Monday, July 1, 2019

To Impeach or Not to Impeach

Both modern 20th century presidential impeachments, Bill Clinton’s and Richard Nixon’s, one enacted, the other nipped in the bud by resignation, happened in each of the president’s second term. This is not a small matter. The problem with the Trump impeachment quandary is that this push for impeachment comes on the heels of his election, midway in his first term, thereby thwarting the recently expressed will of the people (or the will of the electoral college.)

This fact, though given short shrift most everywhere, including by Leader Pelosi, provides some lame substance to the president and his supporters' rhetoric of the Democrats wanting to stage a coup, to seek revenge for an election they should have won, etc. Though, for complicated reasons, the second term presidents, Clinton and Nixon, didn’t seem to be newly elevated figures ripe for political defenestration. Nixon, one needs to recall, had actually won his second term by a landslide, an electoral college one, in any case. Clinton, too, had won comfortably. But after serving five years or so both presidents had acquired a shop-worn aspect. Their failings had accumulated and their occupation of the White House had reached a tipping point.

Trump presents different, but not entirely foreign, similarities. One curious, but often overlooked aspect of Bill Clinton’s initial election, was how revealed his life had become. His campaign was shot through with publicized scandals, like Trump, mostly involving women and Bubba's randy ways. Indeed, Trump continues to get a pass on his abuse of women because of Bill Clinton's legacy. And there was, in addition, his avoidance, like Trump, of the Vietnam era draft. Before Clinton won his presidency, and shortly after, there had been many attack books published about him, more, by my count, than any previous contemporary president. In Nixon’s case, his long checkered career had already exposed him to the voters as a flawed vessel, and most of his faults would become more extreme after he was elected the second time. Nixon, as he once claimed, had been kicked around.

Ditto Trump. He likes to brag about how “transparent” he is and in any number of ways that is true. It is unavoidable, like Clinton and Nixon, for voters who were paying attention, to claim that these men were pigs in a poke. Trump looked impeachable before he was elected. And, for so-called low information voters, testy swing voters, those who want to throw the bums out, none of it seemed to matter.

The 2018 election was in its way an impeachment of Donald Trump. The Republicans forfeited congressional seats that surprised even them. The breakdown of voters by sex and race showed which voters Trump lost, or, finally, had second thoughts about who they may or may not have voted for in 2016. Buyer’s remorse was at work.

The shock was that the election didn’t seem to matter. Democrats won the House, but it was quickly made clear that the victory was gelded. With all the current worries about the Imperial Presidency it became obvious that the Senate held the most power, especially when Trump managed to finally find a sycophant Attorney General who actually had a demonstrable intelligence. William Barr, corralling the Department of Justice to be an adjunct of the White House and, coupled with the Senate’s undying allegiance maintained by the oily swamp-creature Mitch McConnell, lets Trump sit atop a formidable fortress.

But the Democrat-controlled House continues to fire spit balls at the Trump castle. Who actually thinks that if the House began impeachment proceedings its enhanced legal powers wouldn’t be similarly rebuffed and laughed at by Barr and McConnell, mucking up and delaying the process? All the House has is the power of the purse, which it doesn’t choose to use. Note the collapse on the Border bill. The representatives still want to spend money.

But, as voters did in 2018, let the people speak. Voting Trump out of office is the only way impeachment and the necessary conviction can occur. Power to the People, as the 60's slogan goes.

Monday, February 11, 2019

What's the Matter with Virginia?

Winning a Trifecta is rare, as any bettor could tell you. Having the top three Virginia politicians mired in scandal, all of whom happen to be Democrats, is quite a statistical coup. The final dispositions of the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the state’s attorney general are still very much up in the air and it would take another leap of high coincidence to believe all three of them will eventually resign.

Gov. Ralph Northam, the first offender, has thus far made a botch of most everything. Part of his charm, allegedly, is that he’s not a “polished” politician. Oh, you don’t say? He’s proved that. The man in the middle, the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, has another problem, unrelated to the blackface applications of the other two, since he himself is Black. His alleged offense is sexual assault. (This trio makes up a perverse Oreo cookie; the sweet white innards is the public's usual prurience regarding such subjects.) A woman charged forced oral sex on Fairfax's part. One problem with such a charge is that reading the description of the alleged event hardly cheers anyone up and most readers would rather peruse transcripts of state agricultural or waste management committees. On the heels of that, another woman has surfaced, claiming rape, spelling doom for Fairfax, a lot of people assume.

Be that as it may, these stories all have remained, for the most part, on the surface of the public’s consciousness. In the Age of Trump, it is a familiar surface. But we have learned a lot of minstrel show history. When I looked at the offending yearbook photos of Gov. Northam, I was struck by any number of things. One being, Who is the other fellow, whichever one it is, in the KKK outfit and will we ever know his name? Though the governor currently contends that he isn’t even in this particular photo, which somehow ended up on his yearbook page. Given the ongoing coverage we have also been informed that white folk wearing blackface on special occasions was popular throughout the state in the '80s.

I was a bit more interested in Northam's photograph (I presume it’s him) lounging in front of a Corvette, a new one at the time, back in the early '80s, which shares his yearbook page spread. Virginia medical students seemed to have a lot of money, evidently. They certainly appeared carefree, at least about what the future might bring. Mark Herring, the AG, another wanna-be black entertainer, at least had the familiar excuse of being an undergraduate, rather then a medical student, when he showed up in shoe polish.

The ‘80s were the Age of Reagan, when the rich really began to separate themselves from the poor (the wage gap, particularly), and the wealthy began to swan around the big cities, recovering somewhat from the ‘70s, when they kept their display of wealth a bit more circumspect. Again, unless you lived through the ‘80s, it’s hard to exaggerate the extent of so-called White Male Privilege afoot. Second Wave Feminism was in its adolescence in the early 1980s.

Now, we have Billionaires flaunting themselves as political saviors. Why, we even have a supposed Billionaire as our current President, though one reason given for Trump’s not-seen-taxes is that they would reveal the fact he is a mere Millionaire, not Billionaire.

But, Howard Schultz, the coffee maven, possible presidential candidate, wants to be called a man of means, avoiding a label that somehow doesn’t have the same appealing ring it once might have had. It is yet another coincidence just how similar Schultz, the Starbucks man, is to the McDonald’s man, Ray Kroc,. They both sold supplies to small shops -- in Kroc’s case, mixers and the like to hamburger joints, and, in Schultz’s case, equipment to coffee sellers. Both went out to visit the shops that bought so much of their wares and, in both cases, they had the insight to take them over and multiply them. Schultz and Kroc, their enterprises' success roughly two decades apart, differed on clientele: Coffee shops needed to look more high-end, appealing to a slightly more educated class in the 1980s. Chic, rather than family friendly. Starbucks, hinting of the sea and Moby Dick; Big Macs, in the 1960s, hinting of weight gain.

Schultz now wants his very ordinary intelligence employed to run the country. Or, at least, hand it back to Trump, a different sort of huckster entirely than the Coffee Boy, which is likely what Trump would dub him. Both Schultz and Kroc had the right idea at the right time. Many have had the right idea at the wrong time.

But, the Schultz/Kroc coincidences still pale when compared to the current Trifecta of follies in Virginia. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.