Day 1089 – The Permanent Stain

The week started off quickly.  Monday was a torrent of news, beginning with a rash of crazy tweets and re-tweets from our Liar-In-Chief Donald Trump.  Trump first insisted that the Suleimani threat was imminent even though we know now it wasn’t.  Trump then insisted that it doesn’t matter whether the threat was imminent.  Then Trump responded to Senator Cory Booker’s withdrawal from the presidential race with a disgracefully juvenile and mocking attack.  Then he took another swing at Speaker Pelosi and the impeachment process.  Then he proclaimed that he has been a great protector of Pre-Existing Conditions!  (A blatant lie).  He also retweeted a mutilated corpse, misspelled Bernie Sander’s name, confused imminent with eminent, and retweeted a doctored image of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer in Iranian clerical clothing.  Trump is clearly feeling the pressure of his looming impeachment trial–a stain that can never be removed, as Speaker Pelosi noted yesterday–not to mention the widespread ridicule he received after his slurring, argle-bargle speech about the Suleimani assassination.

Some of Trump’s anxiety must be coming from the fact that the impeachment trial in the Senate won’t just amount to a quick vote.  Reporting last night suggested that McConnell does not have the votes to carry a quick resolution to dismiss the charges, and there might even be enough Republican senators to vote with Democrats on hearing witnesses and seeing documents, something Moscow Mitch McConnell has been resisting.  And polling indicates that the public overwhelmingly wants to see a legitimate trial, putting further pressure on moderate Republicans to keep McConnell from completely covering everything up for Trump. If John Bolton were to testify, it could be very bad news for Don the Con.

We also learned yesterday that Russia hacked the Ukrainian gas company Burisma that once employed Hunter Biden.  The Russians were likely looking for dirt on Biden to help Trump in the 2020 election.  The hack was a sure sign of things to come. Russia will continue to look for ways to divide America and help their puppet win a second term.  How better to destroy America than from within? Just elect an incompetent pathological liar with bad judgement, lousy character and an obsession with revenge–who employs cabinet members that want to destroy the agencies they run.

We will have to contend with Russian propaganda as the year moves forward.  And we are already seeing an increase in social media activity in our district by Republicans, both locals and national groups like the NRCC.  Retired General Tony German just withdrew from the Republican nomination for Congress in NY-19, leaving fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh as the lone candidate–for now.  But that hasn’t stopped a variety of voices from suddenly attacking Rep Delgado on social media.  Some call him a Trump defender because he didn’t come out early for impeachment, while others attack him for supporting impeachment and attacking Trump.  Many criticize him for his silence on certain hot-button issues like New York’s recent bail reform legislation, or whether or not Suleimani was a “terrorist.”  But the GOP will have a tough time defeating Delgado with their current candidate.  And they are going to have to defend A LOT of seats this year, spreading their resources and cash thin.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1088 – The Great Switch

It hasn’t been lost on many politically minded Americans that the Republican party has betrayed most of the principles they once held dear.  For decades Republicans pretended to be the zealous guardians of the rule of law.  They stood up for “family values” and ridiculed divorce, much less infidelity.  They supported without question our intelligence agencies, including the CIA and FBI.  They championed free trade and abhorred tariffs. And they screamed bloody murder about deficits.  But in the age of Trump, these things no longer matter to Republicans.

As Perry Bacon Jr. pointed out last month on the Five Thirty Eight website, while Republicans used to define themselves by principles, Democrats used to define themselves by identity.  Democrats resembled a coalition of identities, including ethnicity, gender and orientation. Here’s a link:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-unites-republicans-may-be-changing-same-with-democrats/

Under Trump, however, Democrats have embraced many principles and institutions formerly heralded by Republicans. Support for the Justice System. Reverence for the Constitution. Helping and bolstering families–in whichever way they are configured.  Protecting children. Cautious backing of law enforcement. Opposition to tariffs.  Championing fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, Republicans now see themselves less defined by principles than by identity. They have become the guardians of whiteness in America, and Trump is their symbol.  According to Bacon,

Trump is defending the identities of people who align themselves with the GOP, and this is a more powerful connection and reason to back him than pure ideological concerns. In defending Trump, conservative voters are really defending themselves.

That last line is critically important.  When we attack Trump, his supporters feel attacked.  They take it personally because he isn’t some distant politician in the White House, he has become a symbol–an embodiment–of their grievances.  Keep in mind the great line about Trumpers from Adam Serwer in the Atlantic:

…this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

The Trump cult doesn’t care about principles.  His supporters want to feel good about themselves again.  The fear and hatred they feel, fed and fostered by Fox and Limbaugh, is excused and promoted by Trump. Imagine living for three or four decades in a nation where your bigotry, misogyny and intolerance were increasingly called out and shamed, and along comes a guy who says, “you shouldn’t be ashamed to feel that way.”  That’s what Trump did, and that matters to his supporters.  It matters so much, they abandoned whatever values, principles, scruples and common sense they had in order to join his cult.

The more clearly we see and understand the Trump phenomenon the more effectively we can work against it.  Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1085 – How To Expand The Electorate

Across the country activists gathered last night to urge “#NoWarWithIran” to our lawmakers and neighbors, while at the same time the House of Representatives was passing a War Powers Resolution meant to curtail Trump’s ability to make war with Iran.  The resolution was non binding, but the Senate will consider a similar resolution soon that will be binding and, if passed, will proceed to the House for final passage and delivery to the president.  It’s likely to be vetoed by Trump, and it’s unlikely that the Senate will have the votes to override the veto.  But Trump does not currently have the legal authority to attack Iran–even Republicans in Congress admit this–so the new resolution is more a symbolic reminder than an urgent legislative prohibition.

Looking ahead to the November election, it’s worth thinking about the best way to use our energy and activism to defeat Trump, elect more Progressives, and keep incumbent Progressives in office.  Kristee Paschall published an excellent and detailed op-ed in the New York Times yesterday about community outreach and building grass roots voting power that every activist should read.  Here’s an excerpt:

Our approach was fueled by a simple belief that when you add new voices and change the electorate, you can shift what is politically possible. We found that our model was equally effective at turning out both voters of color and white voters. We didn’t have to choose between them or sacrifice older voters for younger ones. Engaging these voters is not a mutually exclusive proposition. Our community leaders intentionally talked to anyone who was not politically active.

This method of deep organizing blows up business-as-usual electoral politics. It threatens the huge paychecks of political consultants and strategists on both sides of the aisle who parachute into communities for elections. The progressive political industry spent $5.7 billion on congressional races alone in 2018. Much of that went to the usual Beltway power brokers who focus on tired attack ads or the vote for so-and-so emails. Our model, however, keeps money and power in the communities whose votes will change the electorate.

The above sentence was bolded for emphasis.  Rather than canvass likely voters, Paschall’s team reached out to people who had not voted or rarely voted, engaging them and listening to their concerns and frustrations.  The results exceeded their expectations.  Here’s the full article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/opinion/voter-turnout-2020.html

Voter canvassing tends to focus on known Democrats and likely voters, and they are an important group to engage and urge to the polls. But we need more than this group to ensure success against Trump and the GOP’s big-money PAC machine that will surely spend a fortune on our congressional district.  Expanding our reach to include neighbors not traditionally targeted can have a big impact, especially when neighbors reach out to neighbors.

Have a nice weekend.  Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.’

Day 1084 – “The Worst Briefing” Ever

Our previous blog post contended that Trump’s assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani was decided without any imminent threat.  Yesterday Trump gave a short speech about the Iran situation and, aside from the fact that the speech was a soulless, monotonous, rambling, snorting mess of mispronounced words and factual lies, Trump gave no new detail nor evidence to support his claim of an imminent threat. Trump’s detachment was in fact so disturbing that many on social media were speculating that he might be medicated.

Later in the day members of the Senate were given their first classified briefing by the White House on the Suleimani hit, and the briefing was such a disaster that Republican Mike Lee of Utah complained angrily to a reporter afterwards that it was the worst briefing he’s seen in his nine years in Congress, and that it was an insult to the Senators in attendance.  Other Senators echoed Lee’s sentiments, adding that the White House was unable to substantiate that the assassination was tied to any imminent threat and instead gave the impression that it was done simply in retaliation for recent aggression by Iran.  In other words, the assassination was probably not legal, and was yet another example of Trump pretending to be tough and taking impulsive action without considering the consequences.

Several of Trump’s high-profile cult of supporters must have sensed the public relations disaster unfolding and tried limit the damage by going on offense.  Republican Rep Doug Collins from Georgia said on Fox Cable that Democrats are “in love with terrorists, we see that they mourn Suleimani more than they mourn our gold star families,” which had observers like Preet Bharara calling Collins statement “an abomination…pathetic.” In response to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who were moving to rein in Trump by amending the War Powers Act, Lindsey Graham said they were “emboldening the enemy,” to which Rand Paul–of all people–replied of Graham: “He insults the Constitution.”  Trump’s reckless actions are now finally dividing some in his own party, which is a small but positive sign.

On the local front, another Republican challenger to Rep Antonio Delgado formally announced this week.  She filed last Fall but was apparently in the exploratory phase until now.  Her name is Ola Hawatmeh, a 42-year old fashion designer and CEO from Poughkeepsie.  She’s a big Trump supporter, calling him “one of the best presidents” while criticizing Delgado for supporting impeachment.  She’s a cancer survivor and claims to want people with pre-existing conditions to have and keep their insurance, so it will be interesting to hear why she supports a president who has worked so hard to take coverage away from so many people.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1083 – “Imminent Threat” Was A Lie

To nobody’s surprise, Iran fired at least twelve ballistic missiles last night at two Iraqi airbases housing American troops.  Afterward Trump was apparently considering “speaking to the nation” but when US sources announced that there had been no casualties, Trump canceled his speech and wrote on Twitter, “All is well!”

Late last night cable news seemed to breath a sigh of relief that the Iranian attack appeared designed to produce no casualties, but rather to appease an angry Iran with a show of force and defiance.  Many pundits were claiming “catastrophe averted.”  And it remains to be seen if Trump will take any military action in response.

But don’t believe for a minute that the Iranian attack was the sole reprisal for the killing of General Suleimani.  Iran has a plentiful and sordid history of getting revenge long after an injury, often in ways and places that the targets least expect.  Suleimani was a national hero in Iran, which has operatives and proxy soldiers around the world who can do their dirty work, so the risks from his assassination are far from over.  We could be under this cloud for years.

Yesterday, before the missile strike, Trump was asked by a reporter if there was “an imminent threat” that provoked the hit on Suleimani, and Trump replied, “Well, I knew the past.” In other words, there was no imminent threat but the hit was justified based on past misdeeds by Suleimani.  And let’s be clear–Suleimani was responsible for a lot of death and suffering over the years.  But there are a lot of “bad actors” in the world, especially in the Middle East.  Trump rightly called Suleimani a “monster” but Putin, Kim, Duterte, Erdogan and MBS are also monsters, so why does Trump suck up to them while dropping a bomb on Suleimani?  What was Trump trying to distract from?  Was Trump’s initial lie about an “imminent threat” meant to shield his regime from a possible war crime?  Does Trump constantly need to reinforce to his cult that he’s brutal and cruel because he’s really a coward and a wimp?

The fact remains that the current escalation with Iran can be traced directly back to the tragic moment Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran Nuclear Treaty and resumed draconian sanctions upon their nation.  He simply couldn’t allow a triumph of diplomacy from the Obama administration to continue–because he’s a racist, and many of his supporters are racists.  If it weren’t for Trump’s withdrawal, none of this would be happening and our republic would likely be a whole lot safer and more secure.

Imagine, if you can, how much worse things could get if Trump is elected to a second term.  The horror of that possibility is where we must find our motivation to continue resisting Trump, to continue organizing, to continue fighting, to continue working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1082 – The Bolton Enigma

Former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton announced yesterday that he would appear before a Senate impeachment trial if asked.  Trump must have been angered by this news even though it’s not certain a Senate trial will ever occur, but the real question for Bolton is, “Why now?”

There are two things to know about John Bolton.  He doesn’t like Donald Trump and left the Trump administration on bad terms.  And he hates the country of Iran–so much so that he’s advocated bombing it for years.  Which brings us to an interesting theory that several political observers, including Lawrence O’Donnell, were speculating about last night.

Suppose John Bolton was very happy that the Trump administration assassinated Iranian General Suleimani and expects this reckless action to lead to war, but doesn’t want someone as incompetent and impulsive as Donald Trump in charge of our conflict with Iran.  Did Bolton decide to appear before the Senate’s impeachment trial in hopes that his explosive testimony could force Republicans into removing Trump from office and inserting Mike Pence, whose animus toward Iran is great, and who might be a more level headed and effective Commander In Chief for battling Iran?  Bolton would only need to confirm to the Senate and to America that Trump withheld aid from Ukraine for purely personal partisan reasons (what Bolton already referred to as a “drug deal”) and that Trump knowingly broke the law while putting our national security at risk.

It’s easy for me to imagine Bolton meeting in a dark back room with Moscow Mitch and Lindsey Graham and Mike Pompeo to give them this pitch:  “Trump is destroying the Republican Brand, we all know he’s an unhinged lunatic wholly unfit to be president, and God knows what other new messes he’s going to create, so the time is right to get rid of him, somehow blame it on the Democrats, and go into the November election with a shiny new candidate, Pence, who is relatively untarnished by all of the Trump scandals and shenanigans.  And Pence will do a great job with Iran in the interim.  Who’s with me?”

It’s far fetched but Bolton is devious and far smarter than Donald Trump, so we have to wonder why Bolton suddenly decided he was open to testifying. What calculation is he making? What strategy does this tactic fit into?  What changed?  It’s a very intriguing situation, and it must have Trump in fits.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1081 – Who Secured Trump’s Loans?

Trump’s reckless killing of Iranian General Suleimani is already having dire consequences for our Middle East policy.  Iran announced over the weekend that it is walking away from its commitments under the Iran nuclear treaty and will begin enriching uranium again.  They also announced that they will retaliate on their terms, on their timing.  Trump’s response was to threaten them with actions that amount to war crimes. He warned that we might destroy certain Iranian cultural sites (a war crime) and that we might also respond in a disproportionate way (also a war crime), and when he was criticized for proposing war crimes he doubled down on his threats, drawing fierce criticism for conduct unbecoming a president and an American.

Meanwhile, the Iraq parliament passed a resolution to kick the United States military out of their country, which would be a stunning blow and would bring them closer to being a satellite state of Iran–a tragic situation President Bush and Dick Cheney spent significant treasure and American lives to avoid.  Such an outcome would be a dream come true for Russia and Vladimir Putin, however, as it would further diminish our footprint and reach in the Middle East.

So why did Trump authorize the hit?  It’s been reported that there was no “imminent threat” to America despite lies to the contrary from Trump and Mick Mulvaney.  No credible explanation of any specific threat has yet surfaced.  It was even reported that Trump asked Iraq to intervene in the growing tensions between America and Iran, and Suleimani was on his way back from meeting with Iraqi diplomats with a message from them to the Iranian leadership.

A three-reporter team from Forensic News published a bombshell article on January 3rd suggesting Trump’s massive loans from Deutsche Bank, underwritten when Trump was nearly bankrupt, were backed by a sanctioned Russian bank, VTB, which is owned by the Russian state.  The journalists informed Deutsche Bank of the upcoming publication on January 1st, which according to White House reports was the same day Trump suddenly decided to assassinate Suleimani.  The decision was so abrupt that the State Department itself was in shock.  Was this timing a coincidence?

It’s been infuriating to Trump that his impeachment trial in the Senate is looming, and it has clearly been bothering him that more damning emails continue to leak confirming that his close advisers were furiously lobbying Trump against a hold on Ukraine aid to no avail.  And it is surely concerning to Trump that Congress now wants to see an additional 20 emails between a Mulvaney aide and a staffer at the OMB discussing the aid freeze.  But it may have been Forensic News’ VTB report that broke the camel’s back and forced Trump into a desperate ploy to distract us, which the Suleimani hit surely was. He had no plan, no long-term play, no thought-through strategy. His actions are almost always taken on impulse, to change the script of the Trump reality-show to suit the moment and gratify a pressing need, and the Suleimani hit looked like one more of these.

We already know Trump is a danger to our democracy.  He’s badly damaged our image and credibility abroad, and he’s badly damaged our agencies and institutions in Washington. The more we learn about his finances, the more corrupt his history becomes and the more nefarious his tenure in the Oval Office appears.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”