From June 26, 2019. More of my TV appearances about Election 2020 on my Facebook page.
The most important, and most disturbing message of the Barr hearings and all the back and forth over the Mueller report:
The presidency was designed with George Washington as its model. The model we have now is, “Can you make the rap stick?” In other words, the Mafia.
You might think that’s hyperbole. But our current president enthusiastically agrees with it.
As he’s boasted repeatedly, his mentor — and his model for the the perfect US Attorney General — was the notorious mob lawyer Roy Cohn.
Throughout his real estate career, he did business with the New York mafia and then the Russian mafia — without them, he probably had no career. Building on a reported record of financial and tax fraud, stiffing creditors and investors, and six bankruptcies, he specialized in selling overpriced real estate in cash transactions to known Russian gangsters, or to anonymized entities in places like the Cayman Islands. No reputable business person does that. Money launderers do.
As the Mueller investigation and other proceedings have documented and as we see for ourselves in plain sight, Trump cajoles, pays off, or threatens witnesses who might testify against him. Those who do are “rats” who “flip.”
As he’s been telling us, over and over, he’s a mobster.
His cowering co-partisans have convinced themselves that’s the same as a president.
We’re supposed to as well. Will we?
I think they were right to wait, but it’s now time for House Democrats to move forward with impeachment. Yes, it’s almost certainly doomed in the Senate by the Republican majority, which long ago chose power over patriotism. But sometimes doing what’s right requires doing what’s hard, and may even require accepting defeat.
If the rampant corruption documented by the Mueller report were to be accepted as unimpeachable, it would establish a terrible precedent and do further damage to our democracy.
And it may not be as politically costly as some fear:
1) The process begins, not ends, with a vote to impeach, and even that follows the proceedings that lead up to the vote. The airing of the evidence will take a long time. That time will not go well for Trump or his enablers.
2) The Trumpist strategy has been to count on the death of reading and overwhelm the public with video. Impeachment will turn the 400-plus pages of the Mueller report into months of very compelling video.
3) Yes, the Republicans will claim the impeachment vote was driven only by politics, but of course they will. If it’s not one lie, it’ll be another. Politics has always been rough, but the modern GOP is an ethical catastrophe.
4) In voting No to impeachment, Senate Republicans will put the failure of their integrity on the record — not just for this election season, but for all of history. Voters will be presented a clear choice (made much clearer by all those clips).
5) It will be a clear choice if, that is, Democrats don’t look like they too are afraid to stand up when it counts. If they do, they risk endorsing the core of Trumpism: nothing means anything, except power. Furthermore, they risk looking weak, which is as politically costly as it gets.
6) If and when impeachment is voted down in the Senate, yes, of course Trump will claim it as vindication. But he’s claiming vindication now. The Senate’s “vindication” will ring even more hollowly, and hopefully that doleful sound will wake up a few more voters.
But in the end, if voters have had every possible opportunity to see what Trump is and they still choose him again, that will be their democratic choice. We’ll have to accept that he really is what they want. As important as it is to defeat Trump, defending democracy is the reason.
A few inescapable facts staring out of the Mueller report at anyone who still wants to believe in Trump:
(1) The “fake news” was right. Again and again, reporting by the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, NBC, and the rest is corroborated by contemporaneous records and the testimony of sworn eye-witnesses facing jail time if they lied — the same people who were the supposedly made-up anonymous sources for reporters. The “fake news” about Trump turned out to be as real as it gets.
(2) “Spying” (aka legal, court-ordered surveillance) doesn’t play a role in the report. As Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman has pointed out, the federal indictments of Russians were full of evidence obtained by (legal) surveillance, but the Mueller report is based on testimony and documents.
(3) The same report that the president claims is a “complete and total” exoneration (BTW can someone explain the difference between “complete” and “total?”) can’t be phony, as the president also claims. Mueller can’t be both “honorable” and a “dirty cop.”
(4) The President of the United States is a fraud: both dishonest and incompetent. The report shows him repeatedly lying, instructing others to lie for him, attempting to commit crimes, and often being saved by how bad he is at it. President Trump is the demagogue the founders warned us about: corrupt and unqualified, possessed only of what Hamilton described as “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” (Federalist 68). None of this is surprising to anyone who saw the reality of Trump’s business career as opposed to the reality TV show version — basically, the entire City of New York. But it should be shocking, and disqualifying, when seen in a president.
What we saw from Barr yesterday was a deeply cynical exploitation of how television has changed us. Barr wasn’t trying to make an argument — he knew he didn’t have to. Instead, he was just trying to make a video clip.
I doubt if he was worried about anyone exposing the hollowness of his repeated assertions of “No collusion,” echoing those of his client. He had to know discovery was waiting within minutes of anyone reading the document he was about to release. But he could count on most of us not reading.
Instead, we consume video clips, which don’t even open a case before closing it. They sidestep thought altogether and function like incantations: “This is true because it becomes true when we say it.”
So the point of Barr’s appearance was only in the appearance itself, how he looked and sounded: the blandly reassuring mask of the bureaucrat, the measured rhythm and downward cadences, the podium, the suit, and the suits behind him.
The only flaw: one of those other suits, Rosenstein. We couldn’t know what was going through his mind, but we couldn’t escape how he looked: like someone staring into a mirror and discovering nothing there.