Sunday, April 7, 2024



As we today mark precisely six month's since the Hamas terrorist organization's brutally violent attack on Israeli citizens, it is no longer possible for anyone with even a glimmer of humanitarian moral conscience to condone Israel’s disproportionate response to that heinous attack suffered last October 7, in which twelve hundred Israeli citizens tragically lost their lives. Here’s a piece of data to back this pronouncement: In the ensuing months, Israeli bombs and artillery have slaughtered more innocent Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip than have been killed in all other worldwide conflicts combined over the past four years recorded.

I should be clear here that, when I refer to Israel, I am not talking about Israelis as a whole, but rather, about the extreme right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Indeed, for a combination of reasons that range from the strictly humanitarian to the purely political—such as the sagacious argument that Netanyahu’s brutal policies are creating more terrorists than they are destroying—the prime minister and his administration are facing ever-increasing and expanding internal protests and unrest.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu

And it is clear too that he represents only a scant minority of his people, since latest polls show his popularity crashing and burning at well under twenty percent of the population. In other words, it’s not difficult to surmise that it is in Netanyahu’s selfish political interests to ensure that he can make his personal war on the Palestinian people (make no mistake, Hamas is a mere excuse for the genocidal policies the prime minister is employing against an entire people) last as long as he can possibly stretch it. Or better said, as long as the United States will not only put up with this outrage, but also keep shipping him all the fire-power he needs to wipe the Gaza Strip off the map, and a large segment of its general population with it. Hence, his staunch resistance to any sort of ceasefire or negotiation—especially any negotiation that includes the slightest hint of an eventual two-state solution, which, as diplomats and foreign policy experts all over the world agree, is the only sort of solution that will ever permit peace in that area of the Near/Middle East. In simple terms, when and if the war ends, Netanyahu’s time as head of the Israeli government will very like end with it.

As with former President Donald Trump in the US, losing office is, for Netanyahu, a much bigger problem than a mere political setback. He has also long been facing investigations surrounding corruption during his former terms as prime minister. These have not gone away, but have merely been put on hold since he returned to office at the end of 2022. He had previously served as Israeli PM between 1996 and 1999, and between 2009 and 2021.

For anyone who might feel that the title of this essay is a bit over the top, people a great deal more in touch with the issue than I am are also calling the brutal and indiscriminate attacks on the Gaza Strip “a war against children.”

To this point, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini of the United Nations Relief Work Agency has said, “This war is a war on children. It is a war on their childhood and their future.”  Lazzarini used the term “staggering” to describe the cold hard facts. He said that latest Gaza health authority reports indicate that at least 12,300 youngsters have died in the Israeli attacks on the Gaza enclave in the months since Netanyahu’s war began. He compared that figure with the 12,193 children killed in all other worldwide conflicts combined in the four years between 2019 and 2022 (the last years for which final data is available). Seen in this light, it seems ludicrous to keep referring to the mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza as “collateral damage.”

The UN relief official described the leveling of entire neighborhoods in Israeli shelling and bombing raids, and repeated international calls for an immediate ceasefire. Latest data from local health authorities indicate that, since the beginning of the scorched-earth attacks unleashed by Netanyahu’s government, 31,184 Palestinians have been killed and 72,889 injured, the vast majority of them innocent civilians. By comparison, as of March 12, Israel had lost 247 Israeli soldiers in ground operations following weeks of shelling and bombing. Another 1,475 Israeli troops have been injured, according to information from the Israeli Army. Also by comparison, unverified estimates reported in Israel claim that five thousand Hamas militants have been killed out of some thirty thousand that existed before the war.

News agency reports indicate that, just in the first hundred days of the war, Israeli forces dropped at least 30,000 bombs (nearly all supplied by the United States as “defensive” weaponry) in its air raids on infrastructure and on the homes of Gazan citizens.  According to Lebanese-born Mohamad Safa, a diplomat and UN-accredited human rights activist, the total of bombs that Israel had dropped on the Gaza Strip in those first one hundred days was equivalent to eight times the number that the United States released over Iraq in six years of war. Some observers say that in terms of use of firepower and destruction per square kilometer, there has been no heavier bombing anywhere since the US carpet-bombing of North Vietnam in 1972 (Operation Linebacker II).

Reporting in The American Prospect, a respected online liberal bimonthly publication that specializes in discussions on public policy, editorialist Harold Meyerson recalled that, in public remarks about Israel’s war in Gaza, US President  Joe Biden had urged Israel not to make the same mistakes America made in responding to the attacks of 9/11: overreacting, which, in the case of the United States, consisted of taking the war to a country (Iraq) that wasn’t even involved in the attacks, and to another country (Afghanistan) where Americans remained enmeshed for 20 years. But Meyerson points out that, if anything, “Israel has opted to ape an even greater American folly. It is waging war on Gaza much as we waged war on Vietnam.”

Meyerson writes that, despite killing millions in Vietnam with its carpet-bombing raids, the US was unable to stop the advance of the Vietcong, or prevent them from rolling into Saigon in 1975, while the US beat a hasty and humiliating retreat, after a decade of futile war. The crux of Meyerson’s impeccably researched article was simple: “Mass bombing didn’t destroy the Vietnamese Communists and won’t destroy Hamas, but it sure kills lots of civilians.”

Another patent sign of Netanyahu’s intentionality in crushing not just Hamas, but the Palestinian people as a whole, is his utilization of famine as a weapon of war, as is the intentional bombing of housing, hospitals and other vital infrastructure. While the US has soft-pedalled in its “requests”,  rather than demands backed by action (for instance, the suspension of military aid until said requests are fulfilled) to ensure that food, water, medical supplies and other humanitarian assistance are getting to the civilian population in Gaza, Netanyahu has pursued a cruel and internationally illegal policy of purposely withholding even the most basic of assistance, adding this to the destruction of an estimated seventy percent of all Gazan housing and infrastructure, as a means of bringing the entire Palestinian population to its knees.

Even the much-touted reopening of the Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel—closed since the Hamas attacks on Israel last October—following a reportedly tense phone call between Netanyahu and US President Biden, appears to be little more than a publicity stunt, since news correspondents on the ground, who were forced to leave the immediate area by IDF personnel, reported hearing continued shelling and gunfire on the Gaza side of the crossing. They also reported that the road on the Gaza side had been heavily shelled and was full of bomb craters, as well as having been mined near the border, which didn’t bode well for the chances of semi-trucks and trailers carrying food and medical supplies being able to actually cross into Gazan territory, particularly not in any great numbers.

Aid workers' truck targeted by Israel
In addition to these hazards have been clearly intentional attacks on aid workers and convoys. An appropriately great deal has been made of a missile attack last week that killed seven humanitarian workers traveling in an unmistakably well-marked vehicle belonging to the World Kitchen group. But it is important to note that this was only one of many times that aide workers and convoys have come under Israeli attack.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini recently reported a targeted attack on one of his group’s facilities. In that attack on a UNRWA food distribution center in Rafah, at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, one of the UN group’s staffers was killed and twenty-two others were injured. Said Lazzarini, “Today’s attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centers in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine.”

He was clear about the intentionality of that attack as well: “Every day, we share the coordinates of all our facilities across the Gaza Strip with parties to the conflict. The Israeli army received the coordinates including of this facility…”

Since Netanyahu initiated his war of attrition on the Palestinian people half a year ago,
the UNRWA has recorded an unprecedented number of violations against its staff and facilities. At least one hundred sixty-five UNRWA team members have been killed, including while in the line of duty. More than one hundred fifty of the agency’s facilities have been hit, many schools among them. And there are reports of at least another thirty-five combat-related deaths among aid workers from other organizations making an effort to help Palestinian civilians.

These are all tactics that have been vigorously condemned when employed by regimes considered to be enemies of the West. The best example is that of Syria, where the cruel regime of Bashar Al Assad, with the enthusiastic backing of the even crueler regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has employed exactly the same methods to end opposition to his authoritarian rule, and, in the process, slaughtered at least a quarter-million Syrian civilians. But so far, the US has led the West in giving Netanyahu a mildly reluctant pass in this sense, far too long supporting Israel’s claims of mere defensive action with a certain amount of “collateral damage.” In point of fact, civilian deaths due to “collateral damage” have already topped fatal enemy combatant casualties by a rate of six to one. And that doesn’t begin to take into account the number of Palestinians who face death daily due to induced dehydration, starvation and deprivation of medical supplies and attention.

Before and after - greenhouses and gardens targeted

UN aid workers reiterate daily their warnings regarding the catastrophically perilous situation in Gaza.  UN estimates indicate that one in four Gazan Palestinians are living in a state of near-famine. This comes to a total of at least 576,000 people. Already, twenty-five people have died of acute malnutrition. Again, children are the most vulnerable, and twenty-one of those deaths were child fatalities.  UNICEF estimates that 1.7 million Gazan—out of a total of 2.2 million total—have been uprooted from their homes. Of those displaced, a million are children, and some seventeen thousand of those are kids who are either separated from their parents or who have evacuated war zones unaccompanied. This renders them even more vulnerable, since children are among the people least able to cope with hunger, disease and general neglect.

The international watchdog organization Human Rights Watch terms the tactics employed by Israel under Netanyahu “a war crime.” HRW clearly accuses Israeli forces of “deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, while willfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas, and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to their survival.”

The human rights group points to public statements from Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Energy Minister Israel Katz from the beginning of the war, indicating that their aim is to deprive Gaza civilians of food, water and fuel, an apparent policy reflected in the concrete actions of IDF officers and troops. Some Israeli officials have also indicated that aid would be withheld as a sort of ransom, until Israeli hostages are released or until Hamas has been destroyed.
Two days after the brutal Hamas attack on Israel last October, Defense Minister Gallant said: “We are imposing a complete siege on [Gaza]. No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel–everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we must act accordingly.”

National Security Minister Ben-Gvir tweeted a week later, “So long as Hamas does not release the hostages, the only thing that should enter Gaza is hundreds of tons of air force explosives, not an ounce of humanitarian aid.”

And five days after the Hamas attack, Energy Minister Katz said:

“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? Not a switch will be flicked on, not a valve will be opened, not a fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages come home. Humanitarian for humanitarian. Let no one lecture us about morality.”

In support of its claims that Israel is not only withholding food but is also destroying Palestinians’ own essential food production capabilities, HRW has provided before-and-after satellite images showing thriving Gazan fields, orchards and greenhouses apparently bulldozed by Israeli operatives just days after the Israeli war on the Gaza strip began. High resolution satellite imagery of farmland near the Erez border crossing shows both bulldozer tracks and soil bulldozed into mounds surrounding former agricultural plots.

According to Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir: “…Israel has been depriving Gaza's population of food and water, a policy spurred on or endorsed by high-ranking Israeli officials and reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare. World leaders should be speaking out against this abhorrent war crime, which has devastating effects on Gaza’s population.”

And there can be little doubt that human rights leaders are justified in referring to Netanyahu’s actions as a war crime. According to international humanitarian law and internationally accepted rules of war, intentionally starving civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.  The Rome Statute, under which the International Criminal Court operates, takes this a step further by providing that “depriving (civilians in war zones) of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies” is a war crime. Nor does criminal intent require the attacker’s admission of such acts. These can be inferred from the totality of evidence and of the circumstances involved in any military campaign.

Additionally, Physicians for Human Rights Israel reports, with regard to thousands of Palestinian prisoners who have been held without charge over the course of the last six months, “Since October 7th, any semblance of restraint has been cast aside regarding the treatment of Palestinians in Israeli incarceration and detention facilities. Forced disappearances, torture, and severe violations of human rights, particularly in terms of health, are now inherent in the practices and policies of Israeli security bodies responsible for Palestinians in custody. These actions have garnered support and, at times, were explicitly demanded by the political ranks. Simultaneously, the judicial system has allowed these blatant deviations from professional and ethical standards to persist without intervention.”

According to human rights activists and newspaper reports from media ranging from Al Jazeera to The New York Times, this trend has only worsened over the course of the war, with the number of Palestinians detained, many innocent bystanders and random men of military age, having burgeoned to some nine thousand. According the Physicians for Human Rights report published in ReliefWeb, “Efforts to push Israeli courts to intervene and prevent the systematic disregard of reasonable incarceration standards have so far been unsuccessful. Similarly, efforts to encourage the medical community to safeguard the right to adequate care have also failed. As a result, Israel’s vindictive policies and unofficial punitive measures in prisons continue unchecked and unchallenged.”

Accusations including holding prisoners for extended periods naked, hooded and shackled in infra-human conditions, systematic humiliation and beatings, denial of basic medical care, as well as other forms of torture and sexual assault. Sadly, there has been nearly no international outcry regarding these blatant rights violations other than those coming from the world human rights community.  

We Americans have always stood with Israel. We recall the Holocaust and the fact that the Jewish people have been the most persecuted and victimized social group of modern times. We remember this as a major rallying call for rising up against fascism and crushing it in the deadliest war of all time. We recall and hold as nothing short of sacred the memory of the six million Jews exterminated by Nazi Germany during World War II, in what was the worst genocide in history. In much the same way, we remember the twelve hundred Israelis and foreign visitors murdered by Hamas terrorists last year.

But Benjamin Netanyahu is taking unfair advantage of the deference that the West has bestowed on Jews in general and on the State of Israel in particular. Worse still, he is employing, in a sense, the same sort of indiscriminate and genocidal tactics in his personal war on the Palestinians that led to the Holocaust during World War II. While he insists that his only purpose is to wipe out the Hamas terrorist organization, his mass killing of Palestinian civilians can no longer be ignored, condoned or excused.

Netanyahu’s war is an all-out war on the Palestinian people. It is a war that shows no mercy for civilians in general, or for women and children in particular. And making war on children is clearly contrary to his stated aim of doing away with Hamas. Making war on children definitively guarantees a whole new generation of ever more ruthless, anti-Israeli fighters. As such, this will be the cruel and dangerous legacy of Netanyahu’s war, bequeathed by him both to the people of Israel, and to the Palestinian people.



Saturday, March 9, 2024



Three nights ago, I once again watched The King’s Speech, with brilliant and moving performances by Geoffrey Rush, as an Australian speech therapist with an uncanny talent (but no credentials) for gifting speech to the speechless, and Colin Firth, as the reticent, stammering Prince Albert of Britain, who was to become King George VI, upon the abdication of his older brother, David, who gave up his crown in exchange for the love of a twice-divorced American commoner with a racy reputation—a love story that would resonate throughout the English-speaking world as a popular fairytale for years to come.

Firth and Rush in "The King's Speech"

The following night, I watched, in its entirety, President Joe Biden’s 2024 State of the Union Address, and I couldn’t help but strike a parallel in my mind between the award-winning film and the president’s stunning performance. Granted, Biden has a half-century history in American politics and has learned to tackle public speaking with vigor and aplomb. But like King George VI, Biden has struggled all his life with a speech impediment, a stammer that has always taken great concentration for him to overcome. Journalists and commentators who should have done their research and, as such, should have known better, have far too often, on hearing Biden’s sometimes halting and disjointed speech, echoed the president’s bitterest opponents in misconstruing it as diminished mental faculties, due entirely to the fact that he is, without a doubt, an old—but not, for that, automatically elderly—man.

I suppose the reason I naturally struck the comparison between The King’s Speech and President Biden’s speech was that, at least in my mind, there were unavoidable parallels. In order to be a constitutional monarch at the service of his people, George VI (father of Queen Elizabeth and grandfather of King Charles) had to overcome his crippling stammer and attendant terror of public speaking to become an effective head of state of the British Empire through some of the darkest years in its history. As if that weren’t enough, he also had to clear the hurdle of his unpopularity as the also-ran replacement for the former, if short-lived, heir to the throne, his flamboyant and popular brother David (a.k.a. King Edward VIII).

Biden’s situation is similar. Not only does he follow four years of Donald Trump, which, for better or for worse (worse), reshaped American politics and rendered the Republican Party unrecognizable as the respectable Grand Old Party of yesteryear, but he is also, as a former two-term vice president, “heir to the throne” of Barrack Obama, the most rock-star-popular and dynamic president in living memory, and one of the nation’s youngest and most consequential leaders. And, like George VI, Biden continues to struggle with his life-long speech impediment and with the prejudices of the ignorant and mal-intentioned, who seek to equate that struggle, applying flawed Medieval logic, with unsoundness of mind.

Like George VI, but with the comparative disadvantage of cable TV and a twenty-four-hour news cycle, Biden is under constant observation, with supporters holding their breath that he “doesn’t screw up”, and opponents gleefully awaiting the moment he does. Meanwhile, his political rival, former President Donald Trump, who is only a little more than three years Biden’s junior, screws up consistently. For instance, confusing Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, confusing the current administration with the Obama administration—once even talking about running against Obama when he meant (or perhaps didn’t) Biden—and failing to pick his own second wife, Marla Maples, out of a photo line-up. Indeed, he even confused Maples with his sexual assault victim, newspaper columnist E. Jean Carroll. And those only form a small portion of his gaffs.

But as Trump himself once said, he could “shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue” and wouldn’t lose any votes. Over the years, if we’ve learned anything about MAGA Republicans, it is that this is shockingly and sadly true.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vulgar and rude as ever.
That said, anyone listening to, and indeed watching, Biden’s State of the Union Address to Congress on Thursday night heard and saw a rejuvenated and articulate Joe Biden. The octogenarian president was vigorous, energized and upbeat, yet critical and combative, as well as extending an invitation to politicians of all colors to eschew hatred and division, and to negotiate and compromise on major issues for the good of the country, and the world. He was ready for hecklers in the MAGA camp, clearly knew in advance what each of his own statements would elicit, and responded intelligently, often wittily, and with admirable grace to what were clearly rude and vulgar interruptions—led, of course, by the ever crass and inappropriate Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose behavior was so unacceptably boisterous that she was threatened with removal by the Sergeant-At-Arms.

Biden was, in short, how every critic on both sides of the aisle posit he should be—strong, sharp, edgy, in command, but still willing to compromise, within ethical limits, to get what the nation’s people need from a reluctant and, in part, completely renegade Legislature. If anyone attended that historic event either fearing or hoping, depending on their political bent, to hear a confused and bumbling “Sleepy Joe”, they were either pleasantly surprised or bitterly disappointed.

Michigan Representative (D) Debbie Dingle, who was on the floor of the chamber for the speech, said it was “very clear” that her Republicans colleagues were “uncomfortable”, both with Biden’s strong showing, and with loud displays of impropriety from the MAGA sector in their own ranks. That behavior only seemed to underscore Biden’s pointed references to the undemocratic disorder and chaos sown by Trump and his most ardent supporters. Clearly, Republicans had set a miserably low bar for this State of the Union speech, believing their own electioneering hype in thinking that the perception would be that of a confused, doddering old man, who was obviously unfit to serve.

They were about to be disappointed. The president came out swinging from the very beginning, landing a stunning blow to the jaw of the MAGA wing, by opening with a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, in 1941, told Congress: “I address you at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union.” 
Biden then embraced that idea as his own, saying that, back then: “Hitler was on the march. War was raging in Europe. President Roosevelt’s purpose was to wake up the Congress and alert the American people that this was no ordinary moment. Freedom and democracy were under assault in the world. 
“Tonight I come to the same chamber to address the nation. Now it is we who face an unprecedented moment in the history of the Union. And yes, my purpose tonight is to both wake up this Congress, and alert the American people that this is no ordinary moment either. Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today. What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time.” 

From that moment on, in strong and vibrant terms, he enumerated the things that, against all odds, his administration had been able to accomplish, and passed back to the GOP the bundle of failures that they have sought to lay at his door. At the top of the list was the continued chaos on the US-Mexico border, and in the immigration system as a whole. The president pointed out that while he had managed to prompt a bipartisan solution to the crisis with some of the most conservative members of Congress, the GOP leadership had bent to Donald’s Trump’s personal will in not passing the immigration bill so as to keep from giving Biden a major policy win before the elections. To which far-right Oklahoma Senate Republican James Lankford, mouthed the words “that’s true.” Biden made it clear that, if there was no improvement on the immigration front, the fault was entirely that of Trump-led Republicans, and that their reasons for rejecting the bipartisan solution were strictly a matter of political electioneering.

Lankford - "That's true"
In point of fact, Biden never mentioned Trump’s name in the nearly ninety-minute address, referring to him only as “my predecessor”. But those references were to number a baker’s dozen, always remaining within the initial context of the speech, positing that Donald Trump is a clear and present threat to American democracy.

Nowhere was that clearer than when he said: “Overseas, Putin of Russia is on the march, invading Ukraine and sowing chaos throughout Europe and beyond. If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not. 

“But Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons it needs to defend itself. That is all Ukraine is asking. They are not asking for American soldiers. In fact, there are no American soldiers at war in Ukraine. And I am determined to keep it that way. But now assistance for Ukraine is being blocked by those who want us to walk away from our leadership in the world. 

“It wasn’t that long ago when a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, thundered, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ Now, my predecessor, a former Republican President, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ A former American President actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader. It’s outrageous. It’s dangerous. It’s unacceptable.”

Biden went on to underscore the obvious link between Trumpism and authoritarianism, saying: “History is watching… My message to President Putin is simple. We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.  History is watching, just like history watched three years ago on January Sixth, (when) insurrectionists stormed this very Capitol and placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy.” 

Biden continued to drive this point home, saying that the insurrectionists, “had come to stop the peaceful transfer of power and to overturn the will of the people.” 

Recalling the anti-democratic infamy of the chaotic end to the Trump presidency, Biden qualified the historic significance of that incident, saying: “January Sixth and the lies about the 2020 election, and the plots to steal the election, posed the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War. But they failed. America stood strong and democracy prevailed. 

“But we must be honest, the threat remains and democracy must be defended. My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth of January Sixth. I will not do that. This is a moment to speak the truth and bury the lies. And here’s the simplest truth. You can’t love your country only when you win. As I’ve done ever since being elected to office, I ask you all, without regard to party, to join together and defend our democracy!”

The president went after Trump and the MAGA Republicans on another burning domestic issue, saying that “history is watching another assault on freedom.” He went on to say that American women’s reproductive rights were under continuing attack following the overturning of Rowe v Wade during the Trump presidency. To make that point, he introduced two women in the audience, one who had had to escape the law in her own state to terminate a pregnancy in which the fetus had a fatal condition and carrying it to term would put her at medical risk and would threaten her ability to have children in the future, and another woman who had also had to leave her state after local laws declared embryos to be people, and the IVF facility where she and her husband were seeking relief from infertility shut down.

Biden described both cases—like thousands of others—as being the direct outcome of the overturning of Roe v Wade, opining, in juxtaposition to the Supreme Court ruling, that Rowe v Wade “got it right.” Taking more precise aim, he said: “Many of you in this Chamber and my predecessor are promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom. My God, what freedoms will you take away next?”

In assigning blame for the diminishing of women’s rights, he laid primary responsibility at Trump’s door, saying: “… My predecessor came to office determined to see Roe v Wade overturned. He’s the reason it was overturned. In fact, he brags about it. Look at the chaos that has resulted.”

To the Supreme Court Justices sitting in the front of the chamber, he quoted their Rowe v Wade decision back to them, saying: “In its decision to overturn Roe v Wade the Supreme Court majority wrote, ‘Women are not without electoral or political power.’ No kidding! Clearly, those bragging about overturning Roe v Wade have no clue about the power of women in America. They found out, though, when reproductive freedom was on the ballot and won in 2022…and they will find out again, in 2024.”

Meticulously throughout the evening, the president laid out issues affecting the United States both at home and abroad and underscored how MAGA Republicans are conspiring to stymie any and all solutions, despite Democratic efforts to reach across the aisle and achieve suitable compromises to enact improvements in the state of the union.

But the president also listed his administration’s achievements—all too often given short shrift by detractors and the media in general—despite this overwhelming opposition from the far-right. He touted, among other things, a record fifteen million new jobs in three years, unemployment at fifty-year lows, a record sixteen million Americans starting small business ventures, historic job growth and small business growth for Black, Hispanic, and Asian-Americans, eight hundred thousand new domestic manufacturing jobs, more people having affordable health insurance than ever before, the greatest reduction of the racial wage gap in twenty years, and a drop in inflation from a soaring nine percent to just three percent annually, and six hundred fifty billion dollars in private sector investment in clean-energy production that promised to add thousands of good-paying jobs to the workforce. He praised the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed into law on his watch and promised “buy American” policies would apply to both manufacturing and labor that formed part of the resulting construction projects. And he proudly discussed his administration’s part in taking on Big Pharma to bring down exorbitant drug prices for Americans, specifically talking about the reduction of insulin prices that had already been slashed for seniors from four hundred to just thirty-five dollars a month, with future plans to do the same for the rest of the country’s insulin users.

In short, it was, perhaps, the most political State of the Union Address in history. It was bitterly criticized as such by the MAGA opposition. But that factor also drew certain expressions of disapproval among some of the generally friendly mainstream media.

I disagree. If there was ever a time for a powerfully political State of the Union Address, instead of the usual meaningless waffling that goes with trying to please everyone, it is now. Biden is not wrong. US democracy is facing an existential crisis, the visible authoritarian head of which is Donald Trump, who has hijacked the former GOP and turned it into a cult of personality at his complete service.

Biden spent the first part of his term staying aloof of the fray, while Justice independently took charge of enumerating Trump’s transgressions and turning them into criminal indictments. But as the wheels of justice turn with agonizing lethargy, and it is clear now that insurrectionist and populist autocrat Donald Trump will once again be on the November election ticket, there is no longer any room for Marquis of Queensbury rules.

Democrats must strictly maintain the constitutional rules of democracy at a governmental and legal level, and see to it that they are obeyed by others, especially in the MAGA movement, who would burn it all down and plunge the country into anarchy. But at an electoral level, Biden and his party need to be ready to gird for battle and, when necessary, to get down and punch it out, to paraphrase the late Johnny Cash, in the blood and the snot and the beer.

The most indubitable point that President Biden made in his address last Thursday was the first one: US democracy is under mortal attack by authoritarians both at home and abroad (and all too often in cahoots with each other). The stakes are intolerably high. What is in play, is democracy’s very survival. And like it or not—in the absence of a strong third party conservative candidate willing to torpedo the GOP’s chances for the sake of the nation—re-electing Joe Biden is the only safeguard against democracy’s otherwise certain demise.



Monday, March 4, 2024



Two-tier justice?
I rest my case...

These are the questions California Democrat Eric Swalwell asked Hunter Biden during Biden's hearing.

SWALWELL: Any time your father was in government, prior to the Presidency or before, did he ever operate a hotel?

BIDEN: No, he has never operated a hotel.

Rep. Eric Swalwell

SWALWELL: So he’s never operated a hotel where foreign nationals spent millions at that hotel while he was in office?

BIDEN: No, he has not.

SWALWELL: Did your father ever employ in the Oval Office any direct family member to also work in the Oval Office?

BIDEN: My father has never employed any direct family members, to my knowledge.

SWALWELL: While your father was President, did anyone in the family receive 41 trademarks from China?


SWALWELL: As President and the leader of the party, has your father ever tried to install as the chairperson of the party a daughter-in-law or anyone else in the family?

BIDEN: No. And I don’t think that anyone in my family would be crazy enough to want to be the chairperson of the DNC.

SWALWELL: Has your father ever in his time as an adult been fined $355 million by any State that he worked in?

BIDEN: No, he has not, thank God.

SWALWELL: Anyone in your family ever strike a multibillion dollar deal with the Saudi Government while your father was in office?


SWALWELL: That’s all I’ve got.


Saturday, January 13, 2024


 Let’s talk about “presidential immunity”. Does anyone else find that concept utterly at odds with democracy and the rule of law, or am I the only one? I really can’t believe that this is even being discussed, or that former President Donald Trump’s lawyers would seek to employ it in his defense, as if it were in any way valid and logical. Indeed, practically as his only defense.

Basically, what Trump’s attorneys—and Trump himself—are trying to say is that a president (or at least Trump, since clearly, up to now, there seem to be entirely different and lionizing rules for Trump than for anyone else in the United States of America) can do whatever the hell he pleases in office, and then, neither while in office nor afterward, can he be charged for it, no matter how blatantly illegal or illegitimate his deeds might be. I ask myself, how can anyone, be they legal experts or common folk, not see how un-American, un-democratic and untenable that concept is. It is simply licensing carte blanc criminality and despotism in an office that is already, arguably, the most powerful post on earth.

This is precisely what Americans (except Trump who is what might be termed a “dictator groupie”) criticize dictators all over the world for—the idea that a Vladimir Putin, a Kim Jong Un, a Xi Jinping can do whatever they want, including abducting and/or killing their opponents, with complete impunity, because they are despots, because they answer to no one, which is exactly what Trump infamously admires and envies about them.

Let’s be clear about what we’re dealing with here. Beyond a plethora of other criminal and civil indictments against Trump elsewhere, a federal grand jury has agreed with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s criminal charges against Trump and has indicted him.  In Smith’s indictment, filed in the District of Columbia, Trump is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. All of these charges stem from Trump’s January 6, 2021 attempt to illegally alter the outcome of the 2020 election in which he lost, and to lead an insurrection aimed at overthrowing the election results (hence the government). In other words, if we’re not beating around the bush, the first attempted coup d’état in US history.

Smith has also brought a federal indictment in Florida against Trump for the retention and mishandling of myriad classified documents, some with the highest of top secret classifications. Items Trump considered his property, simply because he had once been president. Clearly, they were actually property of the US government and should have been under the care of the US intelligence community, not stowed in boxes in Trump’s spare bathroom, or on the stage in the activities room at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seaside resort.   

Now here’s the thing, the evidence against Trump in the first three indictments is so overwhelming, that his attorneys appear reluctant to seek a not-guilty defense. Instead, they have introduced a bizarre defense strategy that basically says that, in his former position as president, Trump’s power was essentially absolute. Why? Because, they argue, the president of the United States is “immune” from prosecution for any and all laws that he may violate while he is in office.

Trump’s lawyers have apparently chosen this tack because there is arguably no precedent for it. That’s because just about everything to do with Trump’s presidency has led the United States into new, impossibly murky, and uncharted waters. His presidency is unique in US history because of his contempt for representative democracy, his admiration for authoritarianism and his desire to do away with every tradition that has maintained the Nation on the path set by its framers for the past two and a half centuries.

Truth be told, Donald Trump never saw the office of the presidency as what it was meant to be, the elected office of the head of the executive branch of government, over which there are supposed to be checks and balances provided by the other two branches. He sought the office not to serve his country, but to serve himself, and for the egotistical goal of becoming the most powerful man on earth. Once he achieved that goal, his fevered delusions led him to believe that it would be his forever. Losing an election by a wide margin wasn’t a contingency he ever had in mind, surrounded, as he has always been, by fawning sycophants, who were loath to tell him that he was delusional.

 Now, we are seeing an attempt to institutionalize Trump’s delusions as legal precedents. According to Trump’s attorneys, the only way the former president can be tried for crimes he committed in office is if he is first impeached and convicted by Congress. This flies in the face of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement when Congress failed to impeach Trump following the January Sixth Insurrection. McConnell himself didn’t vote to convict Trump in impeachment proceedings, but in a speech following the Senate vote, he said that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the January 6, 2021, uprising. The veteran lawmaker also made it clear that, while Congress had failed to provide a conviction for the crimes committed by the former president, Trump could and should have charges filed against him and be tried in a regular court of law.

Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, meanwhile, has brought up the case of Richard Nixon, who resigned as president in 1974 to avoid impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors committed while he was in office. Following his resignation, he was swiftly issued a blanket pardon for any crimes committed in office by his replacement, Gerald Ford. Smith argues that, first, even though Nixon was neither impeached nor convicted by Congress, he was indeed liable for his crimes in the federal courts system. And second, if Nixon had had “presidential immunity,” says Smith, there would have been no need for Ford to pardon him.

In Trump’s second impeachment trial, the idea that he was liable for his crimes was made by his very own attorney, Bruce Castor, who was quoted as saying, “The text of the Constitution…makes very clear that a former president is subject to criminal sanction after his presidency for any illegal acts he commits.”

But one of Trump’s current attorneys is presenting an argument that can only be seen as an ardent call for authoritarian rule. Basically, that no matter what a president does in office, he or she is immune from prosecution, except in as much as Congress sees fit to call him or her out in impeachment proceedings. Were that sort of argument to be accepted by the Supreme Court, for instance, the rule of law would no longer apply to chief executives—which is the same as saying the rule of law would no longer exist, because a basic tenet of the law is that no one is above it.

This is the case, basically, because impeachments are not, in the least, impartial legal procedures, as evidenced by the unprecedented two impeachment proceedings that Trump underwent. They are political processes with political biases.  In both of Trump’s cases, but particularly in the second, which was concerned with the January Sixth Insurrection, despite the ample and undeniable evidence presented against him, Trump was acquitted. Not because he wasn’t guilty of the misdeeds of which he was accused, but rather, because he possessed a strong enough presence of votes in Congress to provide him with a get out of jail free card.

According to Trump attorney, D. John Sauer, a president can do virtually anything that crosses his mind. Sauer told US District Appeals Court Judge Florence Pan, in arguments presented to her court, that unless a president were impeached and convicted by Congress, the law didn’t apply to any actions he took.

Testing Sauer’s theory, Judge Pan asked, in Sauer’s opinion, "Could a president order SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival?"

Sauer cagily responded, "That's an official act: an order to SEAL Team Six.” In that case, Sauer said, the president could not be charged with a crime except if Congress impeached and convicted him or her.

Judge Pan insisted, "But if he weren't (impeached and convicted), there would be no criminal prosecution, no criminal liability for that?"

Sauer reiterated that Congress would have to take action before any indictment of a president or former president could take place.

“So your answer is no,” the judge said.

Could the DC Court of Appeals ever rule in favor of such an argument? It seems unlikely. Could the US Supreme Court, should it eventually decide to give Trump’s defense a hearing? One is tempted to laugh and say, “Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous” But considering the current composition of the Court, which has a conservative majority, including three justices hand-picked by the former Trump administration, can we be sure of that? Especially considering the Court’s having overturned the fifty-year-old precedent set by Roe v Wade, its upholding of state laws that clearly infringe on women’s reproductive rights, and its de-authorization of the Environmental Protection Agency in having sweeping control over business practices that negatively affect the environment, among other controversial actions. Nor can one of the senior justices on the Court, Clarence Thomas, be trusted not to support an undemocratic ruling, as long as it protects the interests of his friends on the far-right, including Trump.

The argument for immunity is, then, an argument for impunity. It would provide the president with pretty much absolute powers in detriment to the other two branches of government. It would turn the president into a legally established autocrat untouchable by the law, no matter how heinous his or her actions might be. Unless Congress were willing to act—and today’s divisive climate is nothing like that of 1974, when it was President Nixon’s own party that told him he must resign or face impeachment and conviction—a president’s crimes, from bribery, security breaches and treasonous relationships with foreign powers, to torture, kidnapping, rape, human trafficking and murder, would be above prosecution.

If a president has blanket immunity from prosecution for anything he or she does, then, they cease to be presidents and become tyrants. Respect for the universal nature of the rule of law is all that stands between democracy and tyranny.


Monday, August 28, 2023


Talking heads have been analyzing who won last week’s GOP debate hosted by Fox News. I, on the other hand, had no problem at all picking a winner right away: It was the mastodon not in the room, Donald J. Trump (a.k.a. Prisoner No. P01135809).

It’s true. What was billed as the first GOP Presidential Debate actually could have been called the GOP Vice-Presidential Debate. And even as such, nobody on that stage came away a winner, with the possible exception of Nikki Haley, but only in terms of the debate, and certainly not in the primaries. In one of the most lackluster debates of its kind in history, what viewers mostly witnessed was a lot of bickering and schoolyard banter, and an utter dearth of substance regarding domestic and international policy.

Many commentators have tried to squeeze some differentiating plus out of the squabbling mess, but the best they’ve been able to do is claim former everything Nikki Haley stood her ground. But how much merit is there, when you’ve been a governor and UN ambassador, in coming out on top in a pillow fight with an absolutely inexperienced nobody like Vivek Ramaswamy?

I would have to give Haley points, however, for calling out her party (Trump’s party, actually, but she, like the others, was borrowing it for the debate) on the utter hypocrisy of their position on spending—which, could be summed up as, It’s okay when we do it, but not when Democrats do it.

More specifically, Haley said, “The truth is that Biden didn’t do this to us. Our Republicans did this to us too. When they passed that 2.2 trillion-dollar COVID stimulus bill, they left us with ninety million people on Medicaid, forty-two million people on food stamps.

“They need to stop the borrowing. They need to eliminate the earmarks that Republicans brought back in, and they need to make sure they understand these are taxpayer dollars.

“And while they’re all saying this, you have Ron DeSantis, you’ve got Tim Scott, you’ve got Mike Pence — they all voted to raise the debt [limit]. And Donald Trump added eight trillion to our debt. And our kids are never going to forgive us for this.

“And so, at the end of the day, you look at the 2024 budget. Republicans asked for 7.4 billion dollars in earmarks. Democrats asked for 2.8 billion. So, you tell me, who are the big spenders?”

This definitely places Haley on the moral high ground in the debate outcome, but it’s unlikely it will do much to endear her to her fellow party members—especially not the Washington leadership. She also called on her experience as UN ambassador to go after Ramaswamy’s simplistic view of Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine—to wit, that the US should stay out of it.  Haley accused Ramaswamy of wanting to “hand Ukraine to Russia” and “let China eat Taiwan.”

“You are choosing a murderer over an ally of the US,” she said. “You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.” That statement got her a round of loud applause.

Other analysts tried to spin Ramaswamy’s performance as stellar. But if this were a boxing match and I were covering it, I’d have to report that all he managed to do all night was feint and cover, as he was tag-teamed by nearly all the other candidates.

Nor did the other candidates shine in their attacks on him, which were unworthy and disrespectful at best, and ad hominem and vaguely racist at worst. Two candidates who, in my opinion, seriously damaged their own images in their rabid verbal assaults on Vivek were former Vice-President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

About all that Pence has going for him is his “evangelical”-based governorship in Indiana, and the fact that he served as vice-president of the United States, since he is a remarkably unimpressive and indecisive politician. Throughout his entire four-year term as VP, he limited his performance to being a yes-man for Donald Trump, never showing any character of his own and failing to call out his boss’s bad behavior, even when it crossed the line into uncharted and possibly felonious waters. Pence’s one shining moment was when, in his role as Senate President, he for once, and crucially, refused to give the president’s bad conduct a pass, and, as it turned out, risked his life in defiance of Trump’s mob, by carrying congressional certification of the presidential election Trump lost to fruition. But afterward, even after it became clear that the former president’s reckless behavior had put his life and those of other members of Congress in mortal danger, Pence remained wishy-washy in his placement of blame where it belonged until he had already launched his own campaign for the presidency.

But despite all that, all has been forgiven for Pence in both the old-time Republican and moderate Democratic camps, since he has been touted as “a hero of democracy” for, basically, doing the job he was morally and legally obliged to do under the Constitution, instead of joining his boss’s criminal conspiracy to virtually overthrow the established order and remain in power as a de facto president.

It would have been wise for Pence, who is one of the blandest politicians in history, to have basked in his former VP status and remained above the fray in the debate, concentrating on grass-roots conservative policy and on separating himself from Trump instead of on engaging in head-butting and eye-gouging with the most inexperienced candidate on the stage. He could have provided an example for others by treating all candidates with equal respect, debating on substance rather than personality. But that was clearly too much to ask of a man who appears never to have had an original idea in his life.

Pence, who has an obviously naïve idea of today’s United States “conservatism”, still sees his party as the party of Eisenhower and Reagan and allowed himself to be goaded by Ramaswamy’s ironic tone when the young candidate sought to remind him that today’s climate is no longer the one Pence recalled from the past. The US, Ramaswamy pointed out, was in the grip of a national identity crisis. Pence came back with his “Mr. Rogers” view of the country, saying, “We’re not looking for a new national identity. The American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving, idealistic, hard-working people the world has ever known.”

Innocent though many of us may find that church-bulletin, blue-sky view of a troubled nation, it is indeed what sells among Pence’s natural conservative peers—white, Middle-American people of fifty-plus grown weary of the drama, who would like nothing as much as to return to “the good old postwar fifties.” Pence is unlikely to find support among radical Trumpsters who consider him a traitor to their personality cult, nor is he likely to attract young and up-and-coming Republicans who think all “boomers” should go home to tend their flower gardens and leave straightening out the mess the world is in to the people who are going to have to live in it for decades to come. So it would have made sense for him to stick to his good-ol’-days narrative, since he clearly has no idea what contemporary “conservatives” are looking for, nor does he care. He apparently thinks the young should listen to their elders and re-found a Reaganite America under his leadership.

Vivek wasn’t buying it. He said—in a disparaging reference to a Reagan era slogan—“It is not ‘morning in America’. We live in a dark moment. And we have to confront the fact that we’re in an internal sort of cold, cultural civil war.”

Pence could have gained points by calmly and cogently explaining how, in his view, what was wrong with conservatism today was precisely that it wasn’t the conservatism of Reagan, but had instead taken a sharp turn toward right-wing extremism. But he chose instead to dismiss the other candidate’s view on the sole grounds of his youth, saying, “Now is not the time for on-the job training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie.” 

His belittling of Ramaswamy tended to indicate that he was dismissing him because he saw him as a credible threat. That gave Ramaswamy more importance than he merited. Pence had a chance to continue “schooling” the thirty-eight-year-old candidate and gave it up to schoolyard banter, rendering him, “just some guy” on the stage instead of the only one with somewhat presidential credentials.

Chris Christie, for his part, also decided to surrender his “experience advantage” by launching the same sort of ad hominem attack as Pence did on Ramaswamy. The former New Jersey governor probably did a lot to boost Vivek in the polls by seeking to dismiss him, saying, “I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT standing up here. And the last person in one of these debates…who stood in the middle of the stage and said, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?’ was Barack Obama. And I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur.”

By saying that instead of slamming Vivek on things he needed to be slammed on—like his incredibly surreal assertions that climate change was “a hoax”, that more people were dying because of anti-climate-change policies than because of climate change, that racism was a thing of the past and that white supremacists in America were as rare as unicorns—Christie employed the peevish “young whippersnapper” defense, which lacked substance.

Had Christie left it there, at least, he would only have been shooting himself in the foot with something smaller than a double-barreled twelve-gauge. But the comparison to Obama and the “amateur” status of both him and Ramaswamy was way over the top. Vivek is basically a nobody, no matter what he might end up being in the future, while Obama, no matter what far-right Republicans and their white-supremacist cousins might think of him, remains ranked by presidential historians as one of the most popular presidents of the postwar era, listing on a footing with such names as Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

It made Christie look weak, defensive, clueless, and even slightly racist. It is one thing for men of color like Obama and Ramaswamy to refer to themselves as “skinny guys with funny last names,” but quite another for a white guy to do it. Especially when it was a backhanded attack on a highly popular and respected leader—the first non-white ever elected to the presidency—for whom many people voted across party lines in both presidential terms that he served. Moreover, it was tantamount to throwing a jab but leaving his guard down for the hard uppercut Ramaswamy delivered when he responded, “Give me a hug just like you did to Obama, and you’ll help elect me just like you did to Obama.”

In all fairness, both Christie and former Alabama Governor Asa Hutchinson were addressing a hostile crowd. As the only two who are dead set against Trump’s ever again being a GOP presidential candidate, they were setting themselves up to get booed by the clearly overwhelming majority of Trump apologists in the live audience. As two of the three lowest candidates on the totem pole, they would clearly have done well to be prepared to let their listeners judge them on policies, not their politics. Alas, they didn’t.

The other fellow who barely made the stage, North Dakota Governor and gazillionaire businessman Doug Burgum, ensured his continued anonymity—to make the forty thousand donor tally he needed to join the debate, he reportedly offered a twenty-dollar gift certificate to anybody who would donate a dollar to his campaign—with his non-performance. In fairness to Burgum, however, he really was not prepared for a political brawl. His whole campaign is based on energy strategies to strengthen the US in the face of rising aggression from China and Russia. He probably figured there would be some segue that would permit him to expound on that, but there wasn’t, so he ended up looking like he had nothing to say.

Nor4 did Tim Scott get a chance to tout the conservative policy logic that separates him from Donald Trump—or, thus, a chance to move the popularity needle further in his favor. But I blame Scott himself for that, as I have from the outset, since he has refused to go after Trump in any meaningful way, which makes him look weak and acquiescent.

Unfortunately, Scott is not alone in that regard. And that was where the debate, across the board, demonstrated itself to be more vice-presidential than presidential. Ramaswamy, for instance, may have gotten noticed—more by being obnoxious than for any other reason—but in answer to one of the questions asked, he said that Trump was “the best president of the twenty-first century.” The natural follow-up question for the Fox moderators to have asked should have been, “So, why the hell are you running against him?” But they failed to ask it.

I think I know the answer to the unasked query. At thirty-eight, I figure Ramaswamy is running to get noticed, since he has no political credentials. The main person he is trying to impress, I feel, is Donald Trump, since there is essentially no difference between his running platform and Trump’s. A successful businessman, he probably feels his profile will appeal more to a man like Trump than a politician’s. So it would make sense that he would hope to be Trump’s vice-presidential pick. Being VP to Trump, should Trump get another four years—in the White House rather than in prison—could give a man as young as Vivek the street cred he would need to run for president in the future, or at least that might well be his calculation.

The big loser of the night was Ron DeSantis. Believing his own campaign’s hype about how he was going to be receiving “all of the incoming” in the debate, as holder of the distant second spot to Donald Trump, he ended up seeming to be at a total loss for anything else to do, when, surprisingly, all fire from the other candidates appeared to be focused on Ramaswamy. The Florida governor, not at all his usual brash and boastful self, spent a lot of time looking like a deer in headlights. The only time he really came to life was when Fox News moderator Brett Baier put a Trump question to him and he bristled, asking if the debate was going to be about Trump or the future. Trump, he indicated, wasn’t relevant. Baier bristled right back and indicated that with Trump’s voter intention rating running at least twenty points higher than anyone else’s on the stage, he was clearly relevant, whether DeSantis liked it or not.

Not only did DeSantis, to his discredit, hem and haw and waffle when he was later asked if Mike Pence had done the right thing in certifying the 2020 election on January 6th 2021, but he also proved just how true Trump’s relevance was when all candidates were asked to raise their hand if they would vote for Trump, assuming he was the candidate, even if he had been convicted of a felony. The Florida governor looked left and looked right to see what everybody else was doing and belatedly raised his hand (as did Pence). It was a chance for him to definitively separate himself from Trump, and he blew it.

In total, six of the eight candidates on stage raised their hands—in doing so, Nikki Haley undid all of her refreshing earlier disqualifying criticism of Trump—thus demonstrating that Trump still owns the GOP, since not even his rivals for the presidency will throw him under the bus completely, even if he is a convicted felon. Chris Christie timidly raised a finger (had it been the middle one it might have been taken as a no, but it wasn’t), but later reneged, saying he wouldn’t vote for Trump. “Someone," said Christie, “has to stop normalizing this conduct.”  A response that was met with loud booing from the audience. The only candidate who left no doubt about his position was former Governor Hutchinson, who made no move to look at other candidates to see what they were doing, or to raise his hand.

With that single exception, it was a moment in the debate that continued to put Trump above the law. Never did Trump’s controversial statement in the 2016 campaign to the effect that he could “shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes” seem more apropos. In the end, then, Trump won the debate hands down without being there and the other eight demoted themselves, from the outset, to “also-ran” status, in their failure to cut the umbilical cord to the Trump base and to start reaching out to the other sixty-plus percent of Republican voters.