Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

michael_bloomberg wins if he loses

Michael Bloomberg Wants to be Your Pre$ident. Maybe.

Michael Bloomberg, former three-time mayor of the City of New York, has launched his campaign with a TV blitz costing $150 million. That’s a lot of Simoleans, double the amount spent by Tom Steyer, the only other bona fide billionaire in the race. Steyer’s spending laps the amounts spent by the conventional candidates. Unlike Bloomberg, Steyer has been running in traffic, qualifying for the debates. Now that his singular goal of impeachment had been achieved, he’s moved on to his economic message. He claims to be the real deal – a billionaire with a human touch. Steyer has been surging, owing to his identity-building TV spots. Steyer has not been pigeonholed or tested in the Frontrunner’s Crucible yet.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg is skipping the opening farewells in Iowa and New Hampshire, the graveyard of many candidacies. He will debut on the Super Tuesday ballots. By that time, one of his rivals may catch fire. In that case his run may be over effectively, and his prodigious spending will have been for naught. Or will it?

Mayor Mike’s party-crashing is having a clarifying impact on the race. He is a centrist economically and left of center socially. He believes in the necessity of regulation but will never be considered an anti-capitalist. If he could add a little religion, a little warmth and an ear for Middle-America, he would be a formidable candidate.

But that is not who he is. In truth, Bloomberg

lacks the connection to people of diverse backgrounds necessary to create a groundswell. After all, he is a Jewish billionaire, missing only the Eastern European inflection of George Soros to strike fear in American Gothic hearts.

Service as Mayor of New York City is not a useful resume builder for the national stage: John Lindsay, Rudy Giuliani, Bill DeBlasio. If nominated, Michael Bloomberg will run and if elected, he will serve. Even so, Bloomberg will be satisfied if the current White House occupant is evicted, driven off to Palm Beach to spend eternity in a Maximum-Security sand trap.

Whatever the outcome of his own candidacy, Bloomberg will use his wealth and influence to defeat the party that has supported the megalomaniac and his agenda. Bloomberg will step aside happily if one of the middle of the road hopefuls breaks ahead of the pack. He is more likely to hang around if Bernie Sanders takes a commanding lead. He will want to keep Sanders from getting too far from Bloomberg’s concept of the Mainstream.

Mayor Mike will keep pouring money into the race one way or the other to defeat the institutional catastrophe we’re living through. The administration is an imminent danger to our democracy, the kind that warrants extreme political action. Would a person with $56 billion invest one of those billions to save this nation? Bloomberg certainly would. He wouldn’t suffer if a billion went missing.

Even if in the future Congress restores limits on campaign financing, national elections will always be a big-money game. Sanders and Warren notwithstanding, paraphrasing the words on a bumper sticker supporting Jesse Ventura, political savant and former governor of the great state of Minnesota, you better hope that your billionaire can outspend their billionaire.

Is Iowa Berning?

 While the Democratic establishment has tried to marginalize the progressive left — Sanders and Warren — Sanders continues to poll steadily and collect a lot of money. Enough money to get him through the first few primary tests.

 Possibly.  Bernie is lighting a fire just the way he did in Burlington when he ran for mayor 40 years ago and for president in 2016.  He did it by opposing the establishment, staking out  progressive policy goals and creating a powerful grassroots organization to overcome the entrenched forces blocking him.   He faces more competition this year than he did in his face-off with only Hillary Clinton

Sanders very well may be the best retail politician in the field. He fires up his base consistently in a way that none of his competitors has done.

The primaries are around the corner, and we will know a lot more by the end of January.   It could be that Sanders will poll well  enough in Iowa and New Hampshire (second to Buttigieg in both) and sufficiently in South Carolina (behind Biden’s decisive lead), which is a stretch, to make a case for national consideration. By February though, he will have to break through in some of the big states.  

Conventional wisdom calls for a run by a centrist like Biden.  But polls and money are moving toward Sanders’ fire and Buttigieg’s cool, neither one a conventional standard bearer. 

The Waiting Game

Last night’s impeachment vote set the stage for a power struggle  between the political forces that dominate our nation. Nothing has been decided, and so much more will happen between now and the next election. In boxing parlance, the impeachment vote was a prelim.

There may be a trial in the Senate.  On the other hand, the House plans to hold back on delivering the articles of impeachment until Senate Majority Leader McConnell agrees to ground rules for a trial. He has announced that he will coordinate the proceedings with the White House, meaning that he will allow the accused to make the rules. McConnell has thrown down a gauntlet of his own. He has promised a fast trial rather than a fair one, straight out of his Merrick Garland playbook. In fact, today McConnell responded dismissively that he would not negotiate with the Democrstic leadership on rules for the trial.

McConnell flouts Senate conventions by dispensing with them. With the Senate outcome foreordained, he collects political capital by taunting his adversaries instead of feigning respect.  His base loves the touchdown, but it craves the touchdown dance even more.

Speker of the House Nancy Pelosi, draped in mourning for the Constitution, lamented the impeachment as a duty mandated by law, undertaken as if against her will, forced on her by a lawless president. Although she had previously said that she wouldn’t seek impeachment without bipartisan support, in the end she passed the articles without it, much as the 2009 Democratic Congress passed Obamacare without Republican support.  Despite Pelosi’s rending of garments, deep down inside she, like Joe Biden, has to acknowledge that passing the articles is a big fucking deal, a Democratic touchdown dance all its own. 

What do McConnell and Pelosi, master strategists, see as they study the chessboard? There will be no trial if Pelosi doesn’t send the articles over, and there will be no acquittal unless McConnell gets to hold a trial.  A stalemate? No way!

Even a fair trial is going to result in an acquittal. The numbers don’t change. There will never be 2/3 of the Senate to vote to remove the president. By going forward with the vote, Pelosi must’ve reasoned that impeachment without trial was better than no impeachment at all. On the other hand, McConnell figures that the failure by the House to deliver the articles is nearly as good as an acquittal and much less risky. Both pols are betting that time is on their sides. 

McConnell had nothing to lose by announcing that there would be no impartial or fair trial. He may have thought that he would scare off moderate Democrats, which he failed to do. If he had been successful, it would have been a triumph for his cohort. He may have prevented potential renegades from voting for impeachment. In any case, he is showing a hand that will beat a full House.

Yet, McConnell has another sort of problem. Even if he retracts his claim of partisanship, he is tainted with it. Even if he gives in to many of Pelosi‘s demands, it may not be sufficient to satisfy her belief that a fair trial can be held. Alternatively, Pelosi may have decided that nothing offered will be sufficient. She may be happy to play the Waiting Game, even if it carries over into next summer’s conventions. Potentially, the Democrats can hold up a trial until they are assured of having their case heard fairly and the hoaxes kept on the sidelines; until there is a nominee in place. 

And the bands play on. US Attorney John Durham’s report will be released at some politically advantageous moment. If he has a strong case for Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, it will be spread across the front page of every despised main-stream publication in the country. If the case is weak or nonexistent, it will come out below the fold on a Saturday morning, buried under a torrent of more sensational news.

In the meantime, there are piles of bills sitting on McConnell’s desk. They have been languishing without explanation. Now that the House has completed its extraordinary business, it will return to its routine work, which will include oversight and more information-gathering.  The Senate will have nothing to do but sit on its hands, unless those House bills are taken up or the Senate passes a few of its own. 

 There are a number of legal cases working their way through the federal judicial system, which address the administration’s refusal to appear before Congress and furnish documents. Some of those cases already have been scheduled for argument in the Supreme Court; notably, those concerning the Congressional right to obtain presidential financial records.

The outcome of the cases will have an impact on public opinion, while the two chambers idle over the impeachment trial issues. Any finding for or against the White House will cause a collateral effect on the issue of obstruction, even though the impeachment articles do not refer directly to the substance of any of the cases now pending.

The 2020 Democratic nomination is another dynamic process rolling on during the Waiting Game.  Most of the 2020 hopefuls  support impeachment. The caucuses and the primaries begin in January,  and voters may signal their opinions by voting for or against the candidates more hawkish on removal. Admittedly, the voting outcomes are difficult to interpret. Nevertheless, there will be some information to be masticated by the Pundocracy.

Despite the momentary break in the action, both sides know that they are engaged in a betting game as well as a waiting one.  The odds do not necessarily favor the House, and there will be many revolutions of the wheel before the metal ball passes the point of deflection and drops into the winning pocket.

Walter Reed Diagnosis: Sondlanditis

Washington DC – – November 20, 2019

After Gordon Sondland’s testimony this morning, it looks like there has been a lot of lying going on, and a lot of people are going to be compromised, if not outright punished. Including the prevaricator in chief.

The whole thing, including the impeachment itself, is now near-farce.  Whatever you may think of the underlying behavior, however bad it looks, as usual the cover up and the public deceit are worse.  

Mulvaney summed it up. “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Except when it’s used to skew an election. Again.

Tacking Early to the Middle

Another wild week in American politics, and that’s not counting the impeachment inquiry. It’s doubtful that any Democratic strategist follows Revolted Colonies. Yet, a few must’ve have figured out themselves that Warren and Sanders are too scary for American prime-time. Biden is not a strong enough candidate, no matter what the polls say (rather, said; we’ll get back to that). Klobuchar is still not lighting any fires.  And they are the best of the lot.

Despite the president’s unfavorable ratings and impeachable performance, he remains re-electable. Enough people around the country think he’s been the victim of unrelenting attacks; just enough at any rate to keep him from taking early retirement. Say what you will about Trump, he is a force, just not the right side of it.

The Democratic establishment saw Warren surging and decided to step in before it was too late.  Michael Bloomberg, a genuine billionaire, filed a petition in Alabama to put his name on the primary ballot to meet the earliest filing deadline. The 77-year-old former mayor hasn’t declared,  but he’s always been talking about it.

Deval Patrick, an Obama adherent, announced that he is running. Patrick is a former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital partner. His party affiliation, brown skin and bald head ensure that he won’t be confused with Mitt Romney though, his predecessor in both jobs. He’s smart and savvy, a gifted speaker and a centrist. Make no mistake – he is not an Obama clone, for whatever that’s worth.

If all of this wasn’t depressing enough for the progressive wing,  the former president  made it known that most Americans want healthcare and income equity, but they aren’t about to break up the furniture.  Run a centrist, he warned, but he didn’t say anything about Biden, his former vice president.  If Obama doesn’t think Joe can go all the way, trust his intuition: he can’t.

Bloomberg and Patrick’s coming-out parties were crashed by South Bend Mayor Pete  Buttigieg, who vaulted over three  rivals to top the latest Iowa poll.  He’s outspent his rivals carpet-bombing the Hawkeye State, which happened because also he out fund-raised them.  The proximity of Indiana to Des Moines and Davenport enables him to make quick visits during mayoral lunch breaks.  Done right, presidential campaigns require lots of money.  It’s time to start looking at who is backing  Mayor Pete.

Let’s not forget that Obama went from zero to hero by winning Iowa, and he did it by eating in every diner and pumping every hand.  If Buttigieg doesn’t falter, he can win.  As Iowa did for Obama, the momentum of victory or a strong showing will give him a chance to outrun the issue of his electability as a gay, married man.

This year, the Democrats are not going to wait till July 2020 to pivot to the center.  Recent wins in Kentucky, Virginia and Louisiana, all  considered personal losses for Trump, fuel the belief that a Democrat can take back the White House, as long as  that Democrat is the right, that is, centrist one.

Tacking Early to the Middle

Another wild week in American politics, and that’s not counting the impeachment inquiry. It’s doubtful that any Democratic strategist follows Revolted Colonies. Yet, a few must’ve have figured out themselves that Warren and Sanders are too scary for American prime-time. Biden is not a strong enough candidate, no matter what the polls say (rather, said; we’ll get back to that). Klobuchar is still not lighting any fires.  And they are the best of the lot.

Despite the president’s unfavorable ratings and impeachable performance, he remains re-electable. Enough people around the country think he’s been the victim of unrelenting attacks; just enough at any rate to keep him from taking early retirement. Say what you will about Trump, he is a force, just not the right side of it.

The Democratic establishment saw Warren surging and decided to step in before it was too late.  Michael Bloomberg, a genuine billionaire, filed a petition in Alabama to put his name on the primary ballot to meet the earliest filing deadline. The 77-year-old former mayor hasn’t declared,  but he’s always been talking about it.

Deval Patrick, an Obama adherent, announced that he is running. Patrick is a former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital partner. His party affiliation, brown skin and bald head ensure that he won’t be confused with Mitt Romney though, his predecessor in both jobs. He’s smart and savvy, a gifted speaker and a centrist. Make no mistake – he is not an Obama clone, for whatever that’s worth.

If all of this wasn’t depressing enough for the progressive wing,  the former president  made it known that most Americans want healthcare and income equity, but they aren’t about to break up the furniture.  Run a centrist, he warned, but he didn’t say anything about Biden, his former vice president.  If Obama doesn’t think Joe can go all the way, trust his intuition: he can’t.

Bloomberg and Patrick’s coming-out parties were crashed by South Bend Mayor Pete  Buttigieg, who vaulted over three  rivals to top the latest Iowa poll.  He’s outspent his rivals carpet-bombing the Hawkeye State, which happened because also he out fund-raised them.  The proximity of Indiana to Des Moines and Davenport enables him to make quick visits during mayoral lunch breaks.  Done right, presidential campaigns require lots of money.  It’s time to start looking at who is backing  Mayor Pete.

Let’s not forget that Obama went from zero to hero by winning Iowa, and he did it by eating in every diner and pumping every hand.  If Buttigieg doesn’t falter, he can win.  As Iowa did for Obama, the momentum of victory or a strong showing will give him a chance to outrun the issue of his electability as a gay, married man.

This year, the Democrats are not going to wait till July 2020 to pivot to the center.  Recent wins in Kentucky, Virginia and Louisiana, all  considered personal losses for Trump, fuel the belief that a Democrat can take back the White House, as long as  that Democrat is the right, that is, centrist one.

And Then There Were…

The double-dozen roster of Democratic hopefuls shrank a little more this week, when Beto O’Rourke ended his run. Whatever got Texans so juiced about his 2018 race against Ted Cruz didn’t transfer to a presidential run.

Even so, the field remains clogged with 17 candidates, most with little chance of success. Tom Steyer, the impeachment guy, has gotten his wish, making him insignificant now that the House officially opened the impeachment inquiry. If the field had not been so crowded, likable, intelligent Cory Booker might have built a following. In this Democratic dogpile, though, he did not make it into the front rank. He will be remembered best for his awesome side-eye directed at O’Rourke’s Latinx introductory message at the first debate.

Kamala Harris closed her offices in New Hampshire this week, a signal that she can wage only one fight at a time. She had surged into the upper tier briefly on Joe Biden-shaming for his decisions in the 1990s that haven’t weathered well. For Harris, she’s depending on Iowa, and it looks like a bust.

Those remaining fall into either the progressive or the moderate camp. Elizabeth Warren holds a significant lead over Bernie Sanders in the Medicare-for-all faction, a symbol of advocacy for meaningful economic reassessment. Warren and Sanders both advocate Medicare for all but are not interchangeable. Andrew Yang, a second-tier candidate, has attracted interest for his unconventional view that each American should receive $1,000.00 per month. It’s not a crazy notion once he explains it. He is an exciting figure, who deserves serious attention, if only for his ideas. Unfortunately, Yang and the rest of the progressives will be tagged as socialists, still considered anathema in a country that has passed and embraced several popular social welfare programs since the end of World War II.

The moderates in the field have a different sort of challenge. Joe Biden remains the front-runner. He’s plowed through a handful of gaffs. He showed indecision in feebly responding to Trump’s attack. Some of the polls reflect weakening, but he is hanging around the front of the pack. Ask yourself where are the megabucks donations fled for a well-liked middle of the road candidate with a modicum of gravitas. Fund-raising has plunged, and his candidacy is idling. Aside from his repeated boast to beat Trump like a drum, Biden hasn’t had much to say.

The other moderates are languishing. Pete Buttigieg has had a great run this summer, out-earning the competition, and has performed well in the debates. Amy Klobuchar is still having trouble getting momentum, which is unfortunate for her. She had an impressive performance in the latest contest. She hasn’t been hit with many negatives, only being a demanding boss.

To the list of lies, damnable lies, and statistics, we must consider polls, a particularly undependable form of statistics. The national general election polls of 25 October show Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Pete Buttigieg all beating Trump by significant margins. But general election isn’t won on general trends. Let’s take a look at how the candidates are doing in some of the battleground states.

. Among the most recent state polls, Emerson in Arizona found Trump in a statistical tie with Biden and Warren and with a slight edge over Sanders. There is a significant shadow over Arizona, which may resonate nationally. On healthcare, Republicans and Independents poll highest to keep things the same, then for a public option. Medicare for all ranks slightly ahead of shamanism. It’s even more unpopular among Independents than Republicans.

Among Democratic primary voters, Biden – keep healthcare the same – polls highest – but then Sanders and Warren – Medicare for all – follow closely. Buttigieg and Klobuchar – public option — are far down the scale. In the general election, though, they may be more competitive in capturing red-to-purple Arizona.

Purple Minnesota goes robustly for favorite daughter Klobuchar against Trump, and also for the general poll leaders. Minnesota went blue in 2016 by a slim margin.

Trump’s triumph in Wisconsin in 2016 was critical to his election. Marquette’s results of 23 October present a different outlook. Biden, Warren, and Sanders lead the incumbent, and Buttigieg trails but not by much. Klobuchar prospects are looking up.  She claims to know her beer from her foam, and that will serve her well in a Midwestern pub crawl.

North Carolina, another critical state captured by Trump in 2016, is polling blue. On 14 October, the top Democrats led Trump by slim margins, and Buttigieg and Harris trailed much the same.

Florida, too, is in play, but probably turned slightly bluer on the news that Trump is now one of their own. The state will likely remain red with a progressive running but could turn blue with the right moderate.

The leftward pull is dominant in the Democratic primary but is a handicap in swing states in the general election. There are troubling signs now that neither Sanders nor Warren may be unable pull in the critical, independent voters. Arizona’s split on health care is an indication.

These figures, unreliable though they are, support the American centrist convention. Democrats who play to the center draw less suspicion than those advocating the need for political upheaval. Except for 2016, we are a gradualist nation by and large.

If Biden can survive the primary, he can win the election, so say the polls. If not, Sanders and Warren will bear the socialist stigma, sending undecided voters back to Trump or keeping them quietly at home.

The outside play is for Amy Klobuchar. Her campaign has been relatively unexciting. But her performance in the debates has improved. Her positions on core issues are comfortably mainstream. Most importantly, she knows the difference between the fluff of foam and the bedrock of beer. My guess is that she will poll well in battleground states. If Biden falters, his support will swing to her, especially in the midwest.

Pete Buttigieg consistently has been the most impressive candidate on the husting, by far. His youth may be a plus rather than a minus. His sexual orientation is not the verboten issue it once was. Still, First Husband Chasten Glazmen’s TV tour of the White House will please and infuriate in equal measure. Still it’s possible that America will have a gay president before a female one.

 

Three into Two Won’t Go

The administration of future ex-President Donald Trump appeared to be in a graveyard spiral.  The House’s impeachment inquiry was going well; the G7 Summit at Trump’s beleaguered, bedbug-ridden Doral Resort was universally condemned; Mick Mulvaney spit the bit on the quid pro quo deal with Ukraine; Joe Biden didn’t shoot himself in either foot during this week’s debate.

Nature abhorring a vacuity, into the breach rushed Tulsi Gabbard and Hillary Clinton.  During a midweek podcast interview with David Plouffe, Obama’s twice-successful campaign manager, former/former/former Clinton said that one of the current, female Democratic candidates was being “groomed” as a third-party candidate by the Russians.  Counting out Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, and Marianne Wilson, the index finger pointed at Tulsi Gabbard, who had done the same math.

Gabbard fired back at Clinton. “Let’s be clear what this is about. Really, that if anyone stands up and speaks out to end the regime-change war policies that this country has had for so long, the likes of which we’ve seen waged in Iraq, Libya and Syria, we will be labeled as foreign agents, as traitors to our country…that we are traitors to the nation that we love. This is despicable on so many levels.”

Gabbard described Clinton as a champion of the regime change policies. She didn’t stop there, describing the 2016 nominee as the “embodiment of corruption.”  These are sobriquets one might pick out of Trump’s Compendium of Campaign Taunts and Disparagement. That would be strange in isolation.   Not for nothing, though, Gabbard has received praise from a surprising cohort of Trump supporters. Lisa Lerer wrote in the New York Times several days before the Clinton statement, in a piece called, “What is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?”

 Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, is impressed with her political talent. Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist leader, says he could vote for her. Former Representative Ron Paul praises her “libertarian instincts,” while Franklin Graham, the influential evangelist, finds her “refreshing.”

 And far-right conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich see a certain MAGA sais quoi.

  “She’s got a good energy, a good vibe. You feel like this is just a serious person,” Mr. Cernovich said. “She seems very Trumpian.”

Plus, the support of former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke.  The Times story mentioned other alt-right constituencies offering praise for Gabbard’s isolationism and her willingness to criticize Israel.  Yet, her isolationist rhetoric reads as an anti-imperialist message, at home in Democratic circles of the sixties and seventies, ignored by Gabbard herself.

The Times article also cited Gabbard’s favorable treatment by the Russian Times and supportive attention from suspected Russian bots.  There is reason for concern that she might be a witting Russian asset, like Donald Trump, or an unwitting one, like Donald Trump.

Gabbard threatened to boycott last week’s debate, contending that the 2020 election was being rigged. This has a Trump resonance But Gabbard worked for Sanders in 2016. She comes by her distrust honestly.

At the same time, Clinton’s statement — provocative, tone-deaf and impolitic — hearkens back to 2016 and Deplorables 2.0.   She threw a Molotov cocktail when all that was needed was a Roman candle.  The only important point is that the Russians need Trump to win to continue to influence U.S. foreign policy. Fearing that the structural limit of Trump’s support and his self-inflicted wounds will render him unelectable, Russia’s interjection of a third-party candidate to Trump’s left would split the Democratic vote, potentially tossing the election to the incumbent.

Russia’s attempt to divide the vote and the Democrats’ internecine struggle over the role of the DNC are the “vectors” which line up Russia’s potential backing of a Democrat to run as a third party.  The Democrats have not put out the fire. In fact, in Democratic circles, the war of 2016 continues to rage with complaints over super-delegates and partisan treatment. Hence, claims of corruption.

I drew flack yesterday with the statement, “As Trump falters, the Democrats’ circular firing squad moves into position.”

https://www.facebook.com/678453688/posts/10158060790548689/   Nevertheless, that assessment stands.  It remains a long, difficult lesson for Democrats to learn how Republicans, essentially a minority, outperform them through superior party discipline:  Merrick Garland. Brett Kavanaugh.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have gone so wrong as to put party over country. Maybe that’s inevitable when power is concerned. The Democrats have won far less than they should have, largely because of a failure in marshaling resources. Obama is a notable exception. So much about being a Democrat these days is aspirational. Still, there has to be a pragmatic side to it, and that pragmatic side must be upgraded to compete with the substantial political and financial forces arrayed against it.

 

Père Donald? Merdre!

One way to look at Future Ex-President Trump’s removal of troops from Syria is that the cabal involving Russia, Syria and Iran convinced him that it was “time” to get out.  This point of view treats him merely like a fool, and it is by all accounts the most charitable view.

The Kurds were stifling ISIS.  Within a day, the Turks moved on the Kurd territory, driving them out and opening a lane for ISIS to move.  His response was that ISIS won’t bother us – they’ll go to Europe.  Evidently, when Al Qaeda knocked down the Twin Towers, it inadvertently forgot to retake the Alhambra.  Not going to make that mistake again!

There are other, more sinister ways of looking at Trump’s decision to set free the turkeys but that would be the stuff of conspiracy and who needs a stuffed Turkey in October?  Let’s give Trump the benefit of the doubt for the moment- that he is merely a fool.

Then this is the moment we’ve been waiting for!   The moment when the consequences of Trump’s impulsive ignorance are recognizable immediately.    The signal that US troops were going home triggered an instant shift in the Middle East, with Iran, his bete-noir, the most likely beneficiary of the move.  More than ever, the appropriate question is: what was he thinking?  We don’t know, possibly will not know for many years, with his thoughts squirreled away in that private server we think of as the Stable Genius Stable.

I wonder if there was input from the CIA – if it was involved in the decision. Or the Defense Department; if we still have a Defense Department. Or Mike Pompeo, that one-man band at State.  The question for Pompeo is whether he can walk, chew gum, eaves-drop on a call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and analyze the complexities of Asia Minor and the Middle East at the same time. The presumptive answer is, “Are you kidding?”

Everybody else has left the building. Mattis, McMaster, Kelly, Bolton.  I’ve never had high praise for John Bolton – Dr. Strangelove without the disabilities – but within the Trump bunch, he may have been principled – a radical hawk, but a principled one – if there is such a thing.

When Trump cleared out the State Department, then the National Security Council, and let all the advisers go, that leaves no watchdogs, nobody to tell the president that all the screws are now loose, and the engine is starting to vibrate off  its mounts.

When that engine, the American nation,  drops from the chassis and screeches hot metal against asphalt until the entire vehicle stops dead,  that’s the time when we will miss our national apparatus; our redundancies – at State and Defense, NSA, ambassadors and spies, domestic investigators.  And for good measure, WHISTLEBLOWERS. Trump calls it the Deep State and deplores it, but the federal government, massive by necessity and preferably rich in information and experience, prevents the kind of disasters that an ignorant despot can cause at will. And he will.

Russia, If You’re Listening

Donald Trump has given Congress the road to his own perdition, not that he believes in it. He last year regarding the notes kept by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that good lawyers don’t keep notes. In essence, if you don’t write it down, there’s no evidence.

So, Trump, sly devil, doesn’t take notes; doesn’t put anything in writing; and prefers to conduct “personal diplomacy,” one to one calls or conferences in which no notes are taken or records kept. We recall he directed the translators at his meeting with Putin in Helsinki to destroy his notes.

There’s one thing he had to work around: when the president has a conversation with another head of state, many people are listening, in the Oval Office and in the Situation Room. Some of those people are charged with taking notes, transcribing the conversation. The notes taken are official records and cannot be destroyed. They are kept with similar records in an electronic filing system. They are discoverable to Congressional and FBI investigators. The Intelligence Committee has clearance over all classified materials, the kind of materials for which the lockdown was intended.

Records of his one-to-one conversations, such as the call with the Ukraine President in July, and most probably of the Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats immediately following the Comey firing in 2018, were placed in a special electronic lockdown and removed from the standard database. The records thus disappeared. The whistleblower states in his complaint that White House officials were directed by White House lawyers to “remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to cabinet-level officials.”

One of Trump’s Tells is that he accuses his enemies of doing what he himself has done or would do. Thus, Trump accused Hillary Clinton of maintaining a private email server to keep her nefarious dealings out of official State Department communications. It doesn’t matter if he believed that she did that. By accusing her, he signaled it as something he would do – and actually has.

Trump’s use of the lockdown in essence created for himself a private server into which his most scandalous communications were placed – away from prying government eyes. He might have gotten away with it, were it not for the whistleblower, one person – maybe the only person standing watch over the administration, perhaps a solitary figure acting at maximum personal risk.

 

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