Intermission

Revolted Colonies is going on hiatus.  Like many other people attempting to write about the political rift in our country, I am at a loss for words and voice to comment on the state of this Union. It seems that no matter how far from the White House a story starts, it eventually finds its way back – or to Mar-a-Lago or Bedminister. It’s tiresome, in addition to being unbecoming most of the time, veering occasionally into horrifying.

So I will sum up for now.  The country is in open warfare over who will control America.   America in the 21st Century began with existential terror and has never recovered.  America also is not reconciled to its demographic composition. The election of Barack Obama blew the lid off the White Nationalist movements boiling just beneath it. The backlash election of Donald Trump and his presidency have re-ignited white supremacists.

At the same time, we are ignoring our burning planet.  Eventually, there won’t be much left to fight over.

 

Here She Is!

McConnell Gaming the System

Pascal’s Wager is one of the best concepts I learned in college [In law school I learned its less useful alternative – it never hurts to ask. Sometimes it does]. If you live virtuously and God exists, then you enter the kingdom of Heaven. If God doesn’t exist, you’ve given up only a few material things. On the other hand, if you act godlessly and it turns out you’re wrong, Pascal says that you’ll have Hell to pay. He asks the skeptic, “What have you got to lose?”

Pascal’s Wager popped up most recently in the US Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked bi-partisan measures to provide heightened security for the 2020 presidential election. I’d like to know what he was thinking.

If we protect the electoral process and the Russians and others don’t hack it, we’ve lost nothing more than a little pocket money. On the other hand, if we are hacked and we’ve done nothing, then our electoral process is destroyed. Or, as Pascal might conclude, we’ve gone to Hell in a handbasket. And we would have Mitch McConnell to thank.

But it’s no wager. Pascal had no proof of the existence of God (thank you, Rene Descartes, mais non). His wager is about faith. Election meddling is a fact, Jack. The special counsel, 17 intelligence agencies, and a bipartisan Congress all found that we are walking around with a bull’s-eye on our back. May I have your attention please — wagering has been suspended.

McConnell is nobody’s fool. His decision to block the bills is strategic. He expects that meddling will help re-elect Trump. He also is counting on the fact that Trump supporters don’t care how he is reelected. If it takes a derevnya (Russian for village), then, “Da!” Mitch McConnell recognizes that the reelection of Trump, by any means necessary, extends Republican rule, and he believes that this is the best thing for the United States.

Wanna bet?

Blood in the Water

Joe Biden’s backers are fleeing.  When he started his 2020 campaign he was one gaff  away from a wipe out. He did better; he lasted two gaffs.  Biden failed to handle the anticipated attack  on his dealings with Dixiecrats in the 1970s.

He could have handled it many ways other than the way he chose, which was to attack Kamala Harris.  She offered a heart-felt explanation why his insensitivity was a problem. And he responded with — insensitivity. This is the party of kumbaya, after all. What was he thinking? Was he thinking?

It was stunning to see his campaign go down that fast but it’s for the best. Now resources won’t be wasted watching him crash in slo-mo.

The Democrats  can get on to the main event, which is to pass the torch to the new generation,  Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding.

Warren was one of the winners this week, along with Harris and Mayor Pete. Booker was good, Beto was disappointing and Bernie was Bernie.  Nobody has dropped out so far, and some of the other candidates were impressive.

Whoever wins will be left of Clinton and Obama. They stand a chance as long as Pennsylvanians don’t think that the Democrats will turn the Lehigh Vslley into an agricultural collective.

Haiku for Virginia Beach

Twelve dead, four wounded

Another day of mayhem

Something must be done

Playing the 2020 Field

Maybe the Democrats think that having 24 declared candidates is seven better than the GOP’s 17  in 2016. Or perhaps the lunatics are running the asylum. Nancy Pelosi can’t do everything, you know.

Either way, the party of Andrew Johnson has a problem  There are so many aspirants, it’s as if there were none.  Perhaps it’s better to think of the double dozen, not as viable contestants, but rather as a think tank, and the primary contests an extended brainstorming session.

The most prominent candidates, professional pols like current frontrunner Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders, do not have a single, signature issue. However, there are talented prospects on the taxi squad; people who possess experience in particular disciplines. For example:

  • Jay Inslee on climate issues
  • Elizabeth Warren on public education and family economics
  • Pete Buttigieg on homeland security and counterterrorism
  • Andrew Yang on automation and workforce
  • Tulsi Gabbard on armed services
  • Michael Bennett and Julian Castro on immigration
  • John Hickenlooper on gun control
  • Seth Moulton on national security
  • Tim Ryan on the economy and international trade    

How about locking them into a free-wheeling Internet-aired discussion, two or three at a time; forcing them to grapple with a single issue; challenging one another to propose a plan and then defend it. Require a proponent to explain how a program would be funded. Americans love new ideas, but we hate paying for them.

 These forums would provide the second-tier candidates with a way of distinguishing themselves, and at the same time giving the issues some Oxygen. The discussions could be posted on Youtube. They would be a stimulating sideshow to the Debates, an insufferable circus. 

Mr. Mueller’s Valedictory

Special Counsel Robert Mueller tendered his resignation to the Department of Justice, and he read a statement about the report bearing his name. A transcript of his statement, unredacted, appears at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/politics/mueller-transcript.html.
Mueller asked that the Report be allowed to speak for itself. Mueller restated that the first volume “details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election.” However, in the report the Mueller team found that there was “insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.”

Under the DOJ guidelines, the investigation of a sitting president is permitted to preserve evidence. However, because a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime,  Mueller concluded that it would be unfair to render a negative opinion in the Report.  Mueller referred to Congress’ separate process – impeachment – to formally accuse a president of wrongdoing.  It would be unfair to charge the president with a crime when there can be no court resolution on the subject. He  added nevertheless that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”  Mueller is saying that they were not convinced that the president had not committed a crime.

Before closing the book on his Report, the outgoing Special Counsel took a moment to explain why in his judgment the investigation was no witch hunt.

“The indictments allege, and the other activities in our report describe, efforts to interfere in our political system. They needed to be investigated and understood. And that is among the reasons why the Department of Justice established our office. That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The fact that the president was not charged with election interference did not negate the need for the investigation. In addition, it does not render meaningless efforts to impede the investigation.

Revolted Colonies began in 2010 as an outlet for its lawyer/author to comment on America’s cultural and political divisions, rather than opine on the law. However, the Trump presidency has been a lawyer’s goldmine in so many ways. It has become nearly impossible to talk about the politics without talking about Trump,  or talking about Trump without mentioning lawyers and the law. For that reason, it is reassuring that, at the heart of the Mueller report, there is Mueller, doing the work of a lawyer: clearheadedly ascertaining facts and applying the law. There is something satisfying, to this lawyer at least, that Mueller did not become politicized or allow his work to be affected by the political tempest buffeting him.

Bless America

Family and friends aside, America is the best thing ever to happen to many of us. This is why I get emotional over the travesty of Trump’s government. He gets wrong so many things that I love about this country.

Foremost, the Constitution has been an incredibly ingenious document. Not perfect for sure, but resilient;  so far unbreakable.  Through the Constitution, the people of America have steered the nation through crises which threatened the continued existence of the republic.  Fundamentally, the Constitution is nothing without the people who interpret, study and honor it. It will never replace the King James version for some or the Torah and the Qaran for others. For me, the Constitution shares top billing with all of them.

The Constitution was conceived as a compact between and among states.  Alabama reminded us just last week that states are sovereign, making their own laws, even if they are out of sync with the Constitution.  The three branches each have an establishing article: Congress is set forth in the first part; the executive the second;  and judiciary the third. Congress makes laws, the Executive carries them out and Judiciary rules on conflicts between the two branches.

The judiciary has a busy season ahead of it, if the White House continues its siege against the Congressional hordes. Yesterday, Rep. Elijah Cummings’ House Oversight Committee prevailed in its onslaught against the obstructive administration. See The Sun Poked Through, 9/20/2019. Aaron Schiff and Jerry Nadler are teeing a few up as we speak.

This case and some others likely will reach the Supreme Court; a few no doubt will be consolidated for a decision. Trump calls it “his Court.”  He may be in for a surprise.  The judges don’t even think it is their Court. They are its caretakers only.

Even the most extreme members of the bench have lived in the law for decades. Its precept of stare decisis (let the decision stand) is the cornerstone of our laws.  Judges tend to follow precedent.  A court would rather create an exception to a strongly-held law, such as Roe v. Wadethe 1973 decision the right of a woman to decide whether or not to abort an unwanted pregnancy and in passing decriminalizing the performance of abortions by doctors, rather than overturn it.

When the new wave of anti-abortion laws reaches the high court, the media’s noise will be about overturning Roe v. Wade.  In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court had an opportunity to recall the Roe decision but refused to do it.  Some of the qualifiers and restrictions under the Pennsylvania law were adopted; others stricken. Thus began the death of Roe by a thousand cuts.  The pro-life movement has attacked abortion practice using Planned Parenthood‘s lower standards to show to justify a restriction.    Most likely, Roe will be so eviscerated as to remove any semblance of control from the woman undergoing the procedure, assuming she can find a doctor willing to give perform one.  Trump will say that Roe’s been overturned, and the pro-choice movement will deny it. It  will depend on the state, because ( improbably) it is a state by state decision.

The Court will hear many other cases, some likely to rest on the meaning of the Constitution. The prospect does not promise judicial consensus.  In some cases, though, the Judges should see the Constitutional situation for what it is.  Nixon’s tape case (1974)  was argued before the same court as Roe v. Wade.  The bench split 7-2 on Roe with a dissent and a number of concurring decisions.  Nixon was unanimous 8-0, Justice Rehnquist having recused himself.

Even when the Constitutional issue is difficult (Nixon’s was not, nor will Trump’s be) the Justices tend to put forth a united front.  The Court was the final backstop for the conflict between Nixon and Congress.

Trump has restocked the  current Court with right leaners. The Chief has flirted with the center to maintain the Court’s credibility.  At least five judges will condemn Trump’s efforts to stonewall Congress.  Even Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh may recognize that setting a good precedent is more important than the expedient alternative.  Even if the Court votes to quash Congress’s investigative authority, Congress may nevertheless claim victory as long as the case is honestly fought, and the arguments are sincere and well-considered.

 

The Sun Poked Through

US District Judge Amit Mehta knocked down Trump’s application to quash the subpoena of his accountants’ records. Judge Mehta wrote a 41-page opinion. The gist of it is this:

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a sitting President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

In a nutshell, the Judge ruled that if Congress expresses a legitimate purpose for its investigation, it is not for the court – or the President – to second-guess it.

The same reasoning applies to other subpoenas issued by the House and Senate committees.  It remains to be seen if Trump will continue to resist the House’s investigations. If Mehta’s ruling stands, and it probably will, Trump’s continued refusal itself is a reason for impeachment, which the House will be constrained to undertake.

Darkness at the Center of Town

Congress is bearing down on Donald Trump and his administration of looters, opportunists and enablers.

The House Judiciary Committee has voted to cite Attorney General William Barr for contempt, for his refusal to share the Mueller Report in its complete and non-redacted form.  For Congress, this is the first step in a journey of thousands up to the November 2020 election, unless something occurs or is uncovered that will short-circuit the secrecies of the Trump administration.

I agree with most people who believe that impeachment is the correct action to go against a renegade executive, whether or not acquittal in the Senate is guaranteed.  Congress cannot allow unprincipled refusal to cooperate to be the norm.  Secrecy enables self-dealing and other corrupt practices.

Journalists, purveyors of the alleged fake news, are enjoying a golden age of investigative reporting.  Dogged persistence, in the face of White House recrimination and intimidation, has produced material revelations almost daily. The leaking of information, even if done for the wrong reason, casts light on the clandestine operation of Trump’s Washington. Without journalists, the government would be as dark as Dante’s Inferno.

Entire departments of the government are understaffed and opaque. Voters need to know about the government’s policies when they are affected by them. Voters need to know if elected officials are carrying out the laws in the direction promised.  They need to know if the officials themselves are complying with law.

Whether or not Trump’s obstructions were criminal, surely they were acts of misconduct. The Mueller Report at its root is a compendium of the administration’s  bad conduct, a subject with which our Congress in the first instance must be concerned. The Judiciary and Intelligence committees are charged with that duty. They should be allowed to know all of the facts and sources in order to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of government.

The Special Prosecutor’s Office was concerned with criminality. Congress must address the non-criminal aspects of the administration.  CASE CLOSED, Senator Mitch McConnell’s latest declaration, is intended to shut down Congress in its work. The Majority Leader is so wrong-headed as to warrant censure himself. Those of us who survived the Nixon presidency and the Watergate investigation know how close Nixon actually came to getting away with it.  A bipartisan Congress and an incorruptible independent counsel forced his hand.

The founders understood the principles of divided government, but they did not envision or provide for a government so split that it is polarized on the necessity of government.  The reason for the administration’s failure to fill posts and to keep policy under wraps is a distaste for governmental initiative. The administration governs by the law of the jungle.   Anti-democratic principles, such as Cheney and Barr’s unitary executive theory , fulfill a reactionary vision of American life, in which wealth rules with impunity, and those without it are subjects, not citizens.

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