GELFAND’S WORLD--Although we've survived two years, now is not the time to become complacent.
The Trump presidency has not been without major damage. It's also true that the voters did what they could to limit the power of the Trump party through the congressional vote. That will help.
But a subset of the voters from rural states did their best to help the forces of reaction through their votes for Republican senatorial candidates. The activist resistance, what we remember from two years ago for its mass marches and local organizing, has to remember what we all feared at the beginning -- there are a number of Americans, among them some rich and powerful people, who still support a way of thinking that is at best quasi-fascist.
The worst example of this mentality was revealed recently when we learned that Trump had tried to get the Department of Justice to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. Luckily for America and democracy, people in the DOJ were more loyal to justice and the Constitution than they were to those illegitimate demands. But the very thought of turning the U.S.A. into the equivalent of a 1930s dictatorship is nauseating and outrageous.
Perhaps there is a less incriminating way of looking at Trump's demands. Maybe he is just showing signs of increasing dementia. But if he is still in possession of his full faculties, then his demand was monstrous and should be considered as part of his long list of high crimes and misdemeanors.
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To impeach or not to impeach?
We are observing a moment in which the president's crimes far exceed those of Richard Nixon. The two most striking differences are that Trump shows not the least bit of embarrassment over his demonstrated violations, whereas Nixon at least expressed a sense of personal shame over having to resign from office. The other difference is that the party which controls the Senate has been careful to avoid taking a stand for preservation of our Constitutional order. When each Trump lie is revealed by careful investigation -- and Trump simply says "Fake news" -- where are the Republican senators? We've heard a few mealy protests, but the idea that United States Senators would do their patriotic duty by considering a vote to remove Trump from office? We are not yet at that point.
From the standpoint of strategy, it would be disastrous to impeach Trump (an act of the House of Representatives) but fail to convict him in the Senate (requiring a two-thirds vote) and thereby fail to remove him from office. The Democrats soon to control the House need to hold for the moment on impeachment and develop the case through their investigative power. At some point, the Republicans in the Senate may come to feel the heat to a sufficient extent that they will join the cause. At that point, it will be an effective strategy to file the impeachment bill.
If that time does not come, then we will just have to wait until the next presidential election to rid ourselves of this problem.
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George H.W. Bush
It's not surprising that the news media have put on their rose colored glasses in response to the late-president's death. It's therefore curious to think about how glad the majority of us were to be rid of him at the end of 1992. It's true that Bush Senior showed a higher level of decorum than the current president, but that's not saying much. There are a couple of things I remember most strongly about his presidency. The first is that his was in effect the third term of the Reagan economic plan. Even Bush Senior had to give in to economic necessity by agreeing to a tax increase at one point, but that merely served to illustrate how unrealistic the Republican support of supply side economics actually was.
The other thing I remember most strongly about this presidency was his appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. You may remember that prior to 1967, there had never been an African American on the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall had argued Brown v Board of Education and had later been appointed to the Supreme Court by Lyndon Johnson.
It was fair to think (and was widely accepted at the time) that Johnson had created a Black seat on the Supreme Court, and that this seat would henceforth be held by an activist, liberal African American justice. Had George H.W. Bush appointed a white to the seat upon Marshal's retirement in 1991, that might have reflected Bush's values and judgment, but it wouldn't have precluded the appointment of a Marshal successor by a later president. By appointing Thomas, Bush basically closed the door on a Marshal type justice for at least a generation. These remarks are not intended to be a critique of the Thomas record, but the social and political fallout of this appointment has been extensive.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo gives Bush his due for managing the end of the Cold War. It's a legitimate point that the end of the Soviet Union could have resulted in complete disaster. The reunification of Germany and the expansion of NATO are significant accomplishments. But Marshall also points out that Bush, no matter how patrician he might have been, also made it possible for the development of the no-compromise, hard right Republicans of the Gingrich era and of the present day.
For a particular negative attack on Bush's character and naivete, there is a twitter attack by Joshua Clark Davis who suggests that a high school kid was sacrificed to federal prison so that Bush could make a trivial point in a televised address. The point is a bit overstated but reminds us of how the Republicans oversold the anti-drug policy of the day, and how the Democrats felt obliged to go along so as not to suffer politically.
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Are there any others out there who used to love to watch Saturday Night Live? Lately, it's lost its sense of humor. What's missing is writing that does anything other than pound on the obvious.
SNL has gone through phases and even eras. Perhaps a time will come when it is at least tolerably funny. If it were the only television show lampooning Trump, we would at least respect it, but not so. SNL alumni Seth Meyers does a far better job exposing the Trump violations, and he does it by himself. Steven Colbert (aside from his irritating vocal impression of the Trump voice) has helped to preserve democracy in America. Perhaps SNL should try to lure a couple of writers away from these other shows.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)