By Neal Gabler
Bill Moyers & Company (5/17/17)
“Our Constitution works.” So declared newly installed President Gerald Ford in 1974 after Richard Nixon’s resignation. “Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men.”
Oh glory be! All’s well that ends well. That has been the conventional wisdom ever since. Nixon was checked by checks and balanced by balances. The republic was saved, proving, in the words not only of Ford but of just about everyone, that the system does indeed work.
Except for one thing: It didn’t. In fact, the real lesson of Watergate is not that the Constitution worked. It is that it failed spectacularly. Contrary to the myth, Nixon’s resignation was anything but the inevitable consequence of a powerful constitutional juggernaut.
Rather, it was the consequence of a bizarre, highly improbable series of events that was more reminiscent of Rube Goldberg than James Madison or Alexander Hamilton (Goldberg being the cartoonist who drew elaborate machines that performed the simplest task by setting off a long, complicated chain reaction). So if you’re thinking (dreaming) that crazy King Donald will be deposed by our vaunted checks and balances, consider first that if the political system really worked, a narcissistic man-child like Trump could have never gotten to the presidency, and second, that the Constitution is a shoddy and inadequate contraption unsuitable for ridding us of narcissistic man-children.
Simply put, don’t count on it.
We got lucky once — very, very lucky. We aren’t likely to be that lucky again.
I don’t know if Trump colluded with the Russians to win the election or if he is conducting a cover-up of his minions’ actions. New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote that Trump’s machinations either indicate concealment or insanity. I would actually bet on the latter. But even if he is guilty — even if he has a smoking gun in his hand — it would still take Rube Goldberg to oust him. So says Watergate.
Let’s begin at the beginning. It is incontrovertible that President Richard Nixon connived to pay off the Watergate burglars so that they wouldn’t squeal and that he approved of an elaborate system to halt the investigation that could lead from the burglars to his Committee to Re-Elect the President. But to get from there to a possible impeachment and the resignation that obviated the necessity for the impeachment was a long and tortuous road. …
- WOW: Trump Nixon Similarities Grow – With President Trump’s numerous scandals, alleged cover-ups, firing of investigators, and supposed stockpile of audiotapes, the similarities between Trump and former President Richard Nixon continue to add up. Link to 8-Minute Video
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
WATCH: Alec Baldwin As Trump Sings ‘Hallelujah’ With Whole White House Clan In Hilarious SNL Opener
Alec Balwin’s Trump was joined Saturday night by cast members dressed as the motley White House crew of Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon in his Grim Reaper drag, Eric Trump and Donald, Jr. and Ivanka and Melania.
“I’m not giving up because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Baldwin said. “But I can’t speak for any of these people.”
SNL continues with some of the best political commentary to be found yet.
(Photo from ABC.)
The Impeachment Trap: Be Very, Very Careful What You Wish For
By Jeff Alson
In These Times (5/16/17)
Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of an FBI director who was leading the investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia has sparked a new flurry of calls for impeachment.
The impulse is understandable. Comey’s firing is just the latest in a litany of outrageous behavior that’s shredding the credibility of the presidency: from the financial conflicts of interest to the pathological lying to the authoritarian attacks on the judicial branch and the press.
Republicans are in a political straitjacket—unless Democrats commit political suicide by falling for the impeachment trap.
But outrage aside, we must keep one thing in mind: how progressives and Democrats approach impeachment could shape our democracy and the domestic political landscape for a generation. We must focus on what is best for the American people, not on what is worst for our so-called president. I believe it would be a major strategic blunder for the Democratic Party to fall for what I call the Impeachment Trap—the powerful temptation to lead the charge for impeachment without considering the strategic implications.
Since neither impeachment in the House of Representatives nor conviction in the Senate are possible without Republican votes, it is a waste of time and energy for Democrats to promote impeachment in the absence of any Republican support. I am most concerned about the scenario where one or more leading Republicans come on board and entice Democrats to lead a successful impeachment.
The simple majority necessary to impeach in the House of Representatives, as well as the two-thirds majority that is required to convict in the Senate, can be achieved with the support of most or all Democrats and a minority of Republicans. Unfortunately, this scenario would offer enormous political benefits to the Republicans.
If Trump were impeached and convicted, Vice President Mike Pence, a right-wing, evangelical ideologue, would be a much more reliable and competent rubber stamp for the conservative policy agenda. …
- As Impeachment Chatter Grows, Have Trump’s Former Top Aides Already Cut Deals With Federal Prosecutors? – Are President Trump’s former top campaign aides already cooperating with federal investigators looking into collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, and possibly, Trump’s private business deals with wealthy Russians? There are telling clues that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are involved in the dicey dance of seeking cooperation agreements with various federal law enforcement agencies—or have already made a deal to testify in closed proceedings. That’s the conclusion of investigative reporters who have exposed foreign agents and a career public defender with long experience negotiating deals to avoid federal indictments. “It’s a more than reasonable question, whether Paul Manafort, who was on Moscow’s payroll and that of the pro-Moscow Ukrainian government before it was overthrown, is cooperating with federal investigators,” said David Cay Johnston, a Trump biographer … Read the Rest
- For Impeachment, It Doesn’t Really Matter If Trump Broke The Law – People are asking the wrong questions about what the president did. A serious conversation about impeaching President Donald Trump is underway. But it may be going in the wrong direction already. … Read the Rest
What Would Happen If Donald Trump Were Impeached? – The latest whirlwind of news about Trump, Comey and Russia has again stoked the chorus for impeachment. Here’s how it might happen … Read the Rest
Enabling A Dangerous President: Pence Was There
By Steven Harper
Bill Moyers & Company (5/17/17)
Donald Trump’s disclosure of highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians and reported efforts to shut down the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn now shine a spotlight on the next person in line for the presidency. It should be withering, because Vice President Mike Pence (JD, Indiana — Robert H. McKinney School of Law, ’86) is not a solution to Trump. His consistent dishonesty is a central part of the problem America faces. But compared to the boss, whose dangerous tendencies he has enabled, Pence seems like a Boy Scout. That merely proves the depths to which the bar of acceptable behavior has fallen, if it even exists anymore.
Lies on the Campaign Trail
As an attorney, Mike Pence has a special awareness that a public servant’s lies can undermine democracy. But such knowledge seems secondary to his political ambitions. When Trump was looking for a running mate, Pence faced the serious prospect of losing re-election as governor because of his extreme positions on social issues. For example, in 2015, he signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses owners to act on their religious beliefs in refusing service to gay patrons. With Pence’s eroding popular support, the VP spot on the Republican ticket became his political lifeline, and he has repaid Trump handsomely.
In defending Trump, Pence has sacrificed core principles of democracy. …he has dishonored his profession and disserved the country.
Pence began to earn his Trump disinformation stripes during the first vice presidential debate. Feigning shock at Tim Kaine’s suggestion (at the 36-minute mark) that Trump was waging an insult-driven campaign, Pence looked into the camera and said incredulously, “He says ours is an insult-driven campaign? Did you all just hear that? Ours is an insult-driven campaign?”
Trump’s actions as president make Pence’s lies during the debate even more striking, including these:
- When confronted (at the 20-minute mark) about Trump’s pledge to “absolutely produce his tax returns” if he ran for president, Pence said, “He hasn’t broken his promise.”
- When asked (at the 44-minute mark) about Trump’s stated admiration for Vladimir Putin, Pence laughed it off: “Oh, please, come on.”
- When reminded (at the 49-minute mark) that Trump had proposed banning Muslims from entering the country, Pence interrupted: “Absolutely false.”
- When confronted with the fact (at the 65-minute mark) that he and Trump had praised Putin as a great leader, Pence became testy and laughed it off, saying, “No, we haven’t.”
Defending Oval Office Lies
Winning the nation’s second-highest office didn’t make Pence more honest with the American people he professes to serve. …
- In Russiagate, Keep Your Eye On Pence – If Donald J. Trump loses his grip on the presidency, his logical replacement will be Vice President Mike Pence, the religious-right stalwart and favorite of the billionaire Koch brothers. Once in the White House, Pence may not be so easy to dislodge, given the propensity of the right-wing evangelical base of the Republican Party to turn out to the polls in large numbers. Yet the notion that Pence had no place inside the Trump administration’s burgeoning Russia scandal is too readily accepted by reporters and lawmakers alike, starting with the explanation for Pence’s January 15 denial on CBS’s Face the Nation that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia during several December conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. …Pence served as head of the Trump transition team, which was charged with vetting the incoming administration’s picks for high-level positions. … Read the Rest
President Mike Pence? Dems Should Be ‘careful what they wish for’, Experts Say – The idea of Pence taking over from Donald Trump has lately gained traction, but his conservatism and his likely effectiveness pose a threat to the left … Read the Rest