves to be incapable of fairly deciding whether to confirm judicial nominees or considering legislation to protect the integrity of the courts and the rule of law.

The Dirty Dozen and reportedly 140 or so House members who also plan to challenge the results are attempting to obtain the same results Trump did by threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a phone call on Saturday.  These spurious challenges to an election should remind us that the GOP has become an authoritarian, unprincipled party whose only purpose is to retain power by whatever means possible.  It should permanently disqualify these Republicans from holding office.

Those who are lawyers — such as Cruz and Hawley, who both clerked for Supreme Court chief justices — should know better.  Their actions should result in serious professional sanctions up to and including disbarment.  Section 8.04 of Texas bar’s ethics rules says a lawyer shall not “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”  Deceiving the public about the outcome of an election and attempting to overthrow the duly elected President surely would qualify.  Likewise, in Missouri, the ethics rules state, “A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.”  That perfectly describes the utterly unmeritorious challenge to the electoral college.

In casting their ballots in the Senate runoff, Georgia voters should take care not to elect any more Republican senators whose victories would protect their majority.  They have shown themselves as unfit to hold office as Trump.  While we cannot remove them until they come up for reelection, Georgia voters at the very least can deprive them of the majority and control of the committees.

Monday, January 04, 2021

2020 REVIEW - Race, Equity, Press Briefings

"2020 in review: covering race, equity, and some not-so-brief press briefingsPBS NewsHour 1/2/2021


SUMMARY:  NewsHour Weekend producer Zachary Green speaks with Hari Sreenivasan about his most illuminating work in 2020: covering race, equity, and the Black Lives Matter movement in small-town America, and on figuring out the best way to cover -- and fact-check -- the COVID-19 Task Force press briefings.


OPINION - Brooks and Marcus 1/1/2021

"Brooks and Marcus on American politics in 2020 and its impact on DemocracyPBS NewsHour 1/1/2021


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the year in politics, including the failure of institutions, the long-awaited COVID relief bill, Georgia’s Senate runoffs, and the frailty of Democracy.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now, to help us break down the week in politics, we turn to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus.  That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

Hello to both of you.

Not a lot of joy on this New Year's Day, but we are really, really glad to see both of you.  Thank you for being here.

Let's start, David, by looking back at — I'm sorry — at 2020 and lessons learned.  I think we all agree it's been a terrible year, thanks to the pandemic.  But what do you — what are you taking away from it?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, I wish I could come up with something good, but this was a year we sort of lost faith in ourselves.

We were failed by our institutions, including the CDC and the FDA, big time.  We were — failed each other.  I mean, de Tocqueville said, Americans may be individualistic, but they can act as what he called the social body, when, in a crisis, they can come together and really solve a problem.

And we more or less failed to do that.  We never shut down the way other countries did.  And we certainly are not doing it now.  And so we sort of let each other down.

And I never can permanently believe that America is a nation in decline, sliding, but it was certainly a year where decline seemed to be very much in the air.

Judy Woodruff:  Ruth, what are you thinking as we close the door on 2020?

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post:  Well, I'm thinking I'm usually the pessimist and David's usually the optimist.  So, I — maybe we're switching roles in 2021 or something.

But I actually take away two things from 2020.  One is a more hopeful vision of the pandemic lessons, which is that good government, responsible leadership, capable management could have worked.  We could have, with a better President, who had assembled a better administration, and had taken this more seriously from the start, and had not failed at almost every step along the way — the one bright spot is the vaccine development, but now we're botching the rollout of it.

We could have done better.  We could have had — that 20 million figure is just appalling.  We would have had a lot of damage and tragedy and economic distress, but not on the scale that we are having, with a better government.

And we have a President [Biden] coming in who is going to inherit this mess, which is a lot harder to clean up than it is — was to — is to ameliorate from the beginning.  But government can perform better than our government performed for us.

The part that, for me, is unsettling is the lessons on democracy.  Democracy in — at the end of 2020 looked to me a lot more fragile than I understood it to be at the start of the year, especially the aftermath of the election, where we saw what everybody had assumed was a really unassailable democratic norm, that you would accept, even if — a President as irresponsible and self-involved and unpatriotic as Donald Trump would accept the — in the end, however, grudgingly and ungraciously, the results of a democratic election.

And, instead, we see the spectacle that is continuing and is going to continue through next week on January 6, when Congress assembles.

I am very nervous about the consequences of that, not for Joe Biden, who will be sworn in as president on January 20, but for how it just shakes our norms going forward and makes the unimaginable more imaginable.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, what about going forward?  I mean, how much difference do you believe Joe Biden can make as President in what we face as a country?

David Brooks:  Yes, I think significant.

I mean, as Ruth says, having an actual professional staff will make a big difference in ways we haven't been able to appreciate.  We just have had messing up at every single level.

And I remain a Biden optimist, a Biden optimist in terms of how much he can actually get done.  I do think there are a lot of people in Congress who I talk to who really want to pass legislation.  There are a lot of moderates who realize this is their moment, this is the moment they can stop the party leaders who want to get super partisan.

This is the moment they — Susan Collins has the power to stop a lot of stuff if she wants to.  And so a lot of people, especially in the Senate, want to have votes.  They haven't had the chance to have votes on things, because Mitch McConnell only really cares about judicial confirmations.

And so there's a lot of pent-up demand to pass legislation.  And there are a lot of issues on which that legislation can be passed, not everything.  But there are certain issues where you can get pretty bipartisan support.

And so I remain much more hopeful about the legislative process next year than maybe most.

Ruth Marcus:  Judy, can I…


Judy Woodruff:  And what about you, Ruth?  Go ahead.  Sure.

Ruth Marcus:  Now we're going back to our usual corners, because I am a sort of "glasses three-quarters empty and not one-quarter full" person when it comes to the capacity of President Biden to get things through this Senate, certainly if Mitch McConnell and Republicans retain control of the Senate.

The Susan Collinses and others of the world notwithstanding, this is a body and a political system, more broadly, that rewards obstructionism, and through the primary process is only going to reward obstructionism.  That was true before Donald Trump came on the scene, and it remains true after he leaves.

And while there is a capacity to come together through the desire to spend money — that's what Congress is really good at doing — it's not really good at getting a lot of other things done.  So, I see way fewer possibilities there.

I think the possibilities for success in a Biden presidency rest within what's within his control in the executive branch, undoing some of the terrible damage that Trump has done, undoing regulations, passing new regulations, enacting executive orders, to the extent that he has the authority to do that.

But I really hope that David's right and I'm wrong on this one, because there is a lot of legislative need.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, what about right now?  I mean, this dispute over the $2,000 check to people.  The President's [Trump] pushing for it.  Mitch McConnell says no.

What about that — those arguments?  And what about the political fallout from it, if any?

David Brooks:  Well, first, I note the bipartisan sort of agreement on this between Josh Hawley on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left.  I do think there are more of those coalitions to be had.

Now, having said that, I don't — I don't support it.  I think Mitch McConnell and John Thune, who we saw earlier in the program, are essentially right.  I think it would be a very wise idea to give people who make under $60,000 those $2,000 checks.  I see no reason why we should give people earning more than that those checks.  It's just not a good use of federal funds.

Larry Summers, the — Barack Obama and Bill Clinton's economist, says there's some danger of overheating the economy if we do that.  And so I think McConnell's mostly right on the merits.  But it is odd how the populist Presidency that Trump could have had, if he'd really done populist things, is sort of on the floor of the Senate today.

He sort of passed that up and went for sort of a populist-in-language, corporate-in-talk presidency — or corporate in action.

Judy Woodruff:  And Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, Ruth, stopping it dead in its tracks.

Any consequences from this, or are we just going to forget about it and move on to the next thing in a few weeks?

Ruth Marcus:  Well, we will talk about Georgia in a bit, I hope.  So, there could be consequences there.

But I think that Mitch McConnell has a point about the — and others — about the size of the checks, along with David and Larry Summers.  He is not in — he has zero standing to raise this point, because, unless I have missed something, I don't see him taking the Brooksian approach of limiting it to people who earn a certain amount or doing other things that would be more targeted, like extending unemployment benefits.

He just wants to stop it in his tracks.  That's what he's good at.

Are there consequences for that?  I see the President was railing against Senator Thune and earlier and urging challenges to him.  So, there may be consequences, I guess, from Donald Trump as he continues to thunder.

Judy Woodruff:  And speaking of — one of you mentioned Josh Hawley.

I think it was you, David.

He's not only sided with the President on this.  He's siding with the President — he's spoken up and said he's going to be the senator — so far, the only one — who has said he's going to object to the electors being counted for Joe Biden next week.

What do you make of what Josh Hawley is up to?  Where does this leave him and the Republican Party?

David Brooks:  I think it leaves the Republican Party as divorced from reality intact even in a post-Trump era.

Josh Hawley, it should be said, went to Yale Law School, arguably the finest law school in the country.

Sorry, Ruth.


David Brooks:  [Hawley] Went to — he clerked for John — Justice Roberts.  He wrote a very fine book on Alexander Hamilton.  He's no intellectual slouch.

And yet he's pretending that something is true that he has to know is not true because it plays to his base.  And so it means, going forward, the Republicans are going to do a lot of performative display of Trumpian unreality.

And so it's very bad news for the country, because truth is one of the things we have lost this year.  But it's bad news for Republican Parties going forward.  And I'd love to know what's in the head of normal, rational Republicans like John Thune, who we keep mentioning.  Like, what's going on in that guy's head as he sees Hawley do this?

Some Republicans have really stood up, like Ben Sasse from Nebraska, but is the rest of the party really going to follow him?  There are some reports that, in the House, you could get over more than 100 House members siding with the Hawley side.

It's a complete denial of reality.  And it's bad news for the future.

Judy Woodruff:  Ruth?

Ruth Marcus:  It's bad news for the future in the way that I was talking about earlier, in terms of just erasing norms of behavior and allowing just dangerous arguments to go forward.

But I see a strange upside in the Hawley stunt, which is this.  Too often, during the four long years of the Trump presidency, Republican lawmakers, especially in the Senate, have been able to avoid taking a stand on some of the outrageous things that he's [Trump] doing.

And if Hawley makes his colleagues take this to a vote, at least we will finally know, who are the Republican senators who are just so dedicated to the cult of Trump that they will go along with the Hawleys of the Senate, and who are the ones who are respecting the Constitution?

And so the other way to look at it is, any vote that Mitch McConnell fervently wants to avoid is a vote that, in some way, I'm happy to have.  So, I guess we're going to have it.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, just in the little bit of time we have left, that's the big thing we're watching this week, along with those Georgia Senate run-offs, David.

We had a Georgia reporter yesterday saying the Democrats look to be in strong shape.  What are your sources, what's your reporting telling you?

David Brooks:  Well, the polls have ticked up for both Democrats.  The early voting in kind was more in support of the Democratic side.

I'm just thinking that we have undercounted Trump and the Republican supporters pretty often in the last several years, and so I wouldn't get too confident if I was a Democrat.

Judy Woodruff:  Ruth, about 20 seconds.

Ruth Marcus:  I wouldn't get too confident.

But it seems like Donald Trump and his supporters have been doing everything they can to make life harder for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and — in their argument that the Georgia election was rigged, so you can't trust the system, and their argument that you need to reelect these Republican senators, so they can go to Washington, back to Washington, and continue to block your $2,000 checks.

That doesn't seem like a winning argument to me.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, there's a lot — it's a lot that we're looking for this first week in January, that and, as we said, the electors' vote that's coming up on Wednesday.

We thank you both on this New Year's Day for joining us.

David Brooks, Ruth Marcus, thank you.

Ruth Marcus:  Happy new year.

David Brooks:  You too.

Judy Woodruff:  And to you.

COVID-19 - Friday 1/1/2021

"COVID-19 cases rise in Georgia, as some health care workers resist vaccinationsPBS NewsHour 1/1/2021


SUMMARY:  As COVID-19 cases rise across the country, one of the worst-hit areas right now is the Southeast.  That includes Georgia, where many hospitals are at or near capacity.  Georgia is also lagging behind many other states in giving out vaccinations.  Judy Woodruff spoke with Dr. Shanti Akers, a pulmonologist at the Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany, Georgia, to learn more.



"This New Year’s Day, paying tribute to 5 extraordinary Americans lost to COVID-19PBS NewsHour 1/1/2021


SUMMARY:  More than 340,000 people died from COVID-19 in the United States in 2020, and as of Friday the number of people infected with the virus had surpassed 20 million.  As we begin a New Year, we honor just five of those who we have lost to the coronavirus.

TRUMP - Foreign Policy

"Trump’s legacy on foreign policy, and the challenges facing BidenPBS NewsHour 12/31/2020


SUMMARY:  During the early days of the 2016 campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump assured supporters he would pursue an "America First" approach to foreign policy.  But what legacy will President Trump leave behind, and what are the challenges for President-elect Biden?  Judy Woodruff spoke with four foreign policy experts to learn more.