A Tale of Republican Heroes and Today’s GOP

Once upon a dark time, three Republican men took the oath of office and served in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon.  They were Elliot Richardson, William Ruckelshaus and Robert Bork.  Respectively, they were the U.S. Attorney General, the deputy Attorney General and the Solicitor General.  One fateful Saturday night in October 1973, each faced a choice, honor their oath to protect and defend the Constitution or renege.  Two chose the high road; one decided that executive authority took precedence.

Richardson was a New England blueblood and a lifelong Republican; his father was a physician and a professor at Harvard Medical School.  He attended Harvard and graduated in 1941.  But his further education was interrupted by the war in Europe where he served in the U.S. Army infantry.  His unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy during the D-day invasion and in subsequent operations in France he was a awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

After the war, Richardson returned to Harvard and received a law degree in 1947.  He served as a law clerk to both U.S. circuit court and Supreme Court justices and was in private practice at prestigious law firms.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Richardson as a legislative assistant in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1957.  He would later serve as secretary of that department, Secretary of Defense, undersecretary of State and Attorney General, all under Nixon between 1969 and 1973.

William D. Ruckelshaus was born in Indianapolis, Indiana to a long line of prominent lawyers and active Republicans.  After graduating high school, he inexplicitly served two years in the U.S. Army as a drill sergeant.  Then Ruckelshaus took his undergraduate degree at Princeton, graduated from Harvard Law School and joined the family law firm in 1957.

Later he served in various politically appointed positions in the Indiana government, including counsel to the Indiana Stream Pollution Control Board.  Ruckelshaus also helped draft the 1961 Indiana Air Pollution Control Act and made a losing bid for the U.S. Senate in 1968.

No doubt due to his connections in the GOP, Nixon appointed Ruckelshaus as an assistant U.S. attorney general in 1969.  Then Nixon tapped him as the first administrator of the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency in early 1970.  Ruckelshaus left EPA in April 1973 to serve as acting FBI director during the Watergate investigation and then briefly as deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.

Robert H. Bork was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a middleclass family.   His father was a purchasing agent for a steel company and his mother was a school teacher.  He graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key with his J.D. degree in 1953.  Obviously, he was a brilliant lawyer.

After a stint with the Kirkland and Ellis law firm, Bork was hired as a professor at the Yale Law School.  There he formed his belief in “originalism,” a theory embraced by today’s conservative justices.   Originalism calls for judges to adhere to the “original intent” of the framers when interpreting the U.S. Constitution.  Bork was also known for supporting corporate conglomerates and opposing civil rights legislation.

Bork was appointed Solicitor General of the United States by Nixon in June 1973 at the height of the Watergate investigations.

So it was that these three men had their “rendezvous with destiny” on October 20, 1973.  That evening, Nixon made a desperate decision to fire the man who was investigating the Watergate scandal, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.  What followed came to be called the “Saturday night massacre.”

When asked to fire Cox, Richardson resigned effective immediately.  Deputy Ruckelshaus also refused to dismiss Cox and immediately resigned.  When Nixon asked third-in-line Bork to fire Cox, it’s reported that he too considered resigning.   But in the end, he complied.

Unfortunately for Nixon, this drama was all for naught.  He was forced to appoint a replacement for Cox; the Supreme Court required him to produce the damning White House tapes; and after learning his support in Congress had eroded from Republican leaders, including Sen. Barry Goldwater, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.

Why bring up this decades-old affair?  Well, Mr. Ruckelshaus just died in November; it highlights how the GOP has changed since 1974; and another Republican president is facing impeachment.

I believe President Trump’s affronts to the Constitution are actually worse than Nixon’s.  Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report details numerous attempts Trump made to obstruct justice and halt the Russia investigation.  And Trump’s scheme of withholding critical military aid to coerce Ukraine’s President to announce an investigation of a political opponent is as much a crime as the Watergate burglary, which attempted to collect intelligence on a political opponent.

Yet, if you searched the GOP from bottom to top and from state to federal, I doubt if you would find many Republican officials that compare to ethical heroes Richardson and Ruckelshaus, or even to conservative Goldwater.  Today, the party is chockablock with the likes of ultra-conservative Bork who will yield to executive authority and violate their oath of office.

That’s why today’s Republicans won’t think of suggesting that Trump resign and why this president will not be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate no matter what crimes he commits.

Sadly, the GOP of the Nixon era no longer exists.  But we desperately need it back.

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Things You Need to Know for Thanksgiving Dinner

Unless last year’s conversation over turkey and dressing caused an irreparable breach with your relatives that love President Trump, it’s time to get prepared for this year’s feast.  I know; you say it’s a waste of time because they simply won’t listen to facts.  Granted!  But in case they want to press some false narratives, it’s best to be prepared.

One ground rule you should attempt to establish early on is that the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have no relevance.  Neither does anything said or done by former secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  They are in the rear-view mirror, have no power and weren’t involved in government during the past three years.  This will be a tough sell because conservatives always want to go back and relitigate the past.  “Whataboutism” is their main defense to criticism of Trump.  Disarm them of this deflection tactic and they become like participants in the reality TV show, “Naked and Afraid.”

Always be adamant about what has been a fact for decades; Russia is not our friend.  This shouldn’t be a contentious point; conservatives have railed against Russia since forever.  During the 2012 presidential campaign, candidate Mitt Romney claimed Russia was our most dangerous geopolitical threat.  It was one of his positions that in retrospect was spot on.  If there’s pushback on Russia, press for facts on why Trump should be more friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin than our allies.   Could it be that Putin knows something about Trump that we don’t?

If they respond that the “Russia hoax” conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared the president with “no collusion and no obstruction,” ask if they have read Mueller’s report.  Whether they answer yes or no – yes is probably not truthful – refer to the letter signed by over 1,000 bipartisan former federal prosecutors which opines that if Trump were not the president, he would be indicted for obstruction of justice based on Mueller’s findings.  Quickly follow with:  And these are both Republicans and Democrats, in case they don’t understand “bipartisan.”

Be prepared for a rapid segue to the economy; it’s Trump’s favorite ploy.  True, the stock markets are at all-time highs but remind them that the gross domestic product (GDP) is the economy and growth there is slowing.   Point out that Republicans promised that the December 2017 tax cut would pay for itself and the economy would grow at 3 percent or more.  Instead, the federal deficits are skyrocketing and the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates three times recently, all to hold off a recession.  Numerous reports indicate that businesses have mainly bought back stock with their tax cut largess, which helped elevate the stock markets.

Yes, unemployment is low, but Trump took office when it was around 4 percent.  His job creation numbers simply follow the trend at the beginning of 2017.  And the president’s tariffs on China and our allies are threatening to cause all of the positive numbers to lose altitude, including those on employment, the stock market and economic growth.

Sooner or later, the impeachment inquiry will come up.  You know, how the Democrats are trying to erase the 2016 election results they didn’t like.  Ask if it’s okay for the president to withhold military aid to Ukraine to get dirt on a political opponent.  In case they claim “no quid pro quo,” respond that EU ambassador Gordon Sondland and others clearly testified there was.  Even the president’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, Tim Morrison – a witness called by Republicans on the Intelligence Committee – confirmed this.  And remind your conservative relatives that Trump has stonewalled every attempt by the Committee to get documents and testimony from witnesses who were involved with the aid hold up.  Is he afraid they’ll reveal the truth?  Heh-heh-heh!

If you haven’t been assaulted with a turkey leg or a spoon full of mash potatoes and gravy isn’t dripping off your face, consider going on offense:  Just why does Trump love Vladimir Putin so much?  While they are groping for a way to deflect this broadside add: Trump refuses to accept that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, contradicting his own intelligence community and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee report.  He criticizes NATO, the main defense against Putin’s territorial expansion plans.  He abandoned the Kurds in Northern Syria and Putin took over.  Now he has weakened Ukraine as it battles Putin-instigated aggression on its Eastern border.  And when did anti-Russia Republicans learn to love Putin too?

If you have them off balance, don’t let up.  Where are we with North Korea, huh?   Kim Jong-un is firing off missiles toward Japan and Trump is begging for another photo-op with him.  Last I saw, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro – who Trump strongly opposed and Russia supported – is still firmly in power, another win for Putin v. Trump.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump rejected on his first day in office was signed by the 11 other countries involved and goes on without us.  Analysis of Trump’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) indicates it didn’t change much.  And Trump’s tariffs aren’t accomplishing anything except taxing American consumers.

By now, if a full-scale food fight is not in progress, it might be best to call for dessert.  That may be the only thing on which everyone can agree.  😊

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Which Way to a Banana Republic

Not long after the 2016 election, I emailed a conservative friend to express my fear that President Trump would seriously weaken democracy in our republic.  He responded that he feared for democracy too, but for a different reason.  He was concerned that Democrats would impeach Trump and the United States would become just like a banana republic.  At the time both houses of Congress were controlled by the GOP, so I assumed he was parroting something he heard on Fox News.

Well, my worst fears have now been confirmed.  Trump has continuously claimed that the media is the enemy of the people, that political opponents should be jailed, that white supremacists have “some very fine people” on their side and that immigrants are subhuman.

During a May 2017 love-in with Russian officials in the Oval Office, Trump announced “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. [James Comey]  He was crazy, a real nut job.”  He added “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”  Later, he admitted to NBC’s Lester Holt on national television that his reason for firing Comey was “this Russian thing [investigation].”

Republicans, including my aforementioned friend, blame Democrats for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation even though it was initiated by Trump appointee Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein because Comey was fired.  Although Mueller didn’t find evidence that Trump colluded with Russia during the lead up to the 2016 election, his report detailed 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice committed by Trump.  Over 1,000 bipartisan former prosecutors signed a letter stating that if Trump were not president he would be indicted for these crimes.

When Mueller’s testimony before congressional committees on July 24 fizzled, Trump apparently figured he was freed from the Russia investigation constraints.  The very next day he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he asked for a “favor.”  Initially, Trump wanted information about cyber-security firm CrowdStrike and “the server.”  Although, it is doubtful Mr. Zelensky had any idea what Trump was talking about, this company is implicated in a debunked conspiracy theory as having taken the computer server from the Democratic National Committee headquarters to Ukraine.

Later in the call Trump focused on investigations of his political opponent, former VP Joe Biden.  Although Republicans defend the president by claiming he was generally discussing “corruption,” that word does not appear in the transcript released by the White House.  Joe Biden is mention twice, however, and Hunter Biden is referred to once as “Biden’s son.”

The president implied, without evidence, that Joe Biden had “shutdown” a “very good prosecutor” from investigating his son, adding “and a lot of people want to find out about that.”   Supposedly, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani were to contact Mr. Zelensky about CrowdStrike and the Biden’s.

Barr now claims no knowledge of why he was mentioned in this call and denies he was involved in Trump’s scheme.  Soliciting foreign help in a U.S. political campaign is illegal and Democrats are calling it bribery.  So, Giuliani is up to his ears in what appears to be a criminal conspiracy that may also include EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and others.  Sondland is already under the threat of a perjury charge, so his testimony next week will probably be scrupulously truthful and could implicate the president in a crime.  But for the whistle blower, we may never have known about all of this.

It’s all rather simple though, isn’t it?  Russia has been continuously attacking Ukraine for over five years.  This nation desperately needs U.S. military and political support to counter Russian aggression.  Trump wanted Mr. Zelensky to get dirt on a political opponent and give credence to a conspiracy theory that would clear Russia of election meddling.  So, he planned to withhold almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine until Zelensky complied.  In fact, Trump jeopardized the lives of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers to advance his personal political interests. At best, this was an abuse of power; at worst it was a diabolical plot to benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Incredibly, Republicans are blaming the whistle blower instead of focusing on the national security threat that Trump was perpetrating.

I have not favored impeaching the president, even though Mueller’s report specified a number of attempts by Trump to obstruct justice.  AG Barr’s preemptive letter exculpating Trump on these charges caused public confusion.  It is clear now, however, that Trump was not chastened by the near miss of the Russia investigation; rather, he was emboldened by it.  Consequently, I agree that House Democrats had no alternative but to commence impeachment proceedings.

So yes, my worst fears about Trump have come true and so has the impeachment that concerned my friend.  It’s unlikely that Trump will be convicted in the GOP-controlled Senate.  Like the congregation of cult leader Jim Jones, Republicans have chosen to follow Trump and “drink the Kool Aid.”

If, however, the president is removed from office, I believe the nation will heal in time and the rule of law will be reaffirmed.  But the consequences will differ if Trump escapes impeachment unscathed and gets four more years to continue his authoritarian ways:  Crimes by his associates will be pardoned, political opponents will be persecuted and the United States will truly become just like the banana republic my conservative friend feared.

 

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GOP Struggle to Survive Weakens Our Republic

It may not seem that way, but the Republican Party is like a drowning man fighting for his life.  It doesn’t matter that President Trump isn’t a conservative or that he ignores the Constitution; he owns the GOP now.  I don’t think Republican politicians care if he colluded with Russians; they cling to him like a life preserver because they believe he’s their last hope to avoid sinking into oblivion.  Even if Trump groped one of their wives – which may have already happened – they would probably find an excuse for it.

What’s this all about you ask?

Well, think about it.  Republicans have only one, maybe two, major economic policies:  Cut taxes and slash government regulations, neither of which have been particularly helpful to the middleclass.  GOP opposition to immigration, gun control, abortion and climate change initiatives doesn’t resonate with the majority of American voters.  Neither do tax cuts for the wealthy that exacerbate the growing inequality.  The Party’s older, rural, white Christian base is shrinking, while it struggles to connect with a younger, more diverse demographic that steadily grows.

Like an old herd bull, it is battling viciously to maintain relevance against a strong, millennial challenge.  Republican-controlled legislatures radically gerrymander congressional districts, suppress minority voters with strict voter ID laws and conduct racially targeted purges of voter rolls.  To blunt the surge of college students who vote, Republicans are enacting laws and procedures to discourage them.  Polling places are moved to inconvenient locations away from college campuses, student IDs are not accepted as identification to vote and so on.  GOP legislatures study where and when students go to the polls and then craft laws to limit those opportunities.  Yet, these are mere band-aids on the GOP’s gaping demographic wounds.

Restrictions on immigration have the same objective, keep potential Democratic voters out.  A Brookings Institution study showed that the number of immigrants to the U.S. declined to 200,000 in 2018, down 70 percent from 2017.  Economists fear that if this continues, the number of immigrants needed to expand the workforce will decrease, causing a stagnating economy.

Younger immigrant workers have children, buy houses, pay taxes and stimulate economic growth.   With an aging U.S. population and shrinking Social Security and Medicare trust funds, the taxes they pay into these programs help support those who are retired.  Republicans don’t care; they have different priorities

Here’s a statistic, however, that they should fear even more than immigration:  According to the Pew Research Center, nonwhite children in U.S. public schools, pre-K through 8th grade, have increased from 37 percent in 1997 to slightly over 50 percent today.  And this percentage is projected to increase significantly through 2022 and no doubt beyond.  These results are due to higher birth rates among Asian and Latino immigrant families and lower birth rates among white families.

But here’s the thing.  Trump supporters need to be mindful of the old saying “what goes around comes around” as they chant “lock her [Hillary Clinton] up” at one of his rallies.  Their heroes’ deviations from political norms may feel good to them now – but how would they like to be in the minority when a Trump-like authoritarian president from a different party is elected?

I don’t think Republicans would be so sanguine if this future president followed Trump’s lead and refused to release financial records, openly gained financial benefit from his office and violated the law as Trump did in authorizing hush money payments to his porn star paramour.  And would they cheer if he appointed a partisan attorney general like William Barr who sees his job as protecting the president instead of upholding their constitutional rights?   I don’t think so.

If this future president coerced a foreign government to dig up dirt on a Republican presidential candidate or welcomed a foreign adversary to hack our elections to support him, would GOPers be okay with that?  Of course not – so why don’t they recognize it as a threat to them when Trump does it?

I could go on and on with the many ways and numerous times Trump has bulldozed through the norms that many call the guardrails of democracy, but you get the point.  These roadblocks to an authoritarian president – like the rule of law – protect all citizens, majority and minority.  If they are weakened or violated, all Americans are in jeopardy, not just those who the president targets.  So, it’s hard to understand voters who enthusiastically support the president’s brazen disregard of these protections while ignoring the precedents he’s setting and how their children and grandchildren will likely suffer as a result.

Yet, I doubt many Republicans grasp the significance of Trump’s authoritarian bent; they are totally focused on protecting him and survival.  Nothing is sacred in this panic, as they trample down their conservative principles.  Gone is their concern about federal deficits that incited them to near riots during President Obama’s first term.  Abandoned is their demand for free trade policies as they cower before tariff-man Trump.  Cast aside is conservatives’ long-standing esteem for decorated war veterans like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, as he risks his career to tell the truth about the president’s misdeeds with Ukraine.

Yes, the GOP is fighting for its life, willing to do just about anything to survive.  And in the process, they pose a real and present danger to our democratic republic.

 

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Reflections of a Conservative Trump Supporter

A recent email exchange I had with a Trump supporter who I’ve corresponded with in the past was very interesting, particularly because I’m aware that he only watches Fox News.  It was an opportunity to pose some questions that I very carefully worded to avoid antagonizing him:  Was he concerned about the national debt and does he think President Trump’s “relationship” Russian President Vladimir Putin is troublesome?   What did he think when Trump called the media “the enemy of the people” and was he bothered by how divided the country has become?  I promised not to argue with any of his responses, explaining that I was just interested in his opinions for a blog I might write.  Based on past communications, this individual (I’ll call him Jake.) appears to be well-educated.

Jake’s response began with complaints about how conservatives are looked down upon, particularly in “progressive” areas, and because they are treated poorly, they are reluctant to discuss politics.  Yet, he believes that progressives respond with anger and vitriol when confronted with a challenge to their political opinions.

Regarding President Trump’s dealings with Russia and Putin, Jake thought they were just normal international relationships as with any other significant world power.  He agreed with the president’s foreign policy re: Iran, North Korea, China and the EU.  He also agreed with the tariffs on Chinese goods and claimed that they give the U.S. “leverage” for fairer trade agreements.

Jake’s answer to my question about Trump’s “America First” policy and apparent withdrawal from world leadership was not surprising.  He believes that every other country also puts its welfare first and blames President Obama for withdrawing the U.S. from world leadership.  He cited Russia and Crimea, Syria and the “so called” nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Iran as examples.  He believes that the rest of the world now respects our power and resolve again, even if they may not like us.

Jake doesn’t think climate change is a problem and that it may actually be good for the environment.   He does not believe recent increases in temperature are caused by human activities.  He didn’t directly respond to my question about Trump calling the media “the enemy of the people.”  Instead he complained about the biased “liberal media” and its broadcast of untrue and blatantly political anti-Trump material, 90 percent of which he believes is negative.

My question about truthfulness was very mildly worded and didn’t cite thousands of Trump’s documented false and misleading statements: “Are you concerned that Trump doesn’t seem to care about being truthful?”  Jake declined to address Trump’s truthfulness and instead responded by referring to the lies of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama.

Jake was not concerned about Trump’s businesses and whether they are profitable.  He believes Trump no longer runs them “as is the law.”  He does not believe that the president’s handling of illegal immigrants is harsh.  To him, the border agents and ICE are just following the law enacted by Congress, which he believes is bad and doesn’t protect against massive illegal immigration.

Jake believes if Congress cuts the “ridiculous spending” and deficits, he has no objection to less taxation.  Regarding the deficits, he doesn’t believe they are just the president’s problem; Congress is responsible for budgets and they have totally failed in that task.  He doesn’t believe a president should control Federal Reserve policy but thinks that Trump was right in expressing opposition to earlier Fed rate increases and that rates should be lowered.  He had no great concerns about the way Trump is handling his job.

I was most interested in Jake’s response to my question about how divided the country has become.   He was very concerned about that but blamed it all on the Democratic Party.  He believes that Democrats were trying for a coup d’état with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI director James Comey “but it has all proven to be false concerning the president but is very damning concerning Obama, DOJ, FBI and the ridiculous members of Congress like [Reps.] Adam Schiff and [Jerry] Nadler.”  He added: “The people spoke and the President was elected and the Democrats should stop trying to change that for no significant reason except they didn’t like the outcome.”  (This opinion preceded Trump’s current Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry.)

I responded to Jake and did not challenge his beliefs, nor will I do so here; readers can form their own opinions.  The following paragraph is the substance of my reply:

My legal training helps me objectivity evaluate the facts involving this nation and its issues.  Political parties and political philosophy are not important to me.  Upholding the rule of law, defending the Constitution and protecting the security of the United States are my main goals.  I spend a lot of time researching government statistics and publications for my blogs.  I almost never completely rely on what I read or what I hear from pundits on TV without verifying it.

Bottom line: I think Jake is far too intelligent to believe everything he wrote, but like most Republicans, he refuses to criticize Trump.  Jake’s “reflections,” however, appear to mirror some of the dangerous conspiracy theories and alternative realities that Fox News opinion anchors and right-wing media pundits foist on their audiences.  And it is very scary and shocking to think that millions of voters actually believe them.

 

 

 

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This Is How Tyrants Seize Power

If not for a CIA agent whistle blower, we might never have learned about President Trump’s call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 and his illegal request for help in his reelection campaign.  Trump’s top priority was strong-arming Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated claims of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.  But he was also seeking evidence to confirm his totally debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton, not Russia on his behalf.

Trump continued his abuses of power on television this week by encouraging Ukraine and China to investigate the Biden’s, repeating the same unproven allegations.  In a typically inarticulate sentence, he advised: “So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Biden’s, because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.” Trump added, “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”  He keeps daring Republican politicians to challenge his lawlessness but most of them refuse to confront him, cowering in fear of the rabidly loyal base he has so carefully cultivated.  So, Trump takes it a step or two further.

So far, this president has assaulted our democratic processes without incurring legal consequences.  Page one of the tyrant’s playbook probably recommends appointing a chief legal officer who believes his boss is above the law.  Attorney General William Barr fills that role perfectly.  With Barr representing him instead of upholding the Constitution and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in the rear-view mirror, Trump now believes he’s invincible.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is another skilled lieutenant who any serious autocrat would covet.  This former Tea Party member is ready to support whatever Trump wants to do, including placing illegal demands on Ukraine.  Unlike former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Barr and Pompeo are highly intelligent and savvy political operatives who are totally loyal to the president.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to give Trump control of the federal courts.  He set a record by confirming over 150 Trump-appointed judges since January 2017.  McConnell wants to fill the federal judiciary with far-right conservatives who will help ensure that progressive legislation is struck down and that radical gerrymandering, voter suppression and abortion restrictions in Republican-controlled states will not be successfully challenged.

The mainstream media – which Republicans attack as the “liberal media” – is attempting to make voters aware the president’s devious tendencies.  But the conservative media that supports him is spread across the nation, wide and deep.  Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera recently complemented his colleague Sean Hannity: “You’re the difference between Donald J. Trump and Richard Nixon.”  I believe this is more truth than fiction.  Several commentators have opined that Nixon would not have been impeached if Fox News had been around to protect his back.

Fox is not alone, though; the equally conservative Sinclair Broadcasting is the single largest owner of TV stations in the nation.  Salem Radio Network, Breitbart News Network and several other outlets tenaciously hype Trump’s policies.  Talk show host Rush Limbaugh has a huge listening audience and he is just one of numerous ultra-conservative radio personalities supporting the president.  And don’t forget the many televangelists like Pat Robertson and Robert Jeffress who seem to believe the president is divine.  Robertson’s accolades have literally elevated Trump to a Christ-like status.

Consequently, I’m almost certain that conservative media reaches more voters than the so-called liberal media.  And I believe their programming consistently excludes negative information about Trump so listeners never learn of his misdeeds.   Here’s just one example:

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) – formerly a Tea Party Republican – told his constituents why he believed Mueller’s report was cause to impeach the president at a townhall meeting in May.  Later, a lady in the audience confessed: “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report.”  She believed the president had been exonerated.  I think that tells us a lot about what people learn from Fox News and Trump’s other media fans.

Now the U.S. House has commenced an impeachment inquiry of the president’s conduct.  But remember when candidate Trump implied he would only accept the election results if he won? And when he lost the popular vote, he alleged that millions of fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton.  Recently, Trump has also claimed that his term should be extended by two years due to the Mueller investigation and he has tweeted about serving an unconstitutional third term.  All of this raises my fear that Trump will not vacate the White House without a vicious fight if the Senate votes to remove him from office or if he loses in 2020.  Some legal scholars have the same concern.

What Trump, Barr, Pompeo and McConnell are attempting is so incredibly undemocratic that it’s difficult to believe it’s actually happening.  They are threatening to take down the greatest democracy in the history of the world and most Republicans either actively support them or passively watch them do it.

Thus emboldened, the president continues to ramp up his autocratic agenda.  So I keep wondering – what will save our democratic republic from this tyrant if Congress fails to stop him?

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If Millennials Are Our Future – What Will It Be?

Even some conservatives admit that inequality is a problem.  The rich are sucking up an ever-greater percentage of the wealth and the bottom 50 percent of Americans are struggling.  Manufacturing jobs are not increasing significantly and artificial intelligence and automation will surely convert more of the workforce during the coming decades from flesh to metal and microchips.  Robots don’t earn a salary, drive a vehicle, shop for clothing or need a house.

But wait!  Consumer spending is around 70 percent of the U.S. economy and that’s not likely to change.  Corporations make profits by selling goods and services.  And government pays its bills with taxes it collects.  What happens to the economy when more and more Americans have less money to spend and the lion’s share of the wealth is concentrated in a small percent of consumers at the top?  How many people can be employed constructing huge mansions, mega yachts and private jets?

The last of the baby boomers are now retiring, saddling the Social Security and Medicare trust funds with a heavy burden.  Due to the $1.5+ trillion 2017 GOP tax cut and two large spending bills that funded fiscal years 2018 through 2021, yearly federal budget deficits will exceed $1 trillion for years to come.  President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure program is floating around in an alternative reality.  Climate change, or whatever you want to call disastrous weather patterns, is creating increasing demands on federal relief coffers.

These facts beg the question:  Will coming generations be able to pay down the massive federal debt and still have the buying power of today’s consumers?

Millennials comprise the largest demographic cohort that is moving up to replace the 75+ million elderly baby boomers.  A 2015 Census Bureau estimate identified this group as the over 83 million born between 1981 and 2000, a massive one quarter of the nation’s population.  Hopefully they will have great paying jobs that will generate huge tax revenue.  Sadly, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

According to a New York Times article by David Leonhardt in January – based on Census Bureau and Federal Reserve data – “the 21st Century has resembled one long recession” for those under 40.  They are earning somewhat less than the same age group was in 2000 and their median net worth has nosedived over the past two decades.  In fact, according to accounting and professional services firm Deloitte, student loans, rising rents and higher health care costs have depressed millennials’ average net worth to below $8,000, considerably lower than generations that preceded them.

Leonhardt claims that “a lack of economic dynamism” since 2000 has impeded the formation of new companies and the expansion of existing ones.  Thus, there are fewer good jobs for the younger generations, who struggle to buy a first home or invest in the stock market.  Articles about these young adults still living at home and not getting married until years later than their parents, along with the gig economy, are harbingers of future economic decline.

And government isn’t helping.  Social services like Medicare for older citizens haven’t been cut while programs like education for our youth have gone under the knife.  States – that must balance budgets – cut education funding deeply after the recession hit in 2008.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average state spent 16 percent less per student in 2018 compared to 2008, after adjusting for inflation.  This reduced funding has caused public colleges and universities to cut services, eliminate course offerings, close campuses – and raise tuition.

In an age when higher education has become a requirement for breaking into the middleclass and above, students have been pressured to borrow whatever amount was necessary to get a degree.  As a result, many of the millennials are shackled by part of the $1.6 trillion total student loan debt.  And those who dropout, for whatever reason, can end up with burdensome debt and nothing to frame.   The shocking truth is, the future engines of the U.S. economy are running low on gas.

So, what must be done to change this scenario?  Republicans would apply their same old perennial policies, lower taxes, less regulation and cuts to federal health care spending.   In an effort to corral deficits they would cut education funding and slash the social safety net for those who can least afford it.  Clearly, these policies would take dollars from those consumers who are most likely to spend them and siphon off more of the fuel that powers the economy.

Democratic candidates for president are making bold proposals to tax the ultra-rich to fund preschool for children, eliminate student loan debt and make college more affordable.  Some would increase Social Security payments by as much as $200 per month.  There is a method to this madness.  These policies would put more dollars into the pockets of the consumers who are the economy’s foundation.  And Democrats support reasonable immigration reform, which would supply the younger working tax payers that are needed to shore up the Social Security trust fund.

Some baby boomers may revel in their tax cuts and other benefits that are depleting the federal treasury and preventing needed infrastructure investments and climate change initiatives.  But the bill for this will come due to younger generations and the enormous cost will be a huge drag on the economy.

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