Category Archives: The Nation

Election Day: 2020

Voting in Line

 

Well, it’s Election Day. There have been millions of votes cast early, millions will vote today, and we will likely be counting mailed in votes for days to come as they arrive. Brad is out today due to a death in the family. I asked if he wanted me to put up a post for him on election day, and he indicated he did.

Here’s your chance to make predictions for what happens or generally comment on the election. Today, we are one people, one country. America is a special place. If you go to a polling place, you are likely to see a candidate for office in the parking lot outside asking for your vote. That’s a good thing. It’s still good to see candidates asking for our votes.

No matter what happens, I am hopeful for America.

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…

Good job, Joe! Now, let’s get on with saving the country

"The choice could not be more clear..."

“The choice could not be more clear…”

I was really puzzled at first by the Kathleen Parker column The State ran this morning, panning the Democratic Convention. She seemed to get it all wrong. She griped about how “the only thing I dislike more than a circus ringmaster running my country is manipulative, emotion-mining propaganda,” and said she could barely watch it.

Which is how I feel about MOST conventions, regardless of party; I have to turn them off or walk out of the room periodically to keep my head from exploding — all that throwing of red meat to snarling partisan mobs.

But as I said on the second night, this convention wasn’t like that — which I finally decided was because the mobs weren’t there! They weren’t feeding off each other in ways calculated to turn off anyone who isn’t one of them. As I said that night, “The thing I hate about conventions is missing!”

Then I saw that this was Kathleen’s impression of the first night — this is what you sometimes get these days from print outlets that go to bed in the early evening. What you read is often days past the sell-by date. (The rather belated post I put up about the second night ran two days ago.) I didn’t watch that first night, so I guess I can’t argue with the column.

Anyway… now that it’s over, I can say this was the best convention I’ve seen in many cycles, maybe the best since the days when the gatherings actually had a purpose, and did work and made decisions.

It had a big finish, with Joe doing a great job in his acceptance speech. I loved it from the start:

And I loved it at the end:

But there was so much more. Like that amazingly brave kid talking about his and Joe’s stutters. This did so much, including shaming the idiots who try to attribute Joe’s occasional flubs to cognitive weakness. I honor that kid. The boy’s story of his interaction with Joe also caused one pundit to say something like (I can’t find the link right now; I read so much this morning), can you imagine Donald Trump making the effort to help a child? (See this update.)

Before that, there was the neat thing with all those former contenders simply talking about what a great guy Joe is. That was really nice. And what they said came across as more sincere, and certainly more relaxed, than the things they had said on the stump. I say that not to denigrate their candidacies, but to emphasize how real they seemed in talking about how and why people love Joe.

That got taken down a notch by Michael Bloomberg’s solo shtick. He didn’t say anything wrong; he’s just so awkward as a speaker.

The previous night had been a little flat, except for Barack Obama’s masterful speech. No, I wasn’t impressed by Kamala’s. Nothing wrong with it; there was just nothing great about it, either. Hillary Clinton was forgettable (which may be a good thing). But Obama lit up that dull night.

The ending, though, was great. There’s no way any rational, fair-minded person in America saw and heard the convention and came away from it wanting to do anything but get out and vote, immediately, for Joe Biden.

It’s a shame we have to wait so long. And endure such wretched stuff between now and then. I expect to be nauseated by this time next week.

Anyway, here’s Joe’s speech if you missed it:

Hey, Joe: ‘People like me’ like Karen Bass…

Joe poll

All year, various Democrats — I think I’ve told you how many lists I got on as a result of working on James and Mandy’s campaign in 2018 — have sent me “polls” that are, as you’d expect, intended to involve me in a task that ends with giving money.

But I occasionally pause in my mass extermination of emails and fill one out — mainly to see what sort of questions are being asked. I then I click away when I get to the donation part.

Today, I stopped on a particularly superfluous one that asked for “confirmation” on the question, “DO YOU APPROVE OF JOE BIDEN?” But I decided to click on it because it mentioned that the Democratic National Convention, such as it is this year, is two weeks off. So I thought it might ask me about the Veep decision.

And the last few days, I’ve been grabbing any choice that presents itself to share the idea that Joe needs to pick Karen Bass — and that he needs to, without any doubt:

  • Say no to Kamala Harris.
  • Say no to Elizabeth Warren.
  • Say no to Susan Rice.

Because all three of those are highly problematic. I’ve been particularly alarmed by the frequent mentions of Susan Rice — my least-favorite member of the Obama team — in recent days.

And it’s not that Karen Bass is the only possible person to choose. But she’d be excellent– something I’ve become even more persuaded of as I see the rather silly efforts to bring her down (not being on board with anti-Castroism when she was in high school? having said polite things to Scientologists in 2010? really? are those the best you’ve got?) — and I want her to get mentioned a lot as a way of countering the never-ending wave of buzz over the three really bad choices.

There are others out there — for instance, I was impressed by this piece headlined “The Case for Competence” that praised both Rep. Bass and Gina Raimondo. But Rep. Bass keeps making the short lists, and Gov. Raimondo does not, so I’m pushing the one with a chance.

It’s been encouraging to see her mentioned so frequently in recent days, even as I’ve cringed to see one or more of the The Problematic Three mentioned as well. I don’t want to jinx this, but… it sort of reminds me of the way voters finally coalesced around Biden himself after all those months of nonsensical pushing of other candidates (such as Harris, and Warren, and of course Bernie). I’m seeing something happen I’ve been waiting and hoping for.

I’ve got this feeling that Rep. Bass is the one Joe himself would pick if he just went with his own judgment. So any tiny thing I can do to increase buzz for her, I’m trying to do. Maybe it will make somebody else mention her positively, too. And then someone else. And maybe somewhere on that chain of reactions, Joe himself will see it and be encouraged, see that he’s not alone on this. If it can just slip through, amid all the nonsense pushing Harris, Warren and Rice.

It’s a long shot, but this year — especially after seeing Joe shut down the competition once South Carolina had its say — I’m being optimistic. Why can’t we have two candidates who inspire confidence? Why not?

Anyway, so I clicked on the “poll,” and started answering the questions. But I almost quit and walked away when I saw the second one, “Do you think Joe Biden cares about people like you?”

ARRRGGGHHH! Think about this: Look at me, and tell me — what is a person like me? What does he look like, or sound like, or act like?

And who cares? What does this similarity to me have to do with anything? What kind of a jerk would I be if I only liked candidates who I thought would be good for “people like me?” Would that mean I was by implication saying, “The hell with everybody else?” And isn’t that the essence of being a Trump voter?

But I calmed myself down, knowing that Joe himself did not write this (and that I firmly believe that Joe cares about people like everybody), and that this offensive nonsense question is standard fare in these kinds of things, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Besides, maybe I’m looking at it wrong. Maybe “people like you” just means people who are like me in good ways, ways that matter. You know, people who have backed Joe from the start, because he is the kind of person who cares about everybody. People who see that he needs to pick somebody who’s a good fit, like Karen Bass.

People who want what’s best for Joe, and best for the whole country. Thoughtful, concerned people

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I almost quit when I got to the second question,

I almost quit when I got to the second question,

How about if today, we celebrate liberal values?

Mount_Rushmore_National_Memorial

We need to again be a country that can celebrate these guy’s contributions to the American idea, and at the same time be fully outraged at what happened to George Floyd, which grossly violated that idea. In that space where those reactions coexist lies our hope as a nation.

We could celebrate what I have always thought, without question, was the whole idea about America.

It’s not about the majesty of purple mountains or the amber color of grain. And most of all, it’s not about a people — people this color or that color or speaking this or that language.

It’s about the ideas, and their growth toward perfection over time. It’s a majestic story. And it starts not with freedom, not exactly. It starts with liberality. With tolerance, with plurality, with openness to each other, and a fierce sense of fairness toward everyone, particularly those who don’t look or talk or even think the way we do.

And that is in profound trouble in this country.

The most dramatic example of that is embodied by Donald Trump, although he is not the cause of the problem. The problem is that there were enough people who would vote for such a person — a person who deliberately appealed to the very worst, illiberal impulses — for him to win an Electoral College victory.

The problem is, if the left in this country were clearly articulating the liberal alternative, as it has done within living memory, it would have pulled along enough people from the center to utterly repudiate Trumpism in 2016. But that’s not the case. Unfortunately, there is a good deal of illiberality on the left, and that prevents us from having a clear, American liberal alternative.

The news on this front isn’t all bad, of course. The best thing that has happened in our politics in recent years was the Democratic Party’s decision to nominate Joe Biden for president. Joe is the perfect representative — and about the only one who sought the office this year — of the kind of liberal values that have been the glory of this country from the start. If he wins the election — better yet, if he utterly crushes Trumpism in November — it make be the first step in saving this country from recent trends. And that would be wonderful — for America, for the rest of the world, and for the ideas that are the only positive way forward, and the only things worth celebrating on this holiday.

If you read this blog regularly, y’all know that I gravitate toward the opinions of “Never Trump” conservatives. They come closer to expressing what is really wrong with Trumpism, from my point of view. So I was motivated to write this piece when I saw a column today from Bret Stephens at the NYT, headlined “Reading Orwell for the Fourth of July.” After dismissing Trump as an “instinctual fascist” who is fortunately really bad at it, he writes:

The more serious problem today comes from the left: from liberal elites who, when tested, lack the courage of their liberal convictions; from so-called progressives whose core convictions were never liberal to begin with; from administrative types at nonprofits and corporations who, with only vague convictions of their own, don’t want to be on the wrong side of a P.R. headache.

This has been the great cultural story of the last few years. It is typified by incidents such as The New Yorker’s David Remnick thinking it would be a good idea to interview Steve Bannon for the magazine’s annual festival — until a Twitter mob and some members of his own staff decided otherwise. Or by The Washington Post devoting 3,000 words to destroying the life of a private person of no particular note because in 2018 she wore blackface, with ironic intent, at a Halloween party. Or by big corporations pulling ads from Facebook while demanding the company do more to censor forms of speech they deem impermissible.

These stories matter because an idea is at risk. That’s the idea that people who cannot speak freely will not be able to think clearly, and that no society can long flourish when contrarians are treated as heretics.

Frankly, I disagree with Stephens that the illiberal impulse on the left is worse than the one on the right. (Having a wannabe fascist as president of the United States is a national emergency, no matter how incompetent he is.) But I agree that it’s bad, because it distracts the left from the ideas that would save our country.

We are doomed if the largely maskless crowd who applauded Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore last night have their way. We are also doomed if the people who have tried to pull down, damage or deface statues of all four men depicted on the mountain have their way.

Trump, of course, wants people to think that you have to choose one or the other — his way, or that of the statue-destroyers (the less-discriminating sort, that can’t tell the difference between a statue of Washington and one of Nathan Bedford Forrest).

But we don’t have to choose between those extremes. In fact, if America and the hope it offers to the world are to survive, we must not.

We have to be able to applaud people who find what happened to George Floyd an outrage, a violation of all we believe in, while at the same time condemning people who would attack a statue of Abraham Lincoln dedicated with the help of Frederick Douglass.

If we can’t do that, we’re sunk, and the Fourth of July is nothing more but an opportunity to sell hot dogs.

The problem, of course, is greater than overexcited demonstrators who go off-course. When the NYT itself recasts American history itself as being about nothing but slavery and oppression — as being about 1619 rather than 1776 — we’ve got a problem. When a crowd of indignant people from the newsroom — you know, people who are not supposed to have opinions — can topple the paper’s editorial page editor for running a piece with which they (and the editor) disagree, we are losing one of the great institutions that has stood for liberal values.

Another of those anti-Trump conservatives at the NYT (and when the paper stops running such people, the institution really will be dead) had a piece that offered an examination of similar concerns. With reference to the coronavirus, David Brooks wrote:

I had hopes that the crisis would bring us together, but it’s made everything harder and worse. And now I worry less about populism or radical wokeness than about a pervasive loss of national faith.

What’s lurking, I hope, somewhere deep down inside is our shared ferocious love for our common country and a vision for the role America could play as the great pluralist beacon of the 21st century…

I hope so. And that hope is what I’m embracing on this holiday. We’ve got to stop thinking people have to choose between Trumpian populism or popular “wokeness,” and get behind a way of thinking that respects an honest and open interchange of ideas.

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

Inez Tenenbaum speaks up for Joe Biden

Joe Biden swears in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That's Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

Joe Biden swearing in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2009. That’s Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

My good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared with me a link to the radio ad Inez did for Joe.

It helps drive home my point in my previous post, about the folks Democrats have backed in the past pretty much all being for Joe — something I hope Democratic voters take to heart tomorrow.

Here’s the link, and here’s a transcript I just typed up, so blame any errors on me:

This is Inez Tenenbaum, your former state superintendent of education.

When I was chosen to lead the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the person who swore me into office was Joe Biden.

In the Obama-Biden administration, we worked together to keep our children safe, and Joe Biden was a champion for families all across our country, and South Carolina.

Joe Biden knows South Carolina. When our economy was in crisis, Joe Biden oversaw the Recovery Act, getting hundreds of millions of dollars for South Carolina schools.

For eight years, Joe Biden was loyal to President Obama. He had President Obama’s back, and stood by his side.

Now we have the opportunity to build on President Obama’s legacy, and beat Donald Trump. But that starts with nominating Joe Biden.

South Carolina, you can vote for Joe Biden on Saturday, February the 29th.

See you there!

[I’m Joe Biden, and I approved this message.”]

[Paid for by Biden for President.]

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts with us, Inez!

Clyburn stands up for America, backs Joe Biden

Still from a video posted on Biden's Twitter feed today.

Still from a video posted on Biden’s Twitter feed today.

You think I’m being overly dramatic there? I’m not. This is a dangerous moment for our country, and only thing that will save us from it will be Joe Biden winning on Saturday, and going on to do well on Super Tuesday.

And this is now about much more than me liking Joe Biden. It’s now increasingly about the alternative.

I thought Tom Friedman put it well in his column today (more about that column later; it was a really good piece):

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now…

Me too, Tom. Me too.

So it matters that Clyburn stepped up at long last today and endorsed Joe. By the way, I’m not complaining when I say “at long last.” I really think his endorsement came at the best possible time. If he had given it months ago when everyone else (and I mean everyone else who’s anyone among S.C. Democrats) was endorsing Joe, it would have been forgotten by now. Now, whatever effect it will have is amplified.

Before we get into a big debate about whether endorsements matter, let me just head that off with this observation: If endorsements matter at all, can you imagine anyone’s mattering more than Clyburn’s at this moment? I can’t.

The AP story today claimed that “It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden.” Really? Then how come I didn’t know it? If you’d made me bet, sure, I would have said Jim would back Joe. But I also would have said we wouldn’t be calling Bernie Sanders a front-runner at this point, and that Donald Trump wouldn’t have been the GOP nominee in 2016.

So I don’t rest easy with conventional wisdom these days. And as an American and a South Carolinian, I’m very grateful to Jim Clyburn for what he has done this day.

There was some suspense over this, at least for me. Just a couple of days ago, The New York Times had a prominently-played story that suggested Clyburn might have a liking for Tom Steyer. It was another one of those stories about Steyer’s efforts to buy the black vote here (something I remain very concerned about). It quoted Clyburn as telling CNN, “I think Steyer is doing an incredible job.” Which is far short of an endorsement, but it still made me nervous.

Anyway, Jim Clyburn has done a fine thing today — for Joe Biden, for the Democratic Party, for South Carolina, and for America. And I appreciate it.

Et tu, Bernie? The Russian plot sickens

Well, boys, I reckon this is it - electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

I hadn’t even had a chance to post about the Russians working to help elect Trump again, when we learned they were trying to help Bernie, too.

Which makes sense, of course. It fits their M.O., and their interests, in two ways:

  1. Their priority is helping Trump, because having Trump as president hurts America, sends us on a downward slide as a nation, and keeps us bitterly divided. And they feel quite sure, like many U.S. observers, that Bernie is the best possibly opponent for their boy.
  2. If they can’t have Trump, might as well elect the most divisive figure on the Democratic side as a backup. Because the point is weakening America, and having us all stirred up and angry is a great way to do that. (It’s working for them so far, after their successful efforts in 2016.)

Putin may be evil, but he’s not stupid.

All of that said, I want to give Bernie a big pat on the back for showing how a presidential candidate should react to such news:

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”…

If only a certain other party would take a hint.

Basically, this is all part of a pattern that began in 2016. Then, workers at a Russian troll factory were told, “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

Which brings me to the point I was going to post about all this before we learned about the Bernie wrinkle…

Remember that we learned several months ago that the key CIA asset who had let us know that the Russians were trying to elect Trump in 2016 had to be exfiltrated to save his life back in 2017? As the NYT reported at the time:

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

OK, well… if this guy was so golden, so well-placed, so irreplaceable… how do we know they’re doing the same in 2020?

Obviously, we don’t know everything. Which is probably a good thing, if we’re still getting such good intel. Better that the new source not be compromised, too.

Or, is this one of those hyperclever inside-out deals where the idea of our key source being extracted was disinformation, which news media eagerly lapped up, meant to protect the real source?

If so, I hope these news revelations aren’t endangering him. Or her

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

I’m counting on Lamar Alexander to do the right thing

Lamar shirt

I ran across the shirts you see above at Belk the other day. The one in the middle is a dead ringer for the one Lamar Alexander wore on his famous walk across Tennessee when he ran successfully for governor in 1978 — the first statewide political campaign I ever covered.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Lamar, as I’ve mentioned here many times. And now, the fate of the impeachment trial may lie in his hands, assuming he does the right thing. An excerpt from an NYT story from the last few days:

WASHINGTON — The ghost of Howard H. Baker Jr., the Republican senator from Tennessee who turned against Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, is hovering over Senator Lamar Alexander.

Mr. Alexander, a third-term Republican from Tennessee who is retiring at the end of this year, has said that no one outside his family has had more influence on him than Mr. Baker, the former Senate majority leader who is remembered for the penetrating question he posed as Nixon stared down impeachment: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Now Mr. Alexander may hold in his hands the fate of another Republican president who is facing removal from office. He is one of four Republican moderates who have expressed openness to bringing witnesses into President Trump’s impeachment trial. Of the four, he stands out because he is not running for re-election and arguably has nothing to lose….

The story goes on to say Lamar “does not appear ready for a Howard Baker moment.” They based this on the fact that he wanted to wait until the first phase of the trial was completed to decide. But I have two things to say about that:

  1. That seems a reasonable hesitation to me. He was keeping his options open until the point at which a decision would have to be made.
  2. That story was written before the revelation from Bolton’s upcoming book.

So I’m going to be optimistic, counting on Lamar to do what he generally did back when I covered him as governor: the right thing.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

A Modest Proposal on Iran: We just have to play to Trump’s ego. It might even be worth it.

There’s a window of opportunity here, but it probably only stays open as long as the Iranians are content to have fired a few missiles without having hurt any Americans.

It won’t be easy. It will require a lot of people being in on the plan and sticking to it. And it will be distasteful, because it will involve flattering and kowtowing to Trump as though we were a bunch of Lindsey Grahams or something.

But it could definitely be worth it. Bear with me.

All of our allies would have to be in on it — the ones who have labored so to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump is assuring them is kaput. As for Israel — well, it will require some forbearance from them.

All the Democrats will have to play along. Nancy Pelosi’s role will be key. We’ll need the Republicans, too, but no sweat… this sort of toadyism is reflexive to them, so we don’t even have to ask for their help.

Here’s what we do: We all get together and communicate the following to Trump:

Oh, wow, you really showed those ayatollahs! You whacked their guy and after a bunch of bluster, they only had the guts to blow up some sand! You really had their number! You owned them, the way you always do with the libs! We can’t wait to see what you do next! Actually… we have a suggestion, not that it wouldn’t occur any moment to someone as brilliant as you…

You know that stupid Obama nuclear deal that only you saw needed to be scrapped? You know how the “allies” are all being so petulant about that? Well, let’s show them something. Let’s show them how it’s done by a real dealmaker! Negotiate a REAL deal, an America-First deal that makes everybody else they they got a great deal, too (the saps!)…

It won’t even be much trouble. Just take the stupid deal that Obama sweated over, work some of your magic on it to make it your own, and presto! The Trump Comprehensive Plan of Action will avert war, settle down the whole region, prevent nuclear proliferation and probably help with that global climate change thing that people keep yammering about!

It will be easy, for someone with a brain as brilliant and normal as yours! It would be just like what you did with NAFTA — knock it down, then replace it with something that is basically the same but less sad, a beautiful new thing with the glittering Trump brand on it — just chock full of real class! Something you can stand up and strut about…

As you see, we’ll probably have to work hard on the sincerity in doing this, but he’s so eager to be validated in his illusions about himself that he won’t examine it too closely. He’ll lap up the flattery, and next thing you know we’ll have a real breakthrough that would increase peace and security in the region and the world.

I mentioned Nancy Pelosi’s role. It’s essential, although fairly easy for her. She just needs to keep holding back the impeachment from the Senate. The hardest part for her will be that she’d have to say that she’s doing it because what our wonderful president is doing is so important that he must not be distracted!

We should be able to get all this done in a month or so — as I say, all the actual work got done in the Obama agreement — and then get on with impeachment, and the election.

What do you think? I’ll tell you what I think:

It. Could. WORK!

via GIPHY

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, and other thoughts on the killing of Soleimani

1200px-Qasem_Soleimani_2019-10-01_05

Why have I gone so many days without commenting on the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the United States?

Because I’m still not sure what to say. I don’t have enough information to say “this was a good thing” or “this was a bad thing.” And ever since I made the move from news to editorial in 1994, I’ve been disinclined to write about anything that I couldn’t offer some sort of judgment on.

What follows is a few of the thoughts that have been going through my head since this happened…

We can’t get around the fact that this is Trump doing this.

First, if this is a classic “wag the dog” move, Trump has miscalculated. Because this incident underlines more starkly than anything else that’s happened in the past three years why it is an extraordinarily bad idea to have such an ignorant and deeply flawed person in the role of commander-in-chief.

Yes, the natural impulse in such a situation is for the American people to close ranks with the president and give him the benefit of the doubt. But how can anyone, other than the blindest of his base, do that with this man? Most people in the country know that he only cares about his own self-interest. There could be a situation in which his interest and the country’s coincidentally line up — the stopped-clock principal — but we know that to him, the country’s interest is simply not an operative variable.

And he lies. About everything. He doesn’t misspeak and then backtrack when the untruth is exposed, the way other people in politics do. He lies with utter abandon, and when the lie is proved beyond any doubt, he doubles down on it.

In a situation like this, in which (I’m assuming here) the American people can’t be shown all the evidence without compromising intelligence sources, it is essential that we have some faith in the truthfulness and judgment of the president, whether we like him or not. That is utterly impossible in this situation. So instead of persuadable people going, “This is a dicey situation, so we’d better rally around the president,” they are more likely to go “Oh, my God, how soon can we get someone else — anyone else — into the White House?”

Forgive me for starting with the political calculation, but the fact that this guy is in this job affects all the other things I have to say.

This is a job for the Deep State.

I can’t trust anything Trump — or anyone who owes his or her job to him — says about the situation. I know I can’t trust Republican members of Congress, either, based on their completely surrender of their minds to Trump. Nor am I terribly interested in what the Democratic presidential candidates think about it. (Yes, their statements may help us choose between them, but their reaction isn’t helpful in assessing the immediate situation, which is what I’m talking about here.)

What I want, what I need, to know in order to form a judgment is what the Deep State thinks. I need the views of experts who have no political dog in the fight.

Is it the consensus of our intelligence community that there was an imminent threat that justified taking the extraordinary chance (given that we don’t know what Iran will do) of killing this guy? Oh, and while I’m asking, what do they think we should do next?

Often in these situations, within a few days after the story has initially broken, there will be a piece — probably in The New York Times — from a reporter with excellent intelligence sources who has interviewed them about the situation and gleaned some sort of consensus from those sources.

This would be a great time for such a story. I’m not asking for the moon — I don’t expect something as definite as, for instance, the fact that ALL of our intelligence agencies agree that Russian interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. I’m not greedy. I’d just like to know in general what people who know a LOT more about this than I do are thinking. That might help me decide what I think.

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

When in doubt, quote a Clint Eastwood movie, right?

I don’t think anyone in this country, outside of people like this out-of-work football player, doubts for a moment that Soleimani had it coming.

But he’s had it coming for a long time, and we’ve had the ability to kill him before now, and we haven’t done so. The question isn’t, “Did he deserve it?” The question is, what changed that switched the calculus toward a decision to kill him now? And was that calculation sound?

In other words, someone might be a bad guy, but killing him may be a bad idea. (In fact, as an opponent of the death penalty, I would argue that it’s usually a bad idea to kill someone just for being a bad guy.)

And we just don’t have enough reliable information to know.

No one, but no one, thinks war with Iran is a good idea.

No matter how crazy and bloodthirsty you may think neocons are, I can’t think of anyone in that camp that has ever put forth outright war with Iran as a good idea. (Neo-cons don’t usually count John Bolton among their number.) I’ve never seen the case credibly made that it would be in anyone’s interest, except maybe people on the sidelines who don’t like us, such as Russia or China.

So, you know, we probably need to do what we can to avoid it from this point on… which brings us back to my fervent wish that a normal human being of any party was in the White House right now… Something I heard on the radio earlier today struck me as ironic in the extreme: A Republican member of Congress (I think; I didn’t catch the name) was making the point that the Iranians aren’t totally crazy; they don’t want war with the United States. How weird is that? We’re counting on the ayatollahs to be more rational and mature than the president of the United States

I could say much more, but I figure that’s enough to get a conversation going. Sorry to have taken so long, but as I say, I was hoping to know more….

There was yet another LOOOONG debate last night…

oct 15 debate

I’ll share two or three thoughts, and then some Tweets, just to get things started:

  • Most of the night I waited for Syria — or anything having to do with the rest of the world — to be mentioned and discussed. I tried to be patient, knowing these are Democrats and their fave mode is to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Finally, it came up, and I was pleased with most comments, except Tulsi’s ranting about regime change — as though THAT were the problem with abandoning the Kurds. I liked that my man Joe spoke most on the topic, followed by Pete Buttigieg. Joe spoke about it almost, but of course not quite, as much as Elizabeth Warren spoke about income inequality. Of course, Joe happens to understand better than any other what the presidency is mainly about.
  • A lot of people interpreted the fact that so many were jumping on Elizabeth Warren as being entirely due to her emergence as a front-runner, if not the front-runner. And I’m sure that’s a big part of it. But I think another factor contributed, and I think it’s odd that I haven’t heard it mentioned. I think a lot of them see it as less OK to give Joe a hard time, seeing as how he and his son are the targets of Trump’s mulilateral abuses of power. This makes Joe an even more sympathetic character than usual, so they laid off him.
  • Oh, and I came close to a decision last night. I think I’d like to see Amy Klobuchar as Joe’s running mate, assuming everything goes right and Democrats decide they actually want to beat Trump. It would probably be Mayor Pete if he weren’t so young and inexperienced, and if he didn’t keep reminding us of it (But that happened five minutes ago, and as I may have mentioned previously, I wasn’t born yet…). I don’t see Sen. Klobuchar as quite ready to be president yet, but she comes close, and would be a good understudy.

That’s enough points for now. I’ve got work to do. Here are my Tweets from last night and this morning:

As you can see, I dialed back the Tweeting last night. Just wasn’t inspired all that much, and I’ve heard so much of this stuff so many times already. Of those things I Tweeted about, I’d most like to chat further on ones about Facebook (someone on the stage, I forget who, made the point I’d made about lots of little Facebooks right after I posted it), and the thing about Trump’s Twitter. I’m still thinking I may have misunderstood what Kamala wanted…

Oh, and further discussion of Bernie’s fantasy version of Medicare might be in order. Bernie should have read this in the Post the other day… Dang. I can’t find it. Well, maybe later. Anyway, it was a column by a 64-year-old who seems to have just discovered that Medicare isn’t free, and it doesn’t pay for everything. Like, duh. These kids today and their inflated expectations…

Brooks lists reasons why impeachment means trouble

David Brooks has a column today headlined “Yes, Trump Is Guilty, but Impeachment Is a Mistake,” with the subhed “This political brawl will leave Trump victorious.”

Yep. That’s quite likely. That’s why this is a bad place to be, if you want to get rid of Donald Trump.

Here’s the list of reasons Brooks offers:

  • “This will probably achieve nothing.” If you mean, he won’t be removed from office, you’re almost certain right. Two presidents in our history have been impeached, and neither was removed from office. There is no reason to think this time will be different — especially if you listen to the alternative-reality nonsense coming from the mouths of Senate Republicans.

    Brooks_New-articleInline_400x400

    David Brooks

  • “This is completely elitist.” Brooks means inherently, in that you put Trump’s fate in the hands of 100 senators instead of the voters. But elitism comes into this another way: Some of the people out there saying Trump hasn’t done anything wrong actually think that. They are low-information people who subscribe to the “They all do it” school. You sort of have to have above-average understanding of the norms of diplomacy, politics, and presidential behavior to understand how stunningly unprecedented this is, and understand that if this isn’t impeachable, it becomes hard to imagine what would be.
  • “This is not what the country wants to talk about.” Well, no, it’s not what I want to talk about, either. I want to talk about why Joe Biden must be the Democratic nominee, and must be elected. Of course, if you mean the country wants to talk about football and reality TV, you lose me. I don’t feel obliged to respect apathy.
  • “Democrats are playing Trump’s game.” Oh, yeah. Indeed. The more divided the country is, the more this parasite thrives.
  • “This process will increase public cynicism.” Yeah, maybe, among the uninformed. And that’s a lot of people.
  • “This could embed Trumpism within the G.O.P.” This is an interesting argument, and it makes some sense. It goes this way: Electoral defeat will discredit Trumpism among Republicans (if it doesn’t just crush the GOP permanently). This will harden Trump’s position as being at the heart of the party, with all the loyalists gathered ’round him.
  • “This could distort the Democratic primary process.” Yep, and in unpredictable ways.

Of course, in the end, if I were a House member — of either party, or (my preference) no party — I don’t think I would feel like I had an alternative. Sure, you know he’s not going to be removed from office, and given that we’ve seen over and over that his supporters are impervious to reason, it will greatly increase his chances of being re-elected.

But the Constitution charges the House with a responsibility. And it’s hard for me to see how the House walks away from that responsibility, in light of what Trump has done. You can’t just act like, yeah, it’s OK to do that and still be president. You have to say, “No!”

This is a terrible moment to be a House member. And a worse moment for the country….

Thoughts on the marathon ‘debate’ last night?

NYT debate graphic

Or perhaps I should say, further thoughts, since some of y’all have started the discussion on the previous thread. Which is cool.

As a conversation starter, I thought I’d post an image of the graphic the NYT ran this morning to go with a piece they had about winners and losers, featuring some of their opinion writers.

I read that this morning, and several other accounts of the night, and the consensus of what I’ve read — and I don’t strongly disagree with any of it — goes kind of like this:

  • Warren had the best night. That’s the consensus. I thought she started strong — I liked her Mayberry approach, with talking about her Aunt Bee instead of her usual intense ranting — but wasn’t as great the rest of the time.
  • Bernie seemed more and more to observers what he has always seemed to me — the cranky uncle who puts people off.
  • Yang embarrassed himself right out of the running with his money-giveaway gimmick. Too bad. I liked him.
  • Castro was second-worst, they say. Personally, I’d put him dead last and move up Yang. Basically what he did was the equivalent of blowing himself up with a grenade, in the hope that he could also wound Joe Biden in the process. Most thought it was bad; I think it was worse. He hasn’t learned what Kamala Harris learned belatedly: In the end, Democrats won’t like you for attacking Biden — and, by extension, Obama.
  • Kamala Harris was too scripted and rehearsed. Pretty much everyone thought she came across as phony.
  • Klobuchar did fine, but it wasn’t enough. And as one writer said, she remains irrelevant as the moderate alternative, unless Joe blows up. I still think she did better than the graphic above indicates.
  • I liked what Gail Collins said about Cory Booker: “So intense he kind of runs you over.” He’s like a younger, slightly (but only slightly) cooler, version of Bernie.
  • Buttigieg did OK, I thought. But others seemed to think he had an off night.
  • Beto was Beto. Most seemed to think he had a strong night. He continues to seem the callow (but earnest) youth to me. In that age bracket, Buttigieg still outshines him.
  • Consensus seems to be that Joe did all right — not great, not badly. He’s still the front-runner — with Warren breathing down his neck.

That’s about it. What did y’all think.

 

 

Uh, should we rethink this democracy thing?

He IS known by three letters, but they aren't "AOC"...

He IS known by three letters, but they aren’t “AOC”…

I’ve confessed before that, unlike most American editorialists, I was always kind of ambivalent about urging people to get out to vote. Which made me kind of an iconoclast, if not a heretic.

This simple expression of civic piety (You know the drill: “No matter how you vote, vote!”) tended to stick in my throat, and here’s why: If you have to be goaded to do something as basic to your duty as a citizen as vote, then are you really somebody that I want to see voting?

And today, I’ve received a press release that makes me even more hesitant to urge the average apathetic America to get out there and have just as much a say in who our leaders are as I do. The headline on the email was, “18% of Americans believe AOC authored the New Deal.”

Before you call me a horrible elitist, just look over some of these numbers:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9th, 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Connor Murnane
PHONE: (202) 798-5450

America’s Knowledge Crisis: A Survey on Civic Literacy

Washington, DC — A national survey commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) draws new attention to a crisis in civic understanding and the urgent need for renewed focus on civics education at the postsecondary level.

Some of the alarming results include:

  • 26% of respondents believe Brett Kavanaugh is the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and 14% of respondents selected Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016.
    • 15% of the college graduates surveyed selected Brett Kavanaugh.
    • Fewer than half correctly identified John Roberts.
  • 18% of respondents identified Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a freshman member of the current Congress, as the author of the New Deal, a suite of public programs enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.
    •  12% of the college graduates surveyed selected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • 63% did not know the term lengths of U.S. Senators and Representatives.
    • Fewer than half of the college graduates surveyed knew the correct answer.
  • 12% of respondents understand the relationship between the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, and correctly answered that the 13th Amendment freed all the slaves in the United States.
    • 19% of the college graduates surveyed selected the correct answer.

ACTA’s What Will They Learn? report, an assessment of 1,123 general education programs scheduled for release tomorrow, helps to explain America’s civic illiteracy. Our analysis of 2019–2020 course catalogs revealed that only 18% of U.S. colleges and universities require students to take a course in American history or government.

”Colleges have the responsibility to prepare students for a lifetime of informed citizenship. Our annual What Will They Learn? report illustrates the steady deterioration of the core curriculum. When American history and government courses are removed, you begin to see disheartening survey responses like these, and America’s experiment in self-government begins to slip from our grasp,” said Michael Poliakoff, president of ACTA.

The survey was conducted in August by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and consisted of 15 questions designed to assess respondents’ knowledge of foundational events in U.S. history and key political principles. The respondents make up a nationally representative sample of 1,002 U.S. adults. To view the full survey results, click here >>


ACTA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic excellence, and accountability in higher education. We receive no government funding and are supported through the generosity of individuals and foundations. For more information, visit GoACTA.org, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, and subscribe to our newsletter.

If that doesn’t give you pause about this universal suffrage thing, then you’re not reading it right.

No, I’m not talking about taking away anyone’s right to vote. But data such as this makes me think twice about urging the average non-voter to exercise that right. At least, I hope the ones who credit AOC with the New Deal are non-voters. Ditto with the 63 percent who don’t know how long the terms of senators and House members are, even though that’s not quite as slap-you-in-the-face ignorant as the other thing…

Biden should promise to make Obama secretary of state

The once and future team?

The once and future team?

I’ve had this idea kicking around in my head for weeks now, and I’ve been waiting to have time to present it thoughtfully, with extensive, carefully constructed arguments that will be perfectly unassailable, and I finally decided I’m not going to have time for all that stuff.

So here goes.

Joe Biden should promise to name Barack Obama as his secretary of state. Assuming he can talk his old boss into it. And assuming his old boss can talk Michelle into it, which could prove to be a bridge too far. But it’s worth trying (assuming it’s constitutional, which I think it is), for a number of reasons.

Joe’s campaign is all about restoring sanity in the White House — or saving the nation’s soul, as the former veep likes to put it. Just today, I was listening to an interview with him on NPR. Don’t be put off by the headline, which is “‘Details Are Irrelevant’: Biden Says Verbal Slip-Ups Don’t Undermine His Judgment.” It actually contains substance, rather than just more pointless yammering about trivial mistakes made now and then by a guy who talks all day. (I’m convinced that if the media adopted the same attitude toward other candidates — We’ve gotta watch him like a hawk to catch him sounding senile — they’d succeed in coming up with similar “proof” of the hypothesis.)

And one of the points of substance is about the heavy lifting that the next president will have to do to repair our relations with the rest of the world, restoring America’s status as a country that other countries — friends and foes — can respect.

“The next president is going to have to pull the world back together,” Biden asserts in the interview. And he’s right.

It’s hard to imagine a gesture that could more convincingly persuade foreign leaders of his seriousness and good faith on that point than to make the last president the world could respect his point man in dealing with the rest of the globe.

I find it hard to think of another living human being who could restore our nation’s dignity on the world stage as well as Barack Obama. And Obama could, by accepting the post, perform a more direct and dramatic service to the country in his post-presidential life than any president since John Quincy Adams served in the U.S. House after 1828. He would make a real difference in the world.

Not to mention how such a promise would make Biden more likely to be in a position to keep it. Some of his Democratic rivals have dared to quibble with the Obama-Biden legacy. But it would be really hard for them to make a winning case against an actual reunion of the party’s last winning team.

And no, it’s not the same as asking Obama to be his running mate. It’s far more substantial than that. I see it as being like the relationship between Lincoln and Seward. Seward was such a respected figure that when he was named secretary of state, many people mistakenly assumed he’d be the real president and country-bumpkin Lincoln would be a figurehead.

Obviously that didn’t happen, but nevertheless Seward was Lincoln’s right-hand man, a partner with real political juice of his own, helping our greatest president guide the country through its greatest crisis.

I think the prospect of Obama being secretary of state would change the whole tenor of the campaign from here on out.

And it would prove to be a very, very good thing not only for the country, but for the whole world…

Bolt? No way! And if we did, where on Earth would we GO?

See? The DOG gets it...

See? The DOG gets it…

Our good friend Bryan may be taking a hiatus from the blog, but does that mean we can’t comment on what he posts on social media?

Of course not!

So let’s consider this:

Oh, come on, Bryan! Joe’s had some slip-ups here and there, but that one’s not even worth mentioning.

Seriously, did you have the date of the Parkland shooting memorized? I didn’t. If you had asked me out of the blue to say when it was, without looking it up, I’d have said maybe 2017 (and I’d have been two months off). And if you corrected me and said no, it was 2016 — when Obama and Biden were still in office — I’d have accepted it without question or surprise. It would still seem about right.

As it was, Joe was less than 13 months off. NOT “two years.” It happened in February 2018. Obama and Joe were still in office for most of January 2017. Learn to read a frickin’ calendar, people.

Now, real quick, when was the Sandy Hook massacre? When did that guy shoot up the theater where they were showing a Batman movie? If you can tell me within a year, good for you. But I won’t think less of you if you can’t.

So no, there’s nothing in this incident that makes me or (I hope) anyone else want to “bolt” from supporting Biden.

But let’s go to a bigger question: What if we DID want to “bolt” — where would we go?

It would be nice to have a backup plan, because humans are fallible, and for that matter Joe could get sick or something.

But I don’t have one. Oh sure, some of you will say there are plenty of good options, and in fact better ones than Joe, yadda-yadda. Well, yeah — for you. But not for me, speaking as a quintessential Biden supporter. Which is the kind of person that Bryan’s tweet was about.

I have my reasons for supporting Joe, which we’ve discussed here, and I don’t see anyone else measuring up according to the standards that matter to me — such as experience, understanding of the job, character and ability to win. I don’t see anyone even coming close, among the three or four other Democrats who might be seen as viable at this point. (Viable for the nomination, I mean — I don’t see any of those three or four as promising for the general. There are others who might do well in the general, but I don’t see them getting the nomination.)

And we — Americans I mean, not Democrats — have to get rid of Trump, as an essential first step in marginalizing Trumpism, and restoring our country to what it was from 1790-2016.

Only Joe is in a position to do that.

So stop trying to seize on every little human mistake, and let’s focus on the big things.

Because we need to get this thing done…

I’m almost as tired of the Mueller saga as Mueller is

The first screen of The Post's homepage was all Mueller...

The first screen of The Post’s homepage was all Mueller…

At one point this morning, I Tweeted this:

But I wasn’t done with the Mueller hearing, or perhaps I should say it wasn’t done with me. There it was, wherever I turned — on social media, on the radio in my truck, even when I tried listening to NPR.org while I was getting some steps in in the middle of the day. (Fortunately, there were podcasts on other subjects.)

All of it was awful — the bits I heard, anyway:

  • I found it tiresome to listen to the Democratic questioners, because they were so eager to establish… what? OK, so they want to make sure that the public, which isn’t going to read a 400-page report, knows all the ways that it shows Donald Trump to be an ethical nightmare. But then what? Are you really convinced that this is going to change things so that impeachment proceedings are a good idea, one that leads to electoral success in 2020? I’m not sure how you could be.
  • It was far, far worse to listen to the Republican questioners. At my age, I’m more than tired of waking up each day and discovering that human beings can sink to depths I previously did not suspect. But hearing these guys adamantly, furiously, relentlessly trying to twist things so that Trump doesn’t come across as a slimeball is just so disheartening, so depressing….
  • Finally, it was pretty awful hearing Mueller himself, who sounded just as weary of it all as he looked when I saw him on that screen with the sound off this morning. The man’s done enough for his country. Let him go to his rest…

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

Let’s just get on with it. Because the country’s one real chance of putting Trump behind us awaits us in November 2020.

Oh, and if you doubt that Joe is the guy to beat Trump, let me tell you about this one podcast I listened to while walking.

It was brought to my attention by this Tweet from Third Way, which seems to be published by Democrats who have not lost their freaking minds:

So I went and listened to The Daily, and I heard some home truths laid out, including the mathematically obvious one mentioned in the Tweet. None of it was mysterious or anything. It was stuff like this:

  • The persuadable people Democrats have to reach, and flip, to beat Trump are white working-class (and to a lesser extent middle-class) voters in the Midwest, people who voted for Obama in 2008 but for Trump in 2016.
  • Right now Trump is positioned to possibly do slightly better in those areas — places such as the environs of Milwaukee — than he did in 2016.
  • Of course, he remains unpopular as ever, and may lose the national popular vote by even more than he lost to Hillary, but…
  • There’s this thing called the Electoral College (and rail about it all you want, Dems, but the rules of the game are not changing between now and Election Day next year), so all Trump needs to do is squeak by in those places that are neither entirely red nor blue.
  • Democrats are doing better in the Sun Belt than in the past, but not so much better that the Democrat will win there, and most states are Winner Take All in the Electoral College. So… back to the swing states…
  • So… what are you gonna do to reach those persuadable white voters in Flyover Land?

And the whole time I’m listening, I’m thinking the only thing you can possibly do if you have a lick of sense is nominate plain ol’ Joe from Scranton, PA.

And in fact, Michael Barbaro, the host of The Daily, finally has to just ask Nate Cohn — the guy running through the math — outright, So… you mean the Dems need to nominate Biden, right?

Cohn, if I recall correctly, was kind of noncommittal in his answer, but there really is no honest answer but this one: Right….

 

Regarding last night’s prelim debate

prelim debate

Sorry, folks. Aside from being tired last night, my jaw thing was throbbing, and I just had to hit the hay with a pain pill.

Some of y’all already posted commentary back on this post. I’ll try to catch up.

I say “prelim,” of course, because there was only one contender on the stage, Elizabeth Warren, and her team had to be kind of frustrated that she didn’t make the cut for the real bout tonight. That put her in the position last night that Joe Biden will be in tonight — although Joe will have stiffer opposition. Interestingly, most of the commentary I’ve seen in the NYT and WashPost (such as Frank Bruni, and Aaron Blake) seems to be to the effect that she did great. I wasn’t that impressed. To me, she was just being Elizabeth Warren, and that has never worn particularly well with me.

Beyond that… a couple of you — Bud and Scout — have already ranked last night’s performances, and Doug has gone into what he liked and disliked in some detail (loves Tulsi, can’t stand Elizabeth). So I’ll take a stab at it myself:

  1. Amy Klobuchar
  2. Jay Inslee
  3. John Delaney
  4. Tim Ryan
  5. Cory Booker
  6. Elizabeth Warren
  7. Tulsi Gabbard
  8. Beto O’Rourke
  9. Julian Castro
  10. Bill de Blasio

Mind you, I wasn’t crazy about any of them, and there’s a big drop-off after Klobuchar, but that’s how I rank them without thinking too hard about it. You’ll note that Warren, whom so many think this debate was about, falls in the middle.

Briefly last night, Doug and I were in agreement about the ones we liked least…

… but I decided overnight I didn’t dislike Warren quite as much as some others.

That done, the real debate is tonight, with Joe facing Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. Too bad we didn’t see how Warren would do against those four.

Here are my Tweets, so you can see how I was reacting in real time:

(And yes, that was an allusion to this skit…)