Friday, November 10, 2017

Does Hamilton County (Indiana) Present an Opportunity for Democrats in 2018?

Last Tuesday featured a shifting electorate in which heavily populated suburbanites turned out in droves to cast ballots for Republicans Democrats.  Even though Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie did extremely well in the Trump rural counties (so much for the theory that Gillespie's problem was that he wasn't Trump enough) he got utterly destroyed by high turnout in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.  Those highly-educated, wealthy, mostly white voters were casting votes for Democrat Ralph Northam.  Previously, Republicans did fairly well with that constituency.  But in the Trump era, those suburbanites suddenly are pulling the Democratic lever.

The 2017 GOP debacle wasn't confined to Virginia.  (In that state commonwealth, the scores of losses in the Virginia House of Delegates were actually much more noteworthy than the Governor's race.)  In other suburban areas that were once Republican bastions, Democrats were suddenly winning.  The message in many of those districts were simple:  Show up on November 7th to vote against Donald Trump.  That message drove an astonishing level of anti-Trump turnout, propelling Democrats to win in areas they have not been competitive in for decades, if ever.

Indianapolis, with over 900,000 residents, is the 13th biggest city in the United States. But
Indianapolis, unlike other smaller cities, does not have a large metro population.  You drive out of Marion County and you will in just a few miles be in farm country.

Discussion of Indianapolis's suburbs typically focuses on the so-called "doughnut" counties, i.e. those counties which touch upon Marion County, which county encompasses all the City of Indianapolis.   Despite some growing suburban cities such a Greenwood and Avon, doughnut counties like Morgan, Hancock, Shelby and Hendricks are still dominated by rural areas within those counties.  But there is one notable exception.  Hamilton County.  That county just north of Indianapolis features Carmel, Fishers and Westfield, three booming population centers that contribute to make it the fourth largest county at 316,373 people, more than 1/3 the size of the population of Marion County-Indianapolis.

Could Hamilton County Democrats run a "Vote against Trump" campaign in 2018 and be successful?  Long a student of Indiana politics, I have to be skeptical.  While Hamilton County's GOP numbers have slipped a bit, it remains a source of a large GOP margin in most state-wide elections.

But here's the thing.  Donald Trump is not popular in Hamilton County.  In 2016, he received only 56.8% of the vote in the county.  And that was with his opponent being Hillary Clinton, the most unpopular candidate the Democrats have ever nominated.  How many of that 56.8% of Trump voters dislike the New York businessman, but voted for him solely because of who he is running against?  If Hamilton County Democrats successfully ran a 2017 style Trump-referendum campaign in conjunction with a slate of candidates, could they defeat the once dominant, Trump-tainted Hamilton County GOP?

Of course, that scenario contains a big "if."  Associating a candidate with an unpopular national political figure is always a challenge, especially when you're talking about local races.  But the Trump brand of toxic politics might make the President an exception.

Probably the biggest obstacle for Hamilton County Democrats is that they have not had much time to build a team that is ready to take the field in the event that the GOP in that county stumbles.  In 2016, Hamilton County Democrats finally found candidates for county-wide office.  In 2014, the election comparable to 2018, Hamilton County Democrats did not field a single candidate for county-wide office, conceding such races as Prosecutor, Sheriff and Clerk to the Republicans.

Does Hamilton County present an opportunity for Democrats in 2018?  Yes, but it's a long, long shot. But that's better than no shot, which is exactly what Hamilton County Democrats had before Trump won the Presidency.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Trump Brand Proves Toxic to GOP Candidates in 2017 Elections

When the history of the early part of this century is written, historians will point to November 8, 2016 as the turning point for the Democratic and Republican Parties.  Casual observers look at the election results that day and conclude they mean the Republican Party, led by President Trump, was in its ascendancy, having soundly vanquished its Democratic foe giving the GOP control of all three branches of government.  But a more analytical approach might conclude that seeds of a coming Republican disaster were sown in the those 2016 election results.

President Trump and his supporters like to claim the President resoundingly won the 2016 election as
the American public enthusiastically bought the Trump brand.  Of course, students of history know Trump's victory was far from overwhelming.  Trump's win in the Electoral College was the 9th closest in American history and he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

Trump did not win the 2016 election because of his brand.  He won in spite of his brand.  People were willing to overlook his hate-mongering, divisive politics because they hated Hillary Clinton more.  They wanted a change and Donald Trump was the only game in town when it came to fulfilling that desire.  Any other Republican would have trounced Hillary Clinton badly.

But despite Trump's and his supporters constant attempts to revive her, Hillary Clinton is gone.  The Trump brand stands alone and it is a toxic brand of politics that poisons everyone associated with it.

I dipped my political feet into the water in 1980 when the conservative movement came of age.  That year I attended seminars and other meetings in which conservative ideas were discussed. There was no talk then of harboring contempt for liberals and others who didn't share our views. They were merely viewed as people to be persuaded.  We conservatives sure did not hate people because of their race or religion.   In fact, we expressly rejected the ideology of the white supremacists (now called the "alt right") as not being consistent with the freedom and opportunity represented by our brand of conservatism, a brand that resulted in the (real) landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

I knew during the late hours of November 8, 2016 that we conservatives and Republicans had lost an historic election.  Those results meant that for the next 20 years or more, the conservative movement of my youth and the party I had chosen to join, would be tarnished with the Trump brand.  I knew from that day forward, we Republicans would lose a lot of elections and, for decades to come, the liberal ideology would prevail.

Prior to last night, there were a number of special elections in the U.S. House. Trump supporters gleefully pointed to the success of the Republican candidates in all those races of proof of the popularity of the Trump GOP brand.  It was a ridiculous suggestion.  All those races were run in heavily Republican districts that the GOP candidates had won by large double digits in 2016.  Yet, in every one of those heavily Republican districts, the Democratic candidates in 2017 ran competitively, losing by only a few points.

Last night, even the most fervent Trump supporters, if they wanted to look, could see the electoral cliff their "Trump Train" is heading for.  It was not just the surprising margin of victory of the Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam.  (Trump tweeted this morning that Republican candidate Ed Gillespie is at fault for his loss to Northam because Gillespie did not act Trump enough.  Of course, nothing is ever Donald Trump's fault.)  n Virginia, Republicans went from having a super-majority in the House of Delegates to possibly losing control of the chamber. And it was not just Virginia.  All across the country, Democrats were winning in areas they had not won for decades  In one county in Pennsylvania, the Democrats for the first time since the 1700s won a county-wide office.  They didn't just win one county-wide office; Democrats swept all four of those offices in that county.

From top to bottom, Democratic candidates employed the strategy of tying GOP candidates to Donald Trump.  And those Republicans, tethered to Trump, sank to the bottom of the political river.

Now the media talking heads are spreading the conclusion that "Trumpism without Trump" doesn't work.  Nonsense. Trumpism with Trump doesn't work either .   The independents and some Democrats who supported Trump over Hillary Clinton a year ago are long gone.  They are not coming back, unless of course the Democrats would be so stupid as to nominate Hillary Clinton again.   I can almost rule that out.  Almost.

But 2020 is not the election on the horizon.  The 2018 mid-term elections featuring 435 U.S. House  and 33 Senate seats are next in line.  While many point to the fact that gerrymandering protects the Republican majority in the House, there is an ugly truth about the process that is rarely discussed.  In a gerrymander, the goal is to create a large number of close but safe seats for the majority while conceding by a large margin fewer seats to the minority party.  Typical margins of majority districts in a gerrymander might be 60-40, while minority districts run 20-80.  The problem with gerrymandering is that when the rare large wave election happens, the political dam bursts and the flooding takes out more majority party incumbents than it would if they were drawn with larger margins than 60-40.

Certainly the Republican party will lose seats in the U.S. House in 2018.  (Unlike other analysts, I don't think it matters one bit what legislation Congress passes.)  Losses are inevitable.  The question is how many.  I am fairly confident that gerrymandering won't prevent the Republicans from losing the majority in the House.  The U.S. Senate is another story because the Republicans are protecting so few seats in swing states while several Democratic Senators face re-election from districts Trump won in 2018.  Still, after last night, I think the Trump brand is so toxic that the Democrats do have an realistic, albeit still a long-shot, chance of winning control of the Senate.

Donald Trump is not the savior of the Republican Party.  He is GOP cancer and the sooner he is gone the sooner my party, and the conservative ideas it stands for, can start the long process of recovering.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tolling of Indiana Interstates Moves Forward with Study

Unlike some of my fellow conservatives, I did not loudly protest the substantial increase in Indiana's gas tax this Spring.  Instead I was more worried about the tolling authority the legislature gave the Governor in the bill, a provision which got little publicity.   But when the issue came up, our Republican members of the legislature assured us that any tolls were way down the road and, besides, they are only a last resort type of thing.  Not to worry.  Besides we have a Republican Governor.  What could go wrong?

Indiana legislators had barely left town when Governor Holcomb's Department of Transportation began putting the wheels in motion to toll Indiana
Governor Eric Holcomb
interstates.  The Associated Press reports on the first step, a study which gleefully announces how much more Indiana can soak Hoosier drivers:

Indiana could see between $39 billion and $53 billion in toll revenue from 2021 to 2050, according to study of a proposed statewide tolling program. 
The feasibility study conducted by the state Department of Transportation estimated how much money would be generated from tolls on six interstates: 64, 65, 69, 70, 74 and 94, The Journal Gazette reported . Potential toll rates ranged from 4 cents per mile for automobiles to 19 cents per mile for heavy trucks. 
... 
An estimated 9 percent to 22 percent of drivers would choose to travel on local roads instead of paying the tolls, the report said.
A law approved this year requires the Department of Transportation to perform feasibility studies and seek approval from the Federal Highway Administration for charging tolls on the interstate routes. Lawmakers also raised the state gas tax by 10 cents to raise funds for road maintenance.
Proponents of tolls argue they are just a user fee, that only the people using the roads are paying.  I would point out the gas tax already is a user fee.  Those who are driving on the roads are the ones directly paying the gas taxes.  Nonetheless, I have never supported the notion that user fees should be the only mechanism for funding roads.  Everyone benefits from good roads,whether they are actually driving on them.
Tolls will hit working class Hoosiers particularly hard.  If the Republican super majority gives us a record gas tax increase and toll roads it is time to reconsider whether we should re-elect those tax and spend Republicans.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hillary Clinton's Campaign Funding of Dossier Raises Possibility of Campaign Law Violations

The news broke yesterday that the infamous Steele Dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.  This was after the dossier was originally funded by Republicans wanting to ammunition against Donald Trump.

It should be no surprise whatsoever that the dossier was funded as a result of opposition research funded by Trump opponents.  Anyone who works in politics knows that virtually all negative information about candidates comes to light via opposition research.  But what caused the Hillary funding revelation to be a much bigger issue than it otherwise would have been is that the attorney for
Hillary Clinton campaign spent nearly a year denying the campaign's funding of the dossier only to have to admit it happened as part of lawsuit.  Like so many things Hillary Clinton-related, the instinct to cover-up and lie makes a mountain out of a molehill.

President Trump immediately trumpeted the latest Hillary news as confirmation of his claim that the dossier was a complete fabrication.  Of course, that is utter nonsense.  The revelation of the funding source for the dossier does not prove the facts contained therein to be false.  In fact, a great deal of the information in the dossier have already been confirmed.  North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed as such as well as independent reporting on the subject.  Investigators from Burr's committee are meeting with former British Intelligence Office Christopher Steele who assembled the information in the dossier.  Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has already met with Steele. 

But the revelation of the funding source points to possible legal jeopardy by the Hillary Clinton campaign, in particular a campaign finance violation for reporting expenditures of a campaign in such a way as to shield the recipient and nature of dossier funding.  

Concealing contributions and expenditures is an increasing problem with Indiana political campaigns. Years ago, I wrote about red flags I saw when I reviewed the campaign finance report for the political action committee supporting the Wishard Hospital referendum.  One would think there would have been hundreds of contributions. There were six.  Three individuals gave the Wishard PAC $50 or less and one lobbyist gave $1,000.  Then there were two 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations (which unlike other types of political campaigns, can give legally to referendum campaigns), that gave $1.5 million.  All the doctors and other highly paid medical professionals who should have been interested in the issue did not appear to be giving at all to the cause.  What may well have been going on is that those medical professionals and other interested parties were instead giving their money to the two non-profits who were then giving the money to the Wishard PAC.  Using the non-profits as a conduit would have had the effect of laundering campaign contributions, i.e. turning non-deductible political contributions into deductible charitable donations.  At least until the day the IRS figures out the scheme.

On the contribution side, more relevant to our discussion here, my recollection is that there were only a tiny handful of recipient of Wishard PAC expenditures.  This included almost all of the money raised by the PAC going to a public relations firm.  There was no documentation as far as how that money was spent...only that it was paid to a public relations firm.  Thus, what was actually purchased with the Wishard contributions was effectively concealed by the practice.

Obviously the Clinton Campaign expenditures for the dossier was effectively concealed from the public by using an intermediary, apparently the campaign's law firm.  Apparently, the money was paid from the campaign to the law firm and then the law firm turned around and paid Christopher Steele.  Not only does that practice conceal the real purpose of the expenditure, the law firm can also make a claim (albeit bogus) of "attorney-client" privilege to provide additional protection from having the dossier funding exposed.

It is time for the Federal Elections Commission and state elections commissions to crack down on the use of intermediaries to conceal contributions and expenditures.  A good place to start is holding responsible those in the Hillary Clinton campaign who were responsible for the concealment of the dossier funding.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Support for President Trump in Hoosier State Plummets

The Indianapolis Star reports:

President Donald Trump's approval rating is upside down in Indiana, according to a new poll.
Just 41 percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, compared to 45 percent who disapprove, according to the results of the Old National Bank/Ball State University 2017 Hoosier Survey.
The negative approval rating suggests a significant decline in support for Trump since he won the home state of his vice president, Mike Pence, by a margin of 19 percentage points nearly a year ago.
“These survey results add to the evidence that the president’s approval has slipped a great deal since January,” said Chad Kinsella, a political science professor at the Bowen Center for Public Affairs, which conducts the annual survey.
Other recent polling by Morning Consult showed Trump's approval rating in Indiana fell from plus 22 percentage points in January to plus 5 in September. 
This poll follows a Morning Consult poll which shows Trump's net approval rating dropping from 22% to 5% from January to September.  This 17% drop nearly mirrors a 19% national drop in the same poll.

While Trump enjoys a steady, albeit unspectacular support of 77% of Hoosiers in the Ball State poll, the real fall off is with non-Republican voters.  As the Morning Consult poll shows, any support Trump had among Democrats during his election is long gone and independent voters have also turned sharply against him.

Trump supporters have long forgotten that Trump did not even win the popular vote, and barely eked out an Electoral College win, against the weakest candidate the Democratic Party has ever nominated.  Trump's 35% base only got him half way around the track.  It was the anti-Hillary Clinton voters who put him over the finish line.  Unless the Democrats are dumb enough to nominate Hillary again, any chance President Trump has of getting re-elected are slim and none.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Indiana Considering Following Up Large Gas Tax Increase With Tolls

In the highway bill last year passed by the Indiana legislature this Spring, the focus was on the substantial increase in the gas tax which supporters urged was needed to fund road improvements.  Unfortunately what didn't get sufficient publicity at the time was another provision of the bill that gives the Governor unfettered power to establish tolls on Indiana interstates.  On the few occasions the tolling provision was discussed, it was emphasized that it was merely a funding option for some governor well into the future.

That future didn't take long to get here.  The Indianapolis Star reports that there is already talk of tolling Indiana interstates, including possibly I-465.

The state hasn't decided yet whether it wants to put tolls on its interstates, but if Indiana does, it will look first at the most congested routes where tolls could help pay for needed improvements such as extra lanes.
The state is seeking a firm to study tolling on specific legs of I-65, I-70 and I-94, according to a request for proposal issued by the Indiana Department of Transportation. The department also wants to take a closer look at I-465, not ruling out tolls for commuters in the Indianapolis area. 
"No decisions have been made on whether to do tolling at all, let alone on a given route," said Scott Manning, strategic communications director for INDOT. "We're calling those (routes) out because we know there are significant needs there we'd want to address."
A feasibility study is underway, Manning said, that will answer the big question of whether additional tolling makes sense for the state. If it does, Manning said, the strategic plan INDOT is advertising for now would start to look at how the state could implement tolls.
Although most polls should tolls are unpopular, they do have supporters.  Typically toll supporters like to point out that tolls are pure "user fees."  It is not an argument I find persuasive.  Everyone benefits from good roads, so I don't see the need to fund road with "fees" paid only by those who traverse on roads.  Nonetheless, the gas tax is already a user fee. 

A few years ago I drove a car from New York to Florida.  I recall it cost me about $20 to drive from Long Island to New Jersey, not counting the bridges. Crossing one bridge into Staten Island cost me $17.  

While toll proponents will gush at that sort of revenue, what tolls do is cause people to change their driving behavior.  People opt to travel on secondary roads rather than pay tolls.  These secondary roads are often in rural areas.  These residents have to deal with increased traffic in their neighborhoods, which also leads to declining property values.  People don't like to live on busy roads.

Hopefully Indiana officials will shelve this really bad idea.

Friday, October 20, 2017

On Clash With Gold Star Family, the Media (Correctly) Refuse to Give President Trump the Benefit of the Doubt

Yesterday afternoon, Chief of Staff John Kelly gave a moving press conference that was no doubt intended to quell the controversy over President Donald Trump's phone call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, a serviceman slain during an operation in Niger.  During the phone call it was claimed that Trump came across as unsympathetic and used the phrase "he knew what he was getting into."

Kelly blasted Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for listening in on the call, which was made
John Kelly, Chief of Staff
over a speaker, and "politicizing" what happened reporting what was allegedly said to the media.   It should be noted that Rep. Wilson's account was confirmed by other family members present during the call.

I don't fault Rep. Wilson, a long time family friend, for listening in on the phone call as she no doubt was asked to do so by family members.  Hence the use of the speaker.  I do, however, agree with Kelly that Rep. Wilson no doubt politicized the phone call, using it to take a shot at the President.

However, the reason Wilson was in that position to attack the President on the issue is 100% the fault of the President.  Trump is well-known for having attacking Gold Star parents, the Khans, after the Democratic convention.  He has also demonstrated a marked inability to empathize with people suffering through difficult circumstances. In that regard, witness Trump's callous attitude toward Puerto Ricans following the hurricane that hit that island a month ago.

General Kelly approaches the issue with enormous credibility.  In addition to having to make tough phone calls to family members of those killed in action, Kelly lost his own son in combat.  Thus, he is a Gold Star parent himself.  During the press statement, Kelly suggests that Trump's supposed uncaring attitude toward the Johnson family might have been simply a misunderstanding, the product of inartful communication by an inarticulate President.  Given Trump's only passing familiarity with the English language, Kelly's suggestion that there was simply miscommunication is quite believable.

The problem is that President Trump was the one who first politicized the issue. When asked at a press conference about the four soldiers killed in Africa, a fact Trump never had addressed publicly or privately, the President responded defensively and inaccurately, claiming that his predecessors often did not call or write the families of fallen soldiers.  Thus, Trump politicized the matter long before Rep. Frederica Wilson appeared on the scene.

Trump supporters argue that that the President should be given the benefit of the doubt regarding the words uttered during these difficult Gold Star family phone calls.  Because the media refuses to do that, Trump supporters point to that as yet more example of media bias against this particular President.

Balderdash.  The reason Donald Trump isn't given the benefit of doubt, why the media is skeptical of his version of what happened during the Johnson call is not believed, is because the President has spent the first eight months of his Presidency telling one lie after another.  Trump is like the shepherd boy in  "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."  In that story, the boy falsely claimed wolves were present so many times that villagers did not believe him when a wolf actually did arrive to attack his sheep.  That legendary Aesop fable ends with the line uttered by a villager to the boy:  "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth."  

That is a lesson that the President should try to learn.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fox News Poll Shows Alabama Senate Race a Dead Heat

A new poll commissioned by Fox News shows the special election Senate race between Republican Ray Moore and Democrat Doug Jones to be a deadheat, at 42-42.  Two other recent polls have shown Moore's lead to be in the single digits at 6 and 8 points, both within the margin of error of those polls.

Roy Moore
Moore and Jones are fighting for the former Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which was held temporarily by former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. When this seat was last on the ballot in 2014, Sessions won with over 97% of the vote when the Democrats didn't even bother to field a Senate candidate in ruby red Alabama.   Two years later, Republican Richard Shelby won re-election to his Alabama Senate seat with 64% of the vote while, in the presidential race, Trump won 62% of thevote in Alabama, besting Hillary Clinton by 28 points.

Unfortunately for Jones, the surprising closeness of this race is a double edged sword.  While it means more money for his campaign, it also means more publicity on Jones' more unpopular positions on such issues as abortion and guns.  While Moore has been tarnished by the recent revelation that the former Alabama Chief Justice successfully fought against repeal of a (no-longer enforced) segregation clause in the state Constitution, Jones' being pro-choice and against gun rights may prove worse offenses to Alabama voters.   Further, close polls mean the race becomes nationalized and that is not good for Jones.  He does not want to have to defend Democratic leaders and coastal liberals Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  If Jones could convince Alabama voters he is a moderate to conservative Democrat, then he could pull off an upset.  Unfortunately for Jones though, he is not a moderate to conservative Democrat.  He is liberal, i.e. progressive, Democrat trying to win in very conservative Democrat.

Breitbart's Steve Bannon enthusiastically supported Moore in his primary win against Strange.  He is exactly the type of bomb-throwing candidate that Bannon wants running all over the country, challenging "establishment" Republicans in primaries.  If Moore loses in Alabama, or if he only wins narrowly, that should send shock waves through the GOP about the dangerous approach Bannon is taking.  The Moore-types can win primaries, but can they win general election, especially if they are not in heavily-Republican states?  Doubtful.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pence Chief of Staff Urges that Anti-Trump Republicans be Purged from GOP

This story made it under the radar this week.  Politico reports:
Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff railed against congressional leaders in closed-door remarks to wealthy donors and called for a “purge” if GOP lawmakers don’t quickly rally behind President Donald Trump’s agenda.

In remarks at a Republican National Committee event at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington
Nick Ayers
on Tuesday morning, Nick Ayers also warned that Republicans are “on track to get shellacked” in next year’s midterm elections if GOP lawmakers don’t pass Trump’s legislative priorities.
But Ayers reserved his harshest criticism for congressional leaders and members who have not offered full-throated support for the president.
“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him? If — and this sounds crass — we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him,” Ayers said, according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by POLITICO.
...
“I’m not speaking on behalf of the president or vice president when I say this,” Ayers responded. “But if I were you, I would not only stop donating, I would form a coalition of all the other major donors, and just say two things. We’re definitely not giving to you, No. 1. And No. 2, if you don’t have this done by Dec. 31, we’re going out, we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”
...
The comments also offer a stark departure in tone from Pence’s team, with the vice president having often served the role of soothing tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill. The remarks reveal both a deep frustration within the White House with congressional leadership and a political tactic of placing the onus on Congress to advance the agenda on health care, tax reform and other legislative priorities that have failed to gain momentum.

...
Ayers warned that the Republican Party is on track for a repeat of the massive electoral backlash that came after President Barack Obama was elected and the GOP took control of Congress and statehouses across the country. 
“Not because anything that the president or the vice president has done or hasn’t done, but we’re on track to get shellacked next year,” Ayers said....
Spare me, Nick Ayers.  When it comes to the Trumpers, the President is never at fault.  In fact, we have a President who has been floundering since his inauguration. Trump has not learned the first thing about the job he is supposed to be doing and has spent most of his time tweeting insults to try to settle personal scores than providing real leadership for the country.  On his signature "repeal and replace" of Obamacare, Trump knew nothing about the details of the bill, undercut Republicans at every opportunity, and failed to use his office to advocate for the GOP legislation.

As far as not supporting the Trump agenda, exactly what is that agenda?  After two years of campaigning and being President, Trump's tax plan consists of one page of bullet points.  Like most issues, Trump was all over the map on health care, including at times sounding like Bernie Sanders, promising universal health care paid for by "the government."   After eight months, Trump's agenda seems to be nothing more than a demand for personal loyalty and praise for his being a great leader....while being anything but a great leader.   Fortunately, many Republicans, both in and out of Congress, refuse to part with their integrity and independence to kiss President Trump's ring.

Some prominent Republicans like George Will and Joe Scarborough chose to leave the Republican Party because of President Trump.  While I understand their motivation, I think it is misguided.  My parents were conservative Democrats.  Becoming politically active in the early 1980s, I chose to become a Republican because I believe that party, with its conservative, limited government agenda, more closely matched my political views.  Starting with Reagan in November 1980, my Republican Party over the next 35 years enjoyed a number of successes punctuated by occasional failure.  Did we in the GOP fall show of our policy goals?   Quite often.  But does that mean we Republicans should hand the reigns of power to the Democrats and give up on those goals completely?  Of course not.   And it sure does not mean conceding the GOP brand to redesign by a life-long New York liberal.

Nick Ayers was born in 1981.  I cast my first ever vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.  That vote was also cast more than three decades before Trump began pretending he was a Republican just 6 years ago.

My Republican Party is about lower taxes, limited government, being pro life and supporting traditional values.  It is not about Trump and his ilk hating people because of their skin color, ethnicity or religion.  It is about standing up for the Constitution and the ideals contained in that document.  When our President denounces American traditions and values, things like freedom of press, religion or speech, that is not my Republican Party.

Trumpism is not about a political philosophy, and certainly not about being a conservative.  It is about a cult of personality.   Donald Trump could announce tomorrow that he is going to support the Pelosi-Schumer liberal agenda across the board, and the vast majority of Trumpers would convince themselves that "Mr. Trump" is doing the right thing, indeed something brilliant.  After all, to most Trumpers the particular political agenda the President is pursuing is not important. What is important is blind adoration for all things Trump says or does.  Just praise "Mr. Trump" and drink the Kool-Aid.

Even if it were worthy of support, the Trump GOP brand is doomed to failure.  Trump's success depends on winning the support of a strong majority of white people.   Yet, the collective skin hue of the country is steadily getting darker.  Millennials, who overwhelmingly oppose Trump, will be a much bigger part of the electorate in 2020 than 2016.  Any Republican candidate chaining himself to the Trump brand, will find that the President to be an anchor instead of a sail.

Ayers seems to be calling for a Republican civil war. Great. Bring it on.  I, like many other Republicans, want my party back.  And we will get it back.  Make no mistake about it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

With Plea to Fire NFL Players, Trump and (Some) Conservatives Join Liberals in Attacking Free Speech

One of the most revolting political developments of the past decade or so is the effort by liberals to silence the speech of conservatives.  Many times these efforts involve liberal students exerting tremendous pressure on  college administrators to dis-invite right-wing speakers or, failing that, shouting down those speakers so their conservative views cannot be publicly aired.  This assault by liberals on conservative speech was documented in the excellent book "The Silencing:  How the Left is Killing Free Speech" written by Kirsten Parker, a Democrat who worked in the Clinton administration.

I have also written on the subject:

Monday, August 28, 2017, Berkeley Mayor Wants to Cancel Conservative Free Speech Rally Because of Possible Violence by Left-Wing Groups


Thursday, April 27, 2017, Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter


The point Parker made so eloquently in her book is that the American tradition of free speech should protect all speech, including those views set forth by conservative speakers, and that liberals need to condemn attempts to silence views on the right.  After all, some day it might be conservatives who are trying to silence the speech of liberals.

That day came on Friday.

At a rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange facing a special election for the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump condemned NFL players who refused to stand for the national anthem and said that the owners should fire them.   He reiterated that view in subsequent tweets.  

I find the players actions at best misguided and at worst deplorable. The protest is supposed to be about raising the issue of racism.  But the protest does not do that at all.  Instead the protesting players are slapping the face of all those who have fought and died so that we can have the freedoms we Americans enjoy, including the freedom those players have to earn millions of dollars playing a game one day a week.  Those players might have as well gone up and spit on the flag and what it represents.  

But it is exactly because of what that flag stands for that we should respect and allow the protests to continue.  The flag stands for the freedom to express one's views, especially those that are political, i.e are about a matter of public concern.

Now I am well aware that the Free Speech Clause does not apply to private businesses, such as the NFL.  And, yes, the team owners can almost certainly legally fire the players for their objectionable speech.  But just because the action would be legal, does not mean it is right.  Free speech is not just part of a constitutional amendment.  It is an essential characteristic of American society and a bedrock principle of our political system.  If people are constantly threatened with their jobs if they dare express their views publicly then robust political debate is silenced and we all suffer as a result.

Sadly, we have a President who has long declared open hostility to the American tradition of free speech.   Candidate Trump attacked American free speech during the campaign., even suggesting that the requirement of "actual malice" for libel actions be done away with.  Trump warmly praised dictators who violently put down public protests and kill journalists who write negative stories about those dictators. He is the first President since John Adams who has argued that Americans actually have too much free speech.   Even before entering the world of politics, Trump was well-known for suing (or threatening to sue) anyone who had the temerity to speak ill of him publicly.

Unfortunately, too many of my Republican friends have tossed aside their conservative principles to back the President's over-the-top assertion that these NFL players should be fired by their employers. In doing so, they are eschewing Constitutional principles and embracing the liberal tactics of suppressing unpopular free speech, i.e. speech liberals do not like  If those tactics are wrong for liberals, they are also wrong when done by conservatives.  

The answer to unpopular speech is not to silence that speech, but to counter it with other speech.  By all means let's roundly condemn those players who insult the grand principles for which our great country stands. But, as one of those principles is the right to speak out on matters of public concern, let's stop short of demanding that speech be silenced by firing the speakers.   For conservatives to do otherwise makes them no better than the liberals.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Trump's Approval Rises Only Slightly Despite Three Weeks of the Most Favorable Media Coverage of His Presidency

Today marks the middle of the month and the end of three weeks of the most positive media coverage of the Trump Presidency. It started with Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas shore on August 25th.  Trump received positive reviews for his administration's handling of the storm.  Then came Hurricane Irma and Trump's bipartisan legislative deals.  Again, more positive media coverage.

Although I didn't buy that Donald Trump had actually changed his persona from being a self-obsessed, intellectual lightweight who lacked even the most basic qualifications and temperament to be President of the United States, I thought a significant number of other people would have a change of heart and now judge Trump more favorably.  I was wrong.

Gallup's tracking poll had President Trump's approval rating at a dismal 35% on August 25th.  Today it is only 37%.  Real Clear Politics' average of the Trump polls show his favorability rating has only increased from 38.5% to 39.3% during the same period.

Trump's poll numbers appear to be baked in.  They rise only slightly when the news coverage is positive and do not decline significantly when Trump is getting hammered in the media.  People's minds seem to be made up about the President.

Yesterday though introduced a new dynamic.  Trump appears to be in the process of walking away from two of his major promises on immigration, DACA and the Wall.  Immigration is an issue that motivates Trumpers and one the President successfully used to distinguish himself from the other Republican presidential candidates.  Some Trump supporters, people like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter and Breitbart, are treating the Trump immigration retreat as a betrayal to the base.

My guess is that Trump's won't lose his core supporters despite his new-found moderate position on immigration or his willingness to cut legislative deals with "Chuck" and "Nancy."  Trumpers seem willing to sign on to the President's agenda, regardless of whether it is a conservative, liberal or moderate agenda.  They are behind the President, because, well, he is Donald Trump.  The Trump phenomenon is the closest to a cult of personality that I ever want to see this country come.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Draining the Swamp in Florida Has Increased the Impact of Hurricanes

I have long said, the reason hurricanes cause so much damage is because of the overdevelopment of tropical areas that used to absorb much of the wind and water that came with hurricanes.   In short, the hurricane buffer is gone.  Writing a lengthy piece in Politico, Michael Grunwald, a Miami resident temporarily displaced to Orlanda due to Hurricane Irma, does a terrific job of telling the history of Southern Florida and how draining the swamp for development has left the state exposed to wrath of hurricanes.
Today, Florida’s southern thumb has been transformed into a subtropical paradise for millions of residents and tourists, a sprawling megalopolis dangling into the Gulf Stream that could sustain hundreds of billions of dollars in damage if Hurricane Irma makes a direct hit. So it’s easy to forget that South Florida was once America’s last frontier, generally dismissed as an uninhabitable and undesirable wasteland, almost completely unsettled well after the West was won. ... Miami wasn’t even incorporated as a city until
In 1896, close to 400 people crowded onto the second floor of the Lobby Pool Room (large building in center of photo)  to vote to incorporate Miami as a city. It then had 90 residents. Today the Miami metro area has over 6.7 million residents.
1896. And even then an early visitor declared that if he owned Miami and hell, he would rent out Miami and live in hell.
 
There was really just one reason South Florida remained so unpleasant and so empty for so long: water. The region was simply too soggy and swampy for development. Its low-lying flatlands were too vulnerable to storms and floods. As a colorful governor with the colorful name of Napoleon Bonaparte Broward put it: “Water is the common enemy of the people of Florida.” So in the 20th century, Florida declared war on its common enemy, vowing to subdue Mother Nature, eventually making vast swaths of floodplains safe for the president to build golf courses and Vanilla Ice to flip houses and my kids to grow up in the sunshine. Water control—even more than air conditioning or bug spray or Social Security—enabled the spectacular growth of South Florida. It’s a pretty awesome place to live, now that so much of its swamp has been drained, much better than Boston or Brooklyn in the winter, and, for the obvious economic and political reasons, much better than Havana or Caracas all year long.
But Mother Nature still gets her say. Water control has ravaged the globally beloved Everglades and the rest of the South Florida ecosystem in ways that imperil our way of life as well as the local flora and fauna. And sometimes, as we’re about to be reminded, water can’t be controlled. Hurricanes routinely tore through South Florida even before hundreds of gleaming skyscrapers and thousands of red-roof subdivisions sprouted in their path. Our collective willingness not to dwell on that ugly inevitability has also enabled the region’s spectacular growth.
...
...In 1926, a few weeks after the Miami Herald urged its readers not to worry about hurricanes because “there is more risk to life from venturing across a busy street,” a Category 4 storm flattened Miami, killing 400 and abruptly ending the coastal boom.Then in 1928, another Category 4 storm blasted Lake Okeechobee through its flimsy dike, killing 2,500 and abruptly ending the Everglades boom. It was the second-deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, and afterward Florida’s attorney general testified before Congress that much of the southern half of his state might be unsuited to human habitation: “I’ve heard it advocated that what the people ought to do is build a wall down there and keep the military there to keep people from coming in.”
Needless to say, nobody built a wall. But America finally did get serious about draining the swamp. The Army Corps of Engineers, the shock troops in the nation’s war on Mother Nature, built the most elaborate water management system of its day, 2,000 miles of levees and canals along with pumps so powerful some of the engines would have to be cannibalized from nuclear submarines. The engineers aimed to seize control of just about every drop of water that falls on South Florida, whisking it out to sea to prevent flooding in the flatlands. They made it possible for Americans to farm 400,000 acres of sugar fields in the northern Everglades, to visit Disney World at the headwaters of the Everglades, to drive on the Palmetto and Sawgrass Expressways where palmettos and sawgrass used to be. They made South Florida safe for a long boom that has occasionally paused but has never really stopped, bringing 8 million people to the Everglades watershed, pushing the state’s population from 27th in the nation before World War II to third in the nation today. 
...
The problem, like most problems in South Florida, is a water problem. Half the Everglades has been drained or paved for agriculture and development, so in the rainy season, water managers have to dump excess water into estuaries and what’s left of the Everglades. Then it’s no longer available in the dry season, which is why South Florida now faces structural droughts that create wildfires in the Everglades and endanger the region’s drinking water, which happens to sit underneath the Everglades. Meanwhile, the Everglades itself—once reviled as a vile backwater, now revered as an ecological treasure—has all kinds of problems of its own, including 69 endangered species. In 2000, Congress approved the largest environmental restoration project in history to try to resuscitate the Everglades, an unprecedented effort to fix South Florida’s water problems for people and farms as well as nature. But 17 years later, virtually no progress has been made. It’s a real mess.
And they keep coming. Twenty-five years ago, Hurricane Andrew ripped through Miami’s southern exurbs, but the homes destroyed were quickly replaced, and most of us who live here now weren’t here then. So we weren’t really ready for Irma, even though at some level we knew it was possible. It’s conceivable that Irma will finally shut down our insatiable growth machine, but I wouldn’t bet on that. Our inclination towards collective amnesia is just too strong.
The thing is, it’s really nice here, except when it isn’t....

Conservative Radio Host Mark Levin Wakes Up, Concludes Trump Supporters Were Sold Out by President

While some Trumpers have somehow managed to twist President Trump's complete capitulation to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi as being the fault of Congressional Republicans (after all nothing is ever the President's fault for those who live in Trumpland), the deal finally caused Trump-loving, conservative radio host Mark Levin to finally awake to the fact the President is selling out his supporters.  Redstate reports on the development:
Mark Levin, seeing the light, went after President Trump for his capitulation to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. To Levin’s credit, he doesn’t turn the blame on Paul Ryan and
Mark Levin
Mitch McConnell the way others pathetically have tried to do. Levin says Trump is the ostensibly the leader of the GOP and the buck stops with him.
... 
Some of the key points he hits on: 
  1. Donald Trump needs to be the leader of the Republican Party and take charge of the leadership. Instead, he’s at war with leadership, and that’s a fault of his, not McConnell and Ryan.
  2. He’s selling out the country by working with Pelosi and Schumer just to get back at Republicans.
  3. Trump broke his promise on DACA. It has nothing to do with the Republican leadership.
  4. He hit Trump on saying he’d shut down the government unless he gets funding for the border wall and he flip-flopped
  5. He said, “He sold us out on DACA. He sold us on this deal with Schumer….this continuing resolution because it doesn’t include the wall.”
  6. He says a leader doesn’t throw in with leftists just because the Congressional leadership isn’t doing what he wants
In the end, Levin says he doesn’t think this is the last time. 
Here is a link to the Levin audio.

Of course it won't be. Trump is not a conservative.  The only principle he stands for is doing what is best for himself under all circumstances.  Donald Trump could not care less about the American people, including those who stand with him at his rallies.  
Levin wasn't the only conservative opinion leader to set down the Kool-Aid and tell the truth about the Trump - Schumer/Pelosi deal.  On Fox News Sunday, conservative commentator Brit Hume hammered the President for getting "rolled by "Chuck" and "Nancy."  The Daily Wire reports:
No doubt Chuck and Nancy were happy. He got rolled; the president got rolled, and his administration, therefore, got rolled because as you pointed out correctly, doing this short-term deal attached to the Hurricane Harvey money, which was a must-pass, and therefore a good vehicle to do a longer debt limit extension and perhaps other things as well, is now a three month deal — and we're right back where we started except without the Hurricane Harvey leverage when December rolls around.  
So it's a terrible deal. And I think the president, he wanted to sign something, so he got something to sign — but he got rolled.




Of course President Trump got rolled.   Donald Trump was never a great negotiator and, in fact, is proving to be spectacularly bad at cutting deals.  As Hume points out during the roundtable, it is not hard to cut deals when you're giving the other side everything they're asking for.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sen. John Danforth Editorial: "The Real Reason Trump is Not a Republican"

Former Missouri Senator John Danforth penned a letter to the editor in the Washington Post a few days ago.  It should be mandatory reading for those conservatives who are willing to throw away everything we fought for over the years to blindly support a President who was only a few years ago was a liberal Democrat and who is currently a RINO who doesn't support traditional Republican values.  

Here is the letter to the editor:


The real reason Trump is not a Republican
Former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO)
Many have said that President Trump isn’t a Republican. They are correct, but for a reason more fundamental than those usually given.... The fundamental reason Trump isn’t a Republican is far bigger than words or policies. He stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party — that of a united country.
...
The Republican Party has a long history of standing for a united country. Theodore Roosevelt raised up the ordinary people of his day and championed their cause against abusive trusts. Dwight Eisenhower used the army to integrate a Little Rock high school. George H.W. Bush signed the most important civil rights legislation in more than a quarter-century, a bill authored by Republican senators. George W. Bush stood before Congress and the nation and defended Muslims after 9/11. Our record hasn’t been perfect. When we have pushed the agenda of the Christian right, we have seemed to exclude people who don’t share our religious beliefs. We have seemed unfriendly to gay Americans. But our long history has been to uphold the dignity of all of God’s people and to build a country welcoming to all.
Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not, who is exactly what we have opposed in our 160-year history. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history. There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace.
It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, “You are not one of us,” the opposite of “e pluribus unum.” And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.
To my fellow Republicans: We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party. That is what he is doing, as long as we give the impression by our silence that his words are our words and his actions are our actions. We cannot allow that impression to go unchallenged.
As has been true since our beginning, we Republicans are the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union. We believe in our founding principle. We are proud of our illustrious history. We believe that we are an essential part of present-day American politics. Our country needs a responsibly conservative party. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.
In honor of our past and in belief in our future, for the sake of our party and our nation, we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Berkeley Mayor Wants to Cancel Conservative Free Speech Rally Because of Possible Violence by Left-Wing Groups

In 1964, Berkeley, California was home to the free speech movement.  Left-wing college students on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.  

Sunday, some 53 years after the free speech movement, liberals on the UC Berkeley campus are again 
protesting on the issue of free speech, but this time they are on the other side trying to shut down, violently, conservative speech with which they disagree.  

CBS news reports:
Black-clad anarchists on Sunday stormed into what had been a largely peaceful Berkeley protest against hate and attacked at least five people, including the leader of a politically conservative group who canceled an event a day earlier in San Francisco amid fears of violence. 


The group of more than 100 hooded protesters, with shields emblazoned with the words "no hate" and waving a flag identifying themselves as anarchists, busted through police lines, avoiding security checks by officers to take away possible weapons. Then the anarchists blended with a crowd of 2,000 largely peaceful protesters who turned up to demonstrate in a "Rally Against Hate" opposed to a much smaller gathering of right-wing protesters.
...
Among those assaulted was Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer group, which canceled a Saturday rally and was then prevented from holding a news conference when authorities closed off the public square Gibson planned to use. Gibson has denounced racism and said he launched Patriot Prayer after several supporters of President Donald Trump were beaten at a Trump campaign stop in San Jose, California, last year. Authorities nonetheless feared the group's event could attract white nationalists, as it has in the past. 
After the anarchists spotted Gibson at the Berkeley park, they pepper-sprayed him and chased him out as he backed away with his hands held in the air. Gibson rushed behind a line of police wearing riot gear, who set off a smoke bomb to drive away the anarchists.Separately, groups of hooded, black-clad protesters attacked at least four other men in or near the park, kicking and punching them until the assaults were stopped by police. The assaults were witnessed by an Associated Press reporter.
Now Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is requesting UC Berkeley to stop another conservative free speech rally planned for next month.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports:   
“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” said Arreguin, whose city has been the site of several showdowns this year between, on the one hand, the left and its fringe anarchist wing, and on the other, supporters of President Trump who at times have included white nationalists. 
“I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem,” Arreguin said. “It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.” 
The mayor wants UC Berkeley to halt plans by a conservative campus group, the Berkeley Patriot, to host right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos during its scheduled Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. Berkeley’s right-vs.-left cage matches began with an appearance that Yiannopoulos was to have made in February at a campus hall, an event that was aborted when black-clad anarchists like those who broke up Sunday’s downtown rally stormed into Sproul Plaza, smashed windows and set bonfires.
In short, Mayor Arreguin wants to blame conservatives and silence their speech because some liberals are illegally reacting with violence because they don't agree with that speech.  

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Contempt for the Constitution and His Abuse of Power Make Him No Conservative Hero

Friday night, as the worst hurricane in 12 years was hitting the coast of the United States, President Donald Trump, issued a highly controversial pardon of former Maricopa (Phoenix) County Sheriff Arpaio.  Arpaio, who liked to bill himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," had been convicted of willfully violating a federal judge's order to cease his office's practice of racially profiling Latinos. Many on the right celebrate that Sheriff Arpaio was enforcing the immigration law that the feds refused to enforce.  If that were all he were doing then Sheriff Arpaio he would be a much more sympathetic figure.  Instead, in the process of enforcing immigration law, Sheriff Arpaio trampled the U.S. Constitution under his feet, engaging in the worst sort of racial profiling.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
But it just wasn't Arpaio's racial profiling of Latinos in Maricopa County.  He also ran jails that fell far short of constitutional standards.  One of those jails was an outdoor facility known as "Tent City" which harbored inmates in temperatures in excess of 130 degrees during the summer and as low as 41 degrees in the winter.  He cut back jail inmates to two meals a day, with one of those meals sometimes being green bologna.  Inmates were often denied healthcare and adequate sanitation facilities.  They were made to wear pink underwear and socks.

A 2015 investigation by the Phoenix New Times showed that of the 157 who died in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails, 24% of the deaths were identified as suicides.  The second highest jail suicide rate was 14 percent in Philadelphia jails over a comparable period.    In addition, the cause of 73 deaths was listed as unknown by county authorities. The lawsuits over the deaths in Joe Arpaio's jails cost Maricopa County $140 million.

People, naturally do not have a lot of sympathy for criminals.  But Sheriff Arpaio ran a JAIL not a prison.  Most people in jail are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted.   Prisons, on the other hand, are occupied by prisoners who have been convicted of crimes, usually felonies.   Sheriff Arpaio was using his jail to punish people for simply being accused of a crime.  The Constitution does not allow for that.

At the same time Sheriff Arpaio was expending enormous resources to target Latinos and settle lawsuits, he was failing to adequately investigate hundreds of sex crimes committed in Maricopa County.   During a three year period ending in 2007, it was alleged that more than 400 sex crimes reported to Arpaio’s office, most from El Mirage, a suburb of Phoenix with a large immigrant population, were inadequately investigated or not investigated at all.  Those cases included 32 reported offenses against children.  In 2015, Maricopa County officials settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit in which it was claimed Sheriff Arpaio had failed to properly investigate the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

When any politician dared cross Sheriff Arpaio they often became a target of a criminal investigation launched by Sheriff Arpaio.  In 2004, Dan Saban announced he would run against Arpaio in the Republican primary. Arpaio responded by opening a criminal investigation into a 30-year-old allegation that Saban, then 17, had raped his adoptive mother. Saban claimed he was the victim and relatives backed him up.  Of course, it didn't matter because the statute of limitations had long since run out and the case was dismissed.  But the slander worked to ensure Arpaio the nomination.

Between 2008 and 2010, Arapaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas began a number of government corruption investigations targeting Arpaio's political opponents, including judges, county supervisors and administrators. Several criminal charges ended up being filed against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as well as four judges and attorneys who worked with the county.  A grand jury, however, declined to indict any of the defendants.  Over 11 of the individuals targeted by Arpaio and Thomas' criminal investigations filed lawsuits, costing taxpayers millions of dollars to settle.

The episode resulted in Thomas being disbarred by a disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court which found that he "outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law." The panel found "clear and convincing evidence" that Thomas brought unfounded and malicious criminal and civil charges against political opponents, including four state judges and the Arizona Attorney General.  "Were this a criminal case," the panel concluded, "we are confident that the evidence would establish this conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt."  It takes at least two people for a "conspiracy," and that not-named conspirator in abusing political power was none other that Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In his over two decades of being Maricopa Sheriff, Arpaio showed himself to be a bully, a two bit thug no better than many of the people his officers were arresting.  Arpaio targeted people because of their skin color, in violation of the Constitution and court orders.   When political opponents government officials crossed him,, Arpaio abused his powers making them a target for criminal investigation.  In short, "America's Toughest Sheriff" thought he was above the law and the Constitution he swore to uphold as Maricopa County Sheriff.  I wish I could say Sheriff Arpaio learned otherwise. Unfortunately, Sheriff Arpaio had a kindred spirit in the White House, another man who fancies himself as being above the law, a man who was more than willing to give him a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, i.e. a pardon.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump, Not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Deserves Major Share of Blame for Legislative Failures

Today's bullying target of the President Donald Trump was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.   In a tweet sent this afternoon, Trump told McConnell he needs to "get back to work" and pass Repeal and Replace, tax reform and an infrastructure bill.
This Trump tweet came at the start of Trump's 17 day vacation at his New Jersey golf resort.   Of
course, rank hypocrisy has never seemed to slow Trump down.

This morning Trump had another anti-McConnell tweet:
And yesterday, Trump took something McConnell said out of context (ad he does frequently) to tweet:
The New York Times tonight reported on another blast at McConnell:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday sharply amplified his criticism of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, raising the possibility that Mr. McConnell should relinquish his position if he cannot deliver on top legislative priorities.
After venting for days, on Twitter and in private, over the Senate’s failure to pass a health care repeal bill before the August recess, Mr. Trump was asked if Mr. McConnell should consider stepping down.
“I’ll tell you what,” Mr. Trump began, speaking to reporters outside his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., “if he doesn’t get repeal and replace done and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure — if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question.”
I am no fan of Mitch McConnell.  As far as congressional Republicans go, they deserve blame for making a promise to the American public about repealing and replacing Obamcare and then, when it turned out they could actually do just the GOP surprisingly winning the White House in 2016, they backed down.

But the lion's share of the blame for Trump's legislative agenda  belong Donald J. Trump. Take the healthcare bill for example.  Trump has steadfastly refused to get informed about the issues, made petty and pathetically weak attempts to threaten GOP legislators who wouldn't support his position, and then when the Republicans did support in the House, Trump cut them off at their knees declaring the bill he demanded be passed was mean.

When the bill reached the Senate floor, Trump once again refused to get informed about the bill, refused to try to sell the legislation to the public and made yet more petty threats against members of his own party.  Trump provided zero leadership on the issue while instead spending his time tweeting about personal grievances that distracted from the work members of Congress were attempting to do.

Oh, and the rest of Trump's legislative agenda?  Trump's tax reform proposal consists of one page of bullet points and his infrastructure plan doesn't exist. But yet Trump is demanding McConnell act, now!

If Donald Trump wants to know who is responsible for his legislative and his many other failures as President, he needs to only look in a mirror.