Category: Politics Page 1 of 6

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.

 

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?

A Man Comes In Out of the Weeds

Jay Inslee is the Governor of Washington, and he’s running for President. He deserves serious consideration. 

He’s a Climate Change Warrior. It’s his one  issue, and he knows it well. He’s in the weeds on it, and he can go high when FEPOTUS  goes low. Not only that. He can explain it in a way that even a Luddite Real Estate Salesman can understand. Inslee has the kind of game that could give Trump a run in the red states. That’s a winning formula. 

Inslee is promoting himself as a one-issue guy, although that doesn’t do him justice. He explains that environmental policy is also job policy and education policy. After he opens on the environment, he pivots to these more accessible issues. He comes across like a seasoned, well-rounded intelligent guy who can put some meat on the progressive skeleton. 

Inslee served two terms in Congress. He can speak about the federal government with some authority. His pitch about Congress is that the filibuster has to go to get environmentally positive laws on the books. 

Inslee plays like someone who knows the business and how things get done. If he gets a hearing, he might find some traction. If he is the standard bearer, he has the kind of game to take Trump on. He won’t get bullied, that’s for sure

Getting some traction though is Inslee’s biggest hurdle. He slots into the middle-aged, white guy niche with Beto O’Rourke, who is already establishing himself as a formidable candidate. Beto’s sucking up money like a Roomba, and has some mojo reminiscent of Obama and Bill Clinton. Inslee has more substance, less charisma.

Too bad, it’s not even clear that the middle-aged, white guy will be this year’s model. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris  and Joaquin Castro are off and running.

The glass ceiling division, Senators Warren, Gillibrand and Klobuchar.  Each of them has a strong progressive agenda, with Klobuchar a popular midwestern figure.

Then there’s Bernie and maybe Biden, a slightly more seasoned variant.

A total of 22 candidates so far, and it’s early still  it’s too early to draw any conclusions about who can win beat the Groper. The Democrats must win back Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida to be assured of victory. Whoever runs strongly through middle America will be the Democrat to beat.  In a one-issue race, it’s the only issue that counts.

No Takers on Trump Nothingburger

The White House proposal Saturday to end the shutdown was a feint, an illusion  of compromise.  Actually, it was a Nothingberder. 

The administration proposed three years of temporary protection for the Dreamers, which was DOA.  The White House thought to act because the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear its  appeal of the lower court’s rejection of Trump’s DACA termination. The odds are about 20  to 1 against the High Court taking the case (the final posting for this year’s cases will occur Tuesday). In effect, Trump was offering ice in the winter. Pelosi and other Democrats would not consider it. 

Even worse for the White House, Trump’s pitched looked like amnesty to his supporters, which will piss off Rush, Ann and the 2016 base. Trump’s proposal should never have seen the light of day.

Mike Pence said that the proposal showed the administration is reaching out. It doesn’t seem likely. The Trump base hated it. The Democrats didn’t give it a thought. Media on the left and right ridiculed it. The proposal was just another misconceived publicity stunt.

It’s 2016 All Over Again

Future Ex-President Trump got soundly thumped for his speech from the Oval Office. He said nothing new, looked as if he were embalmed and couldn’t wait to get off the air. Yet, when it was over, I had this disquieting feeling, like I had not really heard him at all; as if it passed right through me.

The Democratic leadership followed him up, chiding him for his lies. I knew that I had heard this before; not just the other day from the White House lawn, but three years ago on the campaign trail. They still haven’t learned that this approach fails with an audience that is willing to forgive him his trespasses because it thinks that he stands for a greater truth. The Democrats would do well to take this seriously. They must meet the substance, not the form, of the argument. The Democrats are missing the forest for the trees – again. This myopia guarantees another four years out of power.

FEPOTUS wants to build a Border Wall, but nevertheless admits that it is not an answer for Border Security. The Democrats do not want a Border Wall but they recognize the need for border security. They dismiss the Wall as a medieval answer to a 21st Century problem. They claim that Trump is lying about a crisis at the border, and they argue that if there is a humanitarian crisis, Trump has caused it. They reached a stalemate, and our government has decided to put itself out of business.

The government shutdown is entering its third week, with federal employees going without a paycheck. FEPOTUS said two weeks ago that he was proud to own the shutdown. Although he has retreated from those words, he might just as well double-down on them. He will live or die by them. Republicans have begun to retreat publicly. At least four Senators would vote to reopen the government but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t put the measure up for a vote. Each side vows that it will let this stalemate drag on until the other side caves. In the meantime, 800,000 federal employees and their dependents are in existential peril.

The Democrats and the media see this as all on Trump.  They are preaching to their choir, just as they did in 2016. They are not addressing the anger and frustration of an active and discontented part of the electorate; which put is faith in Trump, notwithstanding his lies, insensitivity, corruption and sheer incompetence.  Although Trump has scaled back his thirty-foot concrete monument to a steel fence, the true believers have not shrunken from their belief in the need for a barrier and a belief in him.

The Democrats should have called for hearings on the first day of the new Congress. They should have a parade of witnesses on the situation along the border and other witnesses as to what is needed. If there is a crisis, then the adults, our adults, should be fashioning a solution. At least, it would show that they are taking the concern seriously enough to investigate and move toward a solution. That, more than any words, would show that they care about the truth of the situation and the solutions needed for greater border security.

If the Democrats do nothing, FEPOTUS can call off the shutdown with impunity. He’ll say he, not Democrats, “cares” about the federal workers. He will take credit for offering a solution, however ridiculous it may be. The Democrats, having done nothing, will be made to appear closed in heart and mind, and they’ll have way to fight back. Hillary Redux.

Democrats may not agree that there is a  need but they will do themselves a disservice by trivializing the concerns of those who do. Deplorables Redux. To Democrats, Schumer and Pelosi’s rebuttal to Trump looks earnest and responsible. To non-Democrats,  it sounds like a hectoring scolding, and they appear to be smug and petulant – much the way Hillary did. They’re misreading the situation again, again, again.

Mick Mulvaney: Out of the Sandbox

Donald Trump wasn’t conservative enough for Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney said that candidate Trump was a terrible person, and he wouldn’t vote for him. Nevertheless, he accepted the President-elect’s offer to run the Office of Management and Budget. Later, he added the title of Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau after Obama appointee Richard Cordray was fired.

As CPFB director, Mulvaney immediately fired all members of the agency’s advisory board and defanged the pro-consumer agency. As  OMB director, his office has become a way station for the stray lobbyist or dissatisfied donor. Yet, after two years of service, Mulvaney is not the object of a criminal investigation. High praise, indeed.

On paper Mulvaney, a deficit hawk, is an unlikely chief of the OMB, which has overseen a historic increase in the national debt.   Mulvaney claimed that the United States would outgrow its spending hikes, which so far is not the case. Growth as measured as a percentage of GDP fell from the promising 4% range into quicksand of 2%. Mulvaney’s hoped-for growth by tax cut has not materialized.

Trophy Hunter

All the more surprising is Mulvaney’s willingness to take on another job, this time as Acting Chief of Staff. He’s going to hold on to the OMB title, avoiding the necessity of  ramming another anti-agency industry hack through the Senate confirmation process. Mulvaney coming aboard with the title of Acting Chief of Staff gives him cover if he is dumped like Priebus and Kelly were. It also gives him control on domestic policy and relations with congress. At least, Mulvaney has more latitude to conduct government business in a comparatively conventional way.

Translating Trump

Can Mulvaney do what his predecessors could not? For starters, he is trying with some success to translate Trump’s impulsiveness into political norms. This morning on Meet the Press, he addressed many  pressing issues.  On the border wall: “We gave [Democrats] an offer [between the $5 billion figure and the $1.6 billion figure] and we’re waiting to hear back from them right now.” His statement is addition by subtraction. The administration will drop its settlement number to end the shutdown, making it sound like the usual congressional horse-trading. Still, no DACA, no wall, as far as the Democrats are concerned.

Mulvaney tries to be plain spoken-ish. “The president is not going to not accept money for a border wall.” Mulvaney also shifted the administration on getting Mexico to pay for the wall.  He conceded matter-of-factly that the administration cannot actually make Mexico pay for the wall. He  suggested that Trump’s promise was aspirational,  not transactional.  For Mulvaney, Mexico’s greater deterrence of Central America migrants becomes a stand-in for the wall. The slatted fence with the points is another stand-in for the wall. Without fanfare, Mulvaney downgraded the wall from BBW (Big, Beautiful Wall) to FWB (Fence with Benefits). Border wall has been re-purposed as border security, opening the door to non-wall measures which are acceptable to the Democrats and don’t look to Trump’s base like surrender.  Congress will make a deal sooner or later, and Mulvaney will be smack dab in the middle of it.

Mulvaney is the Message

Mulvaney also is also seizing control of the message. If this morning’s appearances are a preview of things to come, Mulvaney will get the chance to move the congressional pile and to propose compromises that don’t completely forfeit the boss’s political capital.

Making It Real

According to Mulvaney, Trump now realizes that he can’t fire the Fed Chief.  If so, this recognition is uncharted territory for the Accidental President.  Mulvaney chalks up Mattis’ firing to a difference in philosophy between Trump and Mattis. Of course, it is just as much a difference in process, which Mattis identified as a reason for leaving.   Mulvaney is trying to forge a real-world convergence of American politics and Trump’s alternste universe.

Shortly after the Sunday shows, the White House announced that the nomination of a new Defense Secretary has been advanced from to January  3rd from February 28th.  The announcement is meant to assure the public that this administration is not the shambles it appears to be, and to persuade the public that there is at least one person ready to lead the Pentagon under this president. Mulvaney’s fingerprints are on this too.

Out of the Sandbox

For the moment and until further notice,  Mulvaney will play the adult in the room. He is attempting to project himself as the savior of a lost administration, or at least the voice of reason drowned out by the White House din.  If this is political calculation by Mulvaney, he is playing it smart. ​

Kelly never had any political arrows in his quiver.  He is a former general, not a former legislator. On the other hand, Congressman Mulvaney was washed ashore in Washington bu the Tea Party tsunami. Paradoxically, he’s trying to build an unsinkable platform using the DC swamp as his foundation.

Surfing the Blue Wave

Does anybody remember the election in 2016 — because one of the same patterns is emerging. The polls are giving the Democrats an 80% probability of taking back the house. Uh oh, Trump may have them right where he wants them.

In 2016, polls overwhelmingly projected Hillary Clinton to win the election. Nate Silver’s forecaster, Fivethirtyeight.com, before Election Day gave Clinton a 70% probability of winning, and he has been a very accurate forecaster of elections. By 11 P.M. that night, after Pennsylvania was called for Trump, her chances had dropped to 5%, and that was being generous. To focus attention, it’s better to think that she started with a 1 in 3 chance of losing, which is what happened. The Democrats have a 1 in 5 chance of not taking back the House. Is that a cold shower or what?

A probability of 80% assumes that everything goes as the Democrats expect. If things do not go perfectly, the percentage diminishes rapidly. The polls get a whole lot more accurate once voters go to the voting booth. Forecasting polls are a snapshot and contingent; who answered the phone and who didn’t. They are inexact and can’t be treated as a foregone conclusion. Don’t look at the 80%; look at the 20%. That’s the key.

Don’t hold your breath until the House turns blue. Get out and canvass, make phone calls and get everyone to vote. If you’re in a safe district, assuming there is one, work for a district that is contested. Participatory democracy means pushing beyond complacency and escaping your own gravity. Step out of your front door and roll up your sleeves.

The Kegger Plays His Trump Card

Yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee predictably satisfied the expectations of political junkies, #metoo activists and garden-variety voyeurs. The crowd also experienced the rare surprise of the cool and collected Brett Kavanaugh putting on his angry Trump face for the galleries and the folks at home. Trump’s Justice in utero wasn’t going to go out without a Trumpian rant.

Kegger spent several days in White House captivity, mastering the Trump playbook. He roared about the Democrats’ chicanery, lamented that his days of teaching and coaching girls’ sports may be over, and raged that the coveted prize, a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court was being pulled out of his hands. He didn’t use the words “rigged” or “witch hunt,” and he wept and cursed his fate. Otherwise, it was unvarnished Trump-speak. Trump’s hand was up the Kegger’s back, moving his lips and waving his arms.

The Republican senators had hired Rachel Mitchell, an able and experienced sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, to question accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in their stead. Mitchell took each majority members’ five-minute segment in the Ford questioning, and she was scheduled to do the same with the Kegger. However, chairman Grassley and his bloc, fortified by the nominee’s new-found belligerence, decided to take back the microphone.

First up, Lindsey Graham (R-NC) lay the groundwork for the rest of the afternoon. Turning away from the judge, he fixed his pole axe on his Democratic colleagues.

“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy!”

His target was his friend, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who bore the brunt of accusations that she held back Ford’s accusation until after Kavanaugh’s first hearing finished.
At long last, the combatants dismissed Ford and Kavanaugh, the proxies for the war between the statesmen. The Repubs were in high dudgeon over the Dems’ treatment of Kavanaugh, and the Dems were tacitly taking their revenge for their rivals’ dismissal of Merrick Garland in 2016 – and for a bagful of other indignities and slights.

The public got to see what kind of shit show we’ve enabled in the halls of government. Blame everybody — we’ve demanded winner-take-all politics, and now we have it. The Democrats led by former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) set this in motion by eliminating the filibuster in connection with judicial appointments below the Supreme Court level This reduced the vote to a simple majority. When Mitch McConnell (R-TN) extended the rule to Supreme Court confirmation, the nuclear option, the stage was set for extreme appointees who did not require bipartisan support.

In 2016 Merrick Garland was put forward by Barack Obama, a centrist judge who previously had garnered the approval of both parties. He did this to dare the Republican house to gamble on the outcome of the presidential election.  McConnell, in complete control of the Senate, refused even to consider his nomination, rolling the dice that, if Clinton had won, he could always activate Garland’s nomination. With Trump in the White House and a Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell has been rolling sevens, judicially speaking. The Democrats, outmaneuvered, lament lifting the filibuster in the first place.

Dick Durbin (D-IL) had predicted in January that ending the filibuster would be the “end of the Senate,” as we know it. Yesterday, he lamented that his prediction had come true.

“It’s interesting, a Republican senator this morning in the gym raised the same question with me. And I said, ‘I think we’re learning our lesson here.’ That eliminating the filibuster on the Supreme Court at least, and maybe the other federal positions, has really created a much more political process. It is better for us to move toward with something that is bipartisan and try to find more moderate people to serve on our federal judiciary.”

Good luck with that. It’s a great aspiration but no one in this Senate presently will lead the institution out of its quagmire. So much needs to be unwound to return to lower-case d democracy in our politics. The Senate and House must reclaim their preeminent places in our government, and the imperial presidency, begun long before Trump, must be contained. These changes require the Supreme Court to recognize congressional primacy, and Brett Kavanaugh won’t let that happen — unless his puppeteer loses the White House.

Who Said Life is Fair?

Three accusers so far, and we’ve only gotten as far as freshman year. Imagine what’s in store for Brett “Kegger” Kavanaugh as an upper-class man at Yale. Boola, boola.

All of his accusers could be mistaken or lying, but the odds are against it. Predict It, the UK bookmaker, had confirmation at 96% last week, now down to 30%.

Kegger’s self-driven PR campaign hasn’t moved the needle. It didn’t help that he was sharing the headlines with Bill Cosby’s sentencing for drugging and raping a woman (and a lot more whose cases were too old to be brought). It’s bad luck too that there’s no statute of limitations in a Senate Confirmation hearing to protect 100-Keg from his own history.

Kegger caught another bad break being before the Senate and not a courtroom. No one has to presume his innocence or give him the benefit of the doubt, even if his sponsors have brought in a prosecutor and want to turn the hearing into a quasi-trial.   He could use a little legal aid about now.

Kegger is by far the sweatiest Supreme Court nominee in my lifetime. He looks like he’s got hives. He’s lost  his composure. When he appeared on Fox News two nights ago, begging for fairness, you could smell the tension. Why so uptight? Come on, man, we’re impartial, just calling balls and strikes. It’s not our fault you’ve got a big strike zone and a few holes in your swing.

There are plenty of second acts in American lives, and Kavanaugh has had his allotted two. He’s parlayed his privilege from high school hedonist to Judge of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Not bad, but now Kegger’s looking for a third act, and that curtain’s not going up. He shouldn’t complain. He’s a judge on one of the most respected courts in America. He’s lucky; in fact, he works for Merrick Garland.

Considering Kegger’s questioned past and his proven lies in earlier confirmation hearings, he’s gotten more than his share of fair. There are jurists out there as good or better, who couldn’t get so much as an interview. Merrick Garland comes to mind.

Do you remember telling your parents that something was unfair and their response? Life isn’t always fair. Kavanaugh should wipe away his tears and return to his very special job, which he is very lucky to keep. For now.  A criminal complaint has been filed before the Committee on Judicial Conduct against Kavanaugh, alleging perjury during his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings.  The committee chair?  Merrick Garland.

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