Friday, December 15, 2017
When You Wish Upon A Tsar
If Trump owns the Republican Party, and Putin owns Trump, does Putin therefore own the Republican Party? Of late, it sure looks that way. But Steve takes heart in the everyday Alabamians who remind us exactly who owns the United States of America.
Before we get too giddy about the election of Doug Jones, let’s soberly reflect on the fact that essentially half the voters in Alabama wanted to be represented in the Senate by the creepy old accused child molester in the cowboy hat. That is the measure of how flawed a Republican candidate has to be to lose in Alabama.
Still and all, Alabama’s epic rejection of Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump is a seismic shift in the tectonic plates underneath this presidency. Ordinary voters in a deeply red state did what very few of the Republican Party’s elected leaders have dared to do: they openly defied the wishes of Donald Trump. Alabama may well have loosened the iron grip that Trump has held over the Republican Party, and the implications of this liberation are profound. A mere 20,715 votes out of over 1,300,000 ballots cast separated the candidates, but that thinnest of margins may trigger the sea change in American politics that we have desperately wished for.
Still, though, the fact is that we have not yet seen the darkest hour. There is, uh, Moore to come from the Republican Party, and things are certain to uglier before they get better.
For seemingly each week – indeed, most days – in his administration, Donald Trump has found a new way to lower the moral and ethical limbo bar for his party. He has then turned up the music and watched as aging Congressional hypocrites gyrate wildly but with fierce determination to wriggle under the lowered bar.
Trump championed the new Republican Bannon Canon, which is centered on demonizing immigrants, Muslims, gays, African-Americans, and our traditional international allies, while finding sympathy for misogynists, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, and brutal totalitarian dictators. And yet with the exception of a few senators with nothing left to lose, we watch a Republican caucus that simply bends over and accepts any and every affront to democracy and the rule of law that this President can jam into 140 characters.
Each week, we asked how the bar could possibly get any lower.
When Alabamians nominated Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, we ranted that this time, surely this time, the national Republican leadership will find the stench uninhabitable for civilized life. And yet the music merely got louder and the Republican officials bent ever deeper. Even Mitch McConnell – who initially claimed that he found Moore’s accusers to be credible – retreated when Trump endorsed Moore, adopting the ethical cop-out that “the people of Alabama should choose.”
With each lowering of the bar, and with each display of Republican acquiescence, Donald Trump learned how completely Republican Party leaders had sold their souls to win a Republican Presidency. Republicans wanted the White House at any cost, and when the only route there became Donald Trump, they went ahead, unwittingly signing over the rights to the Republican brand in the process.
In the week leading up to the Alabama special election, Trump committed fully and wholly to Moore’s candidacy, commanding that the Republic National Committee re-open its financial support for the flawed candidate. Until the voters actually voted on Tuesday, Alabama merely symbolized the degree to which today’s Republican Party is owned by Donald Trump.
And then there is the matter of who owns Donald Trump.
On a parallel track, the pace of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation suddenly quickened, scoring direct hits closer and closer to the Oval Office. With indictments, guilty pleas, and cooperating witnesses, Mueller is rapidly gaining credibility and momentum.
The issue facing Mueller does not appear to be the absence of a smoking gun, but rather the organizational challenge of unraveling, analyzing, and drawing provable conclusions from a stunningly extensive web of communication between Trump’s staff and Russian operatives, and among Trump’s own people, with seemingly each and every path leading to Moscow. There are growing indications that Trump’s team was bargaining with Russia about Republican platform planks regarding the Ukraine, swapping information about social media, coordinating the timing of the dissemination of damaging Wikileaks data, urgently sending signals about their intent to lift sanctions before inauguration, and discussing the firing of Robert Mueller with Russian representatives in the Oval Office. The evidence of a flow of information to, from, and about Russia is already massive and mushrooming with each news cycle.
Forget about clandestine acts of collusion. Trump openly and brazenly wished for Russian help on national television: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
Ah, Jiminy Cricket, where are you when we need you? President Pinocchio has no conscience to be his guide. The only thing he heard you say is that “when you wish upon a Tsar, your dreams come true.”
Sure, there appears to be a growing list of specific allegations of corruption, collusion, and obstruction, but ever the most telling evidence lies in the attitude Trump takes to the investigation. An innocent man would open the doors and let the light shine in. In his refusal to utter the slightest hint of disrespect to his Russian counterpart, his frantic assertions that the Russian investigation is a “hoax,” and his repeated efforts to shut down the investigation, Donald Trump is only making it clear that he is terrified of Vladimir Putin and what Russia has on him. Many speculate that Trump is becoming unglued as he frantically seeks to defend his presidency, but an equally fair hypothesis is that he is frantically holding on to the presidency because he figures that is his best bet of avoiding a Trump family suite in Leavenworth.
By his very behavior and the growing list of highly suspicious acts, it would appear that Donald Trump is owned by Russia.
The crisis we are facing today can be best explained by the mathematical concept known as the transitive property of equality, which postulates that if A is equal to B, and B is equal to C, then you can be pretty damn certain that A is equal to C.
In this case, if the Republicans are owned by Trump, and Trump is owned by Putin, then guess what? The Republican Party must be owned by Putin.
How else do you explain the next great act of Republican moral bankruptcy: the growing, concerted, and outrageous effort to discredit the integrity and motivation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election?
In Washington today there is a powerful drumbeat of innuendo and disinformation from Republicans clearly intended to slime the Mueller inquiry. Complaints that key members of Mueller’s team were contributors to the Clinton campaign have been circulating for months. The epicenter of the latest outcry is that an FBI agent wrote private, personal emails expressing disgust and worry at the prospect of Trump being elected President. Upon this thin reed of evidence are sprawling claims that the FBI and all of Mueller’s investigation are biased.
The irony and even comedy of these claims are clearly lost on the Republicans who pass them, like flatulence from assholes, into crowded congressional committee rooms. Let’s start with the fact that Robert Mueller and James Comey are both Republicans. There is that little matter that if the FBI exhibited any bias in the 2016 election, it was James Comey’s eleventh hour improvised explosive device that is widely viewed to have pushed the election to Trump. Mueller was appointed by Trump’s acting attorney general. And when his appointment was first announced, it played to universal enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle. The question of whether Robert Mueller is a principled man of unflinching objectivity and character may be one of the few things left that serious Senate Republicans and Democrats actually agree on.
And yet now, Trump surrogates and Republican Congressman are joining in a phony chorus intended to smear Mueller’s integrity now, so that when he brings his findings forward, they can denounce his conclusions as biased. Worse still, the smear campaign could be aimed at providing a justification for Trump to fire Mueller.
The implications here are truly stunning. There is now virtually universal agreement that Russia tampered with our 2016 election. And yet an inquiry led by perhaps the most respected law enforcement officer in recent U.S. history is being impugned and attacked by Republicans, who clearly are not interested in respecting the findings of the inquiry.
If Putin owns Trump, and Trump owns the Republicans, then Putin owns the Republicans. The Republican Party is now doing Putin's work, attempting to undercut the very investigation that is examining Putin's effort to subvert our democracy.
Let us take this one step further, and one step lower still.
What may lie ahead of us is a Republican Congress that is blindly and categorically refuses to act in a legitimate impeachment proceeding.
If Robert Mueller finds absolutely incontrovertible evidence that Donald Trump was fully aware of and perhaps even involved in financial malfeasance, collusion, and/or obstruction of justice, one must question whether this Republican Party would act on it. If Robert Mueller finds unassailable proof of a “high crime or misdemeanor,” will the Republicans in Congress simply punt, and have Sarah Huckabee Sanders mindlessly muse that these are just areas where we have to “agree to disagree”?
If they took Donald Trump’s side on Roy Moore, why are we suddenly expecting a moral compass to emerge when the issue is impeaching the President?
All over the United States today, progressives, liberals, and Democrats see in Robert Mueller a savior who has the strength, the integrity, the intellect, and the resolve to set the righteous rule of law ringing down upon the corruption, manipulation, and deceit of Donald Trump’s inner circle.
What they may not realize is that Robert Mueller is powerless to end Donald Trump’s presidency – no matter how much he proves – if Republicans in Congress are unwilling to act on that information. If the Republican House refuses to pass articles of impeachment, there is no way to impeach Donald Trump. It is that simple.
And if House of Representatives did pass a motion to impeach Trump, we will then find ourselves back in the U.S. Senate for the actual trial, where eighteen Republican Senators would have to join with a hypothetically fully unified Democratic Party to vote to remove Donald Trump from office. Interestingly -- and perhaps largely because Trump has made so many enemies in the Senate -- it is indeed possible to reach that number. But it is long shot, particularly for legislators who appear to be taking direction – routed through the White House – from the very country accused of tampering in our election process.
But if these Republican Senators will brazenly pass a tax bill whose primary purpose is to take benefits away from middle class Americans in order to placate their wealthy donor class, it’s hard to imagine that there is any semblance of principle operating in that caucus.
If these Republican Senators will stand idly by as their leader retweets extreme right wing hate videos, it’s tough to imagine that there is any shred of character still resident in those chambers.
And if these Republican Senators were unable and unwilling to do anything to prevent their President and their Party from embracing an accused serial predator of underage girls, it’s hard to believe that there is even an ounce of moral fiber or ethical imperative left among those bankrupt souls.
The next crisis after Roy Moore would be if Republican leadership turns yet another blind eye when Robert Mueller presents evidence of financial wrongdoing, collusion, and obstruction of justice on the part of Donald Trump.
And that is where we have to take heart in the actions of 20,715 citizens in Alabama.
Tuesday, in Alabama, a bunch of ordinary human beings reminded us all that Donald Trump may own the machinery and leadership of the Republican Party, but he does not own its people.
Republican Senators, Congressmen, Cabinet Officials may shamelessly bow to Donald Trump, but a bunch of citizens in Alabama reminded us all of who actually owns the United States of America.
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed. It has been passed back to us. The people. The voters.
In less than ten months we will have opportunity to render judgment on the Trump administration. The stage is being set for one of the most seismic midterm defeats in American history. We will have the power to stop his agenda in its tracks. We will have the power to ensure – if proven necessary and appropriate -- that motions for impeachment are drafted and approved.
We will have the opportunity to do what people in Alabama did yesterday.
And begin the long, hard, difficult battle of winning our country back.
We cannot be complacent. We cannot assume that because Alabama elected a Democrat, that an electoral tsunami is guaranteed. Please remember just how sickeningly flawed Roy Moore is, and that he almost won nonetheless.
This time there is no excuse. No excuse for lethargy, sloth, laziness, indifference. Just over twenty thousand people in Alabama were the difference in this election. That means that if just three of every 100 Doug Jones voters had stayed home, then Alabama would be represented by an accused child molester and not a man of character, principle, and idealism.
We must support the people of character, principle, and ideals, and we must work for them. Raise money for them. Make phone calls for them. Twist arms for them. Help turn out the vote for them. Drive people to the polls for them. Fight for them not just as if our future depends on it, but because our future depends on it.
Republican elected officials may be owned by Trump. Trump may well be owned by Putin. Republicans may do Putin's bidding, behaving as if they care more about keeping the White House than keeping the democracy and the rule of constitutional law that it symbolizes.
Let the Republicans continue to wish upon a Tsar.
But the United States of America is owned by its citizens. This November is when each and every once of us must pay our dues.