Wednesday, February 12, 2020
I've just received a letter from the progressive action group, Justice Democrats, asking me to sign a petition against the DNC's making billionaire Mike Bloomberg an exception to rules applied to all other Democratic hopefuls. If you're not familiar with this group, here's the Wikipedia entry on them.
Many of you will not agree, and I respect your position and, as Voltaire said, will defend to the death your right to hold it. But I'll be signing the petition. Personally, and despite being an independent voter, I don't want to see the Democratic Party usurped by another billionaire the way the GOP was usurped by one in 2016. So far, Bloomberg appears to have thought himself above the primary debating process. He apparently hasn't wanted to get his hands dirty—as former Vice-President Biden has, for instance—duking it out on a stage populated with also-rans. So he has remained above the fray. He seems to be waiting until only those "worthy of him" are left standing.
Rules are rules. Liberals should stand for equality.
Here's an excerpt from the Justice Democrats' letter:
"After the 2016 election, the DNC set rules to require any 2020 presidential campaign to meet a polling threshold + number of donors threshold to make it onto the official debate stage. They stuck to the rules at first. Even though they prevented Julián Castro and Andrew Yang from being on stage in the last debates. Rules are rules!
"Right before jumping in the race, Michael “Billionaire” Bloomberg sent the DNC a $325,000 check. Now the DNC has announced they’re clearing the number of donors requirement to allow Bloomberg on the next debate stage.
"The DNC seems to be rigging the system to allow a second billionaire on the stage.
"Justice Democrats exists to remake the Democratic Party from the inside out. We are electing a slate of bold, progressive, uncorrupted candidates who will listen to Democratic voters, not donors. But we can’t do it alone."
Here's a link to sign the petition, if you're interested:
Here's a piece from Insider backing the Justice Democrats' claim:
Here's a piece from Insider backing the Justice Democrats' claim:
Let's Make America a Democracy Again!
I'm not one to gloat, but I have to say I really, really enjoyed watching the talking heads on CNN last night and this morning attempting to explain why they have been ignoring or belittling Bernie Sanders up to now, and why they failed to read the trend that was plain as the nose on their face.
Kudos to Van Jones for calling bullshit and pointing out that this was the same thing they had done with Donald Trump—ignored a major trend in order to push the boss's agenda. Big Media is Big Business and Big Business is scared to death of Bernie and of anything or anyone that sincerely promises a better future and greater democracy for ordinary Americans. And Big Business interests are why Ted Turner eventually got voted out as the outspoken CEO of the uniquely innovative news organization that he founded.
I'm not saying that the DNC with the help of Big Media, Big Pharma and Big Oil won't still find a way to flush Sanders out of the race. But in the meantime, there are a lot of people who will be dining on crow.
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz stunned many on both sides of the Trump impeachment debates in the Senate this week by making an unprecedented case for an American führer. Or as The New Yorker’s columnist Susan B. Glasser put it, the Dershowitz defense is that l’état, c’est Trump. She was, of course, paraphrasing the attributed (but not historically proven) words of French King Louis XIV, a firm and unapologetic believer in dictatorship by divine right, who was alleged to have said “L’état, c’est moi (“I am the state”) in justifying his all-pervasive power.
|Harvard Law's Alan Dershowitz|
Arguing the legal case against US President Donald Trump’s impeachment for abuse of power in withholding crucial, congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine—a country that is literally fighting for its life against Russian insurgents—until that country’s president agreed to help undermine the reputation of his chief political opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, Dershowitz posited that the chief executive could basically do whatever it took to remain in power. As other high profile legal experts immediately pointed out, the Harvard professor’s argument mirrors precisely the tenets of authoritarian regimes throughout history and the world.
In the words of Dershowitz, "Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you're right. Your election is in the public interest."
Taking that analogy to the next level, Dershowitz went on to say, “If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." Later he came back to this l’état, c’est Trump defense, saying that, "a complex middle case is 'I want to be elected. I think I'm a great president. I think I'm the greatest president there ever was and if I'm not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly.' That cannot be an impeachable offense."
The implications of Dershowitz’s words are democratically devastating, if anyone takes them seriously. And many Republican politicians are doing just that to justify their own groundless defense of the president’s clearly questionable actions. This, they contend, is the argument of one of the country’s most renowned legal minds, a Harvard professor emeritus and a highly successful defense lawyer in some of the country’s most high-profile and controversial legal cases. He thinks the same way we do.
But the truth is that, simply stated, what Dershowitz is saying is that any means whatsoever justify Donald Trump’s personal and political ends. This is not an argument many of us—hopefully a majority of us—ever thought we would hear in the United States of America, and certainly not in the Senate before the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, who is presiding over the proceedings. A constitutionally democratic republic like ours is supposed to be based on equality under the law and the separation of political powers into three distinct and equally powerful branches of government. No one is supposed to be above the law or above the traditional ethical and moral standards for his or her office. Not even the president. Indeed, especially not the president, who is supposed to govern within the laws and best ethical tenets of the Republic.
For instance, under Professor Dershowitz’s logic, Watergate, which arguably pales by comparison to President Trump’s abuse of power, would never have led to impeachment. Dershowitz basically proposes that if a president thinks his or her remaining in power and his or her opponent’s being prevented from being in power is “in the public interest”, then it indeed is in the public interest, and the person in the White House—clearly he is talking about Trump without any thought as to what this legal argument would mean to the future of the presidency and of the Republic—can defend his hold on power by hook or by crook. According to the Harvard law professor, just about anything goes.
Questions Dershowitz should be asked include: If the president has to trump up charges against an opponent in order to remain in power, is that legal? His answer is obviously affirmative, since that’s precisely what Trump was trying to do against candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. And how about accepting the help of a hostile foreign power in disseminating false information as a means of pitting Americans against each other and influencing the outcome of a presidential election? It would seem that his answer to that is also “yes”, since that is exactly what candidate Trump did in 2016. And what if it were, in the president’s view, in the public interest to fail to admit defeat in a re-election bid, declare a state of emergency and incite his followers to mount an armed rebellion? Would Professor Dershowitz consider that also to be within the president’s right, “in the public interest”?
It is hard—if you’re not a Republican senator seeking to defend the indefensible and to justify all of the truly questionable things that Donald Trump has done and said since taking office as “just Trump being Trump”—to view these latest statements by Alan Dershowitz as anything but a disingenuous bid to mount a defense for the president in the absence of any concrete evidence in his client’s favor. This is especially true since, in 2016, Dershowitz was quoted as saying that Donald Trump was “more corrupt” than Hillary Clinton, and made a backhanded plea in Clinton’s favor by adding that "there's no comparison between who has engaged in more corruption and who is more likely to continue that if elected President of the United States." He called on Americans to vote for the lesser of two evils, saying, "When you compare (Hillary) to what Trump has done with Trump University, with so many other things, I think there's no comparison between who has engaged in more corruption and who is more likely to continue that if elected President of the United States. So I think what we're doing is we're comparing, we're saying, look, neither candidate is anywhere close to perfect, let's vote for the less bad candidate."
This is also the self-same professor Dershowitz who, in the lead-up to then-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying to Congress about an extramarital affair (a crime that seems utterly ludicrous in the Age of Trump), argued that Hillary’s husband could indeed be impeached for lying under oath about having consensual sex with a White House intern. "It certainly doesn't have to be a crime,” he posited. “If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime."
Now, in his defense of Trump, he claims only a verifiable and prosecutable crime will do as probable cause for impeachment. And when other legal experts called him on it, his excuse was that he was “more right” now than then. Obviously, the difference between right and wrong in Dershowitz’s mind depends on who his client is and what his political leanings of the moment are. If the defendant is his client, whatever he or she is accused of is apparently neither illegitimate not illicit.
I don’t take lightly or unadvisedly my reference in the first paragraph of this editorial comment to Dershowitz’s having made a case for “an American führer.” An even summary view of history makes it clear that Adolf Hitler’s path to power in Germany was paved with the acquiescence of those who preceded him. The parallels between then and now are chilling. Political parties at odds and in chaos, one failed attempt after another to achieve cross-partisan agreement in order to solve the country’s pressing problems. The bending of laws, rules and political traditions to accommodate the radical whims of a charismatic leader. The failure of the country’s authorities or of its people to rein in a popular politician who was accruing powers beyond those permitted under the national charter. Ever-waning support for individual rights, a free press, and political plurality. These were all elements that were part and parcel of Hitler’s rise.
It is an authoritarian idea, pure and simple to suggest that a president—and particularly Donald Trump, who, when China named their leader, Xi Jinping, “president for life”, quipped, “maybe we should try that here” — has no limits on what he can do to remain in office. One that has no place in any sort of serious legal defense, and certainly no place in a constitutional democracy. Professor Dershowitz should and does know better, and is desperately grasping at straws in a defense that is indefensible, as is his client. This proposition should constitute an embarrassment not only to him but also to the renowned university that he represents. And it is one that, if accepted as valid in this Senate trial, opens the door to ever greater abuse of power by successive occupants of the White House in the future.
Monday, January 27, 2020
Last Friday, National Public Radio host Mary Louise Kelly reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had stormed out of an interview with her at the State Department because he was irritated by her questions regarding his failure to defend former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was the target of a smear campaign orchestrated by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, prior to her removal from the post—an incident that is at the heart of current impeachment proceedings against the president.
|Secretary of State Mike Pompeo|
But before she could leave the building, a State Department aide escorted Kelly to a room where Pompeo was waiting for her. For the next several minutes, the secretary of state berated and swore at her for questioning him about Ukraine, asking her if she really thought “Americans give a fuck” about Ukraine. In an attempt to humiliate Kelly, he had his aides bring a map with no names or writing on it and demanded that she point to Ukraine. To his chagrin, she did so without hesitation—despite the fact that, by any professional standard, she would have been justified in telling Pompeo to point to it himself.
Pompeo later accused Kelly of lying to him by saying there would be no questions about Ukraine. Kelly says she specifically told the secretary’s staff in preparation for the interview that Ukraine would definitely be on the docket. He also said she had told him their conversation after the failed interview would be off the record. Kelly denies this, saying she was merely led into the room and was told to turn her recorder off before Pompeo started dressing her down. Furthermore, it is worth considering that the journalist might well have considered herself to be under duress, given the situation. Nor is this the way that off-the-record negotiations work between interviewer and inteviewee.
|NPR anchor Mary Louise Kelly|
Pompeo says he has nothing more to say about the interview. President Trump’s reaction has been to say that he doesn’t know “why NPR even exists.” It seems clear to me that both men think that public media should be at the service of the administration and the chief executive, not at the service of truth, professionalism and objective reporting in its task of informing the public.
Interestingly enough, I have a case in point of my own from a quarter-century ago. During the Clinton era, I was a stringer for several years for the United States Information Agency (USIA), a state-funded information-gathering organization that operated out of Washington from 1953 to 1999. When they first offered me the gig I almost turned it down saying that I was an independent free-lancer and didn’t want “to work for the government.” The assignment editor at the time, Andrew Lluberes, said I needn’t worry. The USIA was just like any other news agency. I should think of them as a kind of American BBC.
My one condition for accepting the assignment was that, as long as I got the facts straight, my work should never be subject to censorship.
The test came when I—like a lot of other American foreign correspondents—was investigating a lead about a chapter that was included in the training manual for the notorious School of the Americas, known today as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Back in the seventies and eighties when I was covering the bloody machinations of various authoritarian regimes in South America for several newspapers in Britain and the US, the School of the Americas was fondly known among American and British correspondents as “Dictator School”, since it was hard to find a leading operative member of the region’s military regimes who hadn’t been through training at the US facility in Panama.
Washington long tried to sell the SOA as an American mutual training facility located in the Panama Canal Zone for military personnel from throughout Central and South America. It was, successive US administrations held, a training ground in the fight against communist subversion and terrorism. The school indeed imparted useful instruction on counterinsurgency, jungle warfare, survival, strategy and tactical planning. But it had been persistently reported that it also provided chillingly effective methodology for the application of physical and psychological torture of prisoners, as a means of collecting compelling intelligence. Indeed, when American civil rights groups and news professionals reported on the gross human rights violations being carried out by dictatorial regimes from Guatemala and El Salvador in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south, Latin American military men would scoff and say, “You think the United States doesn’t use torture? They literally wrote the book on it!”
But following the Reagan era, which, after the scrupulously human and civil rights-oriented administration of US President Jimmy Carter, re-opened the floodgates in South America to human rights abuses, the SAO came under scrutiny. The Reagan foreign policy for the region was a sort of point/counterpoint message that the region’s authoritarian regimes should start moving toward a democratic opening, but should first get left-wing “subversion” cleaned up, and for that, the US was willing to turn a blind eye.
That was the almost literal message that military leaders in Argentina, where I was based, received from Reagan’s envoy, National Security Adviser Jeane Kirkpatrick, almost as soon as Carter moved out of the White House and Reagan moved in. Placing Kirkpatrick in historical context, she was a staunch McCarthyite-style anti-communist who counseled Reagan to follow his own anti-communist political instincts and lend American backing to some of the bloodiest far-right military regimes that the Americas had ever known. She was said to be particularly fond of then-Argentine dictator General Leopoldo Galtieri, urging Reagan to side with the Argentine regime over Britain in the ten-week Falklands/Malvinas War. It would be hard to separate her influence from Galtieri’s clear—but, as it turns out, erroneous—confidence that the Argentine dictatorship would have Washington’s support for a full-scale invasion of the British-held Falklands to back Argentina’s 150-year-old claim to the archipelago located off of the country’s Patagonian coast. This was a stance that was staunchly opposed by Reagan’s then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
|Reagan security adviser Jeane Kirkpatrick|
Kirkpatrick was also one of the Reaganites who favored the conspiracy to skim money off of US arms sales to provide backing for the extreme right-wing Nicaraguan Contras, a position which ran sharply counter to that of then-Secretary of State George Schultz, who argued that because of the gross human rights abuses carried out by the group, doing so would be “an impeachable offense”.
American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky once dubbed Kirkpatrick the “chief sadist-in-residence of the Reagan Administration” and pointed to both her hypocrisy and that of the administration in claiming to be “protecting democracy” by saving the region from communism, while actively supporting brutal military regimes that showed no respect for human rights or democracy. When four American Catholic missionary nuns were raped, beaten and murdered in El Salvador by a paramilitary hit squad formed by five members of the country’s National Guard, Kirkpatrick backed the official story that the country’s dictatorial regime had had nothing to do with the incident, while adding that “the nuns weren’t just nuns.”
But in line with that hypocritical government policy, throughout the eighties, one after another of the former military regimes gave way to some form of more pluralistic government. And as a result, there began a kind of historical revision of the preceding years in which the victims of the former regimes were now governing the countries in question, and as such were digging back into the motives and methods by which dictators had ruled. In the process, the SOA came back into sharp focus.
And this was where I came in.
In October of 1996, the USIA assigned me, as special correspondent, to cover an Americas defense ministers’ conference held at the idyllic Llao-Llao Hotel Resort, located at the confluence of Lakes Nahuel Huapi and Moreno, within overland hiking distance from my home in Patagonia. (I can see the roof of the lodge-like hotel in the distance from my upstairs window). As soon as I got the gig, I decided that I would seek an occasion to question then-US Defense Secretary William Perry about information that was rapidly coming to light regarding “torture training” at the SOA.
In the timeline of the years leading up to this inter-American Defense Ministers’ meeting, a list of some 60,000 SOA graduates de-classified in 1993 was virtual confirmation that not only dictators but also death squad members and paramilitary assassins had received SOA training. Two bills were presented in the US Congress to cut funding to the school but neither ever made it out of the House. Both bills were introduced by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. Despite their failure to pass, Kennedy did manage to secure requirement of a report on the school’s status with regard to the promotion of respect for human rights.
In 1995, the House Appropriations Committee urged the Department of Defense to make greater efforts to inculcate staunch defense of human rights into SOA training. Not convinced as to the efficacy of this urging, Kennedy introduced a bill that year to completely pull the plug on the SOA and shut it down. It should be replaced, the congressman suggested, “with a US Academy for Democracy and Civil-Military Relations.” But that bill also stalled out while awaiting executive comment from the Clinton administration.
Again in 1996, a congressional committee urged the Defense Department to promote effective efforts to incorporate human rights training into the regular curriculum of the school and to monitor the human rights performance of its graduates.
It wasn’t until September of 1996, that the Pentagon made training manuals from the School of the Americas available to the public. Those materials confirmed that tactics included in the manuals “violated American policy and principles.” Then Representative Nancy Pelosi said that the material released by the Pentagon had “confirmed (her) worst suspicions. Namely, that “US Army intelligence manuals, distributed to thousands of military officers throughout Latin America, promoted the use of executions, torture, blackmail, and other forms of coercion.” Among other things, she indicated, US taxpayer dollars had been used to promote tactics based on “fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions, and the use of truth serum.”
So, in early October, when Secretary Perry arrived in Patagonia for the inter-American meeting, the SOA’s heinous past was fresh news. And when Perry organized a Q and A session for American correspondents, I was quick to get my question about the SOA in at the outset. I was prepared for Perry, who was there for a conference on cooperation between Latin American and US defense administrations, to be upset by the questions and perhaps to tell me that it wasn’t the time or place to talk about the SOA, especially since I had identified myself as special correspondent for the state-owned USIA. And, indeed, he was shaken by my questions and my insistence. But there was no attempt to shut me up.
|Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry|
Instead, Perry called the materials “shocking” and said that even though the teaching of tactics that were in complete violation of human rights formed “only a small percentage” of the entire program, “that is not an excuse.”
“I want to emphasize,” I quoted him as saying, “that what was done was wrong and totally unacceptable.” He said that an effort had been made to destroy all copies of the manual except one kept by the Counsel General. And he added that the Clinton administration had launched an investigation to ensure that no other military instruction manuals approved by the Pentagon supported practices that violated human rights.
Clearly, this was a burning issue that placed the US, and successive administrations, in a bad light. And the SOA remained a thorn in the side of US democracy into the 21st century, with continuing reports of its adherence to tactics that violated human rights. In fact, it wasn’t until 2013 that human rights researcher Ruth Blakeley indicated, following interviews with personnel from the SOA’s successor organization, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and anti-SOA protesters that “there was considerable transparency...established after the transition from SOA to WHINSEC. She added that “a much more rigorous human rights training program was in place than in any other US military institution.”
My point here is that, at no time was I bullied by Defense Secretary Perry, the Clinton administration or the USIA to desist from writing and filing the story. Nor was I chided by Perry or his people after the press conference for putting him on the spot. On the contrary, they took me as a professional doing my job and they responded with the professionalism of people paid to do the work of the government—not of the president. My story was published without a single edit.
There’s a lesson in here for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, in seeking to bully journalist Mary Louise Kelly, has acted with the same mafia thug attitude to the interview with NPR as his boss did when he allegedly told his henchmen, Lev Paras and Rudy Giuliani, that he wanted career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch “taken out”. And as a ranking public figure, it is also clear that Pompeo has not only disrespected Kelly but has also perpetrated a direct attack on freedom of the press, by seeking to intimidate a reporter who asked him uncomfortable questions.
These are not attitudes that should be considered acceptable from leaders of a country that still stakes any claim whatsoever to being a democracy.
Sunday, January 19, 2020
In covering the first US Democratic Party Presidential Debate of 2020, held last Tuesday evening, the mass media tended to gloss over most of the major issues and political philosophies discussed and to focus instead on a petty spat between the two most progressive candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. This focus is part of a “reality TV” trend that has been accentuated in news coverage over the past three years as an outgrowth of the mentality generated by the administration of President Donald Trump—himself the former host of a TV reality show called The Apprentice, in which his signature line was, “You’re fired!”
The debate, held on the campus of Iowa’s Drake University and hosted by the CNN cable news network and The Des Moines Register, delved into numerous pressing issues, but CNN had already been pushing the supposed rift between Sanders and Warren as a talking point in its news and commentary broadcasts since the day before when the story broke. And in hosting the event, CNN moderators continued to pick at it during the debate. According to reports from CNN and The New York Times that quoted anonymous sources, Warren had claimed on Monday night that Sanders had told her in a private one-on-one meeting in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency. Sanders reacted to the reports accusing Warren’s campaign staff of lying about what had happened in that meeting.
|Elizabeth and Bernie, old friends|
The reports clearly took Sanders by surprise, particularly since, until now, he and Warren have been drawing on their long-time friendship and their similar liberal values to maintain a kind of political honeymoon, while other Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race have increasingly indulged in eating their own. Former Democratic hopeful Kamala Harris’s attack on former Vice-President Joe Biden for consorting with racists in Congress during the civil rights era and Warren and Amy Klobuchar’s attempts to portray former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as inexperienced, sold out to the rich and talking from a kind of script rather than from experience have been among some of the most damning of these assaults.
Until now, Sanders and Warren have managed to remain above the fray and have not only shown restraint but also great respect for each other. But with Sanders increasingly trending as the number one challenger to Biden’s lead among Democratic candidates and with Bernie’s rise coming at the expense of both Biden and Warren, it appears likely that the rift was indeed engineered by Warren’s campaign as a means of differentiating her from Sanders. Instead of doing so based on the broader issues, however, Warren’s campaign strategists seem to have decided to play the gender card by seeking to show Sanders as somehow misogynistic, when, by all accounts, he is probably the male candidate from either party who least deserves the term.
Perhaps the idea was to create hostility between Sanders and women voters. A study in The Economist last September showed that women under 45 made up a larger share of Bernie’s base than men in their same age group did, running counter to the previous idea that Sanders’ supporters were overwhelmingly white and male, to the virtual exclusion of other groups. This has to have worried Elizabeth Warren’s strategists, and it seems clear that they felt it was important to come out of their corner throwing haymakers from the start in the first month of the election year. But the fact that, when the story first broke, Warren refused to comment might point to ambivalence on the senator’s part about going the route her campaign was marking. In the end, however, she did. She later appeared to be toning down the language of the initial claim, saying that Sanders had said he didn’t think a woman could win and she had “disagreed”.
At the debate, although both Sanders and Warren must both have suspected that it was inevitable, the question came out of the blue about halfway through the event. That was when CNN's Abby Philip—one of the first journalists to report the rift and now a debate moderator—addressed Sanders saying, “...Senator Warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018, you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” To which Sanders replied, “Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it, and I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want.
“Anybody that knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States. Go to YouTube today. There’s a video of me 30 years ago, talking about how a woman could become President of the United States. In 2015, I deferred, in fact, to Senator Warren. There was a movement to draft Senator Warren to run for President, and you know what? I stayed back. Senator Warren decided not to run, and I did run afterwards.
“Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become President of the United States? Let me be very clear. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination … I hope that’s not the case. I hope it’s me. But if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous President in the history of our country.”
Abby Philip insisted then, “So, Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here. You’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?”
“That is correct,” Sanders replied.
What the CNN moderator did next showed quite clearly that she was trying to bait the two liberal senators into a “he said/she said” argument. Totally disregarding the denial that she had just asked Sanders to confirm, she turned to Elizabeth Warren and said, “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”
The bias in her question was so ludicrously obvious that there was a ripple of laughter in the audience. It was a question that seemed to say, “He’s lying.” Despite the opening Abby Philip was giving her, however, Warren was measured in her answer. She said, “I disagreed,” going on to add, “Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But look. This question about whether or not a woman can be President has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on...I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record...Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost ten elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women. The only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me, and here’s what I know. The real danger that we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency.”
But it wasn’t until the debate ended that the real fireworks erupted, unfortunately on camera and with an open mic. That was when Warren walked over to Sanders and, when Sanders extended his hand and smiled, she refused to shake it and kept her own hands tightly clasped in front of her chest. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she said.
Taken aback, Sanders said, “What?”
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren said again.
Visibly irritated, Sanders said, “You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.”
“Anytime,” Warren said.
Sanders responded, “You called me a liar. You told me...” but then he thought better of continuing the discussion to the delight of the media and said again, “All right, let’s not do it now,” before rushing off the stage.
Encompassed within the answer that Senator Warren gave to Abby Philip was the key to why Warren’s campaign might have decided to allege the content of a private 2018 conversation at this particular time. It was because it appeared to be a convenient response to a question that isn’t being asked aloud, but which is arising among many of those who want to make sure the Democratic candidate, whoever it might be, can indeed beat Donald Trump, because the thought of another four years of Trumpism is terrifying and repugnant to them.
And here too might well be where the 2018 private discussion between two old friends and Senate colleagues came up. As Sanders said, it is practically impossible to imagine him saying that a woman could not be president of the United States, but perhaps what he wondered aloud was whether, in the misogynistic, discriminatory, white-male-privileged, un-politically-correct climate generated by the Trump regime, would a woman, indeed, be able to win a presidential election in 2020 for the first time in US history? (Well, second if you count Hillary Clinton’s having the last election plundered from her by the Electoral College). It’s an honest question that, despite its honesty, certainly doesn’t preclude a female-led Democratic ticket, no matter what the odds against her might be, since the two women on that debate stage last Tuesday are nothing if not competent to serve.
So perhaps it’s not that either of the senators involved is lying. But that they’ve allowed the media and their political rivals to buffalo them into a public spat over what is very likely a complete misunderstanding based on words taken out of context.
In the end we’ll never know. Since it would appear that the only people who really know what was said in that private meeting are Elizabeth and Bernie. And we can only hope that they will mend their fences soon since there has never been a moment when a united liberal front has been more vital to American democracy.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
US President Donald Trump's retweeting this week of an atrociously photo-shopped meme of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Middle Eastern garb with the Iranian flag behind them does little to harm his intended political targets. In fact, they can use it to their advantage in pointing to just how immature, unhinged, unethical and clueless the president really is.
But the problem with this is that Trump no longer represents just the bad-boy Donald of New York real estate infamy, but the presidency (and, hence, the people) of the United States. And the problem with the retweeted meme itself is this: It is racist. It is a racial and religious hate tweet for which other Twitter users might be thrown off the platform. It suggests that all Iranians and all followers of Islam are terrorists. It reinforces his mad-dog base's prejudice against Muslims and it subliminally encourages them to take action against non-Christians and Middle Eastern peoples in general, as well as against Democrats, who Trump surrogates are seeking to link with fanatical Islamist terrorism.
This sort of thing is par for the course for Bigot-in-Chief Donald Trump, but it is totally unworthy and completely inappropriate for the office of the presidency, whose job it is to govern for and to protect all Americans equally.
The meme's message makes already threatened Muslims still less safe than they were before in the Era of Trump, by clearly demonstrating the president's prejudice against them.If a common citizen were to do something like this at school he or she would be expelled. And if they did it at work, they would be fired. But when this sort of blatant race-baiting comes from the White House (this White House), it's just "Trump being Trump" and gets a pass. Why? Because, over the last three years in the Era of Trump, we have, unfortunately, become all too accustomed to a scandalously low bar that has been set for the presidency.
There has never been a president like Trump before, a man in the Oval Office who appears to be completely bereft of humanity, of social propriety, of racial, religious and political tolerance, of democratic fervor and of human empathy. The problem is twofold and projects a long shadow, because it sets a precedent for the behavior of future leaders, who, in accordance with the principle of "whataboutism", will always be able to point to "what Trump got away with" in order to justify their own crass disregard for political correctness, for democracy and for the Constitution, and to exonerate them for their own general misdeeds.
When they do, we will no longer be able to use the argument that this was just "Trump being Trump", because whoever the future bad-actor president might be can always say, "Yes, and this is just me being me. Get used to it!"
Perhaps this should be one of numerous pieces of evidence on which to base another article of impeachment: Conspiring to incite racial, religious and political violence among Americans.