Let the Howling Begin
There's a famous, old adage by Carl Sandburg --
“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”
Republican officials have begun pounding the table and yelling like hell.
Not unexpectedly, those who have enabled Trump for the past six years are now beating their breasts in faux-outrage about what is expected to be a coming indictment of Trump this week by the Manhattan D.A.
It starts with many such officials. among them Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) insisting that an indictment would guarantee Trump would "win even bigger" and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), waiting to see if he himself will be indicted in Georgia, saying that Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg has "done more" to get Trump elected than anyone -- assessments which, if true, you'd think would have Republicans dancing in joy over the pending indictment (and all other possible coming indictments), and even pressing for it. Now, to be clear, an indictment certainly might help Trump within the Republican Party, since it's become fascist and the majority of the GOP still believes Trump won the 2020 election against all evidence and reality, and much of the Republican base believes the dead JFK Jr. is coming back to life to run with Trump. However, even that doesn't explain why Trump then isn't begging for an indictment. In fact, the only thing that can be said with 100% certainty is that an indictment means Trump will begin grifting and raising money off it.
(Republican non-official and ace prognosticator Elon Musk -- who said all indicators are that COVID deaths would be zero at the end of April, though he said this three years ago and meant April, 2020 -- goes even further than most and predicted an indictment means Trump would win a "landslide victory." Indeed, by Musk Standards, if Trump gets lucky and is also indicted in all four of the currently-active investigations of him elsewhere, that could fill the national bingo card, and we might have the first-ever unanimous presidential election result.)
Then there was the halting, breathless, pseudo-dramatic statement made by Mike Pence -- hot off his statement condemning Trump for responsibility of the January 6 Insurrection -- saying, "This is not...what...Americans want...to see." An observation still unclear where he got that statistic from, since it came in the midst of many of those very same Americans organizing Indictment Parties.
One of the more notable and borderline-amusing is from James Comer (R-KY) who is chair of the adorably misnamed House “Oversight” Committee. He raised the theory that an arrest of Trump Arrest is just an “effort To distract” from Hunter Biden.
What’s become noticeable since being named chair of the committee is that the phrase "James Comer says..." have come to mean something disingenuous and hypocritical is about the follow. He’s been impressively consistent about this.
In this specific instance, what Mr. Comer wants people to ignore is that Trump has long already been the unnamed “Individual #1” when Michael Cohen was indicted and then plead guilty 2-1/2 years ago. So, it’s not like this is anything sudden. Moreover, there is no current federal or state investigation of Hunter Biden, so there’s nothing to distract from.
And it seems weird even by James Comer criteria to bring up the concept of “distracting” from bad news when it’s become clear that the historic Trump Standard Operating Procedure is to distract.
That said, given that there are four other active, major investigations of Trump -- so far -- we should all be prepared to hear the words "Effort to distract" from Republicans a lot.
But the most egregious mournful cry came from emasculated House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
For those unaware of McCarthy, he’s the Republican Leader who both publicly and privately (on tape) condemned Trump for causing the January 6 Insurrection – and then days later was called down to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump and returned with his tail noticeably dragging between his legs, and has been sucking up to Trump’s rear-end ever since.
He sent out a statement –
“Here we go again — an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump.
“I’m directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
There’s so much to unpack here. But let’s start with the most basic. McCarthy’s statement is right out of the playbook for fascism – trying to undermine the court system and rule of law. To be clear, Michael Cohen went to prison for doing Trump's bidding on this very same crime Trump is being indicted for, paying $130,000 hush money from Trump. And make no mistake: it is a crime because, well, y’know, a guilty plea and prison time was involved. But Kevin McCarthy wants everyone to think it’s “outrageous abuse of power” for the Manhattan D.A. to pursue a crime.
And it is a crime to continue pursuing, since McCarthy also leaves out the additional pesky point that when Cohen plead guilty for the crime he went to prison over, Trump himself was the unindicted co-conspirator, "Individual #1"!!! Indeed, the only reason he wasn’t indicted at the time is because he was the sitting president, and the DOJ has a policy not to indict a president when in office.
Trump is no longer in office.
Further, and importantly, speaking of the DOJ, also unmentioned by lapdog McCarthy is that when Michael Cohen went to prison and Trump was named the unindicted co-conspirator, "Individual #1" – it was all done under Trump’s own Justice Department.
So, spare us the weeping cries of "political vengeance." To repeat: Trump was named in Michael Cohen’s indictment by the Justice Department when Trump himself was in office.
If Kevin McCarthy wants to bring up "abuse of power" in the case, the only place he has to look is when the federal court overturned actual abuse of power against the DOJ when it tried to prohibit Cohen from writing a book about his experience.
And we haven’t even gotten to McCarthy saying he will direct a House committee to investigate if federal funds have been used to “subvert democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
First, reading a sentence for a Republican supposedly “outraged” about anyone trying to “subvert democracy by interfering in elections” and not be talking about the January 6 Insurrection has defined the word “projecting.”
Second, as noted, the concept of “politically motivated” flew out the window long ago when Cohen and Trump were both named in the crime by Trump’s own Department of Justice.
And third, the level of headline-grabbing pure posturing about “federal funds” being used is made evident that this coming indictment is from the Borough of Manhattan. Something which even Kevin McCarthy knows has absolutely nothing to do with federal funds.
On the other hand, what all McCarthy’s saber-ratting is more likely to be seen as is arguably obstruction of justice and witness tampering, trying to scare off any other prosecutions and intimidate anyone who might be called to testify. (And now, the eternally "outraged" Jim Jordan [R-OH], of course, is calling for Manhattan D.A. Bragg to come before the House Judiciary Committee.)
In the end, if Kevin McCarthy really wanted to respond to word of an impending indictment (which Trump himself leaked, most probably to call enough mob to riot) and do so in a way that supports democracy, what he, as an elected official and Speaker of the House, third in line of succession for the presidency, could have done under his sworn duty to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution is a) waited for an actual indictment, and then b) put out as a statement that would have been –
"We are disappointed that an indictment has been made, but look forward to the judicial process taking place, because in in the United States were are a nation of laws -- and when the court system has run its course, we are fully confident that the evidence will show Donald Trump is not guilty."
In fairness, the emasculated McCarthy perhaps didn’t feel comfortable saying this because he’s not fully confident Trump will be found not guilty. Though lying about what he truly believes (even when said in public and caught on tape in private) has never stopped him before.
But ultimately, alas, fascism and posturing to create discord really doesn’t work in such a pro-democracy way. So, McCarthy, Comer and other Republican officials are just doing what comes naturally.
There's another old quote that is a fitting way to end this. It hasn't reached "adage status" like Carl Sandburg's, but is as appropriate when it comes to having no facts or law to rely on, and only being able to pound on the table and yell like hell.
When the plain-speaking Harry Truman was president, he was known as "Give 'em hell, Harry." But one day during a speech, when someone in the crowd yelled that out to him, he responded by saying --
“I don't give them hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it's hell.”
That was the Republican Party in the 1940s. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Welcome to today's GOP.
You Can Call Him Al
The guest on this week’s Al Franken podcast is New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who has been covering the Dominion lawsuit against Fox “News.” That’s what he and Al talk about today, and as Al writes, it “Looks bad for FOX.”
Yesterday in Trump World
Yesterday, there were two notable stories about Trump World. The first got a fair amount of attention. It was big article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewing members of the Special Grand Jury. Not only does it turn out that there were three phone calls Trump made to state officials there, but one was to the Republican Speaker of the legislature asking him to call a special session and overturn the election. The Speaker shut him down.
But awful as that is (not just what Trump said, but also finding out that three calls were recorded) that's not the bad news, since it already adds on to the terrible news about the first phone call committing election fraud that we already knew. The bad news is that one of the jurors said (and I'm paraphrasing, but I'm close) that “When the full story comes out, and it will, it’s going to be massive. Massive.”
Given what we actually know, which is terrible and criminal, the concept of the full story being "massive" does send the imagination to new heights. Or lows, depending on your perspective of such things.
The second story concerns Trump’s Truth Social, which hasn't yet gotten all that much coverage.
Because Digital World is currently under investigation by the SEC, its proposed merger with Truth Social is being examined. It seems Truth Social may possibly have been kept solvent by two payments of $8 million of laundered Russian money connected to Putin.
It's not certain if all these connection are valid, but enough appears so on the surface which is why they are being looked into.
What is certain is why Trump went on a massive ALL CAPS RANT last week about how wrong it was to have investigations. In fairness, if I committed what appears to be as many crimes as Trump has, and on such a huge scale, I would be against investigations, too.
By the way, it's worth noting that the first of these two payments from Russia came before the National Archives had court-approved agents go to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve classified material.
If one wants to read a more-detailed article, you can check it out here.
Sometimes, stories don't need a lot of commentary to add context. The stories themselves are able to speak loudly and clearly on their own.
A Very Stable Genius
“World War III is looming like never before in the very dark and murky background. Lack of leadership is solely responsible for this unprecedented danger to our beautiful USA and likewise to the world itself. Hopeless Joe Biden is leading us into oblivion. We cannot let it happen. We have to take back the White House, or our country is doomed. Thank you very much.”
-- Trump, yesterday
Okay, no, not so much.
I was thinking about leaving it there, since that one sentence says everything necessary. And there really isn't all that much to add. Or much too much. The hardest part is figuring where to start. And then end.
As the great Molly Ivins said, though in another context, it reads better in the original German.
My favorite part of what Trump says here in his video is that after raining down doom and gloom, World War III, oblivion, unprecedented danger, and looming, dark, and murky– Trump ends it with “Thank you very much.” All I could think of was Andy Kauffman delivering that rant as the Foreign Man.
The only thing that surprised me is that Trump didn’t choose to end it instead with “Have a nice day.”
The one good thing is that in saying “We have to take back the White House,” I’m not sure if Trump realizes that he’s acknowledging he wasn’t elected.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t a Trump ALL CAPS meltdown on his social media service. (He did have one of those yesterday, but it was whining about all the investigations against him.) No, this was a campaign video. This was a “Vote for me!” thing. This was laying out his vision of the future as the foundation of his election platform. Sturm und drang. The only thing missing was underscoring by Richard Wagner. Perhaps “The Ride of the Valkyries” would do. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, when the country was collapsing – no “looming” about it, it was here and destructive – Franklin Roosevelt laid out the harsh realities in his First Inaugural Address, but still had the presence of mind to offer, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It went over so much better than “If I am not in charge, you are all going to die!!!!”
I’m reminded of Trump’s own first inaugural when amidst his dystopian view of the world around us, George W. Bush turned to Michelle Obama and said, “That is some weird sh*t.”
And it hasn’t stopped for six years.
At least it’s all familiar territory, and he’s sticking with “I alone can fix it.” The problem, of course, is that “it” was largely caused by him. This is the old “Break everything and claim credit for repairing what you broke” gambit. The big hurdle for Trump is that he’s never figured out the “repair” part of the equation.
I thought of listing all the reasons why what Trump said was contrary to reality. But then I realized it doesn't deserve debate, because that gives it validation. In the end, I think it stands on its own as a fine example of dark mania by a malignant narcissist. And a really weird campaign video.
Thank you very much.
Last Week Tonight Last Night
If you didn't see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, his Main Story was on TANFs, which stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The report covers how this program has been misused, and lifeline payouts by some states that should go to people for whom the TANFs were intended are being used for others, leaving those in need without resources. It's thoughtful, detailed, very interested -- and full of humor.
The latest effort by Republicans is to try to blame the Silicon Valley Bank failure on the Biden Administration. My two favorite efforts were by the adorable Donald Trump Jr., and by James Comer (R-KY), chairman of the House “Oversight” Committee. (Yes, this is the committee for which all 26 Republicans refused to denounce white supremacy.)
Anyway, Don Jr. wrote that “I don’t remember banks collapsing under Trump…” In fairness, I suspect there's a lot Don Jr. doesn't remember during his father’s time in office -- or anytime from the past, for that matter. Cocaine does that to a person. For starters, he's already forgotten 16 bank failures under his dad. And forgotten, too, that his dad removed Dodd-Frank bank protections put in place after the 2008 bank crisis – a lack of regulatory protections that allowed the SVB collapse.
As for Comer, fresh off his “I won’t denounce white supremacy” tour, he slammed the SVB failure by saying, “They were one of the most woke banks.”
Actually, what SVB was -- was an unregulated bank, and that is thanks entirely to Trump and Republicans rolling back those aforementioned banking protections passed during the Obama/Biden Administration. And by the way, to make this all the more fun, one of those voting to repeal the Dodd-Frank protections and a vocal critic of them was, yes Rep. James Comer.
It’s so charming to, to see an elected official almost celebrating a bank failure, especially it not only hurts all the investors, but (with SVB) mostly hurts the business community which Republicans are supposed to adore like a religion. And since it risks other banks failing – which I’d think Republicans are against (though after their refusal to denounce white supremacy, I’m not quite sure what the GOP is for or against these days, other than “The Libs.”)
But I’m also trying to figure out what a “woke bank” is. Honestly, if I had to pick any industry that was a little “woke” as any, it would be banking. I know that SVB did have more of a history investing in start-up companies than many banks (especially being in Silicon Valley), but if that’s what Republicans now consider “woke,” that’s even more anti-business than I’d ever have imagined Republicans to be.
There were other Republicans trying this tactic, as well. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, it’s been out of the GOP Playbook for years – blame your worst characteristic on your opponent.
And this is just one more example of Republicans trying desperately to blame everything on Joe Biden, and in the end, most falls on Trump.
And this, with the Silicon Valley Bank is just too pathetic since it not only centers directly on Trump and the GOP, but does so for repealing protections put in place during Obama/Biden.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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