Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Monday, October 21, 2019
For weeks Donald Trump and his defenders have insisted that his decision to hold up aid to Ukraine was not dependent on that nation investigating Trump's political opponents in the United States. They all insisted that there was no quid pro quo.
But, last week the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, lifted the veil on that lie, confirming during a televised briefing that there was indeed a quid pro quo. As The New York Times reported, "Mr. Mulvaney told journalists … that the aid was withheld in part until Ukraine investigated an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for hacking Democratic Party emails in 2016 — a theory that would show that Mr. Trump was elected without Russian help."
Since making this shocking statement, Mulvaney has been struggling to clean it up, to tell the world that he didn't say what he clearly said.
And, in the moment of making the statement, Mulvaney proudly proclaimed: "I have news for everybody: Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."
No, Trump world, we are not just going to get over it, not now or ever.
Trump's strategy is simple: Be brazen. Conduct your corruption in plain sight. And, it follows a simple logic: If it were wrong, I would be ashamed of it and attempt to conceal it. The fact that I haven't attempted to shroud it is proof of its virtue.
That is what's maddening about the Trump presidency: how much harm has been done as America looked on, with full awareness of the damage, and Trump has yet to be held accountable for any of it.
But that time is drawing to an end.
Wrong is wrong, whether you parade it or put it away. In fact, it is the flaunting of wrongdoing that should carry more of a penalty, not less of one. We can't allow our numbness to make this normal. It isn't.
This impeachment inquiry is the best thing Congress has done to help the country in years. Some worry that an impeachment would tear the country apart. To the contrary, I believe that it will bring the country together. A majority of Americans will recognize and rally around a common set of facts, a common truth, and reject Trump's attempt to bend reality.
A Pew Research Poll released last week found that 58 percent of Americans, including a quarter of Republicans, believe that Trump has done things that are grounds for impeachment.
No matter how much he says that the call he made to the president of Ukraine was perfect, no matter how much he attacks the whistle-blower, no matter how much he lies, most Americans see through it and are appalled by it.
And now that Mulvaney has made the disastrous mistake of actually telling the truth, some Republicans are even signaling that they are open to at least entertaining a vote to impeach the president.
This is another step that is important to the repairing of the country. It's not that I believe that the Senate would be in any danger of actually voting to convict and remove Trump. It's that we need to know that at least some of these Republican men and women who make our laws are not totally craven and devoid of morality.
And, Republicans and independents need to know that holding Trump accountable is not a sour grapes pursuit to relitigate 2016, or born out of maddening personal hatred of the man himself.
This is far bigger than all that. Trump is a stress test on our system and constitutional government and we dare not fail. Trump must be held accountable not only because his corruption dictates it, but also because we must demonstrate that accountability is possible.
If Americans chose to just "get over it" as Mulvaney demanded, the power of the president to degrade, corrupt and evade the system would be enshrined. Trumpism would mar the future.
That can't happen. Trump wrongdoing in the Ukraine case is clear. (I would argue that it's clear in other areas as well.)
Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida made it clear that he's not ruling out the possibility of supporting impeachment. Sunday on CNN he told Jake Tapper that Mulvaney's attempt to walk back his admission was a farce, saying: "I don't see how you walk back something that's clear. I would say game, set, match on that."
And, as The Washington Post reported:
"Rooney told reporters Friday when asked about the political consequences of potentially impeaching Trump that he wanted 'to get the facts and do the right thing because I'll be looking at my children a lot longer than I'm looking to anybody in this building.' "
Each of us will have to look at our children, to look at ourselves in the mirror and be held accountable for how we responded to the threat Trump poses.
As the late Elijah Cummings put it:
"When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?"
Saturday, October 19, 2019
In the summer of 1950, outraged by Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist inquisition, Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator from Maine, stood to warn her party that its own behavior was threatening the integrity of the American republic. "I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear," she said. "I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely, we Republicans aren't that desperate for victory."
Senator Smith surely knew her "Declaration of Conscience" would not carry the day. Her appeal to the better angels of her party was not made in the expectation of an immediate change; sometimes the point is just to get people to look up. In the end, four more years passed before the bulk of the Republican Party looked up and turned on Senator McCarthy — four years of public show trials and thought policing that pushed the country so hard to the right that the effects lasted decades. The problem with politicians who abuse power isn't that they don't get results. It's that the results come at a high cost to the Republic — and to the reputations of those who lack the courage or wisdom to resist.
The Republican Party is again confronting a crisis of conscience, one that has been gathering force ever since Donald Trump captured the party's nomination in 2016. Afraid of his political influence, and delighted with his largely conservative agenda, party leaders have compromised again and again, swallowing their criticisms and tacitly if not openly endorsing presidential behavior they would have excoriated in a Democrat. Compromise by compromise, Donald Trump has hammered away at what Republicans once saw as foundational virtues: decency, honesty, responsibility. He has asked them to substitute loyalty to him for their patriotism itself.
Mr. Trump privately pressed Ukraine to serve his political interests by investigating a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as by looking into a long-debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic National Committee emails that were stolen by the Russians. Mr. Trump publicly made a similar request of China. His chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said publicly on Thursday that the administration threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine if it did not help "find" the D.N.C. servers.
These attempts to enlist foreign interference in American electoral democracy are an assault not only on our system of government but also on the integrity of the Republican Party. Republicans need to emulate the moral clarity of Margaret Chase Smith and recognize that they have a particular responsibility to condemn the president's behavior and to reject his tactics.
Some have already done so. On Friday, John Kasich, the former Ohio governor, said that Mr. Mulvaney's comments convinced him that the impeachment inquiry should move forward. Representative Justin Amash of Michigan had already called for impeachment, though he felt it necessary to leave the party as a consequence.
There was a time when Republicans like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that soliciting foreign election assistance would be improper. But most congressional Republicans have taken to avoiding such questions as the evidence against Mr. Trump has piled up. Mr. Trump still feels so well-protected by his party that he has just named his own golf resort as the site for the next Group of 7 summit in 2020, a brazen act of self-dealing.
Yet Republicans will not be able to postpone a reckoning with Trumpism for much longer. The investigation by House Democrats appears likely to result in a vote for impeachment, despite efforts by the White House to obstruct the inquiry. That will force Senate Republicans to choose. Will they commit themselves and their party wholly to Mr. Trump, embracing even his most anti-democratic actions, or will they take the first step toward separating themselves from him and restoring confidence in the rule of law?
Thus far in office, Mr. Trump has acted against the national interest by maintaining his financial interests in his company and using the presidential podium to promote it; obstructed legitimate investigations into his conduct by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and Congress; attacked the free press; given encouragement to white nationalists; established a de facto religious test for immigrants; undermined foreign alliances and emboldened American rivals; demanded personal loyalty from subordinates sworn to do their duty to the Constitution; and sent his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, around the world to conduct what could most charitably be described as shadow foreign policy with Mr. Trump's personal benefit as its lodestar.
Some Republicans have clearly believed that they could control the president by staying close to him and talking him out of his worst ideas. Ask Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who has spent the last two years prostrating himself before Mr. Trump in the hope of achieving his political goals, including protecting the Kurds — how that worked out. Mr. Graham isn't alone, of course; there is a long list of politicians who have debased themselves to please Mr. Trump, only to be abandoned by him like a sack of rotten fruit in the end. That's the way of all autocrats; they eventually turn on everyone save perhaps their own relatives, because no one can live up to their demands for fealty.
The Constitution's framers envisioned America's political leaders as bound by a devotion to country above all else. That's why all elected officials take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. By protecting Donald Trump at all costs from all consequences, the Republicans risk violating that sacred oath.
Senator Smith's question once again hangs over the Republican Party: Surely they are not so desperate for short-term victory as to tolerate this behavior? We'll soon find out.
Friday, October 18, 2019
Turkey's Victory Over Donald Trump
The Turkish president got what he wanted — as did Russia and Iran.
By The Editorial Board
Oct. 17, 2019
President Trump's decision to withdraw 1,000 American troops from Syria without consulting any aides, experts or allies, and without any warning to America's Kurdish comrades in arms, whom he placed in mortal danger, has provided chilling evidence of the danger posed by his chronic inability to appreciate a president's responsibilities.
Mr. Trump, as he always does, claimed a huge victory — "an amazing outcome" that saved "millions and millions of lives." That scores of Kurdish lives have already been lost, that thousands of people have fled their homes, that a swarm of Islamic State followers escaped from internment camps, that the Kurds themselves turned for help to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, that America's dwindling credibility in the world was further undermined, meant nothing to the president. "It's not our border," he said on Wednesday.
Mr. Trump's apologists, too, have been quick to marshal a defense — the Middle East is full of horrible dictatorships, conflicts and crimes against humanity, and presidents before had longed to pull America out of what Mr. Trump has called the region's "endless, senseless wars." In northern Syria, the Americans were trapped between two allies, the Kurds who fought with them on the ground and the Turks, whose country is a NATO ally and repository of American tactical nuclear weapons. Something eventually had to give. There was a serious case to be made for pulling out.
But not like this.
The acute shame of the moment was captured in two reports this week. The first was a video of a Russian-speaking reporter wandering through a hurriedly abandoned American base in northern Syria, rummaging among the Coca-Cola cans and footballs. The second arrived with news that two United States Air Force F-15 jets had destroyed an American munitions bunker in Syria to prevent munitions and other equipment from falling into the hands of other armed groups.
It is not unusual for the United States to demolish its own bases before departing a battlefield. It has done so in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that work is normally done by bulldozers or explosives in a calm, orderly way, not with last-minute airstrikes. And the Americans did not just leave behind munitions — in the heads of all those Kurdish fighters are the tactics, training and procedures of the American Special Forces personnel they fought alongside.
The betrayal was agonizing. The Kurds are the world's lost nation, their lands divided among five Middle Eastern countries that treat them as dangerous interlopers. They thought they had found a protector in the United States — Kurds in Iraq had been America's allies, and those in Syria carried the brunt of the fight against the Islamic State. But then, casually in an Oct. 6 call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mr. Trump abruptly sold them out, while also making an unexpected and unwarranted gift not only to Mr. Erdogan, who regards the Syrian Kurds as mortal enemies, but also to Mr. Assad and his patrons, the Russians and Iranians.
If any more evidence is required, there's that impossibly puerile follow-up letter to Mr. Erdogan, with the casual threat to destroy the Turkish economy and the chatty advice — "Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!" — which the Turkish president's office confirmed Mr. Erdogan promptly dumped in a trash can.
Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, has proposed legislation to fast-track visas to the United States for the translators and other Syrian Kurds who served alongside American forces in the fight against the Islamic State. Congress should pass such a bill expediently.
It was heartening, at least, that many Republican lawmakers were sufficiently horrified by Mr. Trump's betrayal of the Kurds to condemn it in the House of Representatives, in a resolution that passed 354 to 60. The Senate has been preparing its own legislation, although no vote has been scheduled. Senator Lindsey Graham, who had harshly criticized Mr. Trump for giving a green light to Turkey to invade Syria, backtracked on Thursday, saying he would work with the president "to build upon this breakthrough."
It was left to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence to do urgent damage control in Ankara, Turkey, and, after close to five hours of talks on Thursday, Mr. Pence solemnly announced that Mr. Erdogan had agreed to a five-day cease-fire in his offensive in northern Syria. But Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, immediately said that the deal was not a cease-fire at all, but merely a "pause for our operation." He added, "we got what we wanted." As did Russia and Iran.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Over the past five years, millions of Americans have ascended to a higher plane of fulfillment by tidying up their homes. By talking to our possessions, one by one, and asking if they spark joy, we have achieved a kind of contentment we never dreamed possible.
Now it's time to tidy up a residence that belongs to all of us: the White House.
At first, this seems like a daunting task. After all, the White House has a hundred and thirty-two rooms. There is much culling to be done.
But there's no reason to despair. Many useless things have already been hauled away. Reince Priebus, John Kelly, Steve Bannon, Kirstjen Nielsen, Michael Flynn, John Bolton, Sean Spicer, Hope Hicks, Sarah Huckabee Sanders—none of them sparked joy. And now they are all gone. And Anthony Scaramucci, who sparked joy as briefly as those paisley pants you immediately regretted buying at H&M—he is gone, too.
Clearly, though, more culling remains to be done.
We must look at Donald Trump and ask ourselves, "Does this spark joy?" And, although the answer to that question might be somewhat different in Russia, North Korea, and Turkey, the answer here is a resounding no.
Remember how, once you tidied up your dwelling, you discovered hidden treasures buried under all of those needless possessions? Well, once that garish orange thing that sparks no joy has been removed from the Oval Office, you'll be amazed what you'll find underneath. Things you forgot you even had, like democracy.
In the video above, from last weekend's New Yorker Festival, I speak about the happiness we can attain by decluttering the country of Trump. Much like Marie Kondo, the authors of the United States Constitution gave us a unique tool for improving our surroundings: impeachment. And the Twenty-fifth Amendment is pretty good, too.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
From: Juan Matute <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 7:52 AM
Subject: Something to Know - 16 October
To: Juan Matute <firstname.lastname@example.org>