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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,641

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Here Comes the Trump Slump

When he isn’t raving about how the deep state is conspiring against him, Donald Trump loves to boast about the economy, claiming to have achieved unprecedented things. As it happens, none of his claims are true. While both G.D.P. and employment have registered solid growth, the Trump economy simply seems to have continued a long expansion that began under Barack Obama. In fact, someone who looked only at the past 10 years of data would never guess that an election had taken place.

But now it’s starting to look as if Trump really will achieve something unique: He may well be the first president of modern times to preside over a slump that can be directly attributed to his own policies, rather than bad luck.

There has always been a deep unfairness about the relationship between economics and politics: Presidents get both credit and blame for events that usually have little to do with their actions. Jimmy Carter didn’t cause the stagflation that put Ronald Reagan in the White House; George H.W. Bush didn’t cause the economic weakness that elected Bill Clinton; even George W. Bush bears at most tangential responsibility for the 2008 financial crisis.

More recently, the “mini-recession” of 2015-16, a slump in manufacturing that may have tipped the scale to Trump, was caused mainly by a plunge in energy prices rather than any of Barack Obama’s policies.


Trump, the Self-Impeaching President

Federal law expressly states that it is illegal for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive” anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a United States election.

Yet there stood President Trump outside the White House on Thursday, openly soliciting help from a foreign government for his re-election prospects by declaring to the assembled press that “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” This, of course, after Mr. Trump has already become subject to an impeachment inquiry after implicating himself in a scheme to seek foreign help for his campaign in a conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This might seem self-defeating — “self-impeaching,” even. A United States president urging a foreign government to investigate his political rival would seem to be flagrantly violating the law, along with American notions of fair play and decency.

But this president is a master at what Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called defining deviancy down. One baldfaced presidential lie, once exposed, is an outrage; a thousand such lies is a statistic.


Trump's Assault on the State Department Must Be Stopped

One of the first casualties of President Trump’s murky dealings with Ukraine has been the United States Foreign Service, the group of nonpartisan career professionals who serve as America’s primary point of contact with the world beyond our borders. While the House impeachment inquiry has rightly become a top priority, Congress must also act to repair the substantial damage Mr. Trump has caused to the effectiveness and morale of our diplomats and other State Department employees.

Mr. Trump’s disdain for career diplomats was on display in his now infamous July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, during which he disparaged a highly respected Foreign Service officer, Marie Yovanovitch, as “bad news.” Ms. Yovanovitch was Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Ukraine until he recalled her in May. Her firing sent shock waves through the ranks at the State Department.

Mr. Trump has never explained why he fired Ms. Yovanovitch. He sidelined her and other career diplomats and permitted a private citizen, Rudy Giuliani, to hijack the administration’s interactions with the new Ukrainian government. The House of Representatives should investigate.

Last week Mr. Trump attempted again to intimidate the diplomatic corps, telling American diplomats at the United States Mission to the United Nations that whoever in the administration gave information to the anonymous whistle-blower was “close to a spy.” Mr. Trump’s statement was at odds with the obligation of every federal employee to tell the truth and adhere to the law.


Donald Is Desperate

On Wednesday I watched Donald Trump in the Oval Office, while seated next to the Finnish president, take questions from reporters in what can only be described as the unhinged rantings of a desperate man melting down, spiraling out of control and lashing out.

Over the last few years, and particularly since the Robert Mueller investigation concluded, I have grown accustomed to Trump delivering his insults, launching his attacks and spewing his lies with a swaggering smugness.

This was not that. What was on display Wednesday was anger animated by panicked fear.

And at another news conference with the Finnish president, Trump repeated his stupefying performance, rambling and raving, dodging questions and misdirecting attention. And, of course, lying.


Trump Has Disqualified Himself From Running in 2020

“I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020,” Beto O’Rourke said in March, neatly expressing prevailing Democratic opinion on the question of impeaching President Trump, “and perhaps that’s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.”

This is no longer a tenable position. The president’s bungled bid to coerce Ukraine’s leader into helping the Trump 2020 re-election campaign smear a rival struck “decide it at the ballot box” off the menu of reasonable opinion forever. Mr. Trump’s brazen attempt to cheat his way into a second term stands so scandalously exposed that there can be no assurance of a fair election if he’s allowed to stay in office. Resolving the question of the president’s fitness at the ballot box isn’t really an option, much less the best option, when the question boils down to whether the ballot box will be stuffed.

Impeachment is therefore imperative, not only to protect the integrity of next year’s elections but to secure America’s continued democratic existence. If the House does its job, it will fall to Senate Republicans to reveal, in their decision to convict (or not), their preferred flavor of republic: constitutional or banana.

Mike Murphy, a Republican election consultant, recently remarked that “one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.” Everyone understands that Mr. Trump is wildly popular with conservative voters, and that Senate Republicans would rather not invite primary challengers by alienating them. But when the legitimacy and preservation of our democracy are at stake, striving to keep a Senate seat safe through craven betrayal of the American people could come at a catastrophic price to the country.


Republicans, You're Not Helping Trump

What a difference Ukraine makes.

For months, Republicans gloated as Democrats agonized and squabbled over the question of impeaching President Trump. Should they? Dare they? Did the congressional investigations already taking place qualify as an impeachment inquiry? Grappling with a decision so monumental, and politically risky, the Democratic Party threatened to tear itself apart.

Then came last week’s announcement by Speaker Nancy Pelosi that a formal impeachment investigation was moving forward in the House. Faster than you can say “whistle-blower,” the dynamic flipped. Democrats united behind the message that Mr. Trump, in soliciting a foreign government’s help to undermine one of his domestic political rivals, had left them no choice but to pursue such an inquiry. Republicans struggled to respond, with some of their arguments more creative — and coherent — than others. Among their efforts:

Senator Lindsey Graham opted for a hard brushback: “To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane,” he told CNN last Wednesday, referring to the July 25 conversation between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. “There is no there there,” he insisted on Fox News hours later, warning that “if this is an impeachable offense — this phone call — God help the next person to be president of the United States.”


If Trump Goes Down, He's Taking Everyone With Him

I was based in Washington and reported from Capitol Hill during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, which was the last time the country entered waters like these. It was ugly, and Democrats and Republicans traded vicious words.

But Clinton never publicly accused his detractors of treason or floated the idea that one of them be arrested on those grounds, as Donald Trump just did with Adam Schiff.

Clinton and his defenders raised the specter of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” to use Hillary Clinton’s infamous phrase, thus asserting that he was being persecuted for his politics, not punished for his misdeeds.

But they didn’t insist, as Trump and his defenders routinely do, that a vital part of the federal government was an evil cabal intent on undermining our democratic processes, which is Trump’s self-serving characterization of the intelligence community. Their central strategy wasn’t to ignite a full-blown crisis of confidence in the institutions of government. They weren’t serving dire notice, as Trump essentially is, that if the president goes down, he’s taking everyone and everything else with him.


Leaving California: Half of State's Voters Have Been Considering This

Half of the state’s registered voters admit to having given serious (24%) or some (28%) consideration recently to leaving California.

Only modest differences are seen across most major regional or demographic subgroups of the state. However, there are significant partisan and ideological differences when examining the opinions of voters giving serious consideration to moving out of state, as three times as Republicans and conservatives as Democrats and liberals report this.

The high cost of housing (71%) is the most common reason given by voters for wanting to leave California. However, high taxes (58%) and the state’s political culture (46%) are also prominently mentioned, particularly by Republicans and conservatives.

Another question in the poll updated a 50-year time series asking Californians how they would describe the state as a place to live.The results of the latest poll are somewhat more upbeat than recent past measures. Half the of state’s registered voters(50%) now describe California as “one of the best places” to live, up from 43% who felt this way in 2013, the last time this question was posed. However, here too, partisanship and political ideology play a prominent role, with Democrats and liberals nearly three times as likely as Republicans and conservatives to describe California as one of the best places to live.


Trump's Claims About Biden Aren't 'Unsupported.' They're Lies.

On Sept. 24, 2015, Geoffrey Pyatt, then the American ambassador to Ukraine, spoke in Odessa about the scourge of corruption. It was about a year and a half after what is sometimes called the Revolution of Dignity, when Ukrainians overthrew the kleptocratic, Russian-aligned regime of Viktor Yanukovych. The country was trying to move in a more liberal, European direction. Corruption, said Pyatt, threatened to hold the new Ukraine back.

Pyatt called out the office of Viktor Shokin, then the prosecutor general of Ukraine. “Corrupt actors within the prosecutor general’s office are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform,” he said. Pyatt specifically lambasted Shokin’s office for subverting a British case against a man named Mykola Zlochevsky, Yanukovych’s former ecology minister.

In 2014, as part of a money-laundering investigation, British authorities froze $23 million Zlochevsky had in London. They requested supporting documentation from Shokin’s office. Instead, it intervened on Zlochevsky’s behalf. “As a result the money was freed by the U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus,” said Pyatt.

“Shokin was seen as a single point of failure clogging up the system and blocking corruption cases,” a former official in Barack Obama’s administration told me. Vice President Joe Biden eventually took the lead in calling for Shokin’s ouster.


James Madison warned us that Trump is dangerously un-American

James Madison warned us that somebody as reckless as Donald Trump might come along.

Twice in recent days, Trump has called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to be hauled in for treason, which is punishable by death. Schiff’s crime? At a hearing last week, the Intelligence Committee chairman read a parody of Trump’s now-infamous telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The humor, unsurprisingly, was lost on someone with an exaggerated sense of victimhood and an ego made of eggshells. Trump rage-tweeted Sunday that Schiff’s “lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason..... .” On Monday morning, Trump upped that outrageous demand by suggesting that Schiff actually be arrested for treason.

It has become so easy to dismiss such comments as hyperbole and bluster — just Trump being Trump — that we risk losing sight of how dangerous, how fundamentally un-American they are.

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