What Is The Real Reason Republicans Oppose The American Rescue Plan?

March 5th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

At this moment, the Senate is debating the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal currently enjoying deep and wide bipartisan popularity across the country. Consequently, of course, not a single Republican senator will vote for it.

Why is this?

The Federal Reserve, not what you’d call a radically socialist organization, the Treasury Department, and nearly all reputable economists back the plan. A highly credible Morning Consult / Politico National Tracking Poll, with a 2% margin of error, conducted two weeks ago from 19 through 22 February, reported 66% of all registered voters considered stimulating the economy a “Top Priority,” and 76% of registered voters support the $1.9 trillion plan. And the icing on the cake — 60% of died-in-the-wool Republicans support it.*

Additionally, 63% of small business owners support the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, according to the Q1 2021 CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, including 46% of Republican entrepreneurs.

With that kind of support, what possible reasons could congressional Republicans have for doing “everything we can to fight it,” as Mitch McConnell proclaimed this week?

There are a few reasons, and, is so often the case in political argument, most of them are nothing more than sound bites.

For example, Republicans claim the proposal is “replete” with giveaways having nothing to do with the pandemic. They object to the plan’s $350 billion aimed at helping cities and states, most notably the $10 billion (less than 1% of the entire plan) to shore up pension plans or lower future taxes.

Let’s look a little more closely at Republican opposition to city and state aid. No municipality — red or blue — has designed its fiscal affairs to withstand a simultaneous public-health crisis and economic lockdown. Unlike the federal government, states and cities cannot print or borrow money at near-zero interest rates. Most are constitutionally required to balance their budgets. When a pandemic annihilates their sales and income tax revenues — while dramatically increasing their Medicaid and health-care outlays — states have little choice but to lay off public-sector workers, cut social services, and/or raise taxes. All of those measures would make our current economic woes worse. There is no economic theory to support a stimulus strategy that combines massive stimulus at the federal level and simultaneous austerity at every lower level of government. If you believe that governments can improve economic welfare by filling in shortfalls in private incomes and consumer demand, then forcing state governments to reduce employment and spending is economically indefensible.

In the face of this, there is no coherent theoretical argument behind the GOP’s opposition to fiscal aid for states. But that hasn’t stopped it from trying. Unfortunately, every strata of our nation’s economy, from business, small and large, to the public sector’s 20.2 million federal , state, county and city employees, to nuclear families and single Moms, to you and me — all are in need.

On the other hand, I’d be interested in knowing just how much economic need our elected representatives and senators are experiencing at this moment. Would you?

*To be precise, this is the exact wording of the question in the Tracking Poll. It can be found on page 229 of the 368 page report: “Would you support or oppose a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that provides up to $1,400 in direct payments to Americans making less than $75,000 a year, $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments, funding to support K-12 and higher education to re-open, and extends increased unemployment benefits until September 2021?”

From Dreyfus To Trump: Only The Tech Has Changed

February 20th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

The only thing new in this world is the history you don’t know – Harry Truman

Here in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts, I find myself thinking about the events of 6 January and of how 87 years ago the French suffered a similar tragedy. The fact that Americans have not learned from this long ago fiasco, in fact, don’t even know about it, should be remedied. So, let me tell you a story.

At the end of 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer of the French General Staff, was accused and convicted of espionage for Germany. The verdict was unanimously adopted by the trial court, and the sentence was lifelong deportation to Devil’s Island. The trial was conducted behind closed doors and only a so-called “bordereau” was publicly shown. This was a letter, a detailed memorandum, allegedly in Dreyfus’s handwriting, offering to procure French military secrets and addressed to German military attaché Maximilian Von Schwartzkoppen. French agents had discovered it in the attaché’s waste paper basket

In July, 1895, Colonel Georges Picquart became head of the Information Division of the General Staff. The following May, he became convinced of three things: There had been espionage, Dreyfus was innocent and Major Walsin-Esterhazy was the guilty party. The Army did nothing, and six months later Picquart was transferred to a dangerous posting in Tunisia.

Dreyfus’s brothers then began a movement aimed at freeing him. Subsequently, Picquart, back from Tunisia, but in a reduced role, met with the Vice-President of the Senate, persuading him of Dreyfus’s innocence. In June, 1897, future Prime Minister (twice) Georges Clemenceau, took up the cause primarily through his influential newspaper L’Aurore. Four weeks later, prominent journalist and author (Les Miserables), Emile Zola, penned his famous J’Accuse attacking the military for its anti-Semitic injustice in the Dreyfus matter, and then immediately fled to England before he could be arrested. In absentia, he was tried by a Paris court and convicted for “calumny of the army.” He never returned to France.

In August, 1898, Esterhazy was dishonorably discharged, and then confessed to a British journalist that he, forging Dreyfus’s handwriting, was the author of the “bordereau” on the orders of his superior officer Colonel Sandherr, former head of the counterespionage division. A few days later Colonel Henry, of the same department, confessed to forging other documents aimed at incriminating Dreyfus, and promptly killed himself. Finally, after four and a half years, the Court of Appeals ordered an investigation into what came to be known as The Dreyfus Affair, but it never went anywhere, because of what happened next.

It was then that a small group of anti-Republican, anti-Semitic Frenchmen, thinking the Dreyfus case was being hijacked by leftist elites like Clemenceau and Zola, created Action Francaisea far-right, extremist organization that grew steadily over the next 35 years in France. Its leader, Charles Maurras, a highly educated bigot, founded what became one of France’s leading newspapers, L’Action Francaise, and sold his bigotry and hatred to the masses through his Twitter feed of the day. The movement called Maurassisme takes its name from Maurras. It advocates absolute nationalismmonarchism, and opposition to democracy and liberalism. Sound familiar?

During those years, with an interlude for the First World War, a cultural divide opened in France, much as it has in America today, with Dreyfusards on one side and anti-Dreyfusards on the other. Things came to a head with the Parliamentary elections of 1934, when the Action Francaise far-right candidates were defeated and the job of running the government went to more moderate leaders, just as in November, 2020, the egomaniacal autocrat Donald Trump was shown the door, the more moderate Joe Biden became president, and Democrats took over the Senate.

As on 6 January when Trump’s cultist loyalists, refusing to accept defeat, stormed our nation’s Capitol, Action Francaise loyalists did not take defeat lying down, and on 6 February 1934 rioted on the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the capital lying at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. Fifteen people died that day and hundreds more were injured.

Over the next ten years, after siding with the pro-Nazi, soon-to-be-disgraced, Vichy government of General PetainAction Francaise slowly faded into the mist of history, finally disbanding in 1944.

As for Dreyfus, he continued to fester on Devil’s Island until 1906, when Clemenceau became President and ordered the Court of Appeal to reexamine the case. In July of that year, the Court of Appeal annulled the sentence and acquitted Dreyfus. But his troubles weren’t over. Maurras and others continued to stoke the fires of anti-Semitism, and in 1908, when Clemenceau brought Zola’s body back from England for entombment in the Pantheon, a mob attacked Dreyfus on the street. A Paris court acquitted his assailants and wrote in its decision that it “dissented” from the Dreyfus acquittal.

Friends, as Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” The rhymes are ringing loud and clear today.

Deception, Deception, Deception (Tennessee Williams – The Glass Managerie)

February 18th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

Oh, what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott: Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field

The last 24 hours have not been the best for Ted Cruz.

First, the situation: Citizens of the Lone Star State are living through their worst weather crisis since 2010, (and that includes 2015’s Hurricane Harvey) in which at least 24 people have died, millions have been without power for days, water pipes have burst all over the state, and now two million are under orders to boil water, presuming they have any to boil in the first place. With that terrible scenario, Cruz, the Trump toady, who, to this day refuses to acknowledge that Joe Biden defeated the former president, boarded a United Airlines plane with his family last night and jetted off to Cancun, Mexico, where, as I write this the temperature is a balmy  84 degrees and the water is fine and fit to drink.

Next, a fellow traveler took a picture of the Junior Senator on the plane bound for Cancun.

Then the photo went more viral than Covid-19 presenting Mr. Cruz with a bit of a public relations nightmare. So, thinking quick like a bunny he released a statement saying his daughters had wanted a vacation so, like a “good dad,” he accompanied them to Mexico and was immediately returning to Texas to…well, here’s what he said:

“This has been an infuriating week for Texans. The greatest state in the greatest country in the world has been without power. We have food lines, gas lines and people sleeping at the neighbors’ houses. Our homes are freezing and our lights are out. Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too.

“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on and homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.”

Did you notice the “Like millions of Texans” line?

Cruz’s statement makes it seem as if all along he was planning to drop off his girls in Mexico, then jump on the next plane out to return to Texas “to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.” Of course, he was pulling quite the overnight bag behind him through the Cancun International Airport. Makes one wonder.

And then Edward Russell, a reporter for Skift, who writes on the airline industry, scooped everyone by revealing his sources at United Airlines confirmed to him that Cruz was originally booked — with the family — through Saturday, the 20th, but rebooked his trip early this morning — after the fecal matter impacted the spinning instrument — to return this afternoon.

As Cruz was awaiting departure, but before Russell broke his story, the Senator told reporters, “Yesterday, my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends, and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here and now I’m headed back to Texas.”

Sources within United Airlines subsequently confirmed Russell’s story to NBC News.

We’ll have more about the continuing Texas tragedy later, but Cruz’s hypocrisy, lack of sincere empathy and smarmy superior attitude deserve to be called out and condemned. Texans deserve better than this. We all do.

Now What?

February 16th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

The Trial of the Century —  So Far

During and after the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, even Republicans admitted the House Managers had done a masterful job of presenting their case. Having voted the trial constitutional by a margin of 55 – 45, the Senate subsequently acquitted Trump with Republicans contending the trial was an unconstitutional abuse of power. And, as I have written earlier, that became the painted hook on the Senate wall upon which they hung their acquittal hats, all 43 of them.

The entire proceedings seemed scripted and predicable — that is, until Saturday morning, originally scheduled for closing arguments. That was when the leader of the House Managers, Representative Jamie Raskin, of Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, announced that overnight the Managers had learned of a phone conversation between House Minority Leader Keven McCarthy and President Trump at the height of the insurrection on the 6th. Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Republican of Washington, had issued a statement saying McCarthy had described the conversation to her, a conversation in which McCarthy had begged Trump to forcefully call off the mob. Trump had dismissed the request cavalierly, saying, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

Herrera-Beutler, one of the ten House Republicans who voted for impeachment, had said she was willing to testify under oath about the conversation with McCarthy, and that’s what Manager Raskin said was going to happen. Instead, Hellzapoppin happened.

Trump defense attorney Michael van der Veen, who is a personal injury lawyer, not a civil liberties lawyer, objected strenuously (to be kind about it; as I was watching I thought the Republicans were going to have to peel him off the Senate ceiling), saying if Herrera-Beutler were called to testify, he had at least a hundred witnesses he wanted to call, starting with Nancy Pelosi, and, by the way, he would depose all of them in his office in Philadelphia, because “that’s how these things are done.” At this point, the bell sounded and the fighters went to their separate corners to decide what to do next.

The House Managers, having made their point, and realizing that nothing short of something akin to the parting of the Red Sea, would persuade seventeen Republicans to vote to convict, and even that might not be enough, decided not to call Representative Herrera-Beutler as a witness. Instead, they and the defense team compromised by reading her statement into the record of the proceedings, thereby sparing us of more of Mr. van der Veen’s histrionics.

Shortly thereafter, Donald Trump was acquitted — again.

This was a show trial. With the conclusion foregone, the House Managers knew their real audience was the American public, not the 100 Senators in the chamber. It remains to be seen whether they won their case with the public. An Ipsos poll conducted Friday evening after the Defense had wrapped its case, if you could call it that, but before the Herrera-Beutler bombshell, revealed 55% of Americans believe Trump was “fully” or “largely” responsible for inciting the violence, but only 50% believe he should have been convicted. Strangely, 53% said he should be barred from holding public office again. The poll, which had a confidence level of 4%, shows in stark relief how deeply polarized this nation remains.

There will be more Trump litigation, a lot more. We may never see the end of it. Mitch McConnell, after voting to acquit, specifically mentioned this in a fiery speech (for him) putting Trump on notice that criminal and civil penalties are appropriate for what he did.

And today, it begins. This morning, Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, filed a federal lawsuit accusing former president Donald Trump, attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and two extremist groups whose members have been charged in the 6 January storming of the Capitol with illegally conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Citing an 1871, rarely used law aimed at the KKK, Thompson is suing in his personal capacity and is joined by the NAACP.

So many miles to go

With the conclusion of the world’s fastest impeachment trial, the Biden presidency can take center stage. Job #1: Defeat the pandemic and, in the words of someone who knew a thing or two about national division, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” However, right out of the gate we keep getting reminded just how delicate an undertaking that’s going to be.

Case in point: The scary growth of far right extremism in America and around the world got a boost from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Using historical data-sets from Germany, Kristian Brickle, of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, concludes influenza mortality during the pandemic of 1918 – 1920 was directly correlated with both lower per-capita spending in the next decade, especially by the young, and the rise of extremist parties in 1932 and 1933, primarily the National Socialist Workers Party (the NAZI party). In her study, Pandemics Change Cities: Municipal Spending and Voter Extremism in Germany, 1918-1933, (May 2020, Revised June 2020), Brickle shows how Germany suffered high mortality in the pandemic, mortality that varied significantly across the country’s municipalities and regions. This variation represented tangible differences between cities and regions that reflected the beliefs and preferences of the inhabitants. In effect, the pandemic served as a means to exacerbate beliefs already held. One of these exacerbated beliefs was distrust for and hatred of minorities, predominantly Jews. Hence the significant increase of the deep-seated antisemitism of the late 1920s and 1930s.

Although Brickle’s work does not blaze a new trail — she builds on the work of many others — her research paints a clearer picture of what can be the unfortunate and unforeseen consequences of a pandemic. The United Nations and others have documented an “explosion” of antisemitism throughout the tenure of the Donald Trump presidency, but with a significant spike during 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Joe Biden is going to need all the help he can find.

 

 

Making Trumpism Trumwasm

February 8th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

Tomorrow, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins. Don’t blink. It will be quick. There is a single charge: Incitement of Insurrection. The charge is all about Trump’s speech, if you can call it that, at the Ellipse on 6 January, after which…well, you know what happened.

Many people say, “Why bother? It’s a foregone conclusion he’ll be acquitted.” There may be a few Republicans who vote to convict, but it will take 67 total votes to do it, and, as my Dad used to say when I would plead for the keys to the car after not exactly distinguishing myself in my studies, “Son, that ain’t happening.”

Also, there are serious and sincere people who believe the way to make Trumpism Trumpwasm is to deprive Trump of any attention at all. Ignore him. Simply let him fade away and disappear into the mist of time. Without him, his cult-like followers will lose the leader they need. That seems wishful thinking to me.

If the trial focuses only on Trump’s speech, it will be like looking at an arrow whizzing past a crack in the door. But to get the full measure of what happened we need to throw open the door to see where the arrow began its flight and where it ended.

The events of 6 January had been carefully planned and orchestrated for nearly three weeks. On 18 December, Trump tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there. Will be wild!” Thus began the insurrection.

Trump’s cattle call to protest mobilized his followers around the country and resulted in seven different rallies in D.C. on the 5th and 6th, all of which received permits from the National Park Service. Excluding Trump’s, the other six were:

  1. The Rally To Revival, sponsored by The Eight Percent Coalition which had been founded by Trump supporter Cindy Chafian. This rally was on Freedom Plaza.
  2. The Save Our Republic Rally, sponsored by Moms For America, held at Area 9, across from the Russell Senate Office Building.
  3. The One Nation Under God Rally, sponsored by Virginia Women For Trump, held near the Supreme Court Building (Roger Stone spoke at this rally).
  4. The Silent Majority Rally, organized by Proud Boys member James Epley, and held the evening of 5 January and morning on 6 January at the North Inner Gravel Walkway on the National Mall. There were more than ten arrests at this rally on the 5th, and there were  weapons charges.
  5. The Wild Protest Rally, organized by Stop The Steal and held at Area 8 across from the Russell Senate Office Building.
  6. The Freedom Rally, organized by the Virginia Freedom Keepers, Latinos For Trump, and the United Medical Freedom Super PAC, and held at 300 First Street, Northeast, near the Russell Senate Office Building.

Finally, there was Trump’s own rally, the March To Save America. After Trump’s 18 December tweet, Amy Kremer, co-founder of Women For Trump,  and “one of the founding mothers of the modern day tea party movement,” according to her website, began the planning for this event and applied for and was granted a D.C. permit for a gathering of 5,000 protesters on the Ellipse. After Trump tweeted on 2 January he’d be at that rally, Kremer turned over managing it to the White House.

Prior to Trump’s speaking at the rally, his openers were his two sons and Rudy Giuliani, who admonished the crowd,  “Let’s have trial by combat,” and showed a propaganda video Joseph Goebbels could learn a thing or two from.

Then Donald Trump took the stage.

He spoke for one hour, thirteen minutes and twenty-two seconds; more than 11,000 words.

During the speech, he used the word “peacefully” once, which will be one of the painted hooks on the Senate wall upon which his attorneys will hang part of his defense:

I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.

He also made 17 incendiary, insurrection provoking statements:

These people are not going to take it any longer. They’re not going to take it any longer….

We will never give up, we will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved….

Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with: We will stop the steal….

We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen, I’m not going to let it happen….

(At this point the audience began chanting, “Fight for Trump.”)

And then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen….

(Here, the audience began to chant, “We love Trump.”)

We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s capital for one very, very basic and simple reason: To save our democracy….

We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them….

Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated….

You will have an illegitimate president. That’s what you’ll have. And we can’t let that happen….

That’s going to be the end of the Republican Party as we know it, but it’s never going to be the end of us. Never. Let them get out. Let, let the weak ones get out. This is a time for strength….

We got to get rid of the weak Congress, people, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world. We got to get rid of them. We got to get rid….

The radical left knows exactly what they’re doing. They’re ruthless and it’s time that somebody did something about it….

The Republicans have to get tougher. You’re not going to have a Republican Party if you don’t get tougher….

And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore….

So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I love Pennsylvania Avenue. And we’re going to the Capitol…

The Democrats are hopeless, they never vote for anything. Not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help. We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country….

So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The insurrection on the 6th showed just how fragile democracy can be. It also illustrated in granular detail the depth of the political and social fissures besetting America. Trump may be gone, but the Republican Party is still Trump’s party. Correcting that will be a generational undertaking. The Biden administration’s successful revival of the economy with significant movement toward economic equality, and the defeat of the coronavirus, would be monumental first steps.

By the way, although he said he would, Donald Trump did not “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.” Rather, he retired to the White House to watch the bomb explode from the fuse he lit.

 

 

 

The Second Impeachment of Donald Trump Approaches

February 3rd, 2021 by Tom Lynch

Next Tuesday, the 9th of February, the Senate will begin the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. With ten Republican Representatives voting in the affirmative, the House impeached the former president for inciting insurrection on 6 January, an insurrection that has resulted in the deaths of five people.

Trump supporters in Congress and around the country have viciously attacked the ten House Republicans who voted for impeachment. Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the third most powerful Republican in the House, has come under particular fire. Die-hard Trump disciples have petitioned Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to remove her from her leadership post. That group is reported to have more than 100 signatories to its petition. The entire caucus will meet about this later today. It could happen that when the dust settles tonight, Liz Cheney, who, with Leader McCarthy’s approval, gave voice to her conscience, could become the only person to this point punished for anything that happened on the 6th of January. I make this point to illustrate just how far the devolution of Congress has progressed.

On the Senate side of the building, Trump’s latest lot of lawyers yesterday filed a 15 page initial brief that bases their defense of the former president on two major points. First, Trump did nothing wrong either before or during his 6 January rally in DC; he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights. Second, they contend it is unconstitutional to impeach Trump, because he is no longer in office and therefore cannot be “removed,” a view that is shared by most Senate Republicans ( there is also a third defense position – the Bill of Attainder defense – that is altogether too wacky to go into).

With respect to the first defense, the question before the Senators is whether Trump’s oratory was advocacy or incitement. The U.S. Supreme Court explained in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”  The Court’s ruling in Brandenburg meant that KKK leader Clarence Brandenburg’s statements such as “it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken” did not amount to criminal syndicalism under Ohio law.

In addition to the “incitement to lawless action” charge, there is the “clear and present danger” test. In applying the clear and present danger test in Schenck v. United States (1919)Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., observed: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Holmes cited the example of a person who falsely shouts “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, causing a panic. The impeachment prosecutors will doubtless advocate that Trump really did, metaphorically, shout “fire” on 6 January, causing his followers to panic and storm the Capitol.

Regardless, the House Trial Managers are going to have great difficulty in convincing people who do not want to be convinced, in fact, refuse to be convinced, that Trump’s words at his rally on 6 January presented a clear and present danger to incitement to lawless action. This, despite the video and myriad recordings showing Trump egging on his followers to “fight” and “be strong,” because he “won in a landslide” and “the election was stolen” from him.

The Trump defense team’s second claim, that impeaching an out of office president is unconstitutional, will be equally difficult to counteract, even though the Congressional Research Service (the best research agency you’ve probably never heard of), at the request of House members, published a study on 15 January that showed clearly the precedence and constitutionality of such an action. The study, which is quite the civics history lesson, should be required reading for every high-school student.

In the study, Legislative Attorneys Jared P. Cole and Todd Garvey meticulously analyze this issue and write:

The Constitution does not directly address whether Congress may impeach and try a former President for actions taken while in office. Though the text is open to debate, it appears that most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office. As an initial matter, a number of scholars have argued that the delegates at the Constitutional Convention appeared to accept that former officials may be impeached for conduct that occurred while in office. This understanding also tracks with certain state constitutions predating the Constitution, which allowed for impeachments of officials after they left office.

They also note:

Scholars have noted that if impeachment does not extend to officials who are no longer in office, then an important aspect of the impeachment punishment is lost. If impeachment does not apply to former officials, then Congress could never bar an official from holding office in the future as long as that individual resigns first. According to one scholar, it is “essential” for Congress to have authority to impeach and convict former officials in order to apply the punishment of disqualification; otherwise Congress’s jurisdiction would depend on the whims of the individual who engaged in misconduct. Another scholar notes that the grave nature of the disqualification punishment indicates that it should apply independently of the need for removal.

Some Trump defenders point to the Richard Nixon case. When Nixon resigned on 9 August 1974, the House of Representatives had already drawn up articles of impeachment. After his resignation, the House did not send the articles to the Senate for trial. Less than a month later, President Ford granted Nixon a full pardon, thereby ending the case. The Trump defenders claim not impeaching Nixon proves their case that a president cannot be impeached after leaving office. What they fail to mention is that Nixon had already served two terms as president and was barred from running again by the 22nd Amendment. The whole purpose of impeaching someone after leaving office is first, to set an example, and second, to disqualify them from future office. Donald Trump, if not impeached and convicted, is free to run again for President in 2024.

Let me end on a hypothetical question. Suppose a President commits an impeachable action on the 19th of January; say it is discovered a week later that he or she had been colluding with a foreign power for personal gain at the expense of our nation. If the action is committed while in office, but not discovered until after he or she flies off in Marine 1, what is to be done about it? It is almost sacred theology that a President cannot be criminally charged for actions committed while in office (See the Mueller Report). How else is the miscreant punished other than impeachment?

I have no illusions about the Senate convicting Donald Trump of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” although I think he is guilty as charged. Further, I think he is responsible more than anyone else for the deaths that happened during and after the storming of the Capitol.

It is dispiriting for me to have to conclude that, rather than suffering one day of punishment for any of it, he will just live in the lap of luxury for the rest of his horrid life, the same mass of stunted protoplasm he has always been.

 

Thoughts Of The Day

January 18th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

Was Azar intentionally lying, colossally incompetent, or both?

Given the last four years, I’m guessing Door Number 3.

Because both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, Operation Warp Speed’s initial plan, announced in early December, was to hold back half the supply to make sure there was enough for the second shots. At the same time, the Trump Administration was saying it would vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, 12 January, as it became apparent the first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were proceeding much slower than predicted (the 20 million prediction had turned into an 11.4 million reality), U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar announced the government was making all of the coronavirus reserve vaccine supply immediately available, urged states to provide shots to anyone 65 and older and warned governors that states with lagging inoculations could see their supply shifted to other places.

You could hear the collective country-wide sigh of relief. Help was on the way.

That is, until three days later when we learned the only place the “reserve supply” existed was in Alex Azar’s imagination, because the Administration admitted to state and federal officials it stopped stockpiling the second doses at the end of last year as it attempted to hit the 20 million goal. The reserve supply no longer existed. The states were left to scramble again, as they have throughout the pandemic. Remember the PPE fiasco? States were forced to compete against each other and the Feds to get any. Remember the Administration’s leadership about masking? Neither do I. I could go on.

This latest FUBAR catastrophe led President-Elect Joe Biden to tell the world the vaccine rollout was “a dismal failure.” Seems fairly accurate to me.

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse” – Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the way it worked. After the election, which he lost, Donald Trump spewed lie after lie about how he actually won “in a landslide.” And he convinced millions of people this was so. A new Quinnipiac poll reports 73% of Republicans believe there was “widespread fraud” in the election, which allowed Joe Biden to win. Trump’s two-month assault on truth led to the 6 January armed insurrection.

It is questionable whether he would have persuaded his millions of followers to believe the lies if he had not had profound assistance from Twitter, Facebook and conservative media. Case in point: the conservative outlet American Thinker which, with no investigation,  bought the Dominion Voting Machines stole-the-election line – again and again.

Yesterday, American Thinker “screwed its courage to the sticking post” and apologized. It was not one of those, “We did a bad thing, but we did it because…” things. No, this was an apology that would have made Ben proud. Here it is in full:

We don’t know what prompted American Thinker to so abjectly fall on its sword. I choose to think optimistically, believing journalistic ethics won the day. Regardless, this is how you do an apology.

Speaking of optimism

Why not end on a lighter note?

Back in pre-pandemic times (you remember those, don’t you?), when you wouldn’t think twice about sitting in a pub with friends discussing the metaphysics of Sartre, I once did just that with two friends, one a conservative republican with whom one could actually debate policy issues with smiles all around; the other, an MIT engineering professor.

We were talking about how people so often view the same thing in different ways, which led us to a discussion about optimism. That led to further discussion about the differences between people who were naturally optimistic and those who were naturally pessimistic.

One of us brought up the old glass half full or empty screed. I, the eternal optimist, said to me the glass was always half full. My conservative friend said he couldn’t help seeing it as half empty.

My friend from MIT said, “There’s too much glass.”

Stay safe – and, if you can, optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

This Is What Happens

January 14th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

This is what happens when leaders sell their souls for power.

In the last week, our country and the very concept of democracy have come perilously close to being crushed by the triumph of insurrection. Every day, every hour, we learn more about the plot to bring down the government and establish Donald Trump as de facto dictator. That this was predictable, yet still happened, will be analyzed for years. That it failed (so far), should give no comfort to anyone.

Sabateurs, terrorists in the literal sense of the word, hiding in the belly of the mob, were on a mission to kill Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence and probably others if they could find them. The FBI is discovering a carefully planned attack, and we are fortunate, indeed, that the traitors’ targets survived. It could easily have gone the other way.

This is what happens when monumental hubris and blind ambition turn the leader of a political party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, into Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Four years ago, a Kentuckian named McConnell agreed to a deal with the Mephistopheles who rode the golden escalator in June of 2015 as The Music of the Night, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, blasted through the basement of Trump Tower. How fitting.

In this Faustian bargain, the Kentuckian’s deepest desires were granted: remaking the nation’s judiciary; changing tax laws to benefit corporations and the wealthy; dismantling environmental regulations; eviscerating the country’s immigration system; abandoning global partnerships; solidifying a populist base. In exchange for this unholy alliance, Marlowe’s devil-in-chief ran amuck around America preaching authoritarianism, white supremacy and “American carnage,” which he “alone could fix,” to a congregation of millions of vulnerable citizens long fearful of the way life was changing and leaving them behind. They swallowed it whole.

This is what happens when, in April, 2021, armed white supremacists, Neo-Nazis calling themselves Proud Boys, but acting more like “Brownshirts,” stage a rehearsal for last week’s coup attempt in Lansing, Michigan, invading and taking over the state’s capital with plans for capturing and killing the governor, after which they face zero criticism from our modern-day Mephistopheles. What a boost to their movement.

This is what happens when a country, bombarded with more than 34,000 presidential tweets and 323 fan-the-flames presidential rallies over four years, becomes so desensitized to the stoking of racism and intense polemical bullying that politicians, elected to serve their constituents and the Constitution, become too fearful to denounce such behavior, let alone suggest it should never be condoned in America.

This is what happens when, taking a page from the propaganda manual of Joseph Goebbels, lies are told loud enough and often enough that gullible people believe with biblical certainty that the most secure election in our history was rigged and riddled with fraud. Polls continue to show more than 60% of Republicans believe this.

This is what happens when no one but toadying sycophants, whose moral corruption knows no bounds and whose sole job requirement is total devotion to the whims of their Mephistophelean leader, are placed in senior positions of authority. Now, as their deal with the devil unwinds, they are deserting the ship of state with nary a lifeboat in sight.

This is what happens when hate replaces kindness and a willingness to work collaboratively toward the common good to the extent that winning requires annihilation of one’s opponent. The result is a deep crack to the nation’s foundation.

This is what happens when the worst pandemic in a century is allowed to kill more than 400,000 of our fellow citizens by the time Joe Biden utters the solemn words of his oath of office. A pandemic during which never once has Donald Mephistopheles addressed the nation with words of comfort, empathy or even hope. A time in which the Oval Office has become an oval room of mirrors, where everywhere he looks he sees only himself. There’s no one there, Donald.

This is what happens when leaders sell their souls for power.

 

 

Plus ça Change, Plus C’est…

December 10th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Republicans, Democrats, the White House, and all the lobbyists on K Street continue to scrimmage over a relief package for tens of millions of our fellow citizens who hang on by the thinnest of threads, getting thinner by the moment, as they wait for the end of 2020 when the moratorium on evictions will end, unemployment benefits will end, life as they know it — will end. State governments can’t help. Local  governments can’t help. Small businesses can’t help. None of them have any money. They all need help, too.

Meanwhile, back at Ronald Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill,” internecine, malodorous warfare is in full view. Looking for all the world like a gussied-up version of the Hatfields and McCoys, Republicans and Democrats are assembled in a highly organized circular firing squad, seeming far more intent on annihilating each other than on devoting themselves to the moral imperative of bringing help to our neighbors, economically pulverized through no fault of their own. As Joseph Welch said to Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency at all?”

Throughout history, governments have let their citizens down. We’ve done it before, horribly, and haven’t learned a thing. The more things change…

1932 – Washington, D.C.

At the close of World War I, Congress decided to thank the war’s veterans for their service with some cash — $500, which, in today’s dollars, would be about $7,500. Quite a bonus. But there was a catch: The “bonus” authorized by the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 would not be paid until 1945. The veterans did not complain at the time. It was The Roaring Twenties. Everyone was flush.

But then along came the Great Depression. The economy descended from full employment in 1929, where the unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, into massive unemployment in 1933 when the unemployment rate reached 25 percent. From sitting on top of the world, plutocrats were suddenly seen jumping out of windows on Wall Street. Breadlines became the meal du jour. The word, “Hobo,” which had been around, but hardly used, since 1888, became a symbol for the forgotten man.

In the summer of 1932, 25,000 penniless, desperate veterans and their wives and children descended on Washington, D.C. They camped in District parks, dumps, abandoned warehouses and empty stores.  These aging warriors had come to the nation’s capital to ask Congress, admittedly 13 years early, for their $500. Newspapers christened them “the bonus Army,” or “the bonus marchers.” They called themselves the “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” the BEF.

The men drilled, sang war songs, and, once, led by a Medal of Honor winner and watched by a hundred thousand silent Washingtonians, marched up Pennsylvania Avenue bearing flags of faded cotton.

The BEF had pleaded in vain with Congress for the money. They were ignored and left to wither. As a last resort they appealed to President Hoover to meet with them. He sent word he was too busy. Then, confronted with 25,000 squatters he would later label “communists,” while asserting less than 10% of them were veterans*, he isolated himself from the city, canceled plans to visit the Senate, had police patrol the White House grounds day and night, chained the gates of the Executive Mansion, erected barricades around the White House and closed traffic for a distance of one block on all sides of the Mansion. A one-armed veteran, attempting to picket, was beaten and jailed.

Conditions for the veterans were pathetic. The summer heat was severe. Lacking shade or screens, the BEF was beaten down by the climate’s fury. Since the founding of the city, Washington was viewed as a place to be avoided in the summertime. In the words of an official guidebook, Washington was “a peculiarly interesting place for the study of insects.” The veteran men and their families had arrived at the height of Cherry Blossom season, but by July they were debilitated, ghostly, dehydrated and hot. Very hot. The columnist Drew Pearson called them “ragged, weary and apathetic with no hope on their faces.” Downtown businessmen complained through the Chamber of Commerce that “the sight of so many down-at-the-heel men has a depressing effect on business.”

And that was the extent of their crime, their threat to the country. They weren’t good for business.

General Douglas MacArthur, the Army’s only four star general who, even then, referred to himself in the third person, had met with some of the men and assured them if he had to evict them he would allow them to leave “with dignity.” But when the end came for the BEF at 10:00 A.M. on 28 July 1932 there was no dignity to be found. Hoover had had enough, and he ordered “Mac” to get rid of them. Trouble was, he didn’t tell the General “how” to get rid of them. MacArthur, who never did anything small in his life, was unleashed.

First, Police Commissioner Glassford, who had been sympathetic to the men, was sent to tell them they had to leave, orders of the President. They refused, which was when MacArthur sent the Army in, led by then Major George Patton and his 3rd Mounted Cavalry — with him prancing at the front atop his privately-owned horse (he had a stable-full; he was rich) — followed by infantry and a World War I vintage Tank Brigade. Bullets began to fly. BEF men were killed. Two babies were gassed to death. And Joseph Angelino suffered a deep wound from Patton’s sabre-wielding cavalry, the same Joseph Angelino, who, on 26 September 1918, had won the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest medal, for saving the life of a young officer named George Patton.

By midnight that day, the Army had driven the BEF veterans, their wives and children across the Potomac and out of the city. But that wasn’t good enough for MacArthur and Hoover. The BEF was chased and harassed west and south, out past Ohio and all the way down to Georgia. Then, the veterans just folded into the vast transient population that roamed the land in 1932.

In 1936, overriding a veto by President Roosevelt, Congress voted to immediately pay World War I veterans their full $500 bonus specified in the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924.

2020 – Washington, D.C.

Although on the 1st of June, while discussing protests following the George Floyd killing President Trump said, “We need to get control of the streets. We need 10,000 troops up here [in Washington]. I want it right now,” a repeat of MacArthur’s mayhem is unlikely, especially with a “kinder, gentler” administration about to assume command. However, since their one moment of unified governmental leadership — passage of The Cares Act during the early days of the pandemic — the grand poobahs in D.C., stunned and surprised by the pandemic’s severity and longevity, have become paralyzed and have turned their backs to so many in need. They remind me of wizened gnomes with green eyeshades and stubby pencils ticking off their profits at the end of the day, never seeing suffering people all around them.

With little or no leadership  from the Trump Administration, except leadership by cavalier, egomaniacal tweet, and the bunker-like workings of Congress as each side walls itself off from the other, just as Herbert Hoover did in 1932, the situation of millions grows daily more dire.

Despite the lack of progress, one must remain hopeful that morality, courage and decency will rear their heads and, finally, leaders will emerge. Finally, leaders will put their gargantuan egos aside and do whatever it takes to rescue all those who at this moment lie on the bottom of the economic bird cage. After all, we really are all in this together. We really are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. We, all of us, really have been driven low by this deadliest of pandemics. Is it too much to ask our Elected leaders to begin acting like the leaders they claim to be?

 

*The Veterans Administration, which had the actual service records would subsequently refute that with an exhaustive study concluding that 94% of the  bonus marchers were veterans.

And Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned

November 20th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Speaking on CBS this morning, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the delay in allowing President Elect Biden’s transition team to meet with Trump Administration health officials will cause no harm to anyone, because, “The same career professionals there on January 19th will be there on January 21st.” Hmmmm.

Have you ever had the exquisite experience of being part of a team buying a company? If you answered “yes” you know what that involves. Even if, as buyer, you intend to make no operational changes, which, admittedly, is rare, there is a lot to learn as you approach  the sale. Data rooms are complicated. So are the people you’ll be employing. What senior staff will you keep? Who will go? After you execute a Term Sheet, understanding product development, the logistics of distribution and the financial labyrinth will take time, usually more than a few months.

Suppose the company you’re buying is Amazon, the company owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world. Amazon’s reported operating expenses for the year ending 30 September 2020 were $328.04 billion. Try to wrap your head around how long such a purchase would take and what it would involve. It would be an awesome undertaking.

Now, think of the U.S. government. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analyisis, U.S. expenditures for the 2019 fiscal year, ending 30 June 2020, were $7.3 trillion, a tad larger than Amazon’s operating expenses.

The 2021 budget for Health & Human Services, which runs 184 pages, calls for $1.3 trillion in spending; 1.2 trillion for mandatory programs like Medicare and Medicaid and $94 billion in discretionary spending.

We are engaged in two massive efforts: first, to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, and second, to vaccinate 330 million people as quickly as humanly possible – twice. Atul Gawande, a member of Biden’s Coronavirus Transition Team, in an interview following Azar’s, said roadblocks delaying the baton pass will, not could, cost lives, thousands of them. He said Azar’s claim that no one would be hurt by delaying the transition is “absolutely not true.”

Consider that Pfizer announced this morning that it will file for Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine today. But the Biden team has had zero conversations with HHS. Not CDC, not FDA, not CMS, not NIH. Not a soul in government.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, Donald Trump remains out of sight, concentrating on manufacturing out-of-this-world conspiracy theories rather than on the job the Electoral College hired him to do in 2016. He’s giving the term “grasping at straws” an entirely new meaning. Nothing is too outlandish. Case in point: His fairy-tail spouting “Personal Lawyer’s” cringe-worthy press conference yesterday. Everything that comes out of Rudy Giuliani’s mouth these days is full of what makes the grass grow green and tall, but people are buying it.

This is sticking a very sharp knife into American Democracy.

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted from 13 to 17 November, 55% of Republicans surveyed think Donald Trump “rightfully won” the election, only to have it stolen from him by widespread voter fraud. Only 55% of all adults in the United States surveyed by the poll said they believed the Nov. 3 presidential election was “legitimate and accurate,” and 28% said they thought the election was “the result of illegal voting or election rigging,” which is up 12 points from four years ago. It is unfathomable why so many of our neighbors fixate on the rigged election theme with the intensity of devoted biblical scholars. They have become habituated to believing the rants that spew from Mr. Trump and his sycophant toadies. And in this case, old habits don’t so much as die hard, as they refuse to die at all.

One can only hope Joe Biden and his team, whenever they’re able to begin taking the reins of government, will find a way to clean America’s gaping societal wound and start the healing.

How optimistic about that are you?