Month: January 2020

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

 

The Holidays are past and the presents opened and put away (or returned), the wrapping paper disposed of, and New Year’s resolutions forgotten. But there is one gift that keeps on giving.

If you’re one of the 15 people in the nation watching the impeachment show going on in the Senate, and you still have any brain cells remaining, you probably recognize what gift I’m talking about.

Whichever side of the impeachment issue you come down on, you can see the show taking up time and space in the Senate for two weeks now as a gift. If you think Trump is the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin (not content to compare the President to their likes, now Dem apparatchiks are comparing a key member of his defense team to them on national television this week), you’re hearing all your conspiracy theories given voice by the House Impeachment Managers. And to you, that is a gift. On the other hand, if you see through the glaring holes in the Dems’ impeachment case, holes ably presented by the Defense team, you see the President’s rising approval ratings and improving chances in the upcoming election, and can only rejoice in this post-holiday gift being handed him.

Maybe the only people who don’t see the impeachment trial as a gift are the Democratic senators running for President – Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar – who have to keep to their seats in the Senate chamber instead of roaming the snowy fields of Iowa in pursuit of votes in the Iowa caucuses, set for Monday night.

I’ve written in this space before about how the Dems have taken swing after swing at the President, and how each one was a miss. The impeachment show is their latest swing, but one preordained from the outset to fail. The chances of getting 67 senators to vote to remove the President is about as likely as the earth reversing its rotation. It seems the hapless Dems can’t win for losing, and yet they refuse to take the out and retire to the bench. The power of hatred (or political avarice, if you want to be kind about it) runs deep.

If you have any doubt that the Dems want to carry this charade on as long as possible, you just have to consider their persistent call for additional witnesses in the Senate trial. Just as they tried to do in the Kavanagh confirmation hearings, they’d like to drag in anyone that might have anything negative to say about Trump – the leading figure being former National Security Adviser John Bolton, previously the butt of their disdain – while trying to block anyone who might shed any light on the political underpinnings of the impeachment or the possible corruption of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Never mind that they had every opportunity to call Bolton or whatever witnesses they wanted in their investigation in the House and effectively blocked every witness the Republicans wanted to call. Or, as the Defense team pointed out, the House Managers played video clips in the Senate trial of no fewer than 17 witnesses giving testimony in the House inquiry and presented more than 28,000 pages of documents, and to argue for more witnesses at this stage of the game was essentially reopening the investigation.

What Happens Now?

Whether the show goes on for another day or two or stretches out into weeks will largely depend on the vote of a few wobbly Republican senators who might vote in favor of motions brought by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Last week Schumer tried to gum up the works by introducing a boatload of amendments to Senate impeachment rules at the outset of the trial, and every one of the motions was rejected along solid party-line votes, 53-47 (with just one Republican senator crossing the line on only one amendment). If that happens again on Friday, it’s likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will move for a quick vote on acquittal and this whole production could be over in time for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

It’s a fool’s errand to predict what some individual senators will decide, but here is my tentative prediction: Motions to call witnesses will fail, the acquittal vote will be held, either Friday night or on Saturday, and the President will be acquitted, with all but one or two Republicans, and even two or three Democrats crossing the aisle, voting for acquittal. Falling far short of the 67 votes needed to remove the President from office, the impeachment will be over. And then the country can get back to normal business. Right?

Wrong. The nation’s business is the last thing the Dems are interested in pursuing, despite their high rhetoric. As it is, the President scored two huge policy victories while the impeachment show was underway – the new USMCA North American trade pact replacing NAFTA and the first-stage trade deal with China – but if you blinked, you might have missed news of those. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even did her shameless best to steal the stage on the USMCA, trying to claim it as her own after sitting on the bill, which wouldn’t even have existed were it not for Trump’s initiative, for months.

No, regardless acquittal of the President, the Dems won’t let the nation’s business get in the way of their hatred for Trump. They, with their media lackeys, will continue to paint the President as the Devil Incarnate. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try another impeachment attempt when this one fails in their unbounded effort to steal the 2020 elections. It really isn’t any wonder that Congress’s job-approval rating languishes in percentages in the lower 20s and high teens.

But there’s that gift that keeps on giving. Amid all the sturm und drang, Gallup polling shows Americans the most confident about the economy that they’ve been in 20 years, and other key indicators, such as record low unemployment, historically record low black and Hispanic unemployment, growing real income, and dropping opiod deaths, are all positive for the President. As the Democratic Party appears more in disarray by the day, with the party establishment doing what it can to once more keep Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination, as it did in 2016, and fractures between the more radically Leftist wing of the party and the so-called moderate faction widening, Trump has to be encouraged by all this.

The wrapping paper might be put away, but that gift the Dems have given him just keeps on giving.

[Update February 1, 2020: The first part of my prediction came to pass on Friday, January 31, when the Senate voted 51-49 not to call for witnesses. The vote was on a strictly party-line basis, with the exception of senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine who crossed the aisle to vote with the Dems. The second part of my prediction, that the vote to acquit the President would be held Friday night or on Saturday, was close, but no cigar. The House Managers and the White House Defense will make final arguments on Monday, and a number of senators also want to bloviate about reasons for their vote, one way or another, so the final vote on acquittal and the end of the impeachment trial has been set for Wednesday, February 5. Meanwhile, the President will give the State of the Union address Tuesday evening. Should make for interesting viewing to see interaction between the President and those who would remove him from office.]

Photo credit: Nick Fewings / Unsplash, used with permission.

Ding-Dong! The Wizard Is Dead

Ding-Dong! The Wizard Is Dead

 

In the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the East is killed when Dorothy’s house, spirited off to Oz from Kansas by a cyclone, lands on her. In 2020 real life, the Wicked Wizard of the East, Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasam Soleimani, was killed when he came into the crosshairs of an American drone flying over Baghdad’s international airport in Iraq. Ding-dong! The wizard is dead.

As the Munchkin Coroner states in the 1939 film, “As Coroner, I must aver I thoroughly examined her, and she’s not only merely dead, she’s really, most sincerely dead.”

Ditto for Soleimani.

Just as the Munchkins rejoiced at seeing the wicked witch’s stockinged feet protruding from under Dorothy’s transplanted house, there is grounds to celebrate the demise of Soleimani, the head of Iran’s deadly Quds Force. Unfortunately, the figurative kingdom is rife with naysayers and handwringers, and political divisiveness seems ever-ready in contemporary America to overcome any shared sense of victory.

While it is Pollyannish to expect that there won’t be some consequences in the targeting of Soleimani, regarded as the second most powerful figure in Iran’s arcane political structure, it is just as Pollyannish to think that there wouldn’t be consequences were he still alive and having breakfast this morning on Al Rasheed Street in downtown Baghdad.

The havoc and death wreaked by Soleimani stretches back four decades to when, in 1979, he joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the Iranian revolution and, beginning in the Iraq-Iran War of the early 1980s, he rapidly advanced within the hierarchy. In 1998 he took over command of the Quds Force, designated a terrorist organization by the State Department. Sometimes called “the world’s number one bad guy,” consider these feats of Soleimani and the Quds Force he headed:

Taking out Soleimani wasn’t just a random act. It followed an attack by Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve, in which the attackers had penetrated the entrance to the compound and burned a reception area. While no one was kllled in the attack, the U.S. responded by sending in 100 Marines to secure the compound, given the failure of the Iraqi government to meet its internationally mandated requirement to protect diplomatic facilities.

There was more involved than the embassy attack, though. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley made it clear that reliable intelligence indicated that a wave of Iranian-inspired terrorist attacks against U.S. assets in the region was being planned and was imminent. And, of course, Soleiman was brazen enough to show up at Baghdad’s international airport, exposing himself to the drone attack that killed him and also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces militia.

“I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats. But the American people should know that the President’s decision to remove Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives,” Pompeo told CNN. “The risk of doing nothing was enormous. Intelligence community made that assessment and President Trump acted decisively last night.”

Pompeo said hundreds of American lives had been at risk. He later told Fox’s Sean Hannity that the attack also had saved European lives, though he hadn’t gotten the kind of support he expected from European allies.

The Brits, the French, the Germans all need to understand that what we did, what the Americans did, saved lives in Europe as well,” he said.

Milley said the U.S. had intelligence that was “clear, unambiguous” that Soleiman was planning a campaign of violence against the U.S., leading to the decision to attack him. Targets included American military outposts in Syria and diplomatic and financial targets in Lebanon.

‘By the way, it still might happen,” Milley said.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qasem Soleiman
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, left, deputy head of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, and Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, right, both killed in the U.S. strike.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei immediately appointed Maj. Gen. Ismail Qaani to replace Soleiman as head of the Quds Force and, predictably, pledged revenge. Qaani said the Quds agenda would remain unchanged.

As predictable as Khamenei’s reaction was, so was the response in Congress, which broke down along party lines. The anti-Trump Dems, for whom the President can do nothing right, were quick to criticize the action, going so far in some cases to say the strike on Soleimani was illegal, though reportedly legal departments at both State and Defense, as well as at Justice, approved the strike.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi complained that Congress hadn’t been consulted on the planned attack on Soleimani – no surprise there, given the tendency of Congress to leak like a rusty old sieve – and she had the temerity to call the killing of the man who had murdered hundreds of thousands of people, including hundreds of Americans, “provocative and disproportionate.”

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called the killing of Soleimani an “assassination” and introduced legislation to block funding of any military action in the region. Most of the other candidates in the race piled on with criticism of the attack.

There was some push back, though, even within the parties. Another Dem candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was quick to strike back at Sanders, calling his “assassination” claim “outrageous.”

“If he was talking about killing the general . . . this is a guy who had an awful amount of American blood on his hands. I think that’s an outrageous thing to say,” Bloomberg said. “Nobody that I know of would think that we did something wrong in getting the general.”

While prominent Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio, expressed strong words of support for the attack, another Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, expressing his libertarian view on foreign affairs, said the Trump administration should not embark on a war in the Middle East without Congressional approval.

As the naysaying and handwringing goes on, and will in the days and weeks and more to come, if there is one prediction that will always be correct it is forecasting violence in the Middle East. If that’s anyone’s prediction, they’d be right, with our without Soleimani. In anticipation of Iran’s reaction, the U.S. is sending an additional 3,500 troops to the region. Soleimani may be really, most sincerely dead, but the seething animosities of the region most certainly aren’t, and there are no ruby slippers, like the ones that passed to Dorothy from the deceased Wicked Witch of the East, to magically bring them to a close. So stand by. Film at 11.

Disclosure: The author was an intelligence analyst with the State Department covering the Middle East.

Photo credits: Main image: Donovan Reeves / Unsplash, used with permission; al-Muhandis and Soleimani images, AFP via Getty, used under Fair Use.