Tag: Trump

The Train Wreck Around the Bend

The Train Wreck Around the Bend

On July 31, 1909, the Milwaukee Road’s westbound Overland Limited went off the tracks and wrecked at Cambridge, Iowa. I’m inclined to see this as an allegory for what lies around the bend for the Democratic Party if things continue to shape up as they are.

It’s not just me saying this. The predictions are coming from both sides of the political aisle, with observers ranging from long-time Dem strategist James Carville to a ménage of commentators on the liberal cable networks, to none other than Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh on the right, echoing similar views.

I’m scared to death,” Carville ranted on MSNBC following the Iowa Democratic caucuses, something of a train wreck of their own. In a subsequent interview, Carville went on to say, “I don’t know. We just had an election in 2018. We did great. We talked about everything we needed to talk about, and we won. And now it’s like we’re losing our damn minds. Someone’s got to step their game up here.”

What has Carville and others so petrified is the rise of Socialist Bernie Sanders as a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November, and the overall lurch of the party – and seemingly all couple dozen of its presidential wannabes – toward the far left.

We have candidates on the debate stage talking about open borders and decriminalizing illegal immigration. They’re talking about doing away with nuclear energy and fracking. You’ve got Bernie Sanders talking about letting criminals and terrorists vote from jail cells. It doesn’t matter what you think about any of that, or if there are good arguments — talking about that is not how you win a national election. It’s not how you become a majoritarian party.”

Right. Think about it. Plan to do it. Just don’t talk about it. You’d be excused for thinking that’s how politicians usually run their games. But that’s not the only cow, maybe not even the biggest one, lying across the tracks. It’s the ascendancy of the far left of the party, represented by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her left-wing corterie, known as The Squad, in Congress. And it’s the failure of the Democratic establishment’s self-styled savior, former Vice President Joe Biden, to light anything other than a small and flickering flame among Dem voters. More than the chickens coming home to roost, it’s the cows that are coming home to ruminate, right across the tracks.

Old Bernie, backed with a good chunk of the younger vote and others with a weak grasp on the meaning of Socialism or Bernie’s questionable past, eked out a 26.2% of delegate equivalents versus Pete Buttigieg’s 26.13% in the Iowa caucuses (if you can believe the results). And in New Hampshire he came out with 25.8% of the vote versus Mayor Pete’s 24.5%. Not exactly a rousing victory, especially since in 2016 he came away with 60.4% versus Hillary Clinton’s 38% (admittedly in a less crowded primary field). Meanwhile Trump, in the little-heralded Republican primary in New Hampshire, came away with more votes, by far, than any candidate of either party in the history of the state, even doubling the number generated by former President Ronald Reagan when New Hampshire was a far more conservative state than it is today.

The real story of both Iowa and New Hampshire has less to do with Bernie’s numbers as with the crashing and burning of two other candidates, previously considered “front runners” in the contest. In Iowa, both Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden sank respectively to third and fourth place, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar hot on their heels. And then in New Hampshire Klobuchar jumped to third place, with 19.9% of the vote, exceeding the combined totals of Warren (from the neighboring state of Massachusetts, from which many New Hampshire residents have relocated) and Biden. Biden didn’t even wait around for the results before bailing on the Granite State and his supporters there and heading off to the Palmetto State, South Carolina, which he has called his “fire wall.” Underscoring Biden’s fall from grace, Sanders’ New Hampshire showing was enough to push him within just a day to the top of the polls nationwide, displacing Biden, the previous choice of the Dem establishment.

Are you beginning to see why this situation could be shaping up as a train wreck for the Democratic Party?

Shades of 1968

Police in Lincoln Park, Chicago
Sihouetted view of a group of police officers as they advance through clouds of tear gas in Lincoln Park in an effort to remove protestors during the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, late August 1968. (Photo by Art Shay/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images); used under Fair Use.

To be clear, let me say that, for a number of reasons, I don’t see what happens in June at the Democratic convention in Milwaukee likely to be equivalent to what happened in August 1968 at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Well, probably not quite. The country isn’t as worked into as much of a frenzy over the political divide as it was over the Vietnam War going full bore at that time. And probably more people, especially young people, have other things to concern themselves with today than they did in 1968. But it doesn’t mean that something along those lines might not lie ahead for the party.

Looking at the lay of the land going into the Nevada caususes, the South Carolina primary, and then Super Tuesday on March 3, when 16 states and terrirories hold their primaries, caucuses, and conventions, we have Bernie on the left and set to pick up most of the support on that side of the political spectrum. That’s even more likely given the lack of a viable way forward for Warren. Among the more ” centrist” (though not really) candidates, we have Buttigieg, the mayor of a small city in Indiana and a gay man also seen as beholden to Wall Street; Klobuchar, a lesser known senator from Minnesota with a history of abusing her staff; and Biden, an aging former Vice President who has a hard time putting two sentences together, who thinks it’s okay to refer to voters in terms of a 1952 movie on the Canadian Mounties, and whose credibility and integrity has been cast into serious doubt as a result of the Dems’ ill-fated impeachment fiasco targeting Donald Trump. Oh, and then we have another billionaire besides the President, former New York City Mayor (and ex-Republican) Mike “Stop and Frisk” Bloomberg, who thinks he can buy his way into the nomination by pumping hundreds of millions of his own funds into the race. Speak of a field of poor choices. Now are you starting to see more of the problem?

Through the use of super delegates, the Dem establishment stole the nomination away from Sanders in 2016. Will they do it again this year? If you think the party poobahs in Washington and on Wall Street and out in the bastions of Dem power across the land (such as they are) aren’t thinking about it, I have a railroad to sell you. They have seen the writing on the wall about the virtually inevitable demise of Joe Biden. And so, seeking another alternative, they’ve already bent the rules to let Bloomberg onto the debate stage, even though he doesn’t have one actual donor other than himself, donor numbers being one of the previous standards for deciding who gets on the stage and who doesn’t. But any port in a storm, and somehow these people (who have had nothing good to say about the 2010 Citizens United decision) apparently think pitting one billionaire against another is a good idea and good for America. Or maybe it’s just good for them? Am I being too cynical here?

Let’s say the Dem establishment manages to once more steal the nomination away from Bernie. What then? Undoubtedly a significant number of his supporters will either stay home on Nov, 3, or they’ll vote for Trump, just as they did in 2016. But some of his supporters are talking about a third option.

As stated by Kyle Jurek, Sanders Field Organizer in Iowa, “If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination or it goes to a second round at the DNC Convention. Fucking Milwaukee will burn. The billionaire class. The fucking media, pundits. Walk into that MSNBC studios, drag those motherfuckers out by their hair and light them on fire in the streets.”

This inflammatory rhetoric, videotaped and presented online by Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, must have touched a nerve somewhere out amid Sanders’ supporters. The Washington Post incorrectly reported that Jurek was a mere volunteer, not a paid staffer, and when O’Keede challenged that report as false Twitter blocked his account. Lest you think Jurek is an outlyer, remember that it was largely Sanders supporters who, in true Brown Shirt form, turned out en masse on the streets of Chicago on March 11, 2016, to force Trump to cancel a rally he had planned there that night. Do you remember that scene of political obsctruction by mob? I do.

I also remember, if vaguely, the events of August 1968. If you don’t remember them or were too young to have lived through them, you really should update yourself. If nothing else, you’ll learn there are precedents for today’s political divide, and the divide within the Democratic Party, and you might learn something about the power of the disenfranchised (self-styled or real) to disrupt and make their presence known. [Disclaimer: Following a little 1972 imbroglio with the Rutgers University Campus Police on the Rutgers-Newark campus, I was successfully represented by one Stu Ball, who had been part of the Chicago Seven defense team. Life’s little claims to fame.] One way or another, the chances for a schism within the party is almost fore-ordained. Whether it will lead to the kinds of dramatic events that gripped Chicago in 1968 remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, amid the current churn on the Democratic side, the President is at the highest levels of his popularity since taking office and has every reason to be optimistic about his reelection chances, regardless who the Dems wind up putting up against him.

Who put this cow on the tracks?

While it might take a village to raise a child, it took Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her band of unruly House Dems to help set up the crisis of identity facing the Democratic Party and the chess board likely to lead to the reelection of the President. As I’ve called it in a previous posting, the Dems’ unremitting rage against Trump and their repeated unsuccessful attempts to unseat him and undo the results of the 2016 election is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Cow on the tracks
Cow on the tracks, The Jack Finn Collection; used under Fair Use.

What the ill-fated impeachment did, besides bolstering Trump’s support, was put a spotlight on the possible corruption of Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Hunter’s business affairs in Ukraine and China. In the process, Pelosi managed to take the shine off her party establishment’s front runner and throw the whole process into even more disarray than it already was. All of Pelosi’s antics, like tearing up the President’s State of the Union address – seen by many as tasteless and lacking in decorum – can’t stop the impending train wreck she may have engineered.

After what will seem like an eternity of sound-alike debates, charges and counter-charges, and jockeying (or pony soldiering, if you’re Joe Biden) for position among the candidates, June is likely to roll around in, say, a mere four months, and then we’ll all get to see if the Dem train stays on the rails or runs off into a ravine. If nothing else, it should be entertaining to watch.

Featured image: Cambridge, Iowa, train wreck, unknown, presumed public domain.

 

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.

Mueller’s Muddle and the Nation’s Peril

Mueller’s Muddle and the Nation’s Peril

If you watched even part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday, you saw a man who was clearly befuddled, out-of-touch with basic facts of the investigation he headed and unknowledgeable about the report bearing his name, and at sea when it came to answering even basic questions put to him by members of the committees before whom he appeared. It was, to put it in kind terms, most uncomfortable to watch someone who has been lauded by some as such a sharp and able personage and straight shooter embarrass himself before the nation.

Beyond casting further doubt on any attempt to impeach the President, Mueller’s performance raised serious questions about what kind of peril the nation might be in if this is indicative of what can be expected from someone as highly lauded as Mueller, and in positions as influential as those he’s held. We’ll look at these questions and the former FBI director’s history in a bit.

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee had hoped that Mueller’s testimony before those committees would pave the way toward impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, but it didn’t take the full day of hearings to cast those hopes onto the rocks for many. Even Trump critics and impeachment advocates characterized Mueller’s testimony as “a disaster.”

As Harvard law professor and former Obama judicial adviser Laurence Tribe tweeted, “Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster. Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.”

Image by Getty Images

No less than former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod tweeted, “This is very, very painful,” later adding, “Not a commentary on the content. The report is damning. That was reenforced today. He has been an exemplary public servant, as people are both sides attested, but he clearly was struggling today and that was painful.” And media people, ranging from Fox News’s Chris Wallace to NBC’s Chuck Todd, also characterized Mueller’s testimony as “a disaster.”

This has been a disaster for the Democrats and I think it’s been a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller,” Wallace said.

I’m not a doctor, and being d’un certain âge myself, I do my best to avoid ageism. But watching as things unfolded Wednesday, it was hard not to conclude that the 75-year-old Mueller is perhaps suffering from some sort of dementia. Some have tried to attribute dementia and other such things to the 73-year-old Trump, but the contrast between the forceful Trump and the doddering Mueller could not be more stark.

NBC News took the trouble to count the number of times Mueller deflected or declined to answer questions put to him Wednesday: 198 times. “Outside of my purview,” was a term Mueller used over and over. Of course, another former FBI Director, James Comey, beat that total in his Congressional testimony on Dec. 14, responding a mind-boggling 245 times during his session that he didn’t remember, didn’t know, or didn’t recall, in response to questions put to him. It would seem, if these two are to be believed, that FBI Directors don’t know much, after all. At one point Wednesday, Texas Republican Louie Gohmert was able to get Mueller to admit he and Comey were friends. Mueller initially simply said they were “business associates.” Under further questioning by Gohmert, Mueller finally said, “We were friends.” This is a key point and goes to Mueller’s credibility since part of the Special Counsel’s mission was to determine if Trump’s firing of Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Mueller did concede that a president has the right to fire the FBI director.

It wasn’t just Mueller’s demeanor and comportment that were troubling. More disturbing were the things that became apparent during the seven hours Mueller was in the Congressional hot seat. These include:

Image by AP Images
  • Mueller has little knowledge of what is in the 488-page report bearing his name. While he was instructed by the Justice Department not to go beyond what is contained in the report – an instruction that Mueller actually had sought – he frequently had to look around at staff members sitting behind him to confirm if something was or wasn’t in the report, and often requested confirmation of the page on which a certain issue being asked about appeared.
  • Almost certainly, Mueller had little direct input to the 22-month-long, $30-million-some investigation with which he was charged as Special Counsel. Apparently he left the bulk of the investigation to staff members, most notably the highly controversial Andrew Weissmann. Despite Mueller’s stated high regard of Weissmann, a donor to the Democratic Party, Weissmann’s record is more than spotty. A unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned convictions Weissmann obtained based on overzealous prosecution in the Enron case of 2002-2005, but only after he had destroyed the Arthur Anderson accounting firm, putting 85,000 employees out of work. As head of the Fraud Section of the Obama DOJ, he also greenlighted the Uranium One deal that transferred control of one-fifth of America’s uranium to Russia following a $500,000 speakers fee paid to former President Bill Clinton by a Kremlin-linked bank and millions more paid by Russian sources to the Clinton Foundation about the time of the Uranium One deal.
  • Astoundingly, Mueller said he didn’t know what Fusion GPS was or that the firm had paid former British spy Christopher Steele to prepare the so-called and unverified “dossier” as opposition research on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Mueller also was unaware that this “dossier” formed the basis for the initial FISA Court warrant that eventually became a key element in his appointment as Special Counsel and the investigation he headed. As Ohio Republican Steve Chabot put it, following Mueller’s confused response, “It’s not a trick question.” Mueller finally responded with one of his many “that is outside my purview” replies. I would say that it is outside reason that, short of being lost in the Borneo jungle for the past three years, one could not have heard of Fusion GPS or the Steele dossier. But there was Robert Mueller, Special Counsel and former chief cop of the U.S., looking for all the world like he was hearing these things for the first time.
  • For a man who has spent much of his career in the upper echelons of government, Mueller seemed to have no knowledge of the political implications of his position. He said he had vetted his team carefully, but was unaware that virtually his entire team had Democratic Party connections and many had donated significant sums to the Hillary Clinton campaign and other Democratic candidates. During questioning by North Dakota Republican Kelly Armstrong, Mueller pushed back, elaborating one of the rare times in his testimony, “We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job. I’ve been in this business for almost 25 years. And in those 25 years, I have not had occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done. What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity.” Armstrong proceeded to point out how DOJ rules require that officials not only be free of conflict of interest but even the appearance of conflict of interest.
  • Mueller was unaware of the anti-Trump prejudice of several members of his team, such as Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, before that prejudice, expressed in their exchanged emails, was revealed in an investigative report of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. He said when this matter was brought to his attention he fired them.
  • Mueller, when asked by Arizona Democrat Greg Stanton, couldn’t recall which president first appointed him as U.S. Attorney. “Which senator?” Mueller asked in response to the question. “Which president,” Stanton replied. Mueller said he thought it was President Bush, referring to President George H.W. Bush. It was President Reagan.
  • In the Judiciary Committee testimony Mueller told California Democrat Ted Lieu that they did not charge Trump with obstruction due to a DOJ legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, seeming to give Dems the ammunition they were looking for. And then at the beginning of the Intelligence Committee testimony he walked the statement back, saying, “We did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime,” adding that his team “never started the process.”

As troubling as Wednesday’s testimony was, Mueller’s history raises even more serious questions. And that history makes one wonder how he was able to earn the accolades provided him and be selected as Special Counsel. It’s not hard to uncover that history, and here are just some of the bigger issues that litter Mueller’s career:

Image by Politico
  • Appointed FBI director on Sept. 4, 2001, a week before the 9-11 attacks, Mueller can’t be held responsible for the intelligence lapses that allowed those attacks to take place. But he actively engaged in a cover-up of the bungling that went on in the FBI, the White House, and the CIA that enabled the 9-11 terrorists to carry out their plans. A joint Senate-House inquiry conducted by then-Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who took intelligence matters very seriously, uncovered the depth of the ineptness that Mueller did his best to conceal [personal note: I’ve always had huge respect for Graham, a Democrat, and one of the bigger career blunders of my life was turning down an offer of an internship as a speech writer for Graham when he was Governor of Florida]. Along with giving what amounted to false testimony to the joint inquiry, Mueller later stonewalled Graham, refusing to respond to subpoenas to testify before the inquiry. As Graham later wrote, the FBI, under Mueller, “insisted that we could not, even in the most sanitized manner, tell the American people that an FBI informant had a relationship with two of the hijackers.”
  • Mueller bungled the investigation into the anthrax attacks that followed the 9-11 attacks, focusing on an innocent man and pursuing him for seven years while the real killer walked free. After leaks to the press made life unbearable for the man, Steven Hatfill, wrongly focused on by Mueller and his deputy Comey, and the true perpetrator was finally identified and committed suicide, the government in 2008 reached a settlement with Hatfill for $5.82 million. Mueller wouldn’t even attend the press conference in which the settlement was announced and refused to apologize for any aspect of the investigation, adding that it would be erroneous “to say there were mistakes.”
  • Further bungling by the FBI under Mueller may have led to the April 15, 2013, bombing of the Boston Marathon. In brief, the FBI in 2011 had warnings from Russian intel sources that Tamalan Tsarnaev, one of the two brothers who carried out the bombing, posed a potential threat. But after an investigation of Tsarnaev, the FBI closed the case on him. “As a result of this, I would say, thorough investigation,” Mueller told a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, “based on the leads we got from the Russians, we found no ties to terrorism.” Meanwhile, he admitted that electronic notifications that Tsarnaev had left the U.S. and spent six months in Russia were not fully shared with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston. More fascinating though, and worthy of a thorough reading, is the theory that Tsarnaev was actually an FBI operative.

Again, these are just some of Mueller’s missteps and the imbroglios he’s been involved with over the course of his career. There are lots more, but these are some of the bigger ones. At this point it’s pretty clear that his utility to Trump’s enemies is pretty much done as the Dems continue to battle between themselves over whether they should attempt to impeach the President or not. Meanwhile, the polls are pretty much all over the place, but the bottom line is that most Americans don’t favor impeachment.

In the wake of Mueller’s muddled testimony Wednesday, and even more after looking at the blunders and cover-ups he has been involved with over the years, I think there are bigger issues than this. All Americans should be concerned about the nature and quality of the people in charge of running the country. This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of good and qualified people. But if someone with Mueller’s record can attract the accolades that have been piled on him, what does that say of the standard to which they are held? It’s facile to assume that those in charge at some of our most important and powerful institutions are competent and right-headed. It is to the nation’s peril when they are not.

Featured image by Getty Images. All images used under Fair Use.

The Hunger Games on Our Southern Border

The Hunger Games on Our Southern Border

If you haven’t read the novel The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, or the other books in the trilogy – Catching Fire and Mockingjay – you should. Alternatively, you can watch the films by the same names (there are four, Mockingjay being broken up into two separate films), or do both. I say this not to promote sales of the books or the films (not that I would object to that since they’re all worth reading and viewing) but rather because you’re likely to gain greater understanding of what has been going on for months on our Southern Border, furthered by the anti-Trump-at-all-costs agenda of Democrats in Congress.

To encapsulate the story line for readers of this piece not familiar with it, the books are set in a notional post-Apocolytic country of the future, Panem, that occupies North America. It is ruled by a wealthy political class in the Capitol (sic), the capital city located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The technologically advanced Capitol rules over twelve impoverished districts (formerly thirteen until one was obliterated) with an iron fist. As punishment for a past failed uprising against the Capitol, every year each district must pick, by lottery, two of its residents, a boy and a girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, and send them to a pageant at the Capitol. The key element of this pageant, the Hunger Games, features a fight to the death between the youthful participants, called tributes, televised to all the residents of Panem. In the end, there can be only one tribute who emerges victorious, the other 23 left dead in the treacherous arena in which the games are played. The protagonist and narrator in the series is the girl tribute of District 12, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (played in the films by actress Jennifer Lawrence).

Without giving away more plot points, the analogy I am painting is this: In this country, as in Panem, we have a privileged political class with the power to rule benevolently or malevolently, to pass laws, to fund programs, to create and change processes, and to create, or not, an environment of civility of benefit, or not, to its residents. And this political class, like the residents of the Capitol, is content to watch the suffering and death going on at our Southern Border, to use this suffering and death for its own political purposes, to point fingers and engage in grandstanding of the most shameless variety, to dither and lie and shirk its duties, all magnified by the megaphone provided by the sycophantic mainstream media, rather than do anything concrete to resolve the drama playing out daily along the border with Mexico.

To be clear, and as I’ve said before: Both major political parties are complicit in this travesty. While I believe the Democratic Party is far more responsible for the current Hunger Games than their Republican counterparts – and I’ll explain why I believe that in a moment — both parties have had chances over recent decades to solve the problems of our decrepit and ineffectual immigration system, and neither has seen fit to do so. At various times one party or the other, when it controlled both houses of Congress as well as the White House, could have done the necessary to keep from happening what now is happening. Instead of a relic of the distant past, we could have a modern and effective immigration system, comparable to other countries, like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even the UK. But as I’ve said repeatedly over the years, the Democrats don’t want to fix things because they want cheap votes, and the Republicans (though, to their credit, some have changed their positions in more recent years) don’t want to fix things because they want cheap labor. And both have the suffering and deaths, whether of the immigrants at the border or of American citizens and legal residents bearing the brunt of the effects of our broken immigration system, on their heads and the blood on their hands.

Now to lay out why the Democrats are mainly responsible for the current border Hunger Games and how they have used them for their political purposes, at the high human cost of those participating in them. What we have seen is not just a significant increase in illegal crossings of the Southern Border, but a major increase in unaccompanied minors and family units, including minors, crossing the border illegally or seeking asylum at border crossings. While overall numbers are beginning to rival the peaks of apprehensions seen in 2000 and 1986, the change in the makeup of border crossers is putting a major strain on the resources and capabilities of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to care for the children and teenagers increasingly in its custody. And instead of rising to the occasion of discouraging this flow on unaccompanied minors and families, or at minimum providing the resources needed to cope with it, the Democrats have preferred to disingenuously declare there was no crisis at the border and to accuse the President and the federal agencies charged with dealing with the flood of humanity coming at them of fabricating a crisis.

To quote but a few, in January House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis.” This was added to by Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, who said, “President Trump just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis.” Piling on, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren respectively called the border situation a “manufactured crisis” and “fake.” And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, more focued on relitigating the two-year old Mueller investigation than doing anything to actually protect the country, said, “There is no crisis on the border . . . We certainly oppose any attempt by the president to make himself a king and a tyrant to appropriate money without Congress.”

And then, despite the best effort of the Dems to play down and deny that there was a crisis on the Southern Border, along came former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson who, in May, unequivocally stated that there was, indeed, a crisis on the Southern Border.

“We had 100,000 apprehensions in the month of March and another 100,000 in the month of April. That’s the highest it’s been in 12 years,” Johnson told Fox News host Neil Cavuto.

Oops. Wasn’t Johnson given the Democratic play book? Or was he just willing to be honest and say what was going on? After all, border control was under his purview when he was HS Secretary, so one could assume he knew of what he spoke.

And then, in a mind-boggling turn-around, reminiscent of the Doublespeak referenced in George Orwell’s dystopic novel 1984, Pelosi followed Johnson’s assertion by saying, “Well, let me just say this. We have never not said that there was a crisis. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border, and some of it provoked by the actions taken by the administration.”

During all this time, the Dems refused to back any additional funding either for border control or to support the increasingly humanitarian duties being foisted onto CBP. As wave after wave of immigrant caravans and random migrants came up through Mexico from its southern border with Guatemala, the Dems steadfastly refused to deal with the issue. It was clear that these caravans, originating in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, were organized by whomever stood to gain from this onslaught of immigrants, and in the process they provided enormous profit and cover to human smugglers and drug cartels. None of this was sufficient to move Pelosi or the Democratic-controlled House to take any action to deal with this mess along our Southern Border. As the President tried one tactic after another to carry out his duties to protect the country from rising illegal entries, all the Dems could do was say, “no.”

According to news sources along the border, there also has been a notable increase in citizens of Cuba and Venezuela seeking to declare political asylum along the Southern Border. Their presence has not been widely reported in the national media, but is indicative of the multi-country nature of the onslaught.

As the accompanying CBP charts dramatically demonstrate, apprehensions of inadmissible migrants – an indication of overall flows, even if far from all illegal border crossers are apprehended – have skyrocketed on the Southern Border (what CBP calls the Southwest Border), even as Pelosi and Schumer and the rest have denied any crisis. In the month of May alone, 144,278 people were either apprehended (132,887) illegally crossing the border, or were found to be inadmissible (11,391) at formal border crossings. In just over the first six months of fiscal year 2019, there had been more apprehensions along the border than in the entire previous fiscal year, with the numbers continuing to mount significantly. As noted, at the current rate, they will equal or surpass the peak illegal border-crossing years of 2000 and 1986.

The biggest growth in numbers, as the charts reveal, are in the categories of unaccompanied minors and family units. These are categories that, historically, have not formed a major component of illegal border crossings, and which have added significantly to the burden put upon CBP. This is further complicated by the so-called Flores decision of 1997, in which a settlement reached in the matter of Reno v. Flores determined that federal authorities could only detain unaccompanied minor migrants 20 days before they had to be released to their parents, adult relatives, or sanctioned programs. In 2015, Obama-appointed judge Dolly Gee extended this limit to minors apprehended with their parents, making it virtually impossible to deport families with children seeking asylum.

There is no question that the images coming from the border are disturbing to most people. Regardless how one feels about the immigration issue, the sight of people in turmoil, crowded into often makeshift facilities, the small children, bewildered and at the will of their elders and officials, and the images of those who have died in the process, should be troubling. Which makes the Hunger Games nature of what is happening all the more poignant. While the political class, led by Pelosi and Schumer and their ilk, dither, the suffering and death go on, all depicted graphically by the media who are all too quick to criticize but offer no more solutions than the politicians. If you go back and look, you’ll see that this has become an annual event, with the same kind of political cover being given the Dems last year at this time. The only difference is that this time, the crisis has become even bigger and the lack of Congressional action to address is even more apparent and harder to cover up.

Perhaps it is the latter reason, which I believe strikes at the conscience of most Americans, that finally prompted the Senate to pass its bipartisan $4.6 billion appropriations bill providing humanitarian aid to the border, by an overwhelming vote of 84-8, and for the House to accept the same bill, without changes, by a vote of 305-102. Even given the current crisis, the House had passed a bill that would have put constraints on the President’s actions, and which he said he would not sign. While Pelosi accepted the Senate version, still only 129 Democrats in the House voted for it, and 95 voted against it, including many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Meanwhile, 176 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, only seven voting against it. The President has said he’ll sign the Senate version of the bill.

In urging her caucus to vote for the Senate version of the bill, Pelosi wrote, “The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available . . . In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.”

Too bad Pelosi didn’t think much about the children six months ago, or a year ago.

Meanwhile, there are those who apparently still prefer the Hunger Games version of events, like freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who idiotically and insultingly compared the CBP holding facilities along the border to Nazi concentration camps, using the phrase “never again” to draw a reference to the Holocaust. And earlier today, touring a Homestead, Fla., facility holding migrant children, Democratic Presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – who has done a good job of turning around the progress that city had made in recent decades before his administration – criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” reference, but instead said the facility was “like a prison.” He criticized it because the children were being “marched around,” which made him conclude, “That’s a prison camp.” We don’t know how many elementary schools de Blasio has visited, but in my experience being “marched around” is a pretty common phenomenon in them, and no one says they’re prisons. Reportedly de Blasio went on to make the inane statement that the children were being held there against their will. Isn’t that the definition of detention or holding, but is it even necessary to respond to such stupidity?

The moronic levels to which this entire matter has risen were highlighted on Wednesday when employees of Wayfair walked off the job to protest their employer’s sale of beds to go to detention centers holding migrant children. Using Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” comparison, the employees, we suppose, would rather the children sleep on concrete floors than on beds, the lack of which in some cases has been one of the criticisms leveled against CBP. Instead of “let them eat cake,” perhaps the employees’ slogan might be, “let them eat cement dust.”

And while the debate and the dithering and the finger-pointing and the politicking go on, so do the Hunger Games on the Southern Border. Whose child will be next to fall?

Photo credits: Featured Hunger Games image: Pixabay; Girl in line: Edgard Garrido / Reuters; Migrant children: Edgard Garrido Reuters; Children on ground: Click2Houston.Com; Held boy: Spencer Platt / Getty Images; all images used with permission or under Fair Use doctrine