Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Is Manchin afraid to Destroy our Democracy or Save It?

To many of my progressive friends, Senator Manchin might as well be Republican. In 1968, I was a “radical” who distrusted politicians. Hubert Humphrey ran against Nixon, Republican. Neither promised a quick end to the Vietnam War. They were “part of the problem, not part of the solution.” Then Nixon claimed he had a secret peace plan and won. There was at least one difference between them: Nixon was a liar. 

To progressives, Manchin and Republicans are complicit in supporting fossil fuel companies and obstructing policies to reduce fossil fuel use and transition to low carbon alternatives to slow global warming. His refusal to reform or eliminate the filibuster is support of a corporatist anti-democracy agenda. When he votes with Democrats, as he does unless a vote with Republicans would change the outcome, that does not mollify them.

Manchin wants to protect power the Senate gives him in the Constitution. WV, with a population of under two million gets 2 Senators. CA, with 20 times the population gets only 2 Senators. At our founding, most low population states were southern and interested in protecting slavery. Manchin wrongly conflates this advantage with the filibuster (it’s not a law, but a Senate tradition). The filibuster has changed form since first used in the 1830’s. It allows the minority party to stop bills and presidential appointments from proceeding to a final vote. In other words, it stymies majority rule. 

Republicans created a huge backlog of judges and cabinet members during the Obama administration by threatening filibusters. The mere threat now accomplishes what used to require Senators to speak without break for hours.  To break the backlog, Democrats exempted appointments of federal judges and cabinet appointees from the filibuster in 2013. When Republicans regained the presidency and the Senate in 2016, Republicans changed the filibuster rule to allow Supreme Court justices to be confirmed by simple majority. Without that change, they likely would not have been able to install arch conservatives like Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett. 

Previously, appointments were mostly non-partisan exercises in which presidents were given their picks absent egregious misconduct or radical philosophy. Members of both parties agreed presidents were entitled to their choices with Constitutionally mandated advice and consent of Senators.    

With few exceptions, Senators didn’t filibuster bills simply because they disagreed with them. They voted no if they disagreed with a bill.

The election of an African American president spawned the “Tea Party” movement whose underlying racism was obscured by talk of higher taxes and deficits. Manchin entered the Senate in 2010 as Republicans were perfecting obstruction. While claiming bipartisan intentions, they negotiated for changes in bills, then voted against them or invoked the filibuster to keep President Obama from succeeding in improving the economy and people’s lives.

Manchin fears that if Democrats reform the filibuster, the next time Republicans gain control of Congress and the Presidency, they will abolish it so they can roll back Democrat passed bills—maybe even the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, or Social Security. He believes that would lead to the end of our democracy.

What he has wrong is that bipartisanship has run in only one direction for at least the last 12 years since Obama’s election. Mostly white rural states have been steadily moving into the red column where they have outsized power in the Senate.

Republicans also consolidate power through gerrymandering— drawing Congressional districts to give them advantage in the House of Representatives and state legislatures. They pass state laws to suppress voting among young and non-white Democrats.  In the 2020 election, which the former president has yet to concede, if the more radical elements of the Republican Party had its way, the election would have been awarded to Trump by the electoral college, state legislatures, or even by Congress itself. Overturning a free and fair election as Trump, his lawyers, and the insurrectionists of January 6 tried to do is by definition an attempt to destroy our democracy.

If Senator Manchin is truly concerned about our democracy, he should be willing to do whatever it takes, including reforming the filibuster to insure the passage of the For the People Act, which ends gerrymandering in favor of non-partisan Congressional redistricting and makes voting easier.  The John Lewis Act should be passed immediately. It would allow the Justice Department to intervene in state laws that unConstitutionally affect minority voting rights. 

Manchin is in a tough spot. He could agree to reform the filibuster, but he’s claimed that would destroy our democracy. He hoped that his Republican colleagues would show that they are still capable of bipartisan action. Instead, they are showing us the same playbook they used to stymie President Obama—obstruction, obstruction, obstruction. It’s time for Joe Manchin to do the right thing. Yes, West Virginia’s Trump base and the big money that buys ads will demonize him. They will do that no matter what. It’s time for Joe to prove my progressive friends wrong, help reform the filibuster and clear the way for Congress and President Biden to save our democracy. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

This IS Who We Are (at least some of us)



Fellow West Virginians, we have come through four years of a presidency that forced us to take positions that starkly shine light on differences in our beliefs, derived from sets of so-called facts that describe our world in starkly different ways and lead us to see it, each other, and the possibilities for what lies ahead in profoundly different ways. 

High falutin’ language? I must be a Yankee, or a college man, maybe even a lawyer or a Jew. Guilty on 3 counts. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, but I lived in WV—on 17 acres in Roane County— for 18 years until 1992, and in Charleston since then. Despite the fact that I’ve lived here longer than most born and raised here, I am not considered a West Virginian by many. As to Jewishness, yes, by birth, though I do not practice any religion, preferring to live my life following what I consider basic human morality: honesty, helpfulness, loving and forgiving as much as possible.

I attended WVSU (College, then) and Marshall University (COGS, then) as a young working parent, completing undergraduate and graduate degrees in elementary education. I taught at Clendenin Elementary school for 7 years and Ruffner Elementary in Charleston for 18 years. I was a founding member and first president of FOOTMAD, the Friends of Old Time Music and Dance, and have played traditional WV string band music and other styles in bands all over the East and Midwest, and many years ago in Greece and Turkey on a U.S.O. tour where I remember meeting a young soldier on an island off the coast of Greece at a satellite communications site who grew up a couple miles from where my wife and I were raising a baby and growing vegetables. 

When we meet on the street, we say howdy, talk about the weather, our families, our health, and the state of the roads. But if we veer into politics or the news, it’s not long before our conversation may become suspicious or angry. Each person makes statements about the facts that they believe and the sources where they get them. The facts don’t agree, and my sources, which are usually called the “mainstream media,” are called fake news by the other, while his or her sources are usually a website, a friend, neighbor, or family neighbor they know, or one of a few cable news networks they trust.

That is the end of the conversation for me. At that point, I say, “It’s been great seeing you and I’m glad you told me what you think, but if we can’t agree on what sources can provide trusted facts, then there’s really no way we can have a productive discussion.”

I have learned this lesson online. I often post what I consider articles from trusted sources to counter what I consider falsehoods or articles that make unlikely or wrong conclusions based on known facts. I do that even though I know I won’t change the mind of people making false claims. I hope someone who isn’t so steeped in alt-beliefs will be exposed to another view.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, among others including Joe Biden, has described the 1/6/21 attack on the Capitol as “not who we are.” While I’m glad Capito is willing to call out violence against the Capitol where she was briefly in danger, that IS who some of us are. Despite our mostly white, rural demographic, West Virginians include a multitude of kinds of people who believe in multiple things. I think that Shelley would agree that many, if not all, of those who entered the Capitol acted deplorably. Many wore or carried symbols associating them with far right groups, including Proud Boys, KKK, Nazis, the Confederacy. The group included racists, women haters, terrorists, and people who want to destroy United States government and remake it in their own image. Only a few West Virginians may behave that deplorably, though we elected a state representative who was among them and a president who incited them.

So it’s time to acknowledge who we are and talk about who we want us to be. How can we educate, or “deprogram” or change minds of those who have deplorable beliefs if we just tell people they are not us—they are “Other?” Accepting who they are does not mean we don’t ask them to change. When an evangelical Christian meets a non believer who they believe will go to hell, they presumably don’t call for them to be locked up or banished. They invite them in, offer food, companionship, love, and song, hoping to persuade them their way is better. They acknowledge they’re not perfect, “We are all sinners,” they say. Well, maybe it’s time to take a page from them.

In West Virginia, almost 70% voted for Donald Trump this year. Who are they? They are us.

But they have been told by media they consume and their political leadership, repeated by friends and family, many of the following lies:

Liberal and Progressive Democrats are Socialists or Communists 

Most Democrats accept some ideas that Socialists have, such as government sponsored health care, Democrats don’t want government to take over factories and ban private ownership.

Liberal and Progressive Democrats want to defund the police.

 Few Democrats use this phrase. Most who do mean that they believe police are expected to solve too many problems they’re not suited for, like mental health problems and homelessness—programs that need better funding, and some of the funding could come from police departments relieved of those burdens.

Liberal and Progressive Democrats want to take away our guns 

Many Democrats support laws to improve gun safety such as requiring background checks, doing away with loopholes, banning large clips and/or assault weapons only useful for killing people.

Liberal and Progressive Democrats want to take away our health care or force us to use government health care 

Millions of people have gained insurance and affordable health care under Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act-Obamacare. Republicans have fought these programs and tried to destroy them. Their philosophy is that people are responsible for their own health, and should spend their own money on their health when they get sick.

Liberal and Progressive Democrats are anti-coal. 

Democrats believe that all workers deserve safe working environments and pay that can support a family. They support coal miners in forming unions to fight for safety and good pay. Coal companies must be held liable for the damage that coal mining and coal burning do to our environment. If Coal companies cannot produce and use coal safely and cleanly compared to other forms of energy, they will go out of business. We must insist they pay to clean up their messes. We must help workers losing jobs in coal industries to learn and find good paying jobs to replace those lost to cleaner, more affordable energy.

Liberal and Progressive Democrats kill babies. They are pro-abortion

Almost no one is "pro-abortion". Democrats acknowledge that not every pregnancy is viable, safe, or healthy. Many pregnancies result in unavoidable miscarriages, which is often painful and disappointing to the woman, and perhaps her partner. Some pregnancies must be forced to be miscarried--aborted--to protect the life or health of the woman. Some pregnancies, especially those caused by rape or incest, or perpetrated on underage girls as young as nine or ten are dangerous to the mental state of women forced to carry a fetus to term. A "pro-life" position should consider these issues and "pro-choice" proponents believe women should make these decisions in consultation with their doctor. 

Liberal and Progressive Democrats are evil pedophiles: 

The Q-anon conspiracy is a dangerous fantasy. People sometimes believe literally any whacky idea made up and promoted on the Internet. Like an addiction to drugs, sex, gambling, or membership in gangs, militias, or cults, belief in conspiracy theories like this give people a high and creates a community that supports each other’s ideas. 

I’m doing the easy work of defining problems. We need people to solve problems. Howard Swint (who contributes op-eds to the WV Gazette-Mail), recently reached out to me to suggest we form a diverse group of West Virginians to travel around talking to people who have not met many people different than themselves to talk and get to know one another. I told him that after I got my vaccination, I would consider doing that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Trump's Attempt to Whitewash History

President Trump outlined the themes of his election campaign in what amounted to two publicly funded campaign rallies over the 4th of July weekend at Mt. Rushmore and the White House lawn with fireworks over the National Mall in Washington D.C. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children….This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution…our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but they were villains,” were some of the claims he made.

Like so much of what the president claims, his words are designed to turn Americans against each other. To turn white against black and brown, to turn right against left, to turn everyone against public schools and teachers. 

At my high school graduation in 1969 in Bethlehem, PA, I had the opportunity to speak to the graduating class about my views on our education, not because I had high grades, but because the school, in the spirit of change that was in the air, allowed a speaker to be elected in addition to the traditional Valedictorian. I spoke about some of the ways I felt our education had let us down. I felt our history classes had mythologized our founders and leaders, glossed over difficult issues like the causes of the Civil War and the Vietnam War which was raging at the time, and taught us that there was always a right and wrong answer that could be answered in a multiple choice question. I talked about the fact that black people were angry about the lack of equal opportunities they faced in the areas of jobs and education and that we weren’t being prepared for the fast changing future we would face.

I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to name what that education lacked. But in the course of my working life, including a twenty-five year career as a West Virginia public school teacher, I identified it as the importance and the difficulty of teaching critical thinking. 

President Trump does not want Americans to think critically. He wants them to see the world in simplistic terms of good or evil, right or wrong, blindly patriotic or anti-American. He wants to whitewash history and paint over the flaws of our founders and past leaders, ignoring the parts of our history we know do not live up to our ideals: the enslavement of millions of African Americans for two hundred years followed by a hundred fifty years of continued discrimination; the near extermination of Native Americans, the confiscation of their lands, their internment on reservations; some of the wars that we fought in order to either add to our territory or to ensure American control over other parts of the world for political or economic reasons.

Teaching children and young adults to understand both the good and the bad is important. You can celebrate our amazing scientific achievements while also noting when science was misused, the innovations in business and industry while also pointing out the environmental costs, the revolutionary ideas in self-government that the American experiment embodied to empower it’s white male citizens while at the same time denying equal opportunity to women and African Americans for centuries.  Children, all citizens in fact, need the important skill of critical thinking: the ability to weigh facts and evidence, to see the world in its whole spectrum of color instead of only black or white.

I exhort all West Virginians to be willing to do the hard work of putting aside their emotional response to those who, like Donald Trump, call on them to love their country “right or wrong,” and instead love what’s right about our country and recognize what is wrong and do their best to fix it. And that includes voting for change in November.

Paul Epstein is a retired public school teacher and musician living in Charleston, WV

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Impeachment Report: Key Findings of Fact

As a public service, here is a 1000 word excerpt from the 300+ page report containing the findings in a nutshell. To read the full report: click here

Key Findings of Fact 
(excerpt of the Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee)

Based on witness testimony and evidence collected during the impeachment inquiry, the Intelligence Committee has found that:

I.     Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States—acting personally and through his agents within and outside of the U.S. government—solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.  The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage.  In so doing, the President placed his personal political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.

II.     In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump—directly and acting through his agents within and outside the U.S. government—sought to pressure and induce Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to publicly announce unfounded investigations that would benefit President Trump’s personal political interests and reelection effort.  To advance his personal political objectives, President Trump encouraged the President of Ukraine to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

III.     As part of this scheme, President Trump, acting in his official capacity and using his position of public trust, personally and directly requested from the President of Ukraine that the government of Ukraine publicly announce investigations into (1) the President’s political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden, and (2) a baseless theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine—rather than Russia—interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.  These investigations were intended to harm a potential political opponent of President Trump and benefit the President’s domestic political standing. 

IV.     President Trump ordered the suspension of $391 million in vital military assistance urgently needed by Ukraine, a strategic partner, to resist Russian aggression.  Because the aid was appropriated by Congress, on a bipartisan basis, and signed into law by the President, its expenditure was required by law.  Acting directly and through his subordinates within the U.S. government, the President withheld from Ukraine this military assistance without any legitimate foreign policy, national security, or anti-corruption justification.  The President did so despite the longstanding bipartisan support of Congress, uniform support across federal departments and agencies for the provision to Ukraine of the military assistance, and his obligations under the Impoundment Control Act.

V.     President Trump used the power of the Office of the President and exercised his authority over the Executive Branch, including his control of the instruments of the federal government, to apply increasing pressure on the President of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government to announce the politically-motivated investigations desired by President Trump.  Specifically, to advance and promote his scheme, the President withheld official acts of value to Ukraine and conditioned their fulfillment on actions by Ukraine that would benefit his personal political interests: 

A. President Trump—acting through agents within and outside the U.S. government—conditioned a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine desperately sought to demonstrate continued United States support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, on Ukraine publicly announcing the investigations that President Trump believed would aid his reelection campaign.

B. To increase leverage over the President of Ukraine, President Trump, acting through his agents and subordinates, conditioned release of the vital military assistance he had suspended to Ukraine on the President of Ukraine’s public announcement of the investigations that President Trump sought.

C. President Trump’s closest subordinates and advisors within the Executive Branch, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Energy J. Richard Perry, and other senior White House and Executive Branch officials had knowledge of, in some cases facilitated and furthered the President’s scheme, and withheld information about the scheme from the Congress and the American public. 

VI.     In directing and orchestrating this scheme to advance his personal political interests, President Trump did not implement, promote, or advance U.S. anti-corruption policies.  In fact, the President sought to pressure and induce the government of Ukraine to announce politically-motivated investigations lacking legitimate predication that the U.S. government otherwise discourages and opposes as a matter of policy in that country and around the world.  In so doing, the President undermined U.S. policy supporting anti-corruption reform and the rule of law in Ukraine, and undermined U.S. national security.

VII.     By withholding vital military assistance and diplomatic support from a strategic foreign partner government engaged in an ongoing military conflict illegally instigated by Russia, President Trump compromised national security to advance his personal political interests.

VIII.     Faced with the revelation of his actions, President Trump publicly and repeatedly persisted in urging foreign governments, including Ukraine and China, to investigate his political opponent.  This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the President will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.

IX.     Using the power of the Office of the President, and exercising his authority over the Executive Branch, President Trump ordered and implemented a campaign to conceal his conduct from the public and frustrate and obstruct the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry by:

A. refusing to produce to the impeachment inquiry’s investigating Committees information and records in the possession of the White House, in defiance of a lawful subpoena;
B. directing Executive Branch agencies to defy lawful subpoenas and withhold the production of all documents and records from the investigating Committees;
C. directing current and former Executive Branch officials not to cooperate with the Committees, including in defiance of lawful subpoenas for testimony; and
D. intimidating, threatening, and tampering with prospective and actual witnesses in the impeachment inquiry in an effort to prevent, delay, or influence the testimony of those witnesses.

In so doing, and despite the fact that the Constitution vests in the House of Representatives the “sole Power of Impeachment,” the President sought to arrogate to himself the right to determine the propriety, scope, and nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own misconduct, and the right to deny any and all information to the Congress in the conduct of its constitutional responsibilities.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

What If We Believed Him?

The phone call that pushed a CIA employee to blow the whistle on President Trump’s illegal effort to withhold money for Ukraine’s military until their president agreed to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, was “perfect” according to Trump.

The Washington Post has now counted over 13,000 false or misleading claims by the president in his 1000 days as president, but for just a moment, let’s suspend our disbelief and imagine that he believes he is telling the truth and truly believes his phone call with the President of Ukraine was perfect.

Let’s imagine that he’s telling the truth as he sees it when he says that he didn’t green light Turkey to invade Syria when he pulled our troops back. We should believe that he had no idea President Erdogan would send tanks and troops and vicious militias pouring over the border to slaughter the Kurdish fighters who had until then been our front line in the fight against ISIS. Let’s imagine Trump truly believes the Kurds are “happy” about watching their fellow soldiers and their wives, mothers, and children die and lose their homes as they run for their lives.

Let’s look back over the past three years and see if we can muster belief in Trump’s proclamations that we no longer need to be concerned about North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and continued program of missile development because Kim Jong-un has written him beautiful letters and Trump has fallen in love with him.

And the beautiful tariffs that Trump has levied on friends and foes alike. Let’s accept that he truly believes that it is they who are paying them, not us, the people of the United States and the companies who import those goods. Yes, let’s pretend it’s China paying those taxes before we buy them….at a higher price than before.

We must accept Trump’s assessment that the farmers are totally okay with losing billions in sales of crops that China is no longer buying in order to retaliate against the tariffs because the Trump administration is giving them welfare payments to partially make up for it. Of course many of them will lose their farms in the meantime, but their sacrifice is for the good of the country in our President’s views, so we should believe that.

And all the criminals and rapists he has assured us are pouring over our southern border — they look like women and children desperate to escape gang violence and poverty to us, but perhaps we need special glasses or something so we can see them as he does.

Not to mention the good people on both sides in Charlottesville. Those young men carrying tiki torches chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us” may be good to their families and probably even the people they go to church with if they attend. We should believe that Trump is able to look beyond their hatred of everyone who isn’t white or Christian and see the good in them.

Yes, perhaps we should follow Trump’s call to end this divisive period in our history. We can learn to follow our Dear Leader and think Right Thoughts, see his Stable Genius and benefit from his Great and Unmatched Wisdom….or not.

We could recognize the truth—that he’s a liar and a criminal and deserves to be impeached. And if his lackeys in the Republican Party can’t muster the courage to do that, we can vote them and him out by the biggest margin in history next November. Now that would be perfect.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Trump's Racist Tweets: Are his Defenders Racists or Cowards?

Trump’s Tweets from Sunday, July 14
“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how…it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Republicans (all but 4 of 197) voted to defend the President's racist tweets and words directed at 4 Congresswomen of color (all US citizens). He said basically they should "go back" to where they come from (3 were born here, but have at least one parent born in another country). 

Most Republicans have tied themselves into pretzels in defense of the President. Some of their weak or fact deficient arguments are listed below and disputed in italics.

He might not have been talking about those 4 Congresswomen, since he didn’t name them in the tweet. “In those tweets, I see nothing that references anybody’s race — not a thing — I don’t see anyone’s name being referenced in the tweets, but the president’s referring to people, congresswomen, who are anti-American,” Patrick Duffy (R-WI)
The President himself clarified that in a tweet Tuesday night: “So great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today’s vote concerning statements I made about four Democrat Congresswomen.”

The President is not a racist,” Mitch McConnell said. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” the President said.

The Resolution does not say the President is a racist, it says he used racist words to talk about members of Congress. Behavioral psychologists have revealed that most all of us have implicit racial biases, which means we must each be vigilant to recognize and resist that in our speech and thoughts. Obviously, the President does not make that effort and frequently makes statements that many people view as racist such as referring to African countries as s*ithole countries, Mexican immigrants as rapists, etc. 

But he just said they should go back and fix those countries, then they could come back here and show  us how it’s done. He wasn’t saying that they should leave permanently. Representative Harris (R-MD) went so far as to say, "He could have meant go back to the district they came from--to the neighborhood they came from,"

Three of the four Congresswomen were born in the U.S., so is Trump saying that the country they came from, the U.S., that he presides over, is a complete and total catastrophe, the most corrupt and inept in the world (he has actually said similar words about the U.S. in the past)? Of course that doesn’t make sense—presumably he meant the countries their families came from before they came to the U.S. (for Occasio-Cortez, that is still the U.S.—her mother was born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, and anyone born there is a U.S. citizen). 

When did “Love it or leave it” become racist? “I say it all the time,” said the President.

It becomes racist when out of all the people in the United States (all of whom are descended from people of other countries except Native Americans), out of all the people in the United States Congress (some of whom were born in other countries or are 2nd generation citizens) who are critical of the President or his policies, you direct those words only at people of color. 

But some of them said awful things about the President and used profane language, we should be passing a resolution condemning their words. And some of them have said they were Socialist. And some have said things about Israel that are anti-Semitic and we didn’t pass a resolution condemning them. They even accused the Speaker of racism for calling them out. Maybe we should condemn her. (This summarizes the argument of many Republicans on the House floor)

This Resolution concerns the President’s words used against members of the House of Representatives. The President’s words matter more than those of a freshman Congresswoman because he speaks for the whole nation, he is supposed to speak for all of us and the rest of the world is listening. By not signing onto this resolution, Republicans in Congress have indicated to all the black and brown people of this nation, to all the Muslims, or really any citizen, that if they criticize the President or the policies he supports, they are not welcome here and should leave. His words in the tweet and at other times have told the world that not only does the U.S. not want to accept travelers from Muslim nations, does not want immigrants from Hispanic or Muslim or majority Black countries, but that we would like to send people descended from people of those nations back. The underlying message is a full endorsement of White Supremacy.

Now, I’m going to mount a defense of the President. He was just kidding. Seriously, he sees himself as a stand up comic, a performer, an entertainer. The whole rant of three tweets that he probably composed in bed on Sunday morning ends with a punchline: “you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Yes, hardly a belly laugh, but I didn’t say he was funny, just that he thinks he is. Because he thought it would be funny to suggest that Pelosi would love it if these four women who have been grabbing so much attention and creating headlines about a rift among Democrats would go far away. 

Of course, if he had come out later that day and said, “Yes, I see how people might take this as racist and I apologize. I was just trying to make a joke,” the outrage might have died down without a resolution condemning his “racist tweets.” But we all know by now that’s not he operates, so he doubled and tripled down, threatening Republicans who didn’t defend him and calling the “squad” anti-American and women who hate “our country.” 

My defense is really no defense. What I’m saying is that Trump is a racist who often makes racist jokes. And thank goodness, today in America, a lot of people are willing to call him out for that. Those who haven’t should get some sensitivity training. Voters should send them that message by sending them back--to their neighborhoods--in 2020.

ps--I created a petition on to support the House resolution condemning Trump's racist tweets. I encourage you to read the text of the resolution I copy/pasted there and sign on...and share with friends. We should all "sign on" to the resolution. Click here to view/sign

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Just the Facts

Smart Republicans are ignoring, Trump is likely incapable of understanding (and if he was capable, he would deny it and lie about it), and even some responsible journalists and media personalities are finding it difficult to understand or articulate exactly what was Robert Mueller's justification for not "coming to a conclusion" on obstruction.

A careful reading of the report (which I admit I have not yet completed, but am depending on Rachel Maddow and others at MSNBC to pick out the critical passages), describe the Mueller team's approach as an almost scientifically objective one, "...we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes."

Why? Mueller cites in detail relevant Justice Department rules from the manual about not being allowed to indict a sitting president, and given that the unfairness of even suggesting a criminality when there was no courtroom or process for mounting a defense (apparently the bully pulpit and the court of public opinion were not considered adequately objective).
So does that mean he left it to Barr and Rosenstein? That would make no sense. They are limited by the same rules Mueller is. Their decision to absolve the president of obstruction charges, even if based on a disagreement with Mueller's justification for not coming to a conclusion, is revealed as political by the way that Barr made the announcement weeks before releasing the report and prefacing it's release with a press conference with an audience of one who wanted him publically to say "no collusion."

Someday, Rosenstein may ask the American people for a mea culpa and talk about how conflicted he felt as he stood behind Barr as he lied about the report, stoically looking straight ahead and keeping his face in a tight mask. Though he is a hero for protecting the Mueller investigation, he has also shown himself to be a company man and a coward twice--once when he did not speak publicly about Trump's lie pinning the firing on his memo, and again when he allowed Barr to persuade him to stand behind his decision to absolve Trump of obstruction.

But back to my original thought--it is very hard for anyone to understand the degree of objectivity and restraint Mueller and his team used in avoiding even seeming to pass judgement. It is a type of thinking they share with scientists--the ability to withhold judgement and simply reveal the facts. I guess in a way, it's like the legendary Dragnet character, Sgt. Friday, who used to say something like, "Just the facts, ma'am. All we want are the facts. All we know are the facts."