I Can’t Stop 🤬 … Luckily, Max Boot Can!

For over 24 hours I have been alternately growling, grumbling, and had @#$%& coming from my mouth over Tuesday’s school massacre in Texas and the horrid responses of some public figures.  I tried twice to put my words to paper, but I ran out of symbols 🤬 and quickly realized that my anger might be just as toxic as the responses that were driving it.  Then I came across an OpEd by The Washington Post’s Max Boot who said most of what I was trying to say, but did so without nearly as many 🤬


The deceitful dodges Republicans use to resist gun controls

By Max Boot, Columnist

May 25, 2022

We are now embarked upon a distinctively American ritual such as the Super Bowl or the Fourth of July — only much, much grimmer. We are, for the umpteenth time, in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. Nineteen children and two teachers were just massacred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., by a teenager who had been able to legally purchase two AR-15-style assault rifles — weapons of war — as soon as he turned 18 years old.

We are now embarked upon a distinctively American ritual such as the Super Bowl or the Fourth of July — only much, much grimmer. We are, for the umpteenth time, in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. Nineteen children and two teachers were just massacred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., by a teenager who had been able to legally purchase two AR-15-style assault rifles — weapons of war — as soon as he turned 18 years old.

To deflect gun regulations, right-wingers offer their own, increasingly outlandish proposals for how to avert school shootings. One former FBI agent interviewed on the Fox “News” Channel suggested that parents, instead of buying their kids toys and games, should invest in ballistic blankets — as if that would stop a determined shooter. Why not dress kids in bulletproof clothing too?

A retired detective suggested on another Fox News show that the answer is to install “man traps” in all schools: “a series of interlocking doors at the school entrance that are triggered by a tripwire … and it traps the shooter like a rat.” He did not, needless to say, offer any suggestions for how to pay for this elaborate idea or offer any evidence that it would prove effective.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) opined that “We need to return to God,” as if religious fanatics never perpetrate violence. She also echoed a common refrain on the right: “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today.” No doubt that’s true, and she’s Exhibit A. But (a) there is no evidence that the United States has more mental health problems than any other country and (b) Republicans consistently oppose more funding for mental health services. Indeed, conservatives are targeting mental health programs in many schools for elimination.

Another popular, if self-refuting, GOP talking point is to argue that the answer to widespread gun violence is to make guns more widely available. Sean Hannity suggested a tax break to retired soldiers and police officers who patrol schools. His colleague Jesse Watters called for using covid-19 relief money to hire more school security guards. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants to arm teachers.

Its advocates don’t care that this theory — “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” — has been invalidated time and again. In the Buffalo mass shooting less than two weeks ago, a store security guard shot at the killer, who was clad in body armor, but did not stop his rampage. In Uvalde, a school district officer shot at the gunman but could not prevent him from entering the school.

The Federalist, a right-wing publication, might deserve some kind of booby prize for the most ludicrous alternative to gun control. It ran an article headlined: “Tragedies Like The Texas Shooting Make A Somber Case For Homeschooling.” So if you don’t have schools, you won’t have school shootings? Genius! But weren’t Republicans just complaining about covid restrictions that kept kids out of school?

Of course, none of these suggestions should be taken either literally or seriously. Republicans have shown repeatedly that protecting “gun rights” matters more to them than protecting the right to life. They aren’t actually trying to prevent mass shootings. They’re simply tossing out farcical ideas to distract the public and fill the airtime until public anger dissipates and gun legislation stalls. Then, very soon, we will have the next mass shooting and we can repeat this same pathetic ritual all over again.

Close The Road From Senate To Oval Office?

There are a few conservative journalists who speak with a rational, intellectual voice and George Will is among them.  He left the Republican Party in 2016, for reasons that should be obvious to us all.  In his latest piece, he suggests we need a constitutional amendment to bar senators from ever running for president.  I’m not sure that I agree completely with him, for if our presidents don’t come from the Senate, then where?  But, he makes some valid and interesting points, and it does often seem that members of Congress spend more time campaigning for their next job than they spend doing their current job. Take a look and see what you think …


Amend the Constitution to bar senators from the presidency

By George F. Will, 27 April 2022

To conserve the reverence it needs and deserves, the Constitution should be amended rarely and reluctantly. There is, however, an amendment that would instantly improve the legislative and executive branches. It would read: “No senator or former senator shall be eligible to be president.”

Seventeen presidents were previously senators. Seven of them – Harding, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Obama, Biden — became senators after 1913, when the 17th Amendment took the selection of senators away from state legislatures. The federal government’s growth, and the national media’s focus on Washington, has increased the prominence of senators eager for prominence, although it often is the prominence of a ship’s figurehead — decorative, not functional. As president-centric government has waxed, the Senate has waned, becoming increasingly a theater of performative behaviors by senators who are decreasingly interested in legislating, and are increasingly preoccupied with using social media for self-promotion.

In Jonathan Haidt’s recent essay for the Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” the New York University social psychologist says social media users by the millions have become comfortable and adept at “putting on performances” for strangers. So have too many senators. Haidt says social media elicits “our most moralistic and least reflective selves,” fueling the “twitchy and explosive spread of anger.”

The Founders feared such incitements, long before social media arrived.

Politicians, and especially senators with presidential ambitions and time on their hands, use social media to practice what Alexander Hamilton deplored (in Federalist 68) as “the little arts of popularity.” Such senators, like millions of Americans, use social media to express and encourage anger about this and that. Anger, like other popular pleasures, can be addictive, particularly if it supplies the default vocabulary for social media.

Today, the gruesome possibility of a 2024 Biden-Trump rematch underscores a Hamilton misjudgment: He said in Federalist 68 there is a “constant probability” of presidents “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” Banning senators from the presidency would increase the probability of having senators who are interested in being senators, and would increase the probability of avoiding:

Presidents who have never run anything larger than a Senate office. Who have confused striking poses — in the Capitol, on Twitter — with governing. Who have delegated legislative powers to the executive — for example, who have passed sentiment-affirmations masquerading as laws: Hurray for education and the environment; the executive branch shall fill in the details.

And who have been comfortable running the government on continuing resolutions (at existing funding levels) because Congress is incapable of budgeting. There have been 128 CRs in the previous 25 fiscal years — 41 since 2012. Why look for presidents among senators, who have made irresponsibility routine?

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee debate on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court on April 4. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The 328 senators of the previous 50 years have illustrated the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve: a few of them dreadful, a few excellent, most mediocre. Although Josh Hawley, Missouri’s freshman Republican, might not be worse than all the other 327, he exemplifies the worst about would-be presidents incubated in the Senate. Arriving there in January 2019, he hit the ground running — away from the Senate. Twenty-four months later, he was the principal catalyst of the attempted nullification of the presidential election preceding the one that he hopes will elevate him. Nimbly clambering aboard every passing bandwagon that can carry him to the Fox News greenroom, he treats the Senate as a mere steppingstone for his ascent to an office commensurate with his estimate of his talents.

The constitutional equilibrium of checks and balances depends on a rivalrous relationship between the executive branch and houses of Congress that are mutually jealous of their powers. “The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place,” and government will be controlled by “this policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives” (James Madison, Federalist 51).

This institutional architecture has, however, been largely vitiated by party loyalties: Congressional members of the president’s party behave as his subservient teammates; members of the opposing party act as reflexive opposers. This changes the role of the House, whose members are generally not so telegenic and are more regimented, less than it does the role of the Senate, which degenerates into an arena of gestures, hence an incubator of would-be presidents.

One of today’s exemplary senators, Mitt Romney, surely is such partly because, his presidential ambitions retired, he nevertheless wants to be a senator. Were all persons with presidential ambitions deterred from becoming senators, this probably would improve the caliber of senators, and of presidents, and the equilibrium between the political branches.

Wise Words From A … Republican?

It’s easy to become immune to the rantings and ramblings of one political party complaining about the words and actions of another.  Liberals, myself included, opined last week during the senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the ludicrous questions that were asked by senators on the right side of the aisle, and insinuations snidely made by the likes of Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and others.  The selection of a Supreme Court justice should not hinge on petty partisan politics nor on personal grudges, racism, or other forms of bigotry.  So, when a man of intellect and a member of the Republican Party critiques the behaviour of those in his party, perhaps it’s time for the party members to sit up and take note.

Michael Gerson is a well-respected journalist and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush … he is also a staunch conservative.  I don’t often agree with Gerson’s views, but I respect him for putting thought into his opinions rather than simply spouting from emotion in his column for The Washington Post.  One of his OpEd pieces last week caught my eye and I thought I would share it with you today, for his thoughts mirror my own — that the Republican Party is in need of a major overhaul …


The Jackson confirmation hearings show a Republican Party in decay

By Michael Gerson

Columnist

March 24, 2022 at 1:51 p.m. EDT

If the Senate’s current exercise of Supreme Court advice and consent needed a title, it might be “The puzzlement of Judge Jackson.”

When Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has fielded a question about the influence of critical race theory on children or has been asked, for the record, to define a woman, she has often reacted with a puzzled pause before offering a measured response. What must she be thinking? Should she advocate for sleeping infants rather than woke ones (a populist cause if ever there was one)? How current are Republican senators on their sex ed? Should she start with the birds and the bees?

Jackson’s performance during her confirmation hearing this week has been impressive for its restraint and general grace. But the deliberations of the Senate Judiciary Committee might be remembered for her understandable confusion about topics that make complete sense only among movement conservatives. On the evidence of Jackson’s most tenacious questioners, this is now what it takes to win prominence in the modern GOP: a quiver full of culture-war attacks and a stout willingness to look foolish in public.

It is sad and sobering to have seen the decline of the Supreme Court nomination process firsthand. I worked in the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s. When I wrote the floor statement of my conservative Republican boss, Sen. Dan Coats, supporting Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination, we were applying an older tradition of confirmation that looked mainly at disqualifications. Did the nominee lack integrity, impartiality or a judicial temperament? Had he or she violated any ethical or professional standards? The power of appointing Supreme Court justices was generally thought to reside in the executive branch. The president was given wide latitude. The Senate acted as a filter of unfitness.

In the post-Robert Bork era — after a lot of mutual recrimination and a period of adjustment and (sometimes) inconsistency — this undoubtedly changed. The focus of conservatives turned to judicial philosophy, particularly the constraints of originalism and textualism. This was the ascent of ideology, in which Republicans grew very comfortable criticizing judicial overreach. Everyone knew the real game was Roe v. Wade. But the standard of public judgment was provided by the Federalist Society. (Rather slyly, Jackson defused this debate during her hearing. “I am focusing on original public meaning because I’m constrained to interpret the text,” she said. This “adherence to the text is a constraint on my authority.”)

What we have seen among Republican senators this time around — with a few notable exceptions — is a departure from what preceded it. And it says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the views of the nominee.

Jackson’s main Republican questioners are not focused on qualifications, temperament or even judicial theory. Their clear objective has been to trip up the nominee by asking about the latest Republican culture-war debates. It is surprising to me how little Republicans have emphasized judicial theory. For now, the culture war is all.

This is not just change; it is decay. Republicans have gone from arguing about the intent of the Founders to reproducing the night’s lineup of questions from Tucker Carlson.

This has, no doubt, been favorable to the judge’s confirmation. In the comparison of intellectual seriousness, Jackson is the clear winner. She is a responsible judge of moderate temperament, as well as an admirable human being, who will often do liberal things on the high court. What else could Republicans expect in this circumstance?

The GOP performance is particularly disturbing because it is not the direct result of incitement by Donald Trump. The former president does not lack for provocation. As a district court judge, Jackson joined in decisions that limited executive privilege. “Stated simply,” she wrote in November of 2019, “the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings. … This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

No one has issued a more direct assault on the philosophic basis of Trumpism — that one former president should effectively be king. But Trump has said next to nothing about the Jackson nomination. Instead, he talks endlessly about the illegitimacy of the 2020 election. So the approach among the senators is moving on its own power and momentum within the Republican Party.

The MAGA world now has animating manias beyond Trump’s immediate priorities. The circus in the Senate is how ambitious elected Republicans understand the avenue to influence — with or without Trump’s direction. And they are probably reading the base of the GOP correctly. The problem, as usual, is deeper and greater than Trump. The shallowness and cynicism of the nomination process may well be previewing our political future.

The Bright Star Of The Confirmation Hearing

On Wednesday, after all the Republicans had finished their infantile attempts to tie Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to anything and everything that they could think of to tear down her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Senator Cory Booker, a Black senator from New Jersey, gave the speech that brought tears to Judge Jackson, to onlookers, and to me as I watched the video clip from his impassioned speech.  Here’s what one of my favourite columnists, Eugene Robinson, had to say about it in his column in The Washington Post, followed by a short clip from Booker’s speech.


Cory Booker cut through the GOP’s ugliness to celebrate Judge Jackson

By Eugene Robinson

Columnist

24 March 2022

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson have been rife with racism, sexism, feigned outrage and general ugliness. But Wednesday’s proceedings brought one moment of such powerful eloquence that it brought Jackson, and me, to tears. Thank you, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), for speaking truth and for celebrating this historic moment as it deserves to be marked.

Booker’s turn to question Jackson came toward the end of the session. She had been badgered all day by Republicans who pretended to be outraged by the sentences she imposed in several child pornography cases when she was a U.S. district court judge. Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) had been particularly obnoxious, interrupting Jackson repeatedly and trying their best not to let her defend herself.

Booker greeted Jackson with a broad smile. “Your family and you speak to service, service, service,” he began. “And I’m telling you right now, I’m not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy. … I just look at you, and I start getting full of emotion.”

The senator said he had been jogging that morning when an African American woman, a stranger, “practically tackled” him to explain how much it meant to her to see Jackson sitting in the witness chair.

“And you did not get there because of some left-wing agenda,” Booker said. “You didn’t get here because of some ‘dark money’ groups. You got here how every Black woman in America who’s gotten anywhere has done. By being, like Ginger Rogers said, ‘I did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards, in heels.’ And so I’m just sitting here saying nobody’s stealing my joy. Nobody is going to make me angry.”

Booker noted that he was just the fourth African American to be popularly elected to the Senate, rather than appointed to his post or elected by a state legislature. He said that during his first week at the Capitol, an older Black man who worked on the cleaning crew came up to him and began crying. “And I just hugged him, and he just kept telling me, ‘It’s so good to see you here.’”

He said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who also is African American, understood what he meant. Booker and Scott are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum — Booker a progressive Democrat, Scott a far-right Republican — but he credited Scott with having given “the best speech on race — I wish I could have given as good of a speech. … Talking of the challenges and indignities that are still faced. And you’re here.”

Booker recalled that during a meeting at the White House when President Biden was trying to decide whom to nominate, he and Vice President Harris exchanged the same “knowing glance” that they used to share when Harris was a senator and she sat next to Booker at Judiciary Committee hearings.

It is a glance that every successful African American is familiar with. It says: I know what you went through to get here. I know the hoops you had to jump through, the hurdles you had to surmount, the obstacles thrown into your path. I know you saw less talented White colleagues rise smoothly and steadily to the top while you had to prove your excellence time and again. I know that you could never let your bosses and colleagues see you get angry, never let them see you sweat.

Booker told Jackson that he knew she was “so much more than your race and gender” but could not look at her without seeing his mother or his cousins, “one of them who had to come here to sit behind you … to have your back.” He told Jackson that when he looked at her “I see my ancestors, and yours … Nobody’s going to steal that joy.”

The senator noted that Jackson’s parents, despite the oppressive racial discrimination of their times, “didn’t stop loving this country, even though this country didn’t love them back.” He quoted from the Langston Hughes poem, “Let America Be America Again.” He spoke of the struggles of Irish and Chinese immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, who also loved this country and had to demand that it love them in return. He recounted the life story of Harriet Tubman and told of how she looked up at the North Star as a harbinger of hope. “Today you’re my star,” he told Jackson. “You are my harbinger of hope.”

The attacks from Republicans would continue, Booker said. “But don’t worry, my sister. Don’t worry. God has got you. And how do I know that?” Booker’s voice cracked with emotion. “Because you’re here. And I know what it’s taken for you to sit in that seat.”

Thank you, Mr. Robinson … and now a short clip from Senator Booker’s speech …

Are We All Gullible?

While conspiracy theories have always been around, they have seemingly run rampant of late, the one with the most adherents being the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from the former guy.  And remember Margie Greene’s belief in the QAnon theory that it was Russian space lasers or some such nonsense that started the 2020 California wildfires?  Now, I and most of the people reading this blog are too intelligent to fall for these off-the-wall conspiracy theories, right?  Let’s find out!  The Washington Post has a short (just 6 multiple choice questions), fun quiz to see just how savvy we are about facts vs conspiracy theories.  I took this quiz … it really is short and only took less than 5 minutes … and I did miss one!  😱

Check it out here and let me know how you did … and see if you can guess which one I missed!

Two Monsters In Governor’s Clothing

The state of Florida currently has more hospitalizations due to COVID than any other state in the nation.  Cases in Texas are also surging, sending hospitals scrambling to find ICU beds for all the patients.  Both of these states have Republican governors who are doing everything in their power to reduce the population in their states.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (left) and Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Both Governor DeSantis of Florida and Governor Abbott of Texas have banned mask mandates in their state, meaning that localities cannot legally put a mask mandate into effect in order to protect the people.  Bad enough under any circumstances, but now, with parents preparing to send their children back to school in a week or two, it is critical.

Columnist Greg Sargent has the latest on the battle between the governors, localities, and school boards …


The rebellion against pro-Trump, anti-mask GOP governors is gaining steam

Opinion by

Greg Sargent

Columnist

Yesterday at 11:04 a.m. EDT

Let’s state this up front: GOP governors are not required by some higher Trumpian law to use official powers to actively thwart efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Some are choosing not to do that: In South Dakota, the governor left decisions about mask mandates to local officials, and in Arkansas the governor admitted that an earlier ban on them was an “error.”

But the Republican governors of Texas and Florida — Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis — are in a class by themselves. Their states are seeing some of the worst surges of covid in the nation, yet they are continuing to hamstring local officials from acting to protect their constituents.

Which is why these governors are facing a rebellion of sorts. In both states, ABC News reports, officials are defying limits on mask mandates, setting up direct conflicts with those governors.

This will flush out into the open the truly twisted nature of what DeSantis and Abbott are doing. They piously claim to be defending their constituents’ freedom from government mandates. But they are using their power to prevent local officials from implementing basic public health measures in a highly selective way that is plainly molded around the obsessions of former president Donald Trump and his movement, not anchored in any genuine public interest rationale.

Local officials are rebelling

The derangement of this position is particularly clear in Texas. On Monday, Abbott announced that he is seeking the help of outside medical professionals to deal with the state’s covid surge. He is also asking hospitals to postpone all elective medical procedures as hospitals fill up.

Amid all this, the Dallas schools superintendent has reasonably announced that students, visitors and staff will have to wear masks in schools. He noted that the decision is an “urgent” matter of “protecting” children, teachers and workers.

Yet this directive required him to defy Abbott’s executive order barring mask mandates by government entities. To be clear, Abbott’s own actions amount to a stark admission that the state is in serious trouble — yet he continues to ban localities from taking measures to protect public health.

The absurd result, as the New York Times reports, is that local officials are scouring legal codes to find ways to get around Abbott’s blockade on implementing public health measures. This isn’t how officials should have to spend time and resources during a public health emergency.

In Austin, where cases are surging, local officials have recommended masking, but cannot require it, which has led the mayor of Austin to declare the situation “dire.” The Austin school district just announced a mask requirement, defying Abbott.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools is moving ahead with mandatory masking. This is in defiance of DeSantis’s recent executive order empowering the state to withhold funds to punish school boards who implement mask mandates.

Incredibly, it appears DeSantis may make good on this threat. The superintendent, Carlee Simon, told “Morning Joe” on Tuesday that she’s received a letter from the state demanding justification for her move and essentially indicating that funding is at risk if she continues.

A handful of Florida parents are now suing DeSantis. One mom told CNN that she “never envisioned” that the governor “would actively be trying to harm my child,” and lamented correctly that limits on mask mandates are interfering with her son’s ability to get educated safely.

Anyone who has taken a young child to a camp or gathering this summer has witnessed how children playing together continue to drift inevitably into very close contact. It’s particularly ludicrous and venal to bar local officials from acting to defend these children from spread.

Abbott and DeSantis love to proclaim that they are defending the liberty of their states’ residents to proceed free of public health mandates, and that they should merely exercise “personal responsibility” in dealing with covid. But it’s hard to discern any genuine ideological vision here, since they have no apparent objection to all manner of other public health mandates.

“We have plenty of mandates,” Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “We require elementary school students to get various vaccinations. We require drivers to wear seat belts. We require adults to wear clothes.”

“There are any number of ways in which the laws of every state, including Florida and Texas, impose mandates that are designed to protect individuals,” Vladeck continued.

‘Covid exceptionalism’

All of which suggests that the real working ideology here is something you might call “covid exceptionalism.”

Obviously it would theoretically be possible for DeSantis and Abbott to believe, in good faith, that mandates against covid represent unacceptable incursions on liberty while other mandates do not.

But everyone knows the real reason DeSantis and Abbott are suddenly concerned with protecting people from public health mandates on covid in particular is that government officials eager to battle covid this way have become associated with assorted enemies of Trump and his following.

Because Trump and his movement have required this adherence to covid exceptionalism, local officials are being hamstrung from carrying out their own official responsibilities to act in defense of public health. It’s hard to find the right language to describe the seething contempt for public service and the public good that’s truly on display here.

Was 2020 Just A Dress Rehearsal?

If you thought the chaos and violence that surrounded last year’s presidential election was bad, many speculate that what will happen in 2024 will make 2020 look like a walk in the park.  Take a look at what Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt has to say … a view that is shared by many political analysts today.


Voter suppression is bad. But this tactic is even worse.

Opinion by 

Fred Hiatt

Editorial page editor

President Donald Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 presidential election fell short. Now Republicans across the country are promoting changes to laws and personnel that could allow him — or someone like him — to succeed in 2024.

I’m not referring to the hundreds of GOP proposals in statehouses across the country that will make it harder for many people, in particular Black Democrats, to vote. Those measures are egregious and offensive. They are the strategy of a party that has given up on winning by putting forward more appealing policies and candidates and so hopes to win by keeping as many of its opponents away from the ballot box as possible.

What I’m talking about is in some ways even more insidious: an insurance policy to potentially steal the election if the vote-suppression strategy fails.

Recall Trump’s post-election campaign last fall. Having lost decisively, he thought he could pressure local and state officials to nullify the results.

He implored the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania legislature to defy their people’s will and appoint a slate of electors who would vote for him in Washington.

He urged the Georgia secretary of state to claim that Joe Biden’s victory there was fraudulent.

He pressured the Michigan Board of State Canvassers not to certify Biden’s clear victory in their state.

He failed because enough local officials had more integrity and courage than a majority of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House has mustered. The leaders of the Pennsylvania legislature said they didn’t have the authority to do what Trump was demanding. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger simply refused to go along. One of two Republicans on the Michigan board caved to the pressure, but the other, Aaron Van Langevelde, listened to his conscience, and his vote alongside the board’s two Democrats was enough to turn aside Trump’s attempted theft.

All of this was inspiring to many of us. To the anti-democracy forces ascendant in the Republican Party, it provided a challenge and a road map.

Michigan Republicans chose not to nominate Van Langevelde to another term. Raffensperger will face a primary challenge from an amplifier of Trump’s lies about election fraud, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who already has Trump’s endorsement.

“At the end of the day, there were good people on both sides of the aisle who were determined to protect people’s right to vote,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said in a meeting with Post reporters and editors this month. “If those people change in 2022, then you have a scenario in 2024 where the good people who protected their states in 2020 aren’t there any more.”

Nor are the anti-democracy forces focused only on top officials. Another Democratic secretary of state, Arizona’s Katie Hobbs, told us that “people around the state are very worried that they’re going to come infiltrate poll workers in the next election.” The law requires a balance of Republicans and Democrats as poll workers — but, Hobbs noted, “it’s very easy to change your affiliation from R to D.”

As they target the people and positions that stood in their way last time, they also are attempting to change the rules, so a pro-Trump legislature could more easily override the will of the people — and the objections of any honest secretary of state who stood in the way.

“In 2021, state legislatures across the country — through at least 148 bills filed in 36 states — are moving to muscle their way into election administration, as they attempt to dislodge or unsettle the executive branch and/or local election officials who, traditionally, have run our voting systems.”

That is the conclusion of a recent report, “A Democracy Crisis in the Making,” by two nonpartisan organizations, States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy, and a nonprofit law firm in Wisconsin, Law Forward.

“Had these bills been in place in 2020,” the report found, “they would have significantly added to the turmoil that surrounded the election, and they would have raised the alarming prospect that the outcome of the presidential election could have been decided contrary to how the people voted.”

One such measure was included in Georgia’s recent electoral “reform.” While many of us paid attention to the mean-spirited ban on giving water to people waiting in line — and understandably so — the intrusion of the legislature into the counting process could have far more nefarious consequences.

This is why it matters so much that Trump continues to lie about 2020, and that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and most of his party have abjectly surrendered to the lie. It’s not just about history. The lie is being used to give cover for actions that in 2024 could turn the big lie into the big steal.

What Are Our Options?

At some point today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will call a vote to end debate on the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. It will — barring some massive change — fail, doomed by the unwillingness of 10 (or more) Senate Republicans to vote for it.  Mitch McConnell has given Republicans their marching orders:  vote against it, or else.  Mitch and every other Republican are clearly eager to make the events of January 6th disappear.  I believe that if they could, they would remove January 6th from the calendar altogether.

The primary reason Republicans are so damned determined to erase January 6th from our memories is the 2022 mid-term election.  If, when the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, Margie Greene and others come up for re-election, January 6th is still clearly in our minds, and if by then some of this crew have been shown to have played a role in the events of the day, their chances for returning to Congress in 2023 are slim-to-none.  Which is as it should be, but … Republicans don’t play by the rulebook, they play for power and are perfectly willing to break every rule in the book, even as it hurts the very people they claim to represent.

So, the idea of a commission to investigate is going to be dead on arrival by the close of today.  What next?  We simply cannot let it drop, cannot ever forget this any more than we can forget 9/11, for it was a threat to our country, our lives.  Washington Post journalist Greg Sargent recently interviewed political scientist Norman Ornstein about the options open to us.  I found it a thoughtful and thought-provoking dialog …


Republicans are likely to kill the Jan. 6 commission. But we have other options.

Opinion by

Greg Sargent

Columnist

May 19, 2021 at 4:56 p.m. EDT

Now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out against the commission to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection, it’s looking increasingly like Republicans will kill it. This is especially likely given that Donald Trump has commanded them to end this entire discussion “immediately.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is set to hold a vote Wednesday on the bipartisan deal reached in the lower chamber to create a commission. That compromise was very fair and made concessions to both Republicans and Democrats.

But with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed as well, it’s unlikely to get the stampede of support from House Republicans that might forestall a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Now what?

Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein is well positioned to explain this moment and where we go from here. That’s because he was an early and very prescient observer of the GOP’s radicalization against democracy who also happens to be an expert on congressional procedure.

I spoke to Ornstein about what happens now. An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.

Greg Sargent: What are the chances that 10 Republican senators vote for this commission?

Norman Ornstein: Once McConnell flatly opposed any commission, it created an uphill battle for getting 10 Republicans. If you got 50 Republicans in the House, then maybe it could happen. But it’s not likely.

Sargent: Let’s walk through the alternatives. One would be that Nancy Pelosi could set up a select committee tomorrow if she wanted to, right?

Ornstein: Pelosi could craft a plan for a special committee. We’ve had them many times in the House. You’d undoubtedly have the votes to do it.

Sargent: What would a select committee look like and what might be the problems with it?

Ornstein: Most select committees have an even number of members from both parties, because the whole idea is to take them away from being partisan. But there’s nothing that mandates that a select committee have equal Democrats and Republicans.

You could set it up with a slender majority of Democrats or with a larger majority. But the big challenge is the political one. You’d have to let the Speaker and the Minority Leader, or their representatives, choose the members.

Kevin McCarthy is going to do whatever he can, first, to block a committee, and second, to stack it with members designed to turn it into a farce.

Sargent: How can we have a bipartisan select committee investigate an attack that Trump incited against democracy, when one party was heavily complicit in inspiring that attack, doesn’t want to admit its own culpability for that, and is in the process of abandoning democracy?

Ornstein: It’s why I do not believe a select committee can possibly work. Republicans don’t want information to emerge about what happened on Jan. 6. They don’t want to focus on the role of the president — or their own party members.

Sargent: Could you theoretically construct a select committee to give the chair unilateral control over subpoenas?

Ornstein: Yes, you could give the chair unilateral subpoena power. But remember, congressional subpoena power is theoretically extraordinarily powerful. Practically it can be subverted fairly easily. We’ve seen instance after instance of people defying subpoenas, taking it to court, and stretching it out for years.

Sargent: A select committee would have to consist of current members, correct?

Ornstein: Yes.

Sargent: So what is our alternative?

Ornstein: There are two. One I would not like is to have the president create a group by executive order, a commission.

Sargent: You’re talking about something like the Kerner Commission created by LBJ to investigate the causes of urban rioting?

Ornstein: Yes. You could do a Kerner-type commission. And the president could pick some remarkably distinguished Republicans and Democrats to do that kind of inquiry.

For things like the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, there was national consensus that this was a hugely significant thing that we need to get to the bottom of.

We don’t have a party on the Republican side willing to create that national consensus. [So] it’s better if the president is not directly linked to any of this.

The whole assault was based on the “big lie” that Joe Biden didn’t win the election. If Joe Biden creates the group looking into this, it’s going to provide fodder for Trump and his acolytes to turn it against him.

Sargent: There isn’t going to be a serious inquiry into what happened that’s bipartisan.

Ornstein: The only way to make this work otherwise is if we can find a way to have the attorney general pick a group that uses the power of the Justice Department — not like a special prosecutor that can itself bring actions against people, but that could make recommendations where action by prosecutors was warranted or not. Justice Department subpoena power is a completely different matter.

Sargent: What would be the legal authority or mechanism for creating something like this?

Ornstein: The Justice Department has the responsibility to look at potential criminal violations, especially those that involve sedition. So doing it in an innovative fashion makes sense.

Whether the attorney general can do this on his own, I’m not entirely sure. If you had to have some kind of executive order, I’d rather have it done in a fashion that empowers the attorney general to do this [with] a commitment from the attorney general that he’d be hands off once this group were created.

But it seems to me you could be innovative here. The attorney general under the regulations of the Justice Department has some ability to create groups like this.

Sargent: In essence, it would be an investigation to determine whether there was criminality, and then it would produce a report on what happened, no matter what it recommended in terms of criminal charges?

Ornstein: That’s the idea. You could have a public report.

Sargent: There isn’t going to be a bipartisan effort at accountability as long as one party is committed to covering up what happened.

Ornstein: That’s the tragic and infuriating bottom line here. It’s hard to imagine something like this that doesn’t have full buy in from everybody who has a drop of patriotic blood running through his or her veins.

That you have one party which has as a singular goal evading responsibility and covering up what happened is almost beyond description.

Burn It Down

I first came across an opinion piece by one of my favourite columnists, Eugene Robinson, two weeks ago.  At that time, I considered posting it here, but decided against it, thinking it was a bit … much.  Today, however, in light of the destruction that was wrought yesterday by 43 men and women who shredded both their oaths of office and the U.S. Constitution, Robinson’s piece seems apropos of the moment.

This nation’s government can only function as it was intended if we have two distinct and separate political parties, but what we cannot have is one of those parties lacking a conscience, lacking honesty, lacking integrity.  The Republican party now has none of those attributes and can no longer be considered a legitimate party, can no longer be taken seriously by any who care about the fate of this nation and the 330 million people living here.


If the GOP is to rise from the ashes, it has to burn first

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

Feb. 1, 2021 at 4:26 p.m. EST

Before a sane, responsible political party can rise like a phoenix from the ashes of today’s dangerously unhinged GOP, there must be ashes to rise from. The nation is going to have to destroy the Republican Party to save it.

Parties reform and rebuild themselves after suffering massive, scorched-earth defeats. Since Republicans decided to follow Donald Trump and Fox News into the dystopian hellscape of white supremacy, paranoid conspiracy theory and know-nothing rejection of science, they have lost control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. Yet it has become obvious that those defeats are not nearly enough.

You might think the violent and deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — an unprecedented attack on our democracy, incited by Trump’s election-fraud Big Lie — would snap the GOP back into reality. Unbelievably, though, you would be wrong. 

If anything, the party is heading deeper into the wilderness. Look at how the two most powerful Republicans left in Washington behaved last week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to bend the knee to Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) voted to question whether Trump’s coming impeachment trial is even constitutional. 

What had looked like a flicker of sanity earlier, when McCarthy said Trump, among others, had some “responsibility” for the Capitol riot and McConnell said Trump “provoked” it, was nothing but a mirage. And anyone who expects there to be 17 Republican votes in the Senate to convict Trump, no matter how damning the evidence may be, will almost surely be disappointed. 

No one should have any doubt: The GOP bears no resemblance to the party of Abraham Lincoln. It is now the party of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who believes in the hallucinatory QAnon conspiracy theorywho has suggested that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is a child murderer and who thinks 2018’s California wildfires may have been ignited by a giant space-based laser somehow controlled by Jews. Also, high-speed rail is involved somehow.

Do mainstream Republicans such as McCarthy and McConnell believe such nonsense? No, but down by only 10 votes in the House and with a tied Senate, they do believe they are within striking range of regaining control of both the House and the Senate in next year’s midterm election, and they are choosing power — or its prospect — over principle.

For the sake of their party and the nation, those hopes must be utterly dashed. 

The 2022 midterms have to be more like 2002, during President George W. Bush’s first term, when his party gained seats in both the Senate and the House. That uncommon result was generally attributed to a groundswell of solidarity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the nation, right now, should be equally traumatized. In January, the United States lost more than 95,000 people to covid-19 — the equivalent of a 9/11’s worth of death every single day. Just weeks ago, we saw the Capitol sacked for the first time since 1814. And a majority of the Republican rank-and-file clings to the lie that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. 

GOP House members who had the integrity to vote for impeachment, such as Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Tom Rice of South Carolina, are under withering attack from their fellow Republicans. The warning to Republican senators is explicit: Vote to convict Trump — and, effectively, purge him from the party — at your own peril. 

The GOP won’t or can’t reform itself. So we must help the party by crushing it.

The fact that dozens of major corporations such as Walmart, Google and AT&T have announced they will not give campaign donations to Republicans who voted to decertify the elections results is a start. But we consumers need to demand that corporate America go further by insisting that trade associations follow suit — and that companies at least ask their executives to refrain from giving to GOP Super PACs, the dark-money realm where donations are not statutorily bound by tight limits. 

We saw how Georgia voters recoiled from Trumpism by ousting two Republican senators and electing two Democrats, one Black and one Jewish, in their place — and that was before the Capitol riot. The necessary ruin of the GOP is far from an impossible quest.

It was GOP voters in Georgia who gave us Greene, most accurately identified as (R-QAnon), and she should be made the face of the GOP. The choice is binary and stark: If you don’t believe in Jewish space lasers, you can’t vote for Republicans. And if you loved the old Republican Party, you can’t have it back until you smash today’s GOP to smithereens.

What A Welcome Change!

One of the areas in which Donald Trump was inexperienced, uneducated, inept and incompetent was foreign policy.  President Biden, on the other hand, has vast experience in international relations and has dealt extensively with foreign policy both in his role as a Senator, and later as Vice President under President Obama.  During Trump’s four years in office, the United States became first a laughingstock around the globe, and then an object of horror as our allies came to realize that we were no longer a trusted friend, but a nation under erratic leadership that was both unpredictable and unstable.  It will take time to rebuild the trust and respect we once had, but if anybody is up to that challenge, I believe it is President Biden.

An OpEd by Max Boot in Thursday’s Washington Post summarizes my own feeling of our new leadership in terms of our relations with other nations.  I hope you’ll find a few minutes to watch President Biden’s speech* … for the first time in four years, we have heard a President speak on matters that concern us all … no yelling, no facial contortions, no chants of “Lock her up” … just sensible, intelligent speech.  And I thrilled to hear him say …

“We believe free press isn’t an adversary, rather it’s essential, free press is essential to the health of a democracy.”

Such a welcome change from his predecessor who never missed a chance to denigrate the press, calling them the “enemy of the people.”


With his foreign policy speech, Biden begins to repair the damage that Trump did

Max-BootOpinion by 

Max Boot

Columnist

Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:40 p.m. EST

Joe Biden has given countless foreign policy speeches as a senator, vice president and presidential candidate. On Thursday, he went to the State Department to deliver his first foreign policy speech as president. His remarks were hardly radical, but they were important nonetheless, because they signal a new tone and a new attitude in U.S. foreign policy after four years of “America First.”

Biden made clear he understands that the damage done by former president Donald Trump, who was never mentioned by name, will not be repaired overnight. “We’ve moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally,” Biden said, because it is imperative “to earn back our leadership position” and to reclaim “our credibility and moral authority.”

Although Biden proclaimed, “America is back. Diplomacy is back,” he showed keen awareness that other nations around the world will be distrustful of U.S. leadership after the disasters of the past four years. Why should anyone trust again a country that couldn’t handle a pandemic — and that just saw a violent insurrection in its Capitol?

No doubt Biden noticed what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said to Axios a few days ago: “We are used to believing that the United States has the ideal democratic institutions, where power is transferred calmly. … In Ukraine, we lived through two revolutions. … We understood such things can happen in the world. But that it could happen in the United States? No one expected that. … I was very worried. … I did not want you to have a coup. After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy.”

Biden tried to allay such concerns by suggesting that Trump’s attempts to overthrow democracy could actually make us more determined champions of freedom. “The American people will emerge from this stronger, more determined and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy — because we have fought for it ourselves,” he said.

It’s a neat argument — trying to turn our weakness into strength — and I hope it’s true. But if the Senate votes to acquit Trump — as seems almost certain, given that all but five Republican senators voted to dismiss the charge — it will unfortunately send a message of impunity for misconduct that will undermine Biden’s efforts to rebuild confidence in America as the leader of the free world.

There is nothing Biden can do to force Republicans to do their duty. But he certainly is doing all that is in his power to reinvigorate American diplomacy and standing in the world. Much of what he had to say on Thursday would have sounded like tired banalities coming at any other point in our history — but given what we have just experienced, the familiar phrases that rolled off Biden’s lips sounded fresh and important.

He called for “defending freedom,” “upholding universal rights,” “respecting the rule of law” and “treating every person with dignity,” and he said those principles constitute “our inexhaustible source of strength” and “America’s abiding advantage.” On one level: No kidding. So what else is new? But on another level: Thank goodness he’s saying it! I felt like cheering while Biden was talking. Those are all concepts we once took for granted yet are now badly in need of articulation after Trump trashed them.

So, too, there was something deeply comforting in Biden, first, admitting that we must address “global challenges” ranging from “the pandemic to the climate crisis” and, second, asserting that these challenges will only “be solved by nations working together and in common.” This is not exactly a blinding insight, but we can no longer take anything for granted. Trump, too often, treated climate change as a hoax and the pandemic as a plot to depress his popularity ratings.

Biden also struck an “old is new” chord by calling out Russian dictator Vladimir Putin: “I made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over.” He didn’t have a lot of specifics to offer — he did not unveil any new sanctions on Putin and his gang — but simply the fact that he spoke the truth about Russian attacks and demanded that Putin release jailed dissident Alexei Navalny marks a sharp and welcome break from the recent past.

Biden made clear that Russia isn’t the only dictatorship that is no longer going to receive a blank check from Washington: He announced that the United States will no longer support Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen, which have produced a humanitarian catastrophe.

In a sense, Biden did not break much new ground: He merely said the kinds of things that any president before Trump would have said. But to hear them now, after four years of unhinged rhetoric and actions, is novel and newsworthy.

*Link to transcript of President Biden’s foreign policy speech