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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 19,873

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The most divisive thing possible

...would be letting Trump continue to divide Americans unimpeded until November 2020. And unless he is totally discredited by then, Trump will divide Americans even more after November 2020 by refusing to concede that he legitimately lost that election.

Low rating hearings featuring buckets of chicken or witnesses who were most relevant 45 years ago are not enough to impede or discredit this President. A very slow boil of continuing incriminating revelations aired in 5 minute segments on cable TV will not change much in the way of underlying dynamics.

Trump does his most damage when he is free to concentrate on offense.

Supporting someone mostly because you think that's who others will support is inherently risky

I define that as hollow support, and hollow support lends itself to a higher potential for collapse. Firm support is built on a strong conviction that candidate X is absolutely the right person to become President. Firm support is resilient and not easily knocked off balance, and it's certainty and passion helps lead others to ultimately reach a similar conclusion. Supporting someone who one believes others can be persuaded to support is chasing a will o' the wisp. Soft support, essentially by definition, can and often does quickly erode. It melts under fire, it can be punctured by political barbed wire leading it to rapid deflation.

I want to see evidence of who can excite potential followers. I want to know who people believe in and why. I want to see who can win grudging respect from critics, and then turn that grudging respect into outright support. I do not believe that a least common denominator candidate will be our next President.

I am open to believing that any of our first tier candidates, and many of those below that level of current support, can emerge as the person who will rally voters to actively believe in her or his leadership. But I am very wary of arguments which, at this early stage, center on who is most electable rather than on who should be elected.

No, Trump does not "win" if the Senate refises to remove him from office.

Trump wins if the House refuses to indict him. The public expects Republicans to fight tooth and nail to defend Trump as their "Dear Leader". The public expects Democrats to fight tooth and nail to expose Trump as constitutionally unfit for office. The public knows that Republicans rarely blink in a showdown. They are not as sure about Democrats. All if it, impeachment and the subsequent Senate trial, is a prelude to the finals, which will be the Fall 2020 presidential elections. It is all a key part of making the case for whether or not Trump deserves to be returned to office, and indirectly but almost as important it is all a part of demonstrating which political party has the strength needed to lead the United States in a troubled world.

The public assumes Democrats will attack Trump and that Republicans will defend him. What they don't know is the literal evidence against Trump, since Barr did everything in his power to mislead the public about the content of Mueller's report. Since Democrats control the House we can be assured that the strongest possible case for removing Trump from office will be presented, if they so choose, to the American people in the highest public profile forum possible, formal Impeachment hearings. An Impeachment inquest is to a Congressional oversight hearing what the World Series is to a regular season face off between the exact same two teams. The same star pitchers take the mound for each side regardless, but the viewership for a World Series game dwarfs that for a mid season match up. The case against Trump can be made in an impeachment hearing like it can be in no other forum.

And when the trial moves to the Senate the Republicans will be utterly unable to undo the damage done to Trump. All they can do is what their power allows them, which is to refuse to convict. They can refuse to follow the evidence to a natural conclusion, but they can not obscure that evidence any longer once the impeachment hearings have fully unveiled it. And that is the set up to the 2020 elections. Which party defended our constitution, and which party undermined it?

Trump has shown an ability to win by losing because he never shies away from battle or accepts defeat. He just keeps pushing and that to many people's minds makes him a strong leader. He lost the battle with Congress over his Wall, but that did not cost him his image as a fighter. He is pushing for it anyway, doing everything in his perceived power to win regardless of congressional defeat. It would be the same for Democrats if we stood firm in defending the Constitution even if Republicans refused to uphold it. We do not lose if impeachment ultimately fails in the Senate. We then take it to the people in 2020, the fight goes on. Democrats only lose if, despite the evidence and the power that we control, we don't even bring the impeachment fight to the Senate.

I think the alleged conventional wisdom is wrong. I think Dems retake the Senate BY Impeaching Trump

Though Democrats almost certainly would have the votes to Impeach Trump in the House, barring a stunning turn of events (Barr pun not intended) there are not enough Republicans in the Senate willing to face the anger of Trump's core Republican followers to remove Trump from office. That part of conventional wisdom I agree with. Where I differ is on the implications. I think that while most Senate Republicans would be damned if they voted to convict Trump, the ones who occupy Senate seats that Democrats have any chance of winning would be even more damned if they don't. That scenario, I believe, opens up our best real path to retaking the Senate in 2020.

Trump will not become any more popular with his core base than he already is now. They will not become any more riled up to defend his presidency in 2020 than they already are now. Sure Trump will claim that his impeachment is the deep state moving to remove the legitimate president, but Trump already makes that claim without it. He already asserts that there was a coup attempt against him.

Trump's softer support, the 10 to 15% of voters who are willing to consider voting for him without being died in the wool MAGA true believers, are the ones at stake. And right now the Trump/ Barr strategy is working with them. They will neither read the Mueller Report nor pay much attention to what they will regard as " run of the mill" congressional oversight committee meetings on Trump. Barr already programmed their "bottom line conclusions" for them. No charges were brought against the President, and as matters currently stand, no ground to impeach him have formally been asserted by Congress. They are ripe for believing that partisan political calculations drive Democratic demands that the Mueller Report must be "further investigated". Trump can sell them his line that Democrats just want a "do-over" because they are unsatisfied with the Mueller Reports conclusions which found Trump "guilty of nothing."

The clear counter to Trump's political propaganda regarding the Mueller Report is to state that Mueller has already presented Congress with sufficient evidence to warrant an impeachment inquiry now. That is not a do-over, that instead is taking the logical next step based on the evidence already established by Mueller. And THAT will rivet public attention on the evidence found in Mueller's Report, while providing Democrats with the strongest possible constitutional grounds for demanding and making public additional evidence.

Almost all of the political experts agree that the reason why Trump has a real chance of being reelected is because most economic indicators remain strong, and when that is the case an incumbent president tends to be reelected. That helps explain why many among the subset of Trump voters who find him personally unappealing might be willing to vote for him again. That is also why Trump is not polling at his lows now, even though the redacted Mueller Report has already been out for weeks.

We can forget and write off the type of voter who attends a Trump rally, but not all potential Trump voters wear MAGA hats. Blessed with an at least stable economy (inherited from Obama and juiced up with an obscene tax cut for the rich) Trump enters the 2020 election with a strong talking point in his favor since second term attempt elections are usually referendums on the incumbent. What goes against Trump is the discomfort many feel with the way he has governed, with his unpresidential, abusive and divisive style. Democrats need to drive up Trump's unfavorables in order to win in 2020. More Americans need to see him as the repulsive lying and undemocratic grifter that he is. Widely televised and intently watched impeachment hearings can and will do just that.

Then when the ball is tossed to the Republican Senate, let them go on record standing by Trump, and then let that become an election issue in all of the Senate seats that are up in 2020. Outside of the Republican core, which is already in the bag for them, let's see how voters react to the sickly partisan Republican show of unity for a deeply unethical and dangerous to America's institutions President that the impeachment hearings will have fully exposed. Let it be Republicans who are shown playing partisan games with the U.S. Constitution, not poll driven Democrats with wet fingers in the air gauging how upholding the Constitution will or will not work to their electoral advantage.

When Trump is not forced onto Defense, he goes all out on Offense

When Trump is on offense he always dominates the news cycle with his chosen political audience. It doesn't matter what our preferred news outlets are choosing to cover, not if Trump is left free to go unfettered on offense. FOX always covers Trump on offense. Limbaugh always covers Trump on offense. Right wing blogs always cover Trump on Offense and so do Russia's twitter bots, amplifying every lie Trump tweets

Democrats are already busy passing practical legislation in the House that most Americans say they care about.That never dominates the news cycle regardless of where Democrats come down on Impeachment. The bills die in the Senate so they never make news by becoming law. Having been "productive" is something our incumbents can and should use in their local 2020 debates and political ads. It will not be covered by the national media.

The national media focuses on political intrigue and infighting. They will focus either on the "alleged" sins of Democrats, or on the real sins of Trump and his Republican lackeys. It depends on the production values of the show being put on. We here follow the ins and outs of the criminal and unconstitutional acts of Trump and his Administration. We here already know and understand the findings of Mueller's (redacted) Report. None of that is true of most of the American public

As previously seen with prior aspects of reality which for all practical purposes by now should be self evident (Hint: Climate Change), Trump and his cohorts excel at crafting a mirror world reverse narrative that directly contradicts the known facts. He does so by ignoring facts entirely and instead strongly asserting a dramatic story line that dovetails with his chosen world view. Truth can effectively counter lies, but not when it is relegated to insulated insider discussions and carefully crafted polished public statements while the lies are allowed to scream full throated in the virtual public square. Trump routinely does the latter, and he does so fact free from the most powerful platform in the nation if not the world; the American Presidency.

The Mueller investigation, we here know, was never a witch hunt, no "hoax" ever delivered dozens of federal indictments. However that never stops Trump from branding the investigation with his own self serving lies. Far more troubling than Trump's false treatment of the truth though are the malevolent initiatives he hatches to destroy those who do speak the truth. It starts out with purges of those within his Administration who retain some integrity. But the groundwork is being laid within the Justice Department for criminal investigations of Trump's targeted key adversaries.

If Trump is allowed to remain unchecked on offense, his false narrative will spread unchecked Think of the old school information warfare tool we long ago were familiar with; radio jamming. Trump "jams" honest media in America by powerfully broadcasting lies. It is far worse than mere disinformation, it is actively laying the groundwork to brutally take down his enemies. It is lurid, it is flashy, it is trashy and very hard to look away from. And it is done on a grand scale. His media critics become "Enemies of the People". Non partisan experts in the security community working to protect our national security are branded as the nefarious "Deep State". An essential investigation into Russia's attack on American Democracy becomes instead "a Coup to take down the President".

Either Democrats seize the offensive by now (or very soon) by launching a high profile "must see TV" impeachment inquiry into Donald Trumps "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" or Trump will fill the void, that a failure to dramatically move against Trump would leave, with their own dramatic counter narrative inquiry, "exposing" the "Deep State Coup against America's lawfully elected President." Senate Republicans stand by ready to respond with al of the pyrotechnic lies that it will take to dominate media coverage inside of Trump's political universe. Trump will use that playbook regardless of how Democrats tackle Trump's manifest unfitness for office. The only question is whether Democrats will powerfully counter him with the truth, in a forum that the American public can not and will not tune out.

There's a time window for Impeachment. "Tactics" may be germane within it, but that window is short

Those who think Democrats can and should first exhaust all preliminary moves in order to build the strongest possible legal and political case against Trump before moving on to Impeachment are deluding themselves about the shelf live of impeachment if they are not keeping a careful eye on the clock. It is often said Trump is trying to run out the clock by tying up Congressional efforts at oversight of his Administration until after the 2020 elections. But there are also some among elected Democrats who want to muffle the calls for Trump's impeachment long enough so that the electoral clock runs out on that option as well. I do not claim to know whether Nancy Pelosi falls within that latter group.

The impeachment window will not remain open indefinitely while Democrats seek court help in compelling witnesses to appear before House investigative committees. Any strategy that starts with the premise that the public will be better primed for impeachment after watching a number of televised hearings, featuring several key Trump associates being forced to spill the dirt under penalty of perjury, goes bust if those witnesses are not forced to appear in a timely enough manner. The exact same holds true regarding the findings of other ongoing investigations into Trump's behavior taking place on a number of State and Federal fronts. These too could strengthen the case for Trump's impeachment, but that point would become moot once the 2020 presidential campaign is in full swing.

Someone more adept at actual political science and with more familiarity with the Congressional schedule than me can probably nail down the literal impeachment window more precisely, but I figure it closes sometime this Fall if it has not been triggered by then. Impeachment is a formal constitutional process outlined as a remedy when a presidency becomes toxic to our democracy and/or security. It was not foreseen as a partisan political weapon. It will not be deployed during the heat of the most high profile and partisan part of America's political cycle. If impeachment is not already underway months before the first primary votes are cast the book will close on that option.

Some Democrats want the book to closed on the impeachment option, others may be gaming out how many weeks or month we have left to allow the plot thicken before we formally "go there." Those Democrats who believe that impeaching Trump is unwise have sincere reasons for that viewpoint. But I suspect there's some shadow boxing going on. Some who claim to be undecided on impeachment probably are waiting for the optimal time to call for it. Some who claim to be undecided on impeachment probably are waiting on enough calendar pages to turn over so that they can say "it is too close to the election now to proceed" Others are quite literally undecided, but the clock is ticking for all of us.

What pisses you off the most?

All Democrats combined, of every stripe and varying degree of loyalty, do not even make up a plurality of registered voters. We don't "own" the loyalty of third party and Independent voters who outnumber us. With that in mind, here's the poll:

Americans won't credit Democrats in Congress for instead concentrating on issues that matter to them

...if Democrats avoid holding impeachment hearings against Trump. In my mind that is the fallacy behind the logic of avoiding those hearings now. Unless the Senate takes up the legislation that the Democrats pass in the House (which it hasn't so far and is even more unlikely to do as the next elections approach) Democratic legislative efforts in the House get little publicity, and what publicity it does garner quickly gets buried by the latest drama emanating from the White House. House Democrats have already passed significant legislation this year but most of the public fails to realize it, because those bills enter a black hole as soon as they head to the Republican led Senate. Since Democratic legislation stands no chance to pass the Senate there is virtually no daily coverage of what Democrats move through the House now, nor will there be. That doesn't mean those bills don't matter, or that those efforts are meaningless. But Congressional Democrats can't turn the public spotlight away from countering Trump and onto their legislative agenda regardless of how much they may want to.

What they can do is create a legislative record that all of our Congressional candidates can reference during their campaigns for Congress in 2020. The votes they took, the stands they made. But Democrats will need to bring up those accomplishments and those votes themselves in local town hall meetings and during local debates. That record can be built whether or not Democrats impeach Trump. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Regardless, the Democratic House legislative agenda will not become the subject of much national political news in the era of Trump, not with Republicans in control of the Senate. If we could force Trump to veto our bills that would be different, but we can't, since they will never reach him. What will dominate national news are the national presidential campaigns, both those of the Democratic candidates and of Donald Trump. That and every single tweet from the Liar in Chief. Our Presidential candidates have plenty to say on the issues, Democratic policy alternatives to Trump will be aired, they will be debated. The legislation that Democrats pass in the House can and will be referenced in that context, and that holds true whether or not the House moves to impeach Trump. We can legislate AND uphold the Constitution. We should do both.

Trump isn't "Goading." He is Seizing Power.

It may not have been Trump's original intent to convert our democracy into an autocracy, but that's mostly because, when he first took office, Trump hadn't yet realized that an autocracy was potentially within his reach. Now that he's crashed through a series of political guard rails though, he realizes it's the established order that has taken the brunt of the resulting damage, not he. And that emboldens him. Trump idolizes the autocrats of the world, even those who he is not personally beholden to. Now Trump has set upon a path to join them in unfettered rule. He is not taunting his opponents. He is not baiting them. To the full extent possible Trump is sweeping them aside.

Trump escalates intimidation and confrontation faster than our systems are designed to react to. He is always on full offense. What does a force on offense do? It seizes ground and continues to push forward before opposition has time to regroup. Before there is even time to say "He can't do that" he's already done it. And Trump is still gathering speed. Whenever he senses weakness he pushes harder. And in Trump's mind efforts to counter him with calls to honor precedents, shows of slow paced incremental resistance, and/or attempts at “good faith negotiations”, are all signs of weakness.

The pattern is clear and ominous. Trump won the Republican Party nomination for President through intimidation, his willingness to defy conventions, and the complacency of his foes. It took the established Republican Party too long in 2016 to take seriously what they were up against in Trump. At first he was seen merely as a buffoon, and then just as a fringe candidate with a strong hold on a small sliver of the electorate. Virtually no leading Republican in the early stages was willing to place themselves in the cross hairs of Trump's withering attacks by directly taking him on because the accepted political calculus did not support that. Why risk Trump's frontal attacks and the anger of his supporters if he was going to self destruct anyway? Wait him out was the conventional wisdom, don't risk alienating his voters now when we will need them later. When a Jeb Bush or a Mark Rubio belatedly realized that they could no longer ignore Trump's tactics and his ridicule it was too late for them, he had already branded them as weak. When the Republican Party realized it was being taken over by Trump it was too late for them, he had already stolen their base. Then he co-opted their apparatus, and once that was achieved he moved against those who were not sufficiently loyal to him all along. Game over. Trump seized the Republican Party.

The same happened with an extraordinarily high percentage of his early appointments to his Administration after Trump was in office. There were enough high ranking officials named to it with suitably independent credentials to provide a veneer of normalcy and continuity. Then, one by one, Trump picked them off, and replaced them with loyalists to his personal agenda. Washington became numb to the revolving door of Trump appointees, and so did the public. But the ranks of career public servants was decimated. The State Department was neutered quickly. Defense is going a little slower but it is headed in the same direction. The National Security Council is now essentially occupied. The Justice Department takeover is now virtually complete. There's been a wholesale housecleaning of the top echelons of the FBI. The Intelligence agencies by now are battered. The reputations of those who work in them as American patriots have all taken a hit, replaced by suspicions that they are actually secret agents of a deep state conspiratorial attempted coup against the President.

The thin line that upholds our democratic traditions by now is paper thin. One more top replacement at the FBI, one more top replacement at the CIA, and at the NIA, and those agencies also will be brought under Trump's full control. What is one more Administration turnover no matter how important the role? We've seen so many already. Politically appointed non Senate confirmed acting heads of agencies is now “normalized”, it hardly seems unusual. There will never be a Saturday Night Massacre, the massacre is constant and ongoing. We hardly notice the vacancies as they occur. Our heads are kept spinning so we can barely focus on any one appointee, any one event, any one new outrage.

Trump seized control of the Republican Party, (and the conservative and evangelical movements also while he was at it – but that is another tangent to explore), and now that Party swears allegiance to him. He is rapidly seizing control at all levels of the Executive branch of government, and consolidating his hold on it, cowing opposition from those ranks. In Congress the House Republicans are virtually all his minions now. McCain is gone in the Senate, as is Flake, as is Corker. Graham is the victim of a body snatcher. Now Senate Republicans are turning against Burr for his disloyalty to family Trump. There's been a wholesale housecleaning of the top echelons of the FBI. When Trump decides it's time to invent a pretense to move against Christopher Wray, his personally installed but insufficiently subservient head of the FBI, what Republican Senators will show more loyalty to him than they did to Jeff Sessions? How long will even the courts remain independent, when hand picked Trump loyalists are being confirmed to all levels of the judiciary at a record breaking pace?

Trump stands before members of the American military and expects them to cheer him on personally rather than hold the Office of President in respect. He stands before law enforcement officers accusing Democrats of favoring crime, and states he will always have their back if anyone questions any of their their actions or the motives behind them. His attacks on the free press are incendiary and continue to escalate. And now, for the final scene of act one of America becomes an autocracy, Trump is defying the authority and legitimacy of the one institution remaining that still stands resolutely firm against Trump's further consolidation of power, the House of Representatives in Congress.

Time is not on Democrats side. They can no more afford to delay a frontal conflict with Donald Trump's continuing assault than could Ted Cruz before them during the Republican primaries, when he chose to save his powder to use against Trump after Trump had taken out his other opponents, when the political calculus for such a move supposedly would turn more in Cruz's favor. It simply doesn't work that way with Trump. Delay is weakness in his world. Time is on his side as the public becomes numb to his ongoing assaults on the pillars of our Democracy. Trump is not goading Democrats, he is blocking their avenues of power in the process of disarming them.

Sorry, but impeaching Barr looks weak and IS weak. It's Trump who must be impeached

Trump appointed Barr. Trump directs Barr. Trump ordered his entire Administration to obstruct Congress. That's without even touching on the content of the Mueller Report, or Trump's unindicted co-conspirator status as "Individual One" in the Justice Department's New York Southern District. The same Republican Senate will refuse to remove Barr from office that almost certainly would refuse to remove Trump from office. But the case against Trump is far more grave and ultimately more compelling that that against his newly appointed lackey Attorney General.

Moving against Barr just signals a fear to move against Trump. That is what it would look like and in fact that is what it would be. Republicans would jump all over it. For one thing they will say it was a clear admission that it proves the evidence simply does not exist to impeach Trump, and that Democrats were looking for a consolation prize scalp instead.

Republicans, and Trump himself, will become increasingly brazen in defying Congressional oversight in the House. But no court in the land will deny Democrats the ability to subpoena the testimony and documents needed to conduct an impeachment trial in the House. That offers us our strongest constitutional grounds. If we fail to use it Republicans will have a field day and make Democrats the primary targets of investigations instead.
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