Constitutional Crisis or Tactical Stalemate?

New Orleans      The latest gambit by the Trump White House is to simply refuse to cooperate with any investigation by the House committees tasked with the job.

The lawyers for Trump make the specious claim that no investigation is legitimate without an actual vote on impeachment, which of course denies the reality that the House has special and standing committees, whether under Republican or Democratic control, that do nothing but investigate actions of governmental bureaucracies, officials, and the executive branch, including the actions of the President.  Checks and balances, as most school children would remember, are a distinctive fundamental of the American system of government, much admired around the world.

The equally ridiculous assertion by the President is that all of this is much ado about nothing and an effort to rerun the 2016 election, making Trump’s claim to the seat illegitimate.   Trump is obsessed with the 2016 election.  The only person who wants a rerun there might be Trump himself, hoping this time he might actually win the popular vote, rather than end up with an asterisk by his home run, as not the fan favor of the majority of the electorate.  Every day we all live with the horror of this presidency translated into domestic and international policy.  There is not one iota of doubt about the results of the 2016 election and the grieving is permanent.  Trump needs to get over it, even though millions never will because they have been sentenced to the adverse consequences of his policies or at least the policies of people acting in his name.

This fabricated stalemate looks like the most cynical of political calculations from Trump and the White House.

First, it is about delay.  Trump would love to be able to run as the aggrieved, underdog in 2020, making the issue of impeachment and investigation the centerpiece of his election rather than the diminishing of America’s position in the world and the division and pain he has inflicted on the country domestically.  If he can stretch this process out or frustrate it in some way another six to nine months, he will be in full-on campaign mode and will no longer have to pretend to be governing.

Second, it’s a sucker move.  Trump would love to bait Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats into an impeachment vote that forces his House Republicans to drag themselves prematurely into the boiling cauldron with him and take all the Democrats off the sidelines as well.  Luckily, Pelosi has proven herself immune to this so far, but…the press and various media are spoiling for a fight and a constitutional cage fight, and that amps the pressure up on everyone.

I’m not a fan of impeachment no matter how much Trump provokes or deserves it.  I would rather beat him at the polling booths than in the courts.  I hope Trump’s gambit fails.  Let the investigations bleed him out and wear out the public and his base with the thousand inflicted cuts he has administered to himself.  Let the polls favoring him being gone rise higher and higher, so they look more like an exit poll than an opinion poll.

Don’t take the bait.  Stay the course and dig the knives deeper.

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Could Sanders Be Trouble for Hillary?

abc_bernie_sanders_generic_drugs_mt_141121_16x9_992New Orleans   There was a “gee-whiz” report from Iowa that Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, running for President as a Democrat, was drawing huge crowds in this early primary state, out pacing all other candidates from either party.   He saw 700 in Davenport, one of the larger cities in Iowa.   He drew 300 to a rally in a small town with a total population of about 250 people.  The message of the story was encapsulated in a report of an Iowa Democratic Party official calling the Clinton campaign and telling them they needed to get their candidate on the ground as fast as possible.

There was another recent “gosh-darn” report that the Clinton campaign and its super-Pac buddies were having trouble firing up the enthusiasm from their own Daddy Warbucks types to write $100 million checks to go toe-to-toe with the willingness of Republican billionaires to do so.  The message of that tale was that Hillary didn’t have the new car shine, the “wow-factor” that a fresher faced Obama-type candidate had inhabited in Hollywood and elsewhere.

So what do we have here more than a year away from the convention?  A real horse race to the finish?  A warning notice that no matter what the general election is going to be a greenwashing disaster?  Or, just the usual early manipulative hype?

A colleague astutely warns that Sanders will give Clinton some severe headaches in Iowa and New Hampshire, noting that decades of experience running statewide in Vermont, another rural, overwhelmingly white state with an older demographer, had given him the chops and expertise in rural and agricultural issues that would she would underestimate at her peril.  My in-box is also flooded with messages from labor activists believing Sanders’ record for workers and unions has earned support that others might only dream of.   The so-called experts argue that if Clinton wins in Iowa by a margin less than 20%, she’s damaged, so who knows.  If I were a handicapper, I would argue that Sanders could be a fast starter, but a longshot to finish in the money.

More soberly, my bet would be that Clinton is delighted to have Sanders in the race so that the left can be defined, both directly and indirectly by her campaign, more marginally and more determinedly as anyone but Hillary.  The notion that Sanders is going to be able to pull Clinton to the left is wish-dreaming in my view.  Polls on same-sex, Latino positions on immigration, and inequality have pulled her as little “p” populist as we’re going to hear.  The free ride she’s getting
from what’s left of “big” labor on her non-position on fast track and the Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations is a good example of the slight pressure for her to stand up and stand out.  Hillary wants to be fat and sassy in the middle of the road which is where she believes victory will lie in November 2016, and liberal institutions seems committed to helping her do that.    I was surprised to hear recently that Service Employees International Union, one of the biggest still in the field, was pressing their board for an early endorsement for Hillary in
their June meeting.

The rush to the general election though is not going to excite the voting public though and a “ho-hum for Hillary” campaign means a depressed turnout in general which has an unshakeable smell of death about it.  That’s a real worry even for the political pros and professional donation bundlers.  If Sanders can light a spark, while Clinton slogs through the motions, lightning could strike and shake the system enough to either light a fire under Clinton finally and force her to finally change gears and move off the middle or open the way for him or someone to break the ground to win, rather than continue on the current path to defeat.

This is still politics where stranger things have happened.   And, despite all the money and punditry, there will be times coming soon where real people cast real ballots and finally have a say about all of these shenanigans.

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