It Ain’t Over

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has provided a little pep talk to women and progressives who are disheartened, dismayed, enraged, and stunned by today’s public head-counting ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s scheduled confirmation vote on Saturday.  She concedes defeat, and her tone seems meant to console the weary and prepare them for some as yet unidentified new battle.

The vote tomorrow may very well be a done deal. There’s an ultra-slim chance that a couple of Republican Senators will have a crisis of conscience tonight but, given Republican’s history of late, conscience is not a guiding force. 

But the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh aren’t just going to magically dry up and blow away. In fact, it sounds like more and more witnesses with corroborating testimony are coming forward and will likely talk to the press, shedding more even more light in the public arena.  There may even be lawsuits against Kavanaugh himself.

The long list of potential perjury charges against him aren’t magically going to disappear, either.  Nor are the millions of Americans who have been disgusted by Republicans’ refusal to conduct a true and fair investigation of Kavanaugh’s background and his potential misdeeds.  Those 2,400+ law professors and the American Bar Association are also not all going to quietly slink into the background, never to be heard from again.

No matter which way Saturday’s vote turns out, the collective struggle to get to the truth is far from over.  It may take massive turnout at the polls.  It may take impeachment proceedings against him or legal action or public outcry, or all of the above.  It will be long and it is virtually guaranteed to be ugly.  But it will be worth the fight.

 

 

Sugar Frosted Flake

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has been getting praise heaped upon him for “doing the moral thing,” for “taking a step back,” for “acting on his conscience,” and for “working across the aisle” by figuring out a way to delay Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation vote, pending further investigation by the FBI.  But you don’t have to scratch too deeply into Flake’s sugar-coated surface to become cynical about his tactics and his motives.

Flake’s heralded rebellious behavior arrives against a backdrop of his previous history of pontificating against Trump and his policies and positions, followed almost immediately by his consistently voting in favor of Trump’s policies and positions.  The stakes here, however, are far greater than whether or not Flake agrees with Trump on any single policy matter.

If Flake had truly wanted to act morally and ethically, he had a less flimsy option available: he could have voted no in committee in order to allow sufficient time for a thorough FBI investigation of all pending allegations.  He would have been able to use the power of one committee member’s vote to ensure the result would be aligned with his purported position of morality.

Instead, he used a different strategy:  vote affirmatively in committee to proceed to a floor vote, with a pledge to vote no when the nomination went to the full Senate.  He agreed to a delay of a single week instead of letting the investigation take the amount of time that would actually be necessary.  This cursory delay gives Flake and the Republicans cover to pretend they looked deeply enough into Kavanaugh’s questionable past.  Flake can go home to Arizona and continue his public hand-wringing without truly having done anything genuine to get to the truth of Kavanaugh’s potential crimes through a robust, unconstrained investigation.

We’ve already seen Trump put limitations around the FBI investigation, including excluding any accusations by the third accuser and preventing the FBI from interviewing those folks from Kavanaugh’s college years who have stated that they regularly witnessed him drinking to excess and exhibiting belligerent behavior.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed (as many Republicans have promised that he will be, despite not having a clue what the FBI might uncover), three of the nine SCOTUS justices – a full third of the court – will be under a lifetime dark cloud.  Clarence Thomas, despite his confirmation years ago, is under renewed scrutiny and criticism in the era of #MeToo; Neil Gorsuch’s seat rightfully belongs to Merrick Garland; and Brett Kavanaugh, who will perpetually be mistrusted as the result of Thursday’s riveting and credible testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, along with a whole host of unexamined or under-examined allegations from additional accusers and witnesses.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve listened to people support Flake by saying that he’s done more than any other Republican has done to try to make this debacle better.  That, sadly, is probably true.  But there is still a gigantic chasm between Flake’s actions and a truly moral and ethical solution.  Flake may have been able to give Republicans a pretense to hide behind and he may momentarily assuage his own sense of guilt.  But it does little to get to the actual truth of Kavanaugh’s history to determine whether he is morally suited for a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court.

Right-Wing Harpie Bites Publishing Dust

Katherine ‘Hair-Helmet’ Harris apparently is not particularly interesting, not even to her own demographic. The chronicle of her martyrdom — with the self-congratulatory title ‘Center of the Storm’ — is officially on the virtual remainder table, even on the right wing World Net Daily web site. Published at $22.99. Now selling for five measly clams.

Kind of a nice reflection of that old ‘supply-and-demand’ Republican value.

Scalia

GOP: Let ’er R.I.P.

We note the passing today of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, champion of all things conservative and a self-proclaimed “strict constructionist” when it came to interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

O.K. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk politics.  Too soon, you say? Hold your horses.  At this writing, it is merely a matter of hours since his death and Scalia’s corpulent corpse isn’t even cold yet.

Yet at this writing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already making statements that the Senate should prevent President Obama from appointing Scalia’s successor and that the nomination and confirmation of a new justice should wait until after the new president is in office, more than 11 months from now.

At this writing, Dr. Ben Carson, perhaps in some last-ditch effort to regain what he believed to be relevance, has said he doesn’t think a new justice should be sworn in until the next administration:

“It might perhaps be good to wait until we have a new president and someone who is going to put in the requisite amount of research into finding a strict constitutionalist.”

At this writing, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has tossed his two cents in:

“… it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”

At this writing, Senator Lindsay Graham has been slightly softer in his views, but every bit as crazy. He’s stated that there should be consensus in the Senate around the nominee but then suggested arch-conservative Orrin Hatch.

If there is any Democratic voter who says that they just won’t vote in November if their candidate isn’t the nominee, let today’s events be a warning. If you think the hyperpartisanship of today’s politics is bad, let your mind wander to just what it would look like with a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Congress, with nominations of multiple Supreme Court justices as bad or worse than Scalia. Enjoy your worst nightmare.

Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Fugue State

Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have been walking around in a fugue state for the last week. Somewhere between my empathy and my thirst for comeuppance lies a certain curiosity about what it must be like to be in his shoes these days. His world – or at least his political world – has turned upside down and back again in record time.

Between his bumbling appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and his wheezing press conference the following day, the governor has received more national attention than he has ever dreamed of having, most of which has been exceedingly negative.

Pence is certainly no political neophyte. Far from it. He is what most observers would refer to as a seasoned politician. So why, then, has he appeared to be at such a loss for a solution to his (and Indiana’s) mounting public relations nightmare?

The most logical hypothesis is that he has managed to surround himself for years with people who either agree with his positions or who are politic enough not to challenge them too sharply.

The positions he has taken and the values he has held have generally fallen on the spectrum somewhere between conservative and off-the-charts right wing. This is particularly evident when you review his record on LGBT issues.

  • In 2006, he voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • In 2007, he voted No on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while in Congress
  • In 2010, he voted No on President Obama’s proposed repeal of DADT, arguing that “unit cohesion” would be affected.

It’s not just LGBT issues where he’s taken the most right-leaning positions. He’s voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and he opposed a similar state act in Indiana.

While there may have been viewpoints expressed that were different from his own, Pence pretty much skated by both in Congress and as Governor without having too much opposition aimed directly at him.

Suddenly this week, Pence faced genuine pushback – both in Indiana and across the country – the likes of which he’s never experienced after signing the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by a gaggle of nuns and his most devotedly anti-LGBT cronies. To say that he reacted to that pushback like a deer in the headlights drastically underestimates headlights.

He first denied that the bill had anything to do with discrimination, and then spun on his heels almost immediately to request that the law be changed.  On Thursday of this week, Pence signed the hastily cobbled-together amended version of the RFRA, under an even more secret veil of secrecy than he had signed the original version.

It remains to be seen how much additional blowback he’ll face and how much more political capital he’ll lose. But one thing is certain: even if he regains his equilibrium, his political world will never be quite the same.

Pick a Party, Already

During a press conference today, Sen. Chuck Schumer referred to the stalemate in Washington today as the “tea party shutdown.”   Schumer may be doing some political calculation in order to allow the GOP as a whole to save face.  After all, he’s got to work alongside of these people. However, it is completely disingenuous for him to characterize bringing the government to a halt as solely the work of the tea party.

We’ve watched over the last several years as the so-called tea party candidates have inserted themselves into the Republican party.  And the Republican party has done little or nothing to discourage them or their attendant extremism.  In fact, many in the Republican party used the ascent of the tea party as an excuse to espouse their own extreme right-wing views more openly and shamelessly.

Consequently, it’s virtually impossible to delineate where the GOP ends and the tea party begins.  They have become one and the same.  While there are certainly more extreme members with more extreme views, they blend in all too inconspicuously with the GOP at large.

With the current government shutdown, certain more centrist members of Congress have attempted to distance themselves from the tea party extremists within their ranks.  But the party as a whole has not yet come up with a strategy to restrict tea party influence within the GOP in a way that is commensurate with their actual numbers.  Consequently, the GOP owns this shutdown.

The basic questions that we were asking when the tea party first formed still haven’t been answered.  Which is it?  Are you upper or lower case?  Are you a faction of the Republican Party, and therefore the “tea party” or “tea party caucus”?  Or do you consider yourself an actual legitimate third party, or Tea Party?

If it’s the former, then the GOP needs to take your views into consideration but make its collective decisions based on the majority within the party.  (This especially means you, Mr. Speaker.)   That also means that the GOP owns all of the insanity within its ranks, in those cases in which the extremists convince the more mainstream members of Congress to vote with them.

If it’s the latter, then the tea party earns its upper case status, along with all of the responsibilities and obligations that a political party has.  So far, the tea party has reaped all the rewards of both positions and has borne none of the responsibilities of either.

So make up your minds.

To paraphrase Jesse Pinkman, “let’s Party, bitches.”

electmitt2012.org

I guess there’s been a slight change in direction for the Romney campaign. The URL for one of Mitt’s SuperPACs – ElectMitt2012.org – now leads to a Japanese site that sells software enabling a user to capture online porn video chats.

So much for the morality candidate.

Ew.

Ew, not because you posted a selfie, Geraldo.  Ew, because you’re supposed to be a journalist.  YOU ARE NOT THE STORY.

70 is the new 50 (Erica and family are going to be so pissed…but at my age…) pic.twitter.com/KU9IQhaF0w

And, by the way, Geraldo, there are tools that you can use to rotate that photo.

UPDATE:  Geraldo deleted his tweet and removed his selfie from Twitter.  Apparently, he hasn’t learned that people can actually take screen shots.  He also hasn’t figured out that he makes himself look worse by backtracking.

BTW, check out that profile pic.  Apparently, 70 is also the old 30.

Republican Soul-Searching: A 9-Point Plan (Redux)

I first posted the following blog entry on 11.11.2008, days after the election of Barack Obama.  It’s repeated here in its entirety.  It’s kind of stunning to note that, if the GOP amended their strategies and policies at all in the ensuing four years, they did so in the wrong direction.

In the wake of the drubbing they took in the election last week , the Republican Party is now in the process of doing some long overdue self-examination. The media have been trying to determine the whereabouts of the soul of the Republican party. So I thought I’d offer my unsolicited 9-point plan for Republican soul searching:

  1. Get one. In order to search one’s soul, one actually has to have a soul.
  2. Stop lying. This is the 21st century. We have technology. We will find out that you’re lying. The only ones left to believe your lies will be stupid people. And you don’t want stupid people in your party. (I know this is an unfamiliar concept to Republicans, because you’ve benefited for a couple of decades from the stupid people who you’ve drawn to the party and who have believed the lies that you’ve told them.)
  3. Have principles, and follow them. Strategy and tactics are the necessary evil of a political campaign, but they’re not what people vote for. We’re drawn to noble, clear ideas. We’re looking for leaders who inspire us to make our nation and our world a better place.
  4. Get smart. That’s not to suggest that you should be more tactical, but rather that you should actually value education more. That also means valuing the educated more. You’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “no child left behind,” but you continue to run people (like Michele Bachmann) who seem like the children who were left behind. The nation and the world are facing unbelievably difficult issues, and it will take intelligent, educated people to come up with solutions.
  5. Ostracize the corrupt. Especially when they’re in your own party. The fact that Tom DeLay is still somehow perceived as someone who can go on national television and represent the positions of the party is laughable. Marginalize persons of his ilk or the nation will marginalize the entire party.
  6. Stop elevating and rewarding wackos. Believe it or not, people are looking to you for leadership. When you put subnormal or even just mediocre people on the ballot and expect that the public is going to go along with it just because you have previously enjoyed unquestioning party unity, you do your party and the nation a grave disservice.
  7. Separate church from state. You can have still your religion. Knock yourselves out. But why not put your faith into action by doing good works, instead of blurring the boundaries between pulpit and politics in an attempt to force the rest of the world to believe the same dogma that you choose to believe?
  8. Distance yourself from the ditto-heads. Admit it. You’ve spent the last 25 or so years building and fostering the multi-billion dollar right-wing media empire — of the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Bill O’Reilly variety. But now you may be realizing that you’ve created a monster that is incapable of moderating itself. Cut ‘em off before they eat you alive.
  9. Quit blaming the media. How can you be focusing on what you need to be doing when you’re whining about how badly you’re being treated? Besides, you don’t win votes with shame and blame.

One more thing you might want to take into account. I’m sure there are Republican campaign professionals who are right now dissecting examining every aspect of Barack Obama’s campaign, searching for clues as to what was done to win an election and how they might replicate those things. What those strategists seem to be failing to take into account is that, while some of the campaign strategy might be replicatable, the candidate cannot. Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate with transformative ideas and, by all accounts, an uncanny ability to inspire and bring people together.