Category Archives: Politics

Art of the Deal: Trump & Putin

Robert Reich makes a cogent and logical argument for Trump’s collusion with Russia to his and Putin’s mutual benefit by listing the events that have already occurred to the advantage of both.

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A Catholic Nun Schooled Paul Ryan in Humility Last Night — Resist and Replace

From Esquire.com It was a Biblical beatdown. Getty BY CHARLES P. PIERCE AUG 22, 2017 While the president* was fastening on his Serious World Leader face Monday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin, was facing a carefully tailored audience at a CNN “town hall” in Racine. Because Ryan is […]

via A Catholic Nun Schooled Paul Ryan in Humility Last Night — Resist and Replace

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Unpardonable Pardon

When Donald Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he couldn’t demonstrate any more clearly his disdain for the law when it interferes with his interests and narcissistic self-esteem.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is an elected official who regularly violated a federal injunction against racial profiling. Last July he was found guilty of criminal contempt for defying the court by continuing his practice of rounding up people who “looked Hispanic” and confining them in what he himself described as “concentration camps.”

Since Trump took office, he has tried to severely limit not only illegal, but even legal, immigration. In striking down his executive orders, the courts infuriated the President. But Trump admires Arpaio because the Sheriff was nonetheless carrying out Trump’s illegal orders and was an ardent Trump supporter to boot.

Though the Constitution grants the president the power to pardon, many are outraged by Trump’s in-your-face endorsement of a man who flagrantly violated the constitutional rights of the people he targeted. The judiciary has, for the most part, reacted to Trump by stymieing his overreach. His Muslim ban was recognized as such and modified, despite the White House’s attempt to whitewash it.

But now we have entered new territory. Inevitably, as “unprecedented” so often describes Trump’s actions, it has lost its power to shock. We expect his Twitter tantrums, his denigration of anyone who has the temerity to criticize him, his flagrant corruption and nepotism, his appointment of agency heads who are either incompetent or beholden to competing interests. The list goes on and on.

Yet when I began to appreciate the ramifications of Arpaio’s pardon, my blood ran cold. Backed by the Constitution, Trump can sanction any crime. He has so much as given the assurance to anyone who carries out his wishes that he may do so with impunity. As Martin H. Redish chillingly wrote in the NY Times:

But if the president signals to government agents that there exists the likelihood of a pardon when they violate a judicial injunction that blocks his policies, he can all too easily circumvent the only effective means of enforcing constitutional restrictions on his behavior. Indeed, the president could even secretly promise a pardon to agents if they undertake illegal activity he desires.  [emphasis mine]

Extrapolating, Trump may have found the means to completely subvert the judiciary, leaving only impeachment as a recourse to restore a constitutional democracy. (It’s unlikely his cabinet of henchmen would remove Trump from office by enacting the 25th Amendment.)

Trump has an unprecedented(!) military presence in the cabinet. He is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, whose weapons and numbers he has vowed to increase, and also controls the huge network of law enforcement, including the police and agencies like the FBI. Does the emergence of a despotic and repressive regime seem very far-fetched?

Nevertheless, Redish, a professor of constitutional law, has a “novel theory.”

He theorizes that since the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments) were added to the Constitution after its completion, in a conflict between the president’s pardon power and an amendment, the amendment would take precedence.

[O]n its face the pardon power appears virtually unlimited. But as a principle of constitutional law, anything in the body of the Constitution inconsistent with the directive of an amendment is necessarily pre-empted or modified by that amendment. If a particular exercise of the pardon power leads to a violation of the due process clause, the pardon power must be construed to prevent such a violation.  [emphasis mine]

The “due process” clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no one may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, i.e., a court ruling.

Redish concludes,

The Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of neutral judicial process before deprivation of liberty cannot function with a weaponized pardon power that enables President Trump, or any president, to circumvent judicial protections of constitutional rights.

As Redish notes, the Supreme Court has never ruled on the limits, if any, on the presidential pardon power. Given that we are in uncharted territory, however, the Court may be called on to show the way. Assuming justices appointed by Trump would feel disposed to rule against him.

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Too political?

My daughter told me that I’ve become too political. That set me thinking. It is true that I pay much more attention now.

I hardly paid any attention in the 70s and 80s. I was too preoccupied with small children in the first of those decades. Graduate studies, two teenagers and an inter-city commute took over in the second decade. In the 90s, Clinton and his impeachment, his relentless pursuit by members of the political establishment who abandoned even the pretense of commonality, riveted my attention.

When an unprecedented, horrific attack on a complacent nation spurred the newly installed triumvirate of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to curtail our civil liberties with the Patriot Act, I was galvanized. I warned anyone who would listen to me that proud and prosperous German Jews were decimated because they believed “it can’t happen here.” It can happen here. History has taught us that no government, no society, is immutable. I was afraid we were falling down a slippery slope, and indeed, that was when Americans lost not only their privacy but their faith in the impregnable fortress America. The same powerbrokers plunged us into a war we couldn’t win. Surveillance, fear, and torture insinuated themselves into the American experience.

In the Obama years, blind hatred and the corrosive antagonism between Democrats and Republicans further undermined American democracy and paved the way for the clownish but unfunny despot who is doing his best to undermine and sabotage the institutions that made America powerful and just.

How can one not be “political”? How can one ignore Trump’s peevishness, his enthrallment with himself and his desires, his reckless onslaughts on long-established norms, his ignorance, mendacity and deliberate sabotage of arduously wrought pacts to rescue the planet and provide care for the poor and the sick?

American democracy is under siege. Only activists, roused by anger and fear, can sway the politicians who have the power to save the Republic.

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Trump’s “meddlesome priest” skewers the king

Sen. Roy Blunt and former FBI Director James Comey

James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee would have been high entertainment if it weren’t so disturbing. The former Director of the FBI, abruptly fired by Pres. Trump, answered every question thoughtfully in a calm, measured tone. He elaborated the details of the meticulous memos he wrote immediately after every one-on-one encounter with the president. When Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) asked Comey why he hadn’t given the memos to a reporter himself instead of giving them to a third party to leak, Comey replied,

The media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point, and I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide, and I worried that it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.

It was a light moment in a very serious context.

Comey said he began to record his meetings with Trump after the first of these occasions, when the president-elect abused his power by demanding Comey pledge his loyalty. Comey wouldn’t do that and cited three reasons for his decision to write the memos:

  • the circumstances: Trump had dismissed his advisors and officials, leaving him alone with Comey
  • the subject matter: the Steele dossier and its account of “golden showers” and other salacious details
  • the nature of the person: “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting….I knew there might come a day when I would need a record” to defend himself

Wow. No prevarication. No fuzz. A senior official calling the president a liar. For anyone who’s been paying even minimal attention to the Trump saga, this allegation is not a surprise. We know Trump lies, but for Comey to assert it baldly, under oath, publicly, is truly shocking. A U.S. president who lies transparently and repeatedly is mind-boggling, an oxymoron, until now.  .

From the outset, Comey bristled against Trump’s “defamation” of himself and “more importantly,  the FBI. Those were lies, plain and simple.”

Sen. Angus King and former FBI Director James Comey

Comey is clearly quick-thinking and erudite. One of the best moments of the hearing came in the second hour, when Sen. Angus King (I-ME) was up at bat. In the context of Trump’s saying, “I hope you will hold back on that,” referring to Trump’s implied order that Comey suspend the criminal investigation of Mike Flynn, Comey observed, “It rings in my ear as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of that meddlesome priest?'”

Sen. King jumped in, “I was just gonna quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, ‘Will no one rid me of that meddlesome priest?’ and then the next day he was killed. [Archbishop of Canterbury] Thomas À Becket. This is exactly the same situation. We’re thinking along the same lines.” The king’s men understood his question as a directive to murder the priest.

Two men quoting a 12th-century English king makes my heart sing. As a medievalist in a former life, I am cheered and encouraged that classics and history are not yet completely extinct. That both men remember the history they’d studied and see its relevance to the present day is just what every teacher hopes for.

 

 

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Trump: “a pustule of ego”

Devastating. Donald Trump’s functional illiteracy is all that could save him from the excoriation of Rebecca Solnit’s sardonic wit:

He was a pair of ragged orange claws upon the ocean floor, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching for more, a carrion crab, a lobster and a boiling lobster pot in one, a termite, a tyrant over his own little empires.

and

The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence.

Trump is “the most mocked man in the world. After the women’s march on January 21st, people joked that he had been rejected by more women in one day than any man in history.” He is the butt of jokes in newspapers and magazines worldwide and most famously, in the weekly skits on Saturday Night Live.

Solnit writes of a man with boundless appetites, one who is ultimately alone, because he does not acknowledges the existence, let alone the needs, of anyone else.

While Obama represented the best of America, Trump revealed the seamy underside; he turned over a rock and exposed the vermin crawling in dung.

I will be going to Europe in a few days. I will have to explain, nay, insist, that Trump doesn’t represent America, that someday Lady Liberty will raise her head again, proudly. He can’t debase and defile the soul of a noble though imperfect nation.

Hat tip: Vox

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Church & state: separate!

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https://twitter.com/virginiahughes/status/855794610802741248/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2F

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