Monday, September 19, 2022

Florida Governor Spends Taxpayer Dollars to "Relocate" from Texas Refuges from Brutal Communist Dictatorship

There are few governors more ridiculous than Florida's Ron DeSantis. Rather than embrace thoughtful policies that would help the lives of Floridians, DeSantis looks for issues that can garner media attention and boost his popularity among the MAGA folks who dominate GOP politics in the Sunshine State.  The Governor doesn't care if it means trampling conservative principles or wasting taxpayer money.

The Florida legislature appropriated $12 million to relocate "unauthorized aliens...from this state."  But DeSantis had a problem. Florida doesn't have a border at which the "unauthorized aliens" are crossing.  So he didn't have anyone to relocate.  So what does DeSantis do?  He uses Florida taxpayer money to go to Texas to ship them out from that state to places like Martha's Vineyard, New York City and Washington, DC.

Never mind the literal language of the Florida statute doesn't allow DeSantis to do this.  MAGA Republicans aren't real big on following "laws."   Remember when Congress refused to appropriate money to build the absurd wall President Trump wanted?  Trump simply seized other appropriated tax dollars and started building it anyway.  (Very little wall ever got built.)  Not only are MAGA Republicans not real keen on following laws, they don't mind wasting taxpayer money.  I would remind readers that neither of those hallmarks of MAGA Republicans are traditional conservative values.

DeSantis claims that he had people from his administration in Texas several months screening these individuals to ascertain whether they might be inclined to travel hundreds of miles through several states to end up in Florida.  He claims that people from his office fully informed these Florida-bound migrants of other options to live, such as Martha's Vineyard, and they voluntarily agreed to board planes to travel there instead.  Does anyone actually believe this?  I am sure even DeSantis most fervent supporters, know he's lying.  They just don't care.  Lying for a what is perceived to be good cause is perfectly acceptable in MAGA world.

But let's examine that "good cause."  Most of the migrants that DeSantis is busing are refugees fleeing a brutal communist regime in Venezuela.  In the olden days, Republicans welcomed people fleeing from Communist regimes.  Yet more proof that MAGA Republicans are not conservative Republicans.

I'm sure it is just a coincidence that the refugees fleeing Venezuela have brown-skin while the Eastern Europeans fleeing Communist regimes who were welcomed with open arms had white skin.  

The Republican Party needs conservative leadership.  They don't need a performative fool like Ron DeSantis.

OOP's short takes:

  • So for months New Hampshire GOP senate candidate Donald Bolduc has enthusiastically peddled the fiction that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump.  Then, within days of winning the GOP primary, he announces he's done some "research" and has now concluded that Biden did legitimately win.  Apparently, Bolduc thinks New Hampshire voters are stupid.
  • More polls over the weekend from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Arizona suggest that Democratic gains on Republican candidates made over the summer is stalling.  The irony is that this is happening while Biden's numbers are clearly improving.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Democratic Improvement in Senate Races Seems to be Stalling

As I write this, the political prognosticating website FiveThirtyEight is giving Democrats a 71% chance of winning the Senate.  Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 72% chance of gaining a majority in the House.

With the large number of House races and the dearth of polling in those races, it's hard to track where the parties are in the House.  But the Senate is a different story.  The narrative over the last month or so has been Democrats doing better and better in the Senate matchups.  Much of that is due to poor candidate quality.  Thanks to the intervention of Donald Trump in GOP primaries, Republicans have been stuck with MAGA candidates who lack the broad popularity to win general elections. Add to poor candidate quality,  lower gas prices over the summer, the backlash to GOP overreach on abortion post-Dobbs, and legislative successes by the Biden administration which has boosted the President's popularity.

But in the last few days, I've noticed a new trend.  Democratic improving fortunes in the Senate races seems to have stalled.  In Nevada, the Democratic incumbent trails.   In Pennsylvania, the Democrats best chance for a pickup, Democratic Lt. Governor Fetterman campaign seems to be sputtering due in no small part to concerns about his health post-stroke.  In Georgia, Republican Herschel Walker, who is maybe the worst Senate candidate in history, has actually led the last few polls.  Republicans lead close races in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, although within the margin of error.  Meanwhile, the Democrats lead in Arizona, New Hampshire, Wisconsin against horrible Trump-backed GOP candidates, but that lead is within the margin of error.  Colorado and the State of Washington even appear to have Democratic incumbents involved in reasonably close races. 

Part of what is going on might just be gravity exerting itself.  It is extremely hard for the party controlling the Presidency to win mid-term elections.  Inflation continues to be a problem.  While Biden's numbers have improved, he remains unpopular.  Democrats also may be putting too many eggs in the abortion basket thinking their new-found political advantage on that issue will carry them across the finish line.  Pushing too hard on that issue can eventually lead to a backlash. 

Despite FiveThirtyEight giving Democrats a 71% chance of winning the Senate, the closeness of several contests suggest the final weeks of this election will be critical.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Book Review: "Why We Did It, a Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell"

A couple weeks after the 2016 election, I met "Jim" for a beer after work.  Two decades earlier, Jim and I had worked together on a gubernatorial campaign and had been good friends ever since.  We had a lot in common.  We both had interned with Republican state senators while in college and had come to know campaign strategy and communications.   We shared conservative views on most issues.

As we sipped our craft beers, our discussion, inevitably, turned to politics.  That once enjoyable topic had grown increasingly uncomfortable.  Months earlier, as the primaries wound down, Jim had boarded the Trump Train and never looked back.  Jim had always had been a thoughtful policy wonk, but as he embraced Trumpism he increasingly brought to our meetings nothing more than the latest Trump talking points.  When it came to Trump the man, Jim seemed willing to overlook everything because, as he claimed, "Trump fights back." 

Near the end of the conversation, Jim made a suggestion.  He said that if I would start supporting the President-Elect,  I could parlay my political and professional experience into a job in the upcoming Trump administration.

Unlike Jim and most of my fellow Republicans, I never once considered supporting Trump.  Before the now, thankfully, ex-President came down the golden escalators, I knew who Donald Trump was and still is.  Trump was a legendary bad businessman who led his companies into six bankruptcies.  I knew about the scams Trump had run, things like Trump University and his hawking dietary supplements on late night television. I remembered how Trump had used eminent domain to take away a little old lady's house so he could have more parking for limos at one of his casinos.  I recalled how Trump almost single-handily sank the USFL with his idiotic idea to confront the NFL head on by moving USFL games to the fall.  Trump was infamous for not paying employees and contractors who worked on his properties.  I  remembered Trump's support for China murdering its citizens who had protested for democracy in Tiananmen Square.   At home, Trump had pushed for the execution of the Central Park Five defendants even after they were exonerated.

Politically,  former Democrat Donald Trump had been on the liberal side of virtually every issue, changing his positions to conservative ones in 2015 to run for President as a Republican..  Trump had given money to prominent Democrats over the years, including Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.  More generally, I knew Trump to be not very bright, poorly educated, someone with extremely poor judgment.  He had also proven himself to be someone completely lacking in ethics, character and integrity.  Trump was not fit to be the night manager at a Seven Eleven, much less be President of the United States.

Given what I knew about Trump, there was no way I was going to ever cast a vote for him.  And I sure as hell wasn't going to work for him in any capacity.  It is not that my decision wasn't rooted in selfishness - it most certainly was.  No matter how much I could earn or how high I could rise in the Trump administration, working for the former reality show star, failed businessman would have meant selling out my honor, my decency, my integrity.  Looking at the balance sheet, the pros and cons, it wasn't even remotely a close call.  I was certain that my fellow Republicans would reach that same conclusion once they got to know Trump as well as I did.

Wrong.  Republicans still didn't get off the Trump train when the now ex-Presidents' flaws were on full display.  Rather, when the ride became bumpy, they just held on to the handrail even tighter.  Perplexed, I have been searching for answers as to why other Republicans made a different calculation than I did. Particularly, I was interested in understanding the motivations of those who went to work for the Trump's administration, knowing the price of admission was one's soul.  

Tim Miller's book, Why We Did It, a Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell, seeks out those answers.  Miller for years worked in communications for Republican candidates.   His first prominent political job was as an Iowa staffer for John McCain as the Arizona Senator sought the GOP nomination for President in 2008.  That was followed by a short stint with the John Huntsman 2012 Presidential campaign.  Later in that election cycle, Miller worked for the Republican National Committee which was seeking to elect Mitt Romney as President.  Following Romney's loss, Miller helped found America Rising, a opposition research consulting firm which focused on promoting negative stories about Democrats.   Miller worked as executive director of that group before taking a position with the Jeb Bush presidential campaign during the 2016 campaign.  When Bush dropped out, Miller resumed Republican consulting work which included a brief stint assisting, albeit indirectly, Trump's 2016 election efforts.  During that time, Miller was approached to work more directly to help elect Trump.  Miller, who had previously been a harsh critic of Trump, found he couldn't set aside his feelings, let alone his integrity, to work for the reality show star who had become the Republican presidential nominee.

In Why We Did It, Miller attempts to answer the question as to why Trump staffers, many of whom were long time friends of Miller's, made a different decision than he did.  But before Miller engages in a fascinating review of conservations with and observations of former political colleagues in answering the question, he shares with readers his own personal journey through life and politics.  Miller, as a closeted gay man, had come to grips with his own sexuality while working in the party that preaches family values. Miller didn't find his sexual orientation to be incompatible with his (mostly) conservative political values, but his view was not shared by many Republicans.   The irony is that many of those same Republicans had no problem worshiping a casino owner who was on his third marriage, someone who is a serial liar who had cheated on every one of his wives.  Meanwhile, Miller who is now married and has a daughter, is living the very family values that those Trump-loving Republicans claimed to support.

As a communication specialist, Miller discusses getting caught up in the "Game."  The Game is an approach to politics that says the only thing that matters is the scoreboard, i.e. whether you're winning or losing.  In the Game, the ends always justify the means.  Players like Miller who begin to question the ethics of a strategy or who become squeamish about certain tactics, find themselves mocked by the other players in the game.  Having moral qualms is seen as weakness.

From the book:

For those who were able to find a way to justify supporting Trump, the most demoralizing part was watching their friends and family members struggle with Trump's character and his win
I couldn't believe that everyone in my life was going along with this.  I was flabbergasted by the unanimity.   I tried to explain to them how crazy it would be to work for Trump, but they didn't listen.

Understanding why they supported Trump, and what they were willing to do, is important to understand how he rose to power....

Increasingly isolated in a Trump-dominated Republican Party, Miller reflected on his own values.:

I began to realize that I was making the same mistakes that had gotten me and the party in trouble in the first place.  I was not taking the ramifications of my work seriously, but rather was cashing checks and acting as if it was all part of some big game devoid of real-world consequences.

At this point in the book, Miller begins discussing his colleagues who chose to board the Trump Train rather than join him in walking away.   He starts by identifying various categories to explain their motivations, including "The Team Player" and "Compartmentalizers."  But then Miller begins naming names. First up is Reince Preibus, the former head of the Republican National Committee, who became Trump's first chief of staff.  Miller skewers Preibus as a weak-willed enabler, the type of politico that Trump eats for breakfast.  Miller then goes after the self-promoting Sean Spicer who rose to a level as Spokesperson for the President of the United States, a job that was far beyond his limited ability.

Probably my favorite Miller target is Elise Stefanik, the former moderate, anti-Trump Republican who sold out her principles to grovel at Trump's feet. As a result of her sucking up to Trump, Stefanik was able to wrest the position as head of the Republican Conference, the third ranking party position in the House, from the much more principled, and conservative, Liz Cheney,  Miller diligently tried to get his now former friend to talk with him about her metamorphosis, but Stefanik angrily denied his request.  No doubt she knew Miller would intellectually shred any explanation she offered for her conversion.

Miller even attacks Republicans like Alyssa Farah, a communications specialist who regularly appears as a critic of Trump on cable news programs.  Farah had been a spokesperson for the Freedom Conference.  Later she worked for Mark Meadows when he was in Congress and joined him again when he became Trump's chief of staff.  Farah at one time had supported Trump, but quickly grew disenchanted with him.  Yet Farah kept working in the Trump administration, albeit not directly for the President.  Farah talked with Miller for the book in an effort to explain why she chose to work in the Trump administration.  Miller could have easily cut her slack given Farah's current position as Trump critic.  Miller though chose not do that.  Instead he easily tore apart Farah's justifications for staying on the Trump Train.  No doubt Farah expected better treatment from her old friend.

I cannot end this review without saying a word about Miller's writing style.  I have read many well-written political books authored by journalists and others who work in the media.  Why We Did It certainly belongs in that category.  But Miller brings color and humor to his writing that his fellow writers lack.  I especially enjoy it when Miller sets up and then delivers a punch line.  You know from a mile away that it is coming, but you are nevertheless delighted when it arrives.

I have ready many political books in my life, but Why We Did It is the very best.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

President Biden's Speech That MAGA Republicans Are Threat to Democracy Baits Trump Into Political Mistake

Last week, President Joe Biden gave a speech highlighting the danger posed by MAGA Republicans who do not support American democracy, the rule of law, the Constitution or see the need to respect the results of free and fair elections.  He said MAGA Republicans who harbor hostility to democracy are "semi-fascists."  It was one of the best speeches Biden has ever given.  

Biden's use of the label "MAGA Republicans" was intended to target Trump supporters for their autocratic, anti-democratic views, while dividing them from other Republicans and independents who support American democracy.  Making up only 35% of the electorate, MAGA Republicans cannot win most elections unless they get the support of non-MAGA Republicans and independents.  This fact was demonstrated in 2020 when then President Trump lost re-election because in every swing state, a significant percentage of Republican-leaning voters cast ballots for Biden, before returning to the GOP column for the down ballot races.  As a result, Trump ran behind virtually every Republican in the country.

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli
I've long said the problem is not Donald Trump.  Trump is who he has always been  The problem is his brain-washed group of followers who lifted the reality show star to power.  The demise of Trump as a political force doesn't end Trumpism.  It merely transfers the crown to a different leader.  Any attack on Trumpism has to be focused on challenging the motives and character of the mob that gives power to the movement.  These folks are hostile to American democracy and our institutions. They need to be called out.

And that's what Biden did.  

On the Bulwark podcast, Charlie Sykes often speaks of Trump's reptile-like political cunning.  I have never bought that.  Every time Trump has a political move to make, he almost always chooses the one that hurts him politically.  The obvious political play after the Biden MAGA attack was to play the role of the victim, to earn sympathy.  Many Republican elected officials did exactly that after the Biden speech.  Not Trump.  

At a rally the following Saturday, Trump attacked the FBI and called Biden "an enemy of the state."  The ex-President said that, if re-elected, he might pardon the January 6th insurrectionists who did his bidding in violently storming the Capitol (Will someone please point out that he had a whole two weeks to pardon them in January 2020 but chose not to do so?).  The Trump rally in Pennsylvania also featured Cynthia Hughes, the leader of a group supporting the January 6th insurrectionists.  During the speech, Hughes promoted the case of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a supporter of Adolph Hitler, who has been in jail following his arrest on charges related to the assault on the Capitol.  The judge is fearful that Hale-Cusanelli, who has said he looks forward to a civil war and said Hitler "should have finished the job", will go after an informant who gave the FBI information to arrest him.  Hale-Cusanelli was convicted of five counts earlier this year.

In addition to dividing Republicans, Biden's speech was also aimed at making the mid-terms about Donald Trump.  Again, Trump always takes the political bait.  The Democrats mid-term fortunes have improved dramatically and the chief reason why is that Trump is back in the news doing crazy things like attacking law enforcement officials who are simply doing their job.  That won't sit well with non-MAGA Republicans and independents.

OOP's short takes:

  • Interesting polling results from Trafalgar this weekend.  In New York, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul leads Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin by just 5 points (48-43) in the governor's race.  In the Washington Senate race, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray leads Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley by just 3 points (49-46).  While Trafalgar's methodology has always seemed more favorable to Republican candidates, the polling outfit has proven to be fairly accurate in recent years.

Monday, August 29, 2022

NRSC Chair Rick Scott Vacations on Italian Yacht While GOP Senate Hopes Go Up in Flames

Last week, Florida Senator Rick Scott decided it was a good time to criticize President Joe Biden for "vacationing" at his home in Delaware.  The next day, Axios reported that Scott was spending part of his congressional recess vacationing on an Italian yacht.  

Scott's vacation hypocrisy is the least of his problems.  The GOP's efforts to retake the Senate are crashing and burning.  So Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the arm of the party in charge of helping GOP Senate candidates, thought it was a good time for a European vacation.

Maybe Scott was trying to get out of town because of the heat he had been taking heat over his running of the NRCC.  Newsweek reports:

Critics of Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), resurfaced a past Medicare fraud settlement from his tenure as CEO of a hospital corporation, as his committee reportedly is running short on cash and pulling ads in support of GOP Senate candidates with less than three months until the midterm election.

The NRSC is the primary organization working to raise funds and support Republican candidates in the party's bid to take back the majority in the upper chamber of Congress.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)

Scott has led the committee since January 2021, 
but The Washington Post reported on Friday that campaign advisers are asking "where all the money went, and to demand an audit of the committee's finances" as the NRSC pulls ads and runs low on funds.

Many on 
Twitter pointed to Scott's past Medicare fraud scandal during his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA. When Scott was deposed in 2000 amid the investigation, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times.

Columbia/HCA later reached a settlement with the Justice Department of $840 million in 2000, and another settlement of $881 million in 2002, with the combined fines totaling $1.7 billion. At the time, this was the record health care fraud settlement, although it has since been surpassed, according to PolitiFact.

"Rick Scott oversaw the biggest Medicare fraud in history, so the GOP in its genius put him in charge of its national campaign fund and now is wondering where all its money went. Incredible," writer Gary Legum posted to Twitter, commenting on the 
Post's reporting.

"There's clearly been some shift in momentum over the summer. But fundraising collapses like this don't happen in a week or a month. Did Rick Scott defraud the NRSC like he did Medicare? How on earth can they be out of money after a year of GOP surge?" Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall tweeted.

"Rick Scott has gotten amazingly far in politics for a guy who perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history but I'm not sure why you'd put the guy who perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history in charge of a large sum of money," writer and editor Matthew Yglesias tweeted.

Fortunately for Rick Scott, he was able to avoid being indicted in the scandal.  Amazingly though, a majority of Floridians thought that scandal-riddled background qualified Scott to be Governor and later U.S. Senator.  You would have thought that, given his association with fraud, the Senate Majority Leader would have balked at putting the Senator in charge of a big pile of money. But you'd think wrong.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

As Mid-Term Elections Increasingly Become a Referendum on Trump, Republican Fortunes Fade

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made headlines over the weekend when he said that the Senate was less likely to be Republican after the 2022 midterms than the House.  That actually wasn't news.  No one had seriously rated the Republicans' chances as greater in the Senate than the House.  But what made news is what McConnell said next when he said "candidate quality" could keep Republicans from capturing the Senate in November.  McConnell had said the quiet part out loud, and in the process dissed the numerous candidates he was depending on to become Senate Majority Leader again.

McConnell, of course, is right.  Republicans have a slate of really lousy Senate candidates and there is one reason why:  Donald J. Trump.  Trump insisted on endorsing candidates who expressed maximum fealty to him and who are willing to lie about the 2020 election being "stolen" from Trump.  Never mind that many of those candidates didn't have the experiences and political skills to win a general election.  Trump wasn't interested in that.

And the polls are reflecting how bad the Republican Senate nominees are.  Dr. Oz has trailed in every
poll in Pennsylvania.  Republican Senator Ron Johnson is trailing a far left Democratic nominee in Wisconsin.  Shockingly, some polling has Republican Senator Marco Rubio trailing Rep. Val Demings in Florida.  In Ohio, J.D. Vance has only a slight lead over Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan in a general election matchup that wasn't supposed to be close.  Then, the race that is most shocking to me is in North Carolina where Democrat Cheri Beasley is polling as tied with Congressman Ted Budd, yet another Trump hand-picked candidate.

For the record that is seven Republican seats the Democrats now have in their sights  (And let's not write off Iowa too quickly where 89 year old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is facing off against a Democratic three star admiral, a 36 year Navy veteran who is an impressive candidate.)   Meanwhile the Democratic seats the Republicans have targeted appear to be fizzling.  In the Nevada Senate race, a poll yesterday by the Reno Gazette had Nevada Democratic Senator Cortez Mastro up by 7 points over her Republican challenger former Attorney General Paul Laxalt.  Republican candidates in Georgia and Arizona are running well behind.

FiveThirtyEight has the Democrats' chance of winning the Senate now at 63%.  This is an increase from 40% on June 1st.

The Democrats' improved prospects in the Senate appear to be bleeding over to the House.  On June 1st, FiveThirtyEight gave the Democrats a 14% chance of winning the House.  Now it is at 22%.  Cook Political Report's David Wasserman downgraded the Republicans' expected gain in the 2024 election to be as low as 15 seats.  

In addition to Trump's recruitment of terrible candidates, the ex-President also has successfully pushed the nomination of lackeys who ran to unseat Republican members of Congress who had voted to impeach him.  With those weak candidates now in place, Democrats have additional pick up opportunities.

Other factors have played a role in the great Republican 2022 wave turning into a trickling brook.  Gas prices, the most visible evidence of inflation, have fallen dramatically over the summer.   Post Roe, Republicans have terribly overplayed their hand on abortion, staking out positions that are highly unpopular.  On that score, Democrats across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita who, within weeks of the Dobbs decision, focused the issue on a 10 year old rape victim seeking an abortion. 

Trump believes the search of his home at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents is politically beneficial to him. Indeed among Republican voters, Trump received a substantial boost.  But the problem is that independent and unaffiliated voters don't view Trump as a sympathetic victim. They view him as possibly engaged in criminal activity, and it reminds them of how tired they were of Donald Trump.  There is nothing more that the Democrats would like than to have the 2022 midterms be about Donald Trump.

If Donald Trump blows GOP's efforts to win the Senate, and dampens GOP gains in the House, which seems to be the current trajectory of the race, Republicans will need to reevaluate Trump's future in the party.  Under Trump, the Republican Party lost the House, the Senate, and of course, the White House.  Trump might be called a lot of things, but "winner" is not one of them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Andrew Yang, Founder of Forward Party, Sides with Trump and Against The Rule of Law

I guess respecting the rule of law won't be a tenet of Founder Andrew Yang's Forward Party.

After the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump's residence, the Mar-A-Lago resort, businessman and Founder of the "Forward Party" Andrew Yang took to Twitter to defend the former President.  Yang declared that the search was politically-motivated and that the classified documents Trump had squirreled away at the resort were not very important.  Yang didn't wait for the facts to come out before siding with Trump.

Daily Kos takes it from here:  "He then quotes “one legal expert,” who said, “If they raided his home just to find classified documents he took from The White House… he will be re-elected president in 2024, hands down. It will prove to be the greatest law enforcement mistake in history.”

Whose side is this guy on? Well, Yang answers that after what must have been multiple queries about his allegiances:

“I’m no Trump fan. I want him as far away from the White House as possible. But a fundamental part of his appeal has been that it’s him against a corrupt government establishment. This raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution.”

According to Yang, we need to ignore Trump's misbehavior, indeed even his possible criminality.  To not do so will antagonize his base causing them to turn out at even higher levels. 

Yeah, that's worked so well over the last six years...I say with the most sarcasm I can muster.

Yang's comments do make one thing clear though.  That whole "nobody is above the law" rhetoric...well that's not something he believes in.  Yang does believe at least one person - Donald Trump -  is above the law.

Finally, many critics of the search are demanding that the Justice Department make public its request for a search warrant, including the evidence upon which it was based.  The Department will, of course, do so shortly.  But you know who could have made that document public immediately?  Donald J. Trump.  Trump doesn't do that because he knows its easier to spin the issue of the search if people aren't provided with the actual search warrant.  It's the same strategy employed by former Attorney General William Barr when he demonized the Mueller Report long before he actually released it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mar-A-Lago Searched by FBI in Probe Aimed at Former President Trump's Mishandling of Classified Documents

I recall well the chants.  "Lock her up!  Lock her up!   Lock her up!"  The chants took place at Donald Trump rallies and were aimed at former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.  Hillary's offense was using a private computer server that may well have handled classified documents.  

The allegations were not spurious.  Hillary Clinton had indeed acted recklessly and in a manner that could have exposed America's secrets to hacking by our enemies.  Then Donald Trump became President and his handling and mishandling of classified information made Hillary Clinton's offenses look like jaywalking.  Trump directly passed along classified information to his dictator pals.  He and his family regularly communicated using cell phones and outside email accounts that were not secure.  When Trump left the White House, he took with him scores of government documents, many of which were apparently classified.

So what did Trump world do in response?  They yawned.  They didn't care.  If Trump did what Hillary Clinton did times 100, well that's perfectly okay because it was Donald Trump.  The Trump crowd has a superpower and that is that they are unfazed by hypocrisy.  It does not register with them.

Now Republicans in Congress are expressing outrage over the FBI raid.  That outrage is not based on what happened, but who was the target of the search.  If the FBI would have raided Hillary Clinton's house over her possession of classified information, that would have been justified because, well, it's Hillary Clinton.

Those Republicans in Congress should instead be focused on the upcoming mid-term elections.  What was once an inevitable red tidal wave is now starting to look like a trickling brook.  Republicans are acting stupid and the voters are starting to notice.  The GOP slogan shouldn't be "Stop the Steal."  It should be "Stop the Stupidity."

OOP's short takes:

  • Prediction:  Republicans are going to lose control of the Senate thanks to Trump's weak hand-picked Senate candidates.  Trump backed candidates are also going to lose key governorships races in places such as Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
  • Prediction:  Trump announces his bid for re-election in September or early October.  Trump will intend to use his running for office as a bulwark against criminal prosecution (I would also point out that agreeing to not run for office is often a bargaining chip in negotiations with criminal prosecutors).  I still think it's 50-50 that Trump will make it to the Iowa caucuses in January 2024.  However, Trump will keep his candidacy alive for as long as possible to provide protection from criminal prosecution and to continue fleecing his supporters.  Yes, that will hurt the Republicans chances of winning the White House but I'll let readers in on a secret about Donald Trump.  He doesn't care about the Republican Party or doing what is best for the country.  Never did.  Donald Trump cares only about Donald Trump and no one else.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Abortion Rights Activists Win in Kansas as Issue Enters Stage One - Republican Overreach

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column titled "Why We Shouldn't Fear Democracy Deciding the Abortion Issue."   I wrote the article because so many people on the left think unelected federal judges finding unenumerated rights in the Constitution is the only way they can get their policy preferences enacted into law.  But the Constitution is not a ceiling on our's a floor.  Legislative bodies are always free to add to those rights, including the right to an abortion.

The fact that liberals can win the abortion issue through the democratic process, and not have to rely on judges, was proven on Tuesday when Kansas voters overwhelming rejected a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the legislature to sharply limit or even ban abortion.  Kansas had found a constitutional right to abortion in its own Constitution, hence a need for the amendment.

Let's not forget that the pro-abortion rights side was winning the issue by working through the democratic process when the Supreme Court took the issue away from the states when it handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973.  By then 20 states had already legalized abortion, including states that had a majority of the nation's population.  Reasonable compromises on the abortion issue were being reached when the Supreme Court stepped in with a holding that enforced its own view about what the law should be. That "compromise" drew the line much later in pregnancy than even some supporters of abortion rights were comfortable about.

When I ran for office a number of years ago, I remember savvy pro-life advocates counseling political candidates to concede the exceptions - rape, incest, life of the mother - because the politics of trying to ban abortions in those situations were horrific (that was a lesson that Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita apparently didn't learn).  Plus, those exceptions only amount to 1% of the why throw away the argument over 99% by focusing on the 1%?

Somewhere along the way, that lesson got lost.  Republicans went from being reasonable on the abortion issue to being uncaring absolutists.  This progression (regression?) was aided by the fact Roe took the issue out of the political arena, meaning for many GOP candidates the only debate on abortion was within the Republican base and that debate had no real life consequences.   So GOP candidates began taking more and more extreme positions on the issue.  Now , thanks to Dobbs, the issue has been returned to the democratic process, and Republicans are going to have to return to being reasonable.

Stage one of the post-Dobbs political climate - Republicans pushing an extreme position on abortion and paying the political consequences.  Stage one will end when Republicans realize they need to moderate their position on the issue. 

Stage two will be Democratic overreach on the abortion issue.  Fresh off winning on the issue at the voting booths, pro abortion rights activists will push the issue.  They will demand an unlimited right to abortion for all nine months of pregnancy, and for the taxpayers to pick up the bill for those who can't afford the procedure. They will demand that insurance policies include abortion.  As Democrats grow more extreme on the issue, they will pay a political price for their unpopular positions.  

Stage three will be both sides moderating and compromising on the abortion issue.  My guess is the ultimate compromise reached will be to allow early (first trimester) abortion with the three exceptions, which is where the majority of people are.  That compromise is not Roe.  Although people say they like Roe v. Wade, an overwhelming majority of Americans do not support the second trimester abortions that the justices said were protected by the Constitution.

Here at home, for the first time in over a half century, members of the Indiana General Assembly are having a real, consequential debate over abortion policy.  Extreme positions are being vetted as well as more reasonable and thoughtful compromises.  The legislative process is ugly and contentious, much more so than edicts handed down by federal judges.  But it is also society's pressure valve, it is how we decide public policy disputes in this country.  What we're seeing played out now across the country is a public debate that should have happened years ago were it not for Roe v. Wade.  This is a very good thing.  For the first time in nearly 50 years we are going to be able to reach a public consensus, through the democratic process on the most divisive issue of my lifetime.  This is a very good thing.

Friday, July 29, 2022

J6 Committee Uncovers Details on Trump's Refusal to Take Action to Stop Violent Insurrection He Helped Foment

On the days leading up to January 6th, then President Trump urged his supporters to come to Washington, DC to confront Congress which that day was counting on electoral college votes which would confirm Joe Biden won the election.  On January 6th, President Trump knew many of his supporters were armed and he asked that metal detectors be removed so they could advance on the Capitol with those arms.  Trump also knew that the mob he had instigated was primed to hang Vice President Mike Pence for not overriding throwing out the electoral college as invalid.  Trump not only didn't discourage the mob from killing the Vice President, by his words he encouraged it.  

As the Capitol was violently assaulted, and the lives of members of Congress, their staff, hundreds of police officers and others were endangered, Donald Trump for over three hours ignored pleas from staff members and family to take action to stop the violence.  Instead Trump sat in his dining room making calls to members of Congress to try to get them to stop the electoral count so his fake elector scheme would have time to play out.  It took Pence, stepping in to act as de facto President, to take action to stop the mob that day.     

In response to the damning evidence uncovered by the J6 Committee regarding Trump's inaction, Trump on June 6th released a statement that he had "suggested & offered" up to 20,000 National Guard troops be deployed to Washington, DC, ahead of January 6 claiming it was because he felt "that the crowd was going to be very large."   This continued claim caused the J6 Committee to release video of acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller's testimony in which he said Trump had issued no such order.  Once again, as he had done thousands of times during his presidency, Trump was lying to the American people.

While I'm deeply skeptical that Merrick Garland's Justice Department will prosecute Trump for his obvious criminality, there should be consensus that, given Trump's refusal to do anything to protect our government from violent attack, that the former President should not be allowed anywhere near power again.  It is, nearly two years after Trump fomented a violent insurrection to overturn the results of a free and fair election, that some people in my party still want to put that criminal wannabee back in the White House.  

Finally, I would end with this observation.  When he was elected in landslides in 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan led the Republican ticket, beating out virtually every other Republican candidate in the country.  When Trump ran for President in 2016 and 2020, he accomplished the opposite. Trump was so unpopular almost every Republican candidate in the country received more votes than he did.  Trump clearly lost the 2020 election because Republican-leaning voters reject him in favor of Biden in swing states.  If he would have just held the Republican base vote, Trump would still be President.  Trump is what political scientists call a loser.  Time for Republicans to move on from that fool.

OOP's short takes:

  • Abortion rights group should be give Indiana Secretary of State Rokita an award.  With the abortion issue being returned to the states, there is nothing they would have liked more than making the abortion issue be about denying the procedure to 10 year old rape victims.  In steps Rokita who gives them exactly what they want.   Even if Rokita's investigation uncovers misdeeds by the Hoosier abortion doctor, the political narrative has been lost.  Rokita's maneuvering on this issue is the dumbest political moves since...
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all Republicans off the J6 Committee.  I know McCarthy was just doing what Trump wanted, but Trump will still put the blame on McCarthy for the debacle of leaving the former President's advocates off the committee.  I'm not convinced his groveling to Trump is going to earn McCarthy the speakership.  Don't be surprised if in 2023 we are hearing about Speaker Elise Stefanik.
  • The website Five Thirty Eight's Senate model how has the Democrats with a 55% chance to take control of the Senate.  Why the dramatic change in the outlook? Because many Trump backed Senate nominees are falling down on the campaign trail.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Republicans are on the Verge of Blowing their Chance to Win a Senate Majority

Given President Joe Biden's historically bad poll numbers and historical trends, it seemed inevitable that Republicans would win control of the House and Senate this November.  Indeed, it is all but a sure thing that the Republicans win the House, probably gaining 20-30 seats.

But the Senate is a different story.   Republicans have nominated, or appear poised to nominate, several flawed candidates that have been pushed by former President Donald Trump.   Polling suggests those candidates are going to struggle to win the general election.  Let's examine:

Arizona:  Like Georgia, Republicans appear to be blowing an easy pick up in Arizona.  Trump is pushing a candidate named Blake Masters to win the GOP primary.  Masters has embraced the Big Lie. But Masters is trailing by 9 points in a matchup against Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.  Democratic Hold.

Georgia:  Former football star Herschel Walker easily won the Republican Primary in late May.  But Walker, who admits to having mental health issues and a history of domestic violence, is not proving popular with Georgia general election voters.  A recent Quinnipiac poll has incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock ahead of Walker by 10 points. The same poll has the governor's race, a rematch between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, as being tied.  Republicans' golden opportunity to pick up a seat in Georgia may be slipping away.  Democratic Hold.

Iowa:  As I said in another column, I don't think it's a slam dunk that 89 year old Charles Grassley wins a 9th term in the Senate.  Democrats managed to do something right by nominating Mike Franken, a three star Navy Admiral, to face him.  Three polls show Franken within single digits of Grassley.  If President Biden's popularity improves before election day, that will help candidates like Franken.  Republican Hold.

Ohio:  The Republicans could have nominated a worse candidate than JD Vance, but they could have also nominated someone better.  The scant polling shows Vance slightly ahead of Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan who is very much in the mold of the other Democrat Sherrod Brown, the other Ohio Senator who does exceedingly well with working class voters.  Vance's extreme position on abortion (he compared abortion to slavery and doesn't seem to even support traditional exceptions - rape, incest, life of the mother to a ban on the procedure), could sink him in Ohio which is filled with lots of suburban voters.  Republican Hold.

Missouri:   Given the political climate favoring Republicans, it should be a slam dunk for the GOP to hold the seat of retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt.  But Missourians Republicans seem intent of nominating former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.  Greitens, allegedly, took naked bondage pictures of his hairdresser that he threatened to share on the internet if she ever exposed his affair with her.  The hairdresser also claimed Greitens forced her to have oral sex and later slapped her and knocked her to the floor.  The prosecutor filed felony invasion of privacy charge against then Governor Greitens, but then dropped the charge when the photo relied on for the charge couldn't be located.  Nonetheless, the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature felt there was sufficient evidence to proceed with impeachment in a special session that ultimately resulted in Greitens resigning.   Greitens has a narrow lead in his bid to win the GOP nomination for Senate.  Nominating him though would give Democrats a solid chance for a pickup in what has increasingly become a very red state.  Republican Hold.  

Nevada:  This is turning out to be maybe Republicans' best chance to pick up a Democratic seat.  Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is facing Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro.  To win the primary Laxalt touted his endorsement by former President Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump, Jr.   But now he's finding those big name Trumpers hurt him when it comes to winning support from Nevada's independent voters in a general election.  Democratic Hold.

New Hampshire:  There has not been any polling done in the state since April.  In polls conducted before that, Democratic Maggie Hassan has led her likely Republican opponent Donald Bolduc by single digits.  Bolduc who, as Brigadier General served ten tours in Afghanistan, is having to go hard Trumpy to secure the September primary nomination.   That may cripple him for the general election in blue leaning New Hampshire.  Democratic Hold.

North Carolina:  Polls have former Congressman Tedd Budd with a 3 to 5 point lead over former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.   While I expect Budd will win the race and keep the seat, currently held by Richard Burr, in the GOP column, it is shocking that Beasley is competitive in this red-leaning state in what should be a great Republican year.  Republican Hold.

Pennsylvania:  This state looks to be a disaster for Republicans' hopes of retaking the Senate.  With the endorsement of Trump, New Jersey resident Dr. Oz won the primary.  Trouble is Dr. Oz was disliked by many Republicans. Meanwhile the Democratic nominee, Lt. Governor John Fetterman has strong crossover appeal.  At this point, it seems that Fetterman's biggest opponent is not Dr. Oz but his health.  Democratic Pickup.

Utah:  In Utah, former Republican Evan McMullin is running as an independent against unpopular Republican Senator Mike Lee.  The Democrats chose not to nominate a candidate and have thrown their support behind McMullen.  Polls show Lee has just a 5 or 6 point advantage. While Lee still has to be favored, imagine how interesting it would get if McMullin, a hard core conservative who has never backed Trump, is the deciding vote in a closely divided Senate.  Republican Hold.

Wisconsin:  Senator Ron Johnson is the most unpopular Republican running for re-election in 2022.  Most of the head-to-head polling show Johnson's possible Democratic opponents (the primary isn't until August 9th) running even or ahead of the Johnson.  Still, it's hard to bet against Johnson in what should be a big GOP year.  Republican Hold.

Conclusion: It would appear that the Republicans, by nominating weak Trump-backed candidates, are blowing numerous chances to knock of Democratic Senators.  Republicans will almost certainly lose the Pennsylvania Senate race, leaving them having to pick up two seats to gain a majority.  It looks like New Hampshire and Nevada are the two places where that is most likely to happen.  The chance of Republicans winning the Senate have now fallen below 50%.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Why is the Iowa Senate Race Being Written Off as Not Competitive?

According to the Cook Political Report, the Iowa Senate race is "Solid R".  Larry Sabato's crystal ball says the Senate race is "Safe R."  Politico indicates it is a "Solid R."

Admiral Michael Franken
I don't get it.  Yes, the incumbent Charles Grassley is a fixture in Iowa politics.  He served eight terms in the Iowa House of Representatives, before being elected to the U.S. House for three terms.  From there, Grassley moved on to the Senate where he has served seven six-year terms.  Last year, he announced that he would be running for an eight term in 2022.

Grassley will be 89 years old on Election Day.  If he serves out the full six year term, he will be 95 years old.  According to actuarial tables, an 89 year old man is only expected to live 5.5 more years.

I don't understand why the pundits are so sure this race won't be competitive.  One of the biggest knocks on President Joe Biden, even among Democrats, is his age.  And, at 79, he is ten years younger than Grassley.  I'm pretty sure that many Iowa voters, even Republicans, are going to have misgivings pulling the lever for Grassley knowing the odds are he won't live out his term.  

Rural Iowa though has become more Republican over the years, causing the state to shed its battleground status.  Iowa Democrats though took a pass on the more liberal former Iowa Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer to nominate Michael Franken.   Franken's background is quite impressive.:

Franken was born in Sioux County, Iowa. He was one of nine children. During his youth, Franken worked alongside his father at the Lebanon Farm Shop, working with farm equipment and trucks. When he was 17 years old, Franken began working at Sioux Preme Packing Company to pay for college. He also worked as bar manager, math tutor, bouncer, and as a law firm’s civil engineer. Franken earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree from the College of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School and professional studies at MIT, UVA’s Darden School of Business, and the Brookings Institute.

Franken was a member of the U.S. Navy. He retired from military service as a three-star admiral in 2017.

Franken worked in a variety of positions in Washington, D.C. He was the first military officer on Senator Ted Kennedy’s staff. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Defense.

There have only between two polls done in Iowa that feature a matchup between Grassley and Franklin.  In a Change Research poll released on April 11th, Grassley led Franken 45-42.  In another Change Research poll, this one released on July 4th, Grassley's lead was nearly identical 49-44. 

The results should be taken with a grain of salt.  Change Research is run by a former Democratic operative and conducts all of its polls online.  However, while online polls have historically been derided as inaccurate, during the 2020 election cycle, they proved themselves as accurate as phone polls, formerly the gold standard for polling accuracy.

Assuming that the polls are accurate, they suggest that Grassley may have a problem. Grassley was below 50% in both polls.  Incumbents who poll below 50% are said to be in trouble because undecided voters tend to break against the incumbent.  This is even more true when the incumbent is extremely known to the voters.  The April poll had 13% undecided while those voters registered at 11% in the July poll.

The Democrats have a three star admiral running against a Republican who will be turning 89 before the next election.  The ads write themselves.  Assuming Franken is able to raise the money, he could well make this a competitive race.  I don't know why the experts are writing it off.

OOP's short takes:
  • I have twice unsubscribed from Trump emails, the latest time about a week ago.  Despite my effort to get off the Trump campaign mailing list, on Tuesday, I received 12 emails from Trump wanting money. 
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham failed in his effort to quash a criminal court subpoena from the Georgia grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the election results in that state.  That was expected.  Quashing a criminal subpoena is extremely I'm sure his attorneys told him.  Now Graham has a dilemma.  He may well be called upon to answer questions that could implicate him in a crime.  That would leave him with no choice but to claim the 5th.  Not a good look for a sitting U.S. Senator.
  • An analyst with FiveThirtyEight looked at 6 pre-Dobbs and 6 post-Dobbs generic congressional ballot polls and concluded that there was a 3 point swing in favor of Democrats.. A couple more post-Dobbs generic ballot polls just came in so I did an 8 pre and 8 post poll comparison.  That analysis shows a swing of 1.7 in favor of the Republicans.   A caveat though - those two new polls were very favorable for Republicans, showing the GOP with 8 point leads on the generic congressional ballot.  In short, it's too early to know what effect Dobbs reversing Roe will have on the election.  My guess is the decision is going to be helpful to Democrats, but fall far short of the political earthquake they were hoping for.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Why We Shouldn't Fear Democracy Deciding the Abortion Issue

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision which found in the Constitution a right to abortion through the first six months of a woman's pregnancy.   Pro-life groups celebrated, while those who favor abortion rights mourned the decision.  Both responses are premature. Imagine a baseball game that was halted in the second inning for nearly 50 years due to a rain delay.  Now the game is finally ready to begin again.

Among legal scholars, even the strongest supporters of abortion rights struggled to defend the legal reasoning of Roe v. Wade.  The decision is replete with factual support as to justify why the line should be drawn at viability, then near the end of the second trimester.  But the decision seemed based on what the majority deemed would be good policy, not the law.  

When people speak of Roe, they rarely defend the legal reasoning of the opinion. Rather they support Roe because they like the outcome, never mind how convoluted the path the Court traveled to arrive at that outcome.  When the possibility of reversal of Roe came about, liberals screamed about stare decisis, that legal principle that precedent, especially those long-standing, should be respected.  Yet, l don't recall liberals feeling constrained by precedent when it came to the Court carving out new legal terrain when it came to the issues they care about, issues like civil rights and same sex marriage.

On January 21, 1973, democratically-elected state legislatures were busy sorting through the complex and difficult issues regarding legalization of abortion.  Nearly half the country had already legalized abortion, and several more states were on the verge of doing so  The democratic process was working.  Then the next day, January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court took the issue away from the states, finding that somewhere buried in the Constitution was the constitutional mandate that states must allow abortion for the first six months of a woman's pregnancy.

As discussed above, Roe was a flawed legal opinion.  But it was also flawed politics. 

The primary question of the abortion debate is not when life begins, but when that pre-natal life should be protected by law.  The decision involves weighing the woman's interests in controlling her own body with the undeniable medical reality of fetal development.

Most democratic countries decided the issue, not by judicial fiat as did the United States, but by their legislatures.  Unlike the United States, most of those countries ban abortion earlier in the pregnancy than the Court did in Roe, drawing the line generally between 12 and 16 weeks.

And that's where public opinion in the United States has always been.  Although strong majorities say they support Roe, substantial majorities also say they don't support second trimester abortions which were constitutionally protected by Roe (Not sure why the media doesn't point out the obvious - that people don't know the holding of Roe).  People support abortion if the procedure happens early in the pregnancy.  90% of abortions happen in the first trimester (some studies say as high as 93%), 10% in the second and less than 1% in the third.  Almost all third trimester abortions are for health reasons. 

By taking the abortion issue out of the democratic process, the Supreme Court radicalized abortion politics.  Both sides, but especially those who say they are pro-life, were given permission to take the most extreme position possible, knowing that Roe prohibited them from putting their words into action. Republicans are now going so far as jettisoning the traditional pro-life exceptions to abortion bans, i.e. rape, incest, threat to life of the mother.

That's about to change. 

Some of my favorite writers are affiliated with The Bulwark, a principled conservative media conglomerate that rose up to counter Trumpism..  My issue with many of the Bulwark writers though is that while many are leading voices in the fight to protect our democracy from Trump-inspired autocrats, in the next breath they express fear in actually having decisions about contentious issues made by the people through their elected representatives. Instead they are fine with un-elected federal judges deciding these issues for the American long it's the right policy, of course.  That's not democracy.  Why The Bulwark's writers don't seem to sense the contradiction in their positions is a mystery.

The Bulwark is correct that in the short term the crazies will rule the abortion debate.  Not only will many red states completely ban abortion, several blue states will move in the other direction, opting to allow abortion for all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason.  Six states already have that law in place, a fact rarely mentioned in news accounts.

But, with Roe gone, those legislators will eventually have to face the political consequences of their positions.  For Republicans, banning abortion will no longer be a theoretical question, but one which will directly impact the lives of their constituents.  Democrats who prefer the nine month approach, which goes even beyond Roe v. Wade, will find public opinion sharply against them.  

Candidates and elected officials will eventually have to moderate their position or lose at the polls.  An early example took place in Indiana's May primary of this year.  Reps. Curt Nisly and John Jacobs both took the most extreme position on abortion they could muster.  That didn't make Indiana GOP voters happy.  Nisly lost renomination by 46 points while Jacobs lost by 27.

Democracy is slow, it is ugly, it is confounding.  But it is also cathartic, a way we have of resolving divisive issues in this country.  Because the abortion fight never happened in the United States, and instead that decision was made for us by the Supreme Court, our body politic was left with a gaping wound that has never healed.

After a bloody battle, both sides in the abortion debate will be forced to talk to each other instead of at each other.  And they will have to compromise.  My guess is that compromise in most states is likely to look like Mississippi's 15 week ban, with the traditional exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.  Again, that's where public opinion has always been.

I don't fear democracy deciding the abortion issue.  I welcome it.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Liberals' Position on Free College Education for Everyone is About Elitism, Not Helping the Poor

I was at a Broad Ripple bar last week, seating at the table with three uber liberals, when the topic of the high cost of college education came up.  The liberals insisted that the solution to the high cost of higher education was to make it "free."

I pushed back.  I said I did not, under any circumstances, want my tax dollars to pay for some multi-millionaire to send his kid to college when that person could easily afford the cost of college education. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was wrong.  That, yes, there was nothing wrong with the less affluent in society paying higher taxes so the affluent won't have to shell out money to send their kids to college.

I was dumbfounded.  The opportunity to gain a college degree tends to favor people who are better off, whether by accumulated wealth or accumulated intelligence, not people who work blue collar jobs for which college degrees are not particularly helpful.  Of course, when I have in the past mentioned having taxpayers pay for vocational education or trade school for those pursuing blue collar jobs, my liberal friends weren't interested.

Let's, for now, set aside the snobby attitude liberals seem to have for those who work with their hands and have no interest (or need) for a college degree.  There is a way that taxpayers can pay for college tuition and still have it geared toward lower and middle class parents who actually need the help - means test the free college program so that the wealthy are not enriched by taxpayers who are living paycheck to paycheck.

My liberal friends are not interested in that. 

During the course of our conversation, I also brought up the high cost of tuition and that annual increases in tuition have exceeded the inflation rate for decades.  I talked about the need to control costs.   The response?  One of my liberal friends said that if we made college free we wouldn't have to worry about the cost.  Wow.

Then it suddenly occurred to me.  These liberals did not hold their position on free college because of their concern about the poor and downtrodden in society. Rather their positions seemed based entirely on elitism, their belief those who have to work in factories and warehouses, or even in skilled trades like electricians and plumbers, are not as valuable members of society as those who have the opportunity to earn college degrees.   Liberals actually look down on the people they claim they're trying to help.

And that is why I'm not a liberal.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Cheney, Pence and Capitol Police Officer Are the Stars of First Day of Public January 6th Committee Hearings

Last night, the bipartisan House January 6th Select Committee presented its first day of findings to the American people. Using never before seen video of the assault on the Capital, testimony of Trump allies, and statements of police officers who experienced first-hand the violence, the Committee detailed the events that transpired at the Capitol that day. The violence was initiated by the far right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, while former President Donald Trump lit the flame for the insurrection, and then refused to stop it.

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) proved himself quite capable of leading the committee, but the star of the hearing was Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) who proved that she had the courage to speak the truth even if it meant the end of her congressional career.  My favorite part of her opening statement was her message to fellow Republicans:

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something. Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.

Cheney may well lose her August primary to a Trump-backed opponent.  But there would be no dishonor in such a loss.  Indeed, the dishonor will belong to Colorado's Republican voters who will have voted against Cheney because she had the courage and integrity to tell the truth.

Another star of last night's hearing, no doubt a reluctant one, was former Vice President Mike Pence. When the Capitol came under violent attack, Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed. They desperately needed National Guard backup, which was under the authority of the President of the United States, to protect the members of Congress performing their official role counting the electoral votes.  Despite repeated pleas, Trump refused to activate the DC national guard, so Pence stepped into the vacuum and ordered the guard activated to protect American democracy.  Pence deserves criticism for his refusal to stand up against the worst of Donald Trump during his four years in office, but on January 6th he did the right thing, calling in the National Guard and announcing Joe Biden had won sufficient electoral votes to become President of the United States.

The final star of the evening was Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards who detailed for the committee and viewing public the violence law enforcement officers experienced that day.  When the violent crowd surged forward past a bike rack that was her only line of defense, Edwards was shoved backwards, hitting her head on the concrete steps and being knocked unconscious. Edwards eventually came to and went back into battle to defend the Capitol.  She was injured again and has injuries from which she still suffers.

Edwards displayed a courage that should make all Americans proud.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Television Needs to Stop Making Mass Shooters Famous and Promoting Their Cause

On Tuesday, an 18-year old man drove his car into a Texas elementary school, evaded an armed security guard and then began shooting up a classroom of fourth graders.  Nineteen children and two adults were killed.  The gunman, who was killed by a police officer, was quickly identified and his name and photograph were broadcast around the world.  As I write this, reporters are looking for the "motive" so they can publish that as well.

This week's shooting followed one last week at a Buffalo grocery store in which a white shooter shot and killed ten shoppers, almost all of whom were black.  The shooter was quickly identified as well as his motive, i.e. that whites were being replaced by non-whites, and the hopes his actions would cause a race war.  It didn't.

The political debate immediately turned to a partisan battle over whether more strict gun laws should be passed.  Democrats are not wrong that Republicans need to embrace reasonable gun restrictions.  An 18 year old shouldn't be able to legally buy an AK-47 semi-automatic gun.  Large magazine clips shouldn't be sold.  

Indeed, reasonable legislative changes could deter some of these mass shootings, and in some cases, dramatically reduce the death toll.  But, unfortunately, they'd only affect these events at the margins. Republicans are not wrong about that.  Someone who is determined to engage in a mass shooting is almost always going to be able to get a gun.  While we shouldn't make it easy for them, we need to be realistic about how much impact new gun laws can have.  

Why do these shooters engage in these events?   Almost always it is for two reasons:  First, they want to be famous.   Second, they often have a cause that they want publicized.  So, what does the media do?  They make the shooters famous and publicize their cause!

Here's a solution.  Television networks cover the mass shooting event, but they agree they won't identify the shooter or publicize the shooter's cause, i.e. the motive.   People will still be able to go to other media outlets, such as print, to get the details of the shooting, including the name and motive.  Frankly, print media coverage isn't what these shooters crave. They want to be on TV. 

If television networks stopped making these shooters famous and publicizing their cause, you'd see mass shootings stop almost completely.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Trump Suffers Worst Loss in Georgia Since Sherman's March to the Sea

The results in yesterday's Georgia's Republican Primary were a truly remarkable repudiation of former President Donald Trump's control of the Republican Party.

For the last several weeks, it has been apparent that Donald Trump's handpicked gubernatorial candidate, former Senator David Perdue, was going to lose the nomination to Governor Brian Kemp.  But it was expected to at least be somewhat competitive.  It wasn't.  As I write this, with 93% of the vote in, Kemp leads 73.5% to 21.9%.    Kemp's nearly 52% victory margin translates into nearly 600,000 votes.

Georgia Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger

Kemp was the No. 1 target on Trump's 2022 revenge tour chiefly because of his prominence at the top of the ticket.  But the bigger enemy for Trump was undoubtedly Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.  Not only did he refuse Trump's demand that he "find" votes to put him over the top in the state during a phone call, Raffensperger had the temerity to record that call and make it public.  The recorded conversation is now evidence in a possible criminal prosecution of Trump for election interference.  

Up until a couple months or so ago, Raffensperger was considered to be dead politically.  Trump had recruited a Big Lie proponent, Congressman Jody Hice, to run against him. Going into the election, the betting was that Raffensperger would fall well short of 50% to avoid a run-off which he would surely lose to Hice. Instead, Raffensperger shocked the political world, winning handily 52.1% to 33.6%, a margin of over 200,000 votes.  There will be no run-off in the Secretary of State's race.

Turning back the clock, in June of 2021, the Georgia Republican Party passed a censure resolution condemning Raffensperger.  That year Raffensperger and Kemp were censured by numerous local GOP committees.  The difference between then and now highlights how the Georgia GOP climate has shifted.

Trump also recruited attorney John Gordon in an effort to oust Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr.  Despite Trump's endorsement of Gordon, Carr won with 73.7% of the vote.  

As to the two Georgia open congressional seats, the 6th and the 10th, Trump endorsed attorney Jake Evans and former Democratic state representative Vernon Jones respectively.  Evans lost 43.2% to 23.2% and Jones was edged out 25.6% to 21.6%.  Both did qualify for next month's runoff primary.

Trump's one bright spot in Georgia was that his candidate, former football legend Herschel Walker, easily won the GOP nomination for Senate.