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Is Trump Surrendering in Afghanistan?

by D.J. McGuire

Ever since the president returned to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, his tweets and telephone interviews have been … interesting. However, amidst the demands of indictments of Democrats and recorded messages that would make Home Shopping Network executives blanche was a largely ignored policy change on Afghanistan that would be all but certain to leave the nation defenseless against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and “Islamic State.”

It started with a tweet two nights ago, in which Trump promised to have all American troops in Afghanistan “home by Christmas!” Of course, Trump has been tweeting a lot of nonsense over the last several days, but he stuck with this particular mistake in a Fox Business Channel interview yesterday, as national security correspondent for Fox News Jennifer Griffin noted.

He contradicted his national security advisor, who just hours before said the US would go down to 2500 troops by early next year. The president indicated he might have other plans for those troops during an interview this morning with Fox Business.

“I’ll have ’em home by the end of the year.”

It should surprise no one what Griffin reported next: “The Taliban welcomed the news … leaving the Afghan government vulnerable and confused.”

On one level, this does not really surprise. This is the same president, after all, who invited the Taliban to “peace” talks at Camp David within a week of the 9/11 anniversary. This is the same president who refuses to hold either the Taliban or their Russian allies to account for bounties the latter offered the former to kill American soldiers.

In short, this is an isolationist president who neither understands nor cares about the reasons the Taliban must be defeated. As I have said repeatedly, he is content to lose wars just for the chance to claim he “ended” them.

That doesn’t make it any better. The stakes for America in Afghanistan are no lower today than when we first responded to the 9/11 attacks committed by the Taliban’s allies. As I stated last summer:

… a Taliban reconquest of Afghanistan would send a message to every sponsor and harborer of terrorism around the world: namely, you can hit the US – and hit it hard – and still survive their counter-offensive.

I’m not saying defeating the Taliban will be easy. I’m not saying it will be sufficient to make America and the democratic world safer. I am saying it is necessary. If we can’t do it with our current military posture and political strategy, then we need to adjust those, not move the goalposts to re-label a defeat as “peace.”

Trump had no interest in defeating the Taliban before he was infected with COVID (whenever that actually was). Whatever the therapeutics the president is taking has done to alter his mental state, they have merely revealed his rampant isolationism and short-sightedness. We can only hope his opportunity to further endanger America’s interests and her people will expire in January.

Boater Fraud (Ep. 273)

This episode looks at the ill-fated Trump boat parade and the president’s reportedly dismissive comments about military veterans and soldiers who died in battle.

Dethroning the Taliban and Saddam Hussein Were the Right Things to Do

by D.J. McGuire

As Peggy Noonan set off the latest round of arguments on the right between Never-Trumpers and anti-anti-Trumpers over recent political history, one critical part of Noonan’s argument has been ignored – her casual assertion that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were “a historic foreign-policy catastrophe.”

Most Never Trumpers who defended those wars have ignored or grudgingly accepted the premise of the accusation, especially where Iraq is concerned. Indeed, by my count, there may be only six of us left who still recognize that liberating Iraq from Ba’athism was the right thing to do (UPDATE: Hussain Haqqani – the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US cited below, makes it seven).

We’re still right, though, and in saying otherwise, my fellow Never Trump Conservatives risk ceding the field to Trump-apologists in foreign policy.

It’s easy to look at Iraq today – with its corruption-riddled government, inefficiencies, and precarious geopolitical position between the U.S. and Iran – and assume things must have been better when Saddam Hussein kept the country off the front pages … unless one remembers that Saddam Hussein did no such thing. He killed hundreds of thousands of his own people invading Iran. Those who survived the war had to deal with purges and state terror that took at least another quarter of a million lives. It was no accident that Ba’athist Iraq was called “The Republic of Fear.”

I’m not saying human rights abuses are itself a reason to liberate a nation by force. However, those who would make that argument ignore Saddam’s repeated support for terrorism and desire to arm himself with ever more dangerous weaponry.

While the WMD issue has crowded out our collective memory, we shouldn’t forget how Saddam’s regime was trying to build ties to al-Qaeda, posthumously subsidizing Palestinain suicide bombers, and Islamicizing itself to the point where its henchmen transitioned seemlessly to al Qaeda in Iraq and then ISIS. We’ve seen what ISIS has done over the last several years. Now imagine ISIS running all of Iraq, and with a $10 million North Korean missile assembly line (which Pyongyang never delivered only because of “too much American scrutiny” in the run-up to the liberation).

I would also note that within months of Saddam being knocked out of power, Libya openly renounced its WMD programs and even the mullahcracy of Iran hit pause on its own nuclear-weapons development. Quite the coincidence.

When Operation Iraqi Freedom was first launched, its critics (usually, but not exclusively, on the left) cited the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan as a reason that the Iraq war was a mistake. These days, they no longer hide behind the Afghan war, lumping them both together as errors. If anything, this should make it clear their arguments against both wars are wrong.

Afghan war critics these days try to separate the Taliban and al Qaeda, as if the former were as much a victim of the latter as the rest of us (Tulsi Gabbard most famously did this in a riposte to Tim Ryan during a Democratic presidential debate last year). For Afghans, however, this has been a distinction without a difference. As Javid Ahmad and Husain Haqqani noted last year:

The unvarnished reality on the ground is that al-Qaeda remains an important factor in the Taliban insurgency. The two terrorist groups are codependent allies, and their partnership endured for nearly 23 years. Currently, the Taliban serves as the primary partner for AQIS, al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate, and almost all other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan.

The alliance is grounded in mutual cooperation, driven by common jihadist obligation, ideology and a shared hatred for the United States.

An estimated 300 al-Qaeda militants, embedded in Taliban units, target U.S. and Afghan forces and regard the Taliban emir as the true leader of the faithful. In many Taliban units, it is often difficult to distinguish Taliban commanders from al-Qaeda ones.

The two groups enjoy multiple layers of top-down linkages, where decision-making is centralized but military activities are mostly decentralized. The alliance is further tightened by intermarriages, and al-Qaeda members often serve as religious mentors and instructors to the Taliban fighters.

The idea that al-Qaeda died with Osama bin Laden – and with it our need to be in Afghanistan – is simply wrong. Leaving Afghanistan without the destruction of the Taliban and of al Qaeda is not “ending the war.” It is losing the war. It would also lead terrorists around the world to re-evaluate the strength of the United States. If committing a 9/11-style attack means little more than hiding out for a couple decades while America exhausts itself….

Ceding the rhetorical ground to Trump in Iraq and in Afghanistan is not only a policy mistake, but a political one as well.

One nearly universal problem Never Trump Conservatives have with Trump is his isolationism. It pervades everything he does; it is a cause and an effect of his personal ignorance of the world around him; it is a gift to enemies of freedom; and it fuels his white supremacism.

However, like all isolationists before him, he hides its darkness behind vague promises to stop “endless wars.” Any Republican or conservative critic of him (and more than a few Democratic ones) find their earlier support for liberating Iraq and/or Afghanistan thrown back in their faces.

Those of us who still believe those wars are just have some questions of our own for the president.

  • Does he still think the Taliban is worthy of an invitation to Camp David?
  • What leads him to think the Taliban and al Qaeda will cease attempting more 9/11-style attacks against us, given that you have shown them they can simply wait America out?
  • Is he hoping that his fealty to Vladimir Putin will lead him to hold back the Taliban, with whom the Kremlin has recently allied?
  • Is he saying we would be better off with an ISIS-like regime controlling all of Iraq?
  • What would he have done to prevent Saddam Hussein from underwriting suicide bombers in Israel and stockpiling missiles built with North Korean know-how?
  • What incentives would Gaddafi have had to end his own WMD ambitions without the Iraqi example?

Trump will likely respond to these questions with bluster and ignorance, but the American people deserve to have answers – or to know that the incumbent president asking for re-election doesn’t have any.

Trump’s critics have spent too long deflecting Trump’s rants about these conflicts. We should respond with a full-throated defense of our efforts to protect America, our allies, and oppressed peoples from tyrannical terrorists. It’s the right thing to do and the politically wise thing to do.

If Trump Refuses To Leave (The John Roberts Conundrum)

by Kevin Kelton

Should the results of the 2020 presidential election be contested, Chief Justice John Roberts may determine who becomes the next president. But not because he might be the swing vote in a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. Instead, Roberts might find himself in the awkward position of choosing who to swear in.

Let’s back up a moment to find out how one man might end up deciding a presidential election. For months now, people have been asking, what happens if President Trump loses but refuses to leave? There are several scenarios that could get us to that point. Let’s look at them one by one.

First off, we need to put an end to the silly meme Democrats are spreading that Joe Biden has to “win big” to become president. No, he doesn’t! He just needs to win in the electoral college, even if the popular vote is close – just as Kennedy did in ’60, Nixon in ’68, Bush in 2000, and Trump in 2016. Please don’t create an artificial higher standard for Joe that Trump can then exploit to question the legitimacy of a tight race.

But if there is no clear winner and the matter is still in the courts, with Trump refusing to leave the White House, the Constitution is pretty clear on that point. Per the 20th Amendment, the sitting president’s four year term ends at noon on January 20th. If no one is sworn in as the next president, Trump doesn’t just continue in the job. It’s up to the Congress to determine who would become the 46th president, which opens a whole panoply of scenarios. As of today the GOP controls the 26 state delegations needed to win in the House. But the vote would happen in the next Congress, not this one, and since an overwhelming Biden popular vote win would likely have strong enough coattails to flip a few more state delegations blue, they would surely elect the Democrat.

And if no one is certified by congress as the new president by January 20th, that void in the line of presidential succession would be filled by… wait for it… Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Yes, if Trump tries to hole up in the White House while chaos reins, Republicans might end up having to swallow a Nancy Pelosi presidency! (At least until the election results were fully resolved.) Wouldn’t that be a delicious plot twist?!

But let’s say we don’t get there. Let’s assume the electoral process works as it’s designed. The votes are counted, and Joe Biden has at least 270 electoral votes, but Trump claims that mail-in ballots were tainted or illegal voters tipped the outcome in one or more pivotal swing states. Each state would still have to certify its outcome, and we can presume that key swing states run by Democratic governors and secretaries of state (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada) would defend the legitimacy of all the votes counted and certify the winner of their state. The right combination of those would give Biden 270 EC votes, even if there were certification shenanigans in the GOP led states of Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, or Arizona.

So for the purposes of this hypothetical, let’s say 270 or more electoral votes are certified in Biden’s favor, but Trump still claims the vote was rigged.

The next step happens regardless of Trump’s public pronouncements of a fake election. The Electoral College votes (bound by the new SCOTUS ruling to honor the state outcomes) and Congress ratifies Biden as the winner. 

That brings us to January 20th. Let’s say Biden is the certified winner but Trump is still holding out in the White House, claiming the election was a sham. Biden will still show up at the Capitol Building to be sworn in, with the Chief Justice there to perform the oath. At that moment, boom! Joe Biden becomes the 46th president. It doesn’t matter who is living in the White House or who is sitting in the Oval Office. Neither of those locations are mentioned in the Constitution, and neither of them convey the power of the presidency. Trump would simply be an interloper on government property, and he would soon be escorted out by the Secret Service, whether he likes it or not.

Even if Chief Justice Roberts, for some reason, weren’t to show up, the inauguration would still go forward. Because the President does not have to be sworn in by the Chief Justice; any federal judge can perform the presidential oath of office. As has happened at least seven times in history. So Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or another willing associate justice could swear him in, or any judge on the DC Circuit. That oath would make Joe Biden the official President of the United States, and he would assume the powers of the presidency and set up a government, while Trump was illegally barricading himself in the White House like a Branch Davidian.

Which brings us to the thorniest of possibilities: the Roberts conundrum.

Suppose both Biden and Trump claim victory, and each shows up to take the oath on January 20th. At that point, the country would be looking for some form of official validation as to whose inauguration counts. That would put the chief justice in the awkward position of having to decide who to swear in. If Roberts follows the Constitution, he will administer the oath to the congressionally certified winner, Biden.

However, if Roberts, for whatever reason – politics, loyalty, fear – decides to swear in Trump, leaving Biden to be sworn in by a less senior federal judge, an argument would be made that the Roberts inauguration was the more valid one, based on his top position on the federal bench.

Would Roberts really create that type of existential constitution crisis just to protect a Trump presidency? This author highly doubts so. But in the hyper-partisan world of today, it is a hypothetical that cannot be ignored.

So if Trump tries to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and he is able to get the public support of Senate and House Republicans, it could come down to John Roberts to decide who will get the imprimatur of the chief justice and, with it, the perceive legitimacy of the oath. Lawsuits would certainly continue for years. But in the meantime Donald Trump might still serve as president, allowing him to pick Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement. Which would all but certainly ensure he would prevail when the matter of the contested election eventually reaches the Supreme Court.

And the question of him voluntarily leaving at the end of a second term becomes ever more in doubt.

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics.

 

This Is What Abuse of Power Looks Like

by D.J. McGuire

Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense Friday night; if his defenders would rather I stop saying that, then he needs to stop doing them. This particular abuse of power and offense to the Constitution was his commutation of Roger Stone’s jail time.

I’m not going to provide chapter and verse on Stone’s role in Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, largely because David Frum whipped up an excellent cliff-notes version in The Atlantic. Here are his key takeaways (emphasis in original):

It is not illegal for a U.S. citizen to act or attempt to act as a go-between between a presidential campaign and a foreign intelligence agency, and Stone was not charged with any crime in conjunction with his Trump-WikiLeaks communications. But it’s a different story for the campaign itself. At a minimum, the Trump campaign was vulnerable to charges of violating election laws against receiving things of value from non-U.S. persons. Conceivably, the campaign could have found itself at risk as some kind of accessory to the Russian hacks—hacking being a very serious crime indeed. So it was crucial to the Trump campaign that Stone keep silent and not implicate Trump in any way.

Which is what Stone did. Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and whom he was protecting. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.” You read that, and you blink. As the prominent Trump critic George Conway tweeted: “I mean, even Tony Soprano would have used only a pay phone or burner phone to say something like this.” Stone said it on the record to one of the best-known reporters in Washington. In so many words, he seemed to imply: I could have hurt the president if I’d rolled over on him. I kept my mouth shut. He owes me.

And sure enough, Trump did owe him. Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence. Roger Stone will not go to prison. Stone’s former business partner Paul Manafort is likewise keeping silent. And so the American public will likely never know what use the Russians made of the Trump polling information that Manafort shared with them. Manafort has extra reason to keep quiet, for he must feel new confidence that his pardon is coming.

Now I’m sure several of Trump’s defenders will populate the comments below with the closest thing they have to an intellectual defense on this: the president’s “right” to pardon or commute sentences for convicted federal criminals. The fallacy behind that is rather easy to expose.

The president has no “right” to exercise authority in the Constitution. The Constitution gives him the power to do several things – including pardon and commutation power. Having said power does not allow him to use it to obstruct justice. The ordinary American with a driver’s license has the power to operate an automobile. That doesn’t absolve one who drives the getaway car in a bank robbery, or transports an abductee, or even violates speeding limits. If one is using power to prevent themselves from being exposed for criminal behavior, then the power is being abused.

As it happens, Stone himself was brazen enough to present the evidence of abuse of power: “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

Donald Trump can pardon whomever he wants. He can commute the sentence for whomever he wants. However, if he commits a crime in the process, it is an abuse of power that requires his impeachment and removal from office.

There’s no need to take my word for it; here’s Senator Mitt Romney: “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

That from the lone Republican Senator who voted to convict Trump for abuse of power – and thus to remove Trump from office – over the Ukraine fiasco.

Simply put, Donald Trump abused his power – again. His actions warrant impeachment, conviction, and removal from office – again. I fear that outside of Mitt Romney, members of his party will deny this truth – again.

Restoring the American republic is up to the electorate in November.

Trump’s Immigration Deflection

by D.J. McGuire

Donald Trump recognized his response to coronavirus was a disaster both nationally and politically. He won’t tell you that; nor will his die-hard supporters. He knows it all the same. Otherwise, he would never have bothered trying to distract everyone – especially said die-hard supporters – with an irrelevant but damaging executive order halting all immigration to the United States.

Trump’s entire response to coronavirus has been a slow-motion version of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” First, he insisted it wasn’t a big deal (Tim Miller, Bulwark). When that didn’t work, he tried convincing Americans that this was a surprise to everyone (Miller has the receipts showing otherwise). Then he tried blaming “China” – by which I presume he meant the Chinese Communist Party. That might have gotten him somewhere had he not tried to rope Joe Biden in via guilt by association (Biden promptly pulled out his own receipts on Trump’s obsequious praise for Xi Jinping). So he pivoted to spouting off about the need to remove restrictions imposed by the states (insisting governors should “LIBERATE” them). Pew Research found that most Americans would prefer they didn’t.

At long last, with each narrative collapsing under the weight of reality, Trump shifted gears and went to his standby: irrelevant nativism.

The idea that an immigration pause would do anything against the “invisible enemy” is laughable. The nation with the largest caseload and body count from the virus is … the United States. Even on a per capita basis, we are in the top ten, with the only nations ahead of us from Europe (which was already under a partial travel ban). We have ten times as many cases and deaths as mainland China, a disparity no amount of (certainly happening) Communist cover-up could erase.

Then there is the question of how America is in such good shape that the economy can reopen while also being so bad that immigrants have to be barred for two months.

Of course, Trump probably knows this too – otherwise he wouldn’t have added boilerplate nonsense about “protecting jobs.” The idea that a two-month pause in immigration would have any visible effect on a labor force where 22 million (at least) have been forced into unemployment is nonsensical.

Not only is there no short-term gain, but lots of long-term pain, as Linda Chavez noted (Bulwark):

While most immigrants work in the service economy, a 2018 study by the Brookings Institution indicates that nearly a third of our STEM workers and students are also immigrants or the children of immigrants. When researchers find a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, we shouldn’t be surprised that an immigrant or first generation American will be on the team, or even leading it.

In the meantime, the orderlies, nurses, and doctors caring for patients in hospitals around the country are increasingly likely to be foreign born, with immigrants accounting for almost a third of physicians and nearly 40 percent of health aid workers, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute.

Note how Trump didn’t couch his order as “Fewer engineers and health care workers” – but those are the effect regardless. Unintended consequences don’t care about anyone’s feelings.

The reality is this: Donald Trump needed a distraction. He needed something to rile up his base. Bashing immigrants has always been his break-glass-in-case-of-emergency move.

There is one silver lining to this, however. We have yet more proof that for Trump and his supporters, it was never really about “illegal” immigration. It was about immigration, period. We should not forget this.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Biden Endorsements Galore (Ep. 253)

This MPU podcast catches up with the 2020 presidential race as Democrats line up to endorse Joe Biden. Then the hosts look at the week in the world of Coronavirus, and how it’s changing their own lives.

Covid-16 Is Infecting 2020

By Kevin Kelton

You wouldn’t knowingly risk infecting someone important to you with the coronavirus. Yet millions of thoughtless Democrats are infecting their party’s presumptive nominee.

Every day, we see reckless Democrats passing on the germs of dirty politics to Joe Biden. They selfishly cough up words like “dementia,” “handsy,” “corporate-owned,” and even high-risk terms like “pedophile” into the air of social media, spreading those deadly labels into the body politic, much like was done to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Let’s be clear: Joe Biden is not Hillary. But he is just as suseptible to the same gutter character attacks that made millions of normally Democratic voters avoid the polls that year, killing her candidacy. It could be called Covid-16, and it was just as deadly as coronavirus germs are on your unwashed hands.

Four years later, it’s time for disappointed progressive voters to face reality. Whether you supportered Sanders or Warren or Buttigieg or Yang, Biden is going to be the Democratic candidate this Fall. He earned it fair and square, pulling off one of the greatest political comebacks in history. Not only did his one-on-one debate with Sanders prove he isn’t hobbled by age, it clearly demonstrated his mettle as a viable candidate and a strong leader.

And with his latest thumping of Sanders across Florida, Illinois, and Arizona (along with Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina) he proved he can replicate the same coalitions that led to the blue wave of 2018. There is little doubt Biden will continue that success in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, and probably Wisconsin – virtually running the table in the swing states the party will need to hold come November 3.

Consider a second Trump term the political equivalent of the coronavirus, because it could literally kill thousands of LGBTs, Dreamers, seniors, pregnant women, service members, undocumented immigrants, POC, and other high-risk groups. Every time you infect Joe’s reputation with claims he may be suffering from dementia or some similarly untrue character smear, you risk spreading that idea to others. Your Facebook friends read it, then they spread it to their friends, and they spread it, until you have an epidemic of people turning off to Biden and staying home in November.

You might as well go phonebank for Trump, because that’s exactly what you’re doing with your social media posts.

It’s time for progressives to put some social media distance between them and the virus of hate that can kill our party’s chances in November. Irresponsible character attacks are our Covid-20. If you chose to be a carrier and infect this election cycle like so many did in 2016, don’t be surprised when you send your dearest issues – climate change, reproductive rights, economic inequality, and LGBT rights – to an early grave.

Kevin Kelton is the founder of the Open Fire community of Facebook discussion groups and a cohost of The More Perfect Union Podcast.

 

 

Supporting Bernie Sanders is a Mistake, No Matter Your Reason

by D.J. McGuire

I’ve said relatively little about the party I joined in the aftermath of Trump’s election victory — besides warning the Virginia branch not to get too complacent about recent election victories. The Trumpster fire that is the Republican Party has, for what I think are understandable reasons, dominated my attention.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Democrats are in danger of making a very serious mistake in whom we nominate for president. Bernie Sanders, should he be nominated, wouldn’t just be the least likely Democrat among the viable field to win in November; his Administration risks enabling the Trumpified GOP for decades — even as he, Sanders, advances much of Trump’s agenda.

I will not spend much bandwith insisting Sanders “can’t win,” because I’m not sure of that. His path to victory is very narrow (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — while giving up any chance of Arizona, North Carolina, or Florida) while requiring the party to play defense in states that have been moving its way (Colorado, Virginia, and possibly even New Mexico and Minnesota), but not impossible. What is being ignored — ironically, because so few pundits think Sanders can beat Trump — is what would happen if he does.

For starters, voters looking for a dramatic departure from the Trump Administration would find — to their chagrin — that they won’t get one. On some of the major issues America faces in the world, Sanders and Trump are in agreement.

They both support — and, indeed, personify — the rise in isolationism that is exceedingly dangerous to America. The revulsion felt by many Americans at Sanders’ potential nomination will be shared by our allies at his potential election.

Indeed, a Trump-Sanders race by its very existence is likely to weaken NATO and our other democratic alliances, to say nothing of our partners in the fights against the Taliban and against Daesh. The lesson of 2016 — namely, that leaving Russia to its own devices means allowing them to attack our elections as well as our interests around the world — will be lost. Our allies will take note, and further distance themselves from us.

There are similar problems on international trade. To some extent, the rest of world has been holding its breath, trying to see if America’s protectionist turn is permanent or not. A Sanders nomination would make than an unequivocal “yes” — and they will act accordingly. Tens of millions of Americans who also support freer trade will be effectively silenced, but the biggest problem is that a failed and backward economic theory will be validated without even so much as an argument.

Meanwhile, the Trumpenproletariat will simply bank the policy victories and go all-in on outrage caused by their differences with a Sanders Administration — one whose re-election chances are nearly zero. Whether you subscribe to the Bitecofer Theory (Politico) about negative partisanship dominating the electorate, or look to economics (where a long-delayed recession is almost certain to hit in the early 20s), the Republican nominee for president in 2024 will be in a very competitive position.

Who would that nominee be is less important than what the Republican electorate wants of them. Trump has exposed a dangerously wide authoritarian streak within the GOP. No 2024 nominee can ignore it. More likely, they will embrace it. Even assuming Trump himself doesn’t attempt a rematch, he could put forth one of his children as his successor. Ironically, that may be the best case scenario, as neither Junior nor Ivanka has the dark genius of Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton.

Either way, Republicans in 2024 will be able to run against a president who promised the moon and delivered only what Mitch McConnell would let him – namely, zilch. All the while the damage Trump has done to our international standing would continue, because the policies that created the damage would be continued.

Democrats still have numerous options before them in 2020: Barack Obama’s Vice President, a youthful mayor untainted by Washington, a moderate Senator from the Upper Midwest, a successful Mayor of New York City, and a policy wunderkind. They have their weaknesses, too, to be sure, but all of them would be a better general election candidate than Sanders.

More importantly, all of them would make a better president than Sanders.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Thank You, Senator Romney

by D.J. McGuire

“Romney voted to convict the president. His fellow Republicans voted to convict themselves.” – Windsor Mann, The Week

Truth be told, I don’t think I could have said it any better.

My antipathy for Donald Trump is no secret. He was why I left the Republican Party in 2016. I am in no small part a Democrat because of what he has exposed about the GOP. I have called for him to be removed from office, an effort that failed today with the Senate’s acquittal — a sure-fire sign that jury nullification is alive and well in the 21st Century.

We have seen Republicans pretend that Donald Trump really does care about corruption in Ukraine — never mind that he couldn’t even name a single Ukrainian oligarch in that “perfect” call of 25 July 2019.

We have seen Republicans attempt to out the whistleblower in a desperate attempt to change the subject.

We saw the entire House Republican caucus refuse to believe fact and follow the lead of Devin Nunes — now exposed as Trump’s co-conspirator.

We saw 51 of 53 Republicans refuse to even consider witness testimony last week.

Finally, today, we saw 52 Senate Republicans vote to acquit, including several who freely admit the president did something egregious but can’t bring themselves to do anything about it. Nearly the entire Republican Party in Congress prostrated itself to Donald Trump.

Nearly.

That’s where Mitt Romney comes in.

The last Republican presidential nominee to win my vote — something I don’t see changing in my lifetime — Mitt Romney felt the squeeze, with his sense of honor on one side and part loyalty on the other. He laid out his thinking in an interview with McKay Coppins in The Atlantic (emphasis in original)

The gravity of the moment weighed on him, as did the pressure from members of his own party to acquit their leader. As his conscience tugged at him, he said, the exercise took on a spiritual dimension.

Romney, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described to me the power of taking an oath before God: “It’s something which I take very seriously.” Throughout the trial, he said, he was guided by his father’s favorite verse of Mormon scripture: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good. “I have gone through a process of very thorough analysis and searching, and I have prayed through this process,” he told me. “But I don’t pretend that God told me what to do.”

In the end, the evidence was inescapable. “The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process,” Romney said. “And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution—and one’s oath—that I can imagine. It’s what autocrats do.”

According to Romney’s interpretation of Alexander Hamilton’s treatise on impeachment in “Federalist No. 65”—which he says he’s read “multiple, multiple times”—Trump’s attempts to enlist the Ukrainian president in interfering with the 2020 election clearly rose to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“It’s what autocrats do.”

Romney also revealed the mentality that has taken over his party — and revealed why it is no longer mine:

“I get that a lot—‘Be with the president,’ ” Romney told me, sounding slightly perplexed. “And I’ll say, ‘Regardless of his point of view? Regardless of the issue?’ And they say yes. And … it’s like, ‘Well, no, I can’t do that.’ ”

I wish I could say Mitt Romney will be the conscience of the GOP. More likely, he will find himself as ostracized as Justin Amash was before he left. Romney has more time (his term expires in 2024), but as a Senator he also has more visibility. We will see what happens. For now, though, he has validated my vote for him in 2012.

For that, even as we are now across the partisan divide, I am deeply grateful.

“Romney voted to convict the president. His fellow Republicans voted to convict themselves.” – Windsor Mann, The Week

Truth be told, I don’t think I could have said it any better.

My antipathy for Donald Trump is no secret. He was why I left the Republican Party in 2016. I am in no small part a Democrat because of what he has exposed about the GOP. I have called for him to be removed from office, an effort that failed today with the Senate’s acquittal — a sure-fire sign that jury nullification is alive and well in the 21st Century.

We have seen Republicans pretend that Donald Trump really does care about corruption in Ukraine — never mind that he couldn’t even name a single Ukrainian oligarch in that “perfect” call of 25 July 2019.

We have seen Republicans attempt to out the whistleblower in a desperate attempt to change the subject.

We saw the entire House Republican caucus refuse to believe fact and follow the lead of Devin Nunes — now exposed as Trump’s co-conspirator.

We saw 51 of 53 Republicans refuse to even consider witness testimony last week.

Finally, today, we saw 52 Senate Republicans vote to acquit, including several who freely admit the president did something egregious but can’t bring themselves to do anything about it. Nearly the entire Republican Party in Congress prostrated itself to Donald Trump.

Nearly.

That’s where Mitt Romney comes in.

The last Republican presidential nominee to win my vote — something I don’t see changing in my lifetime — Mitt Romney felt the squeeze, with his sense of honor on one side and part loyalty on the other. He laid out his thinking in an interview with McKay Coppins in The Atlantic (emphasis in original)

The gravity of the moment weighed on him, as did the pressure from members of his own party to acquit their leader. As his conscience tugged at him, he said, the exercise took on a spiritual dimension.

Romney, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described to me the power of taking an oath before God: “It’s something which I take very seriously.” Throughout the trial, he said, he was guided by his father’s favorite verse of Mormon scripture: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good. “I have gone through a process of very thorough analysis and searching, and I have prayed through this process,” he told me. “But I don’t pretend that God told me what to do.”

In the end, the evidence was inescapable. “The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process,” Romney said. “And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution—and one’s oath—that I can imagine. It’s what autocrats do.”

According to Romney’s interpretation of Alexander Hamilton’s treatise on impeachment in “Federalist No. 65”—which he says he’s read “multiple, multiple times”—Trump’s attempts to enlist the Ukrainian president in interfering with the 2020 election clearly rose to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“It’s what autocrats do.”

Romney also revealed the mentality that has taken over his party — and revealed why it is no longer mine:

“I get that a lot—‘Be with the president,’ ” Romney told me, sounding slightly perplexed. “And I’ll say, ‘Regardless of his point of view? Regardless of the issue?’ And they say yes. And … it’s like, ‘Well, no, I can’t do that.’ ”

I wish I could say Mitt Romney will be the conscience of the GOP. More likely, he will find himself as ostracized as Justin Amash was before he left. Romney has more time (his term expires in 2024), but as a Senator he also has more visibility. We will see what happens. For now, though, he has validated my vote for him in 2012.

For that, even as we are now across the partisan divide, I am deeply grateful.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

So You Really Want to Defeat the Iranian Regime?

by D.J. McGuire

“A strange game, the only winning move is not to play” – Joshua, War Games

Less than a week after Qasem Soleimani was killed in an American drone attack in Baghdad, the Iranian regime’s military has responded with a dozen-plus missile attacks on two American bases. Thankfully, as of early this morning, there appear to be no American or Iraqi casualties.

That the Khomeinist regime in Tehran is hostile to the United States is not news – and no, said hostility did not start in January 2017. Tehran has been subverting Iraq’s democracy for over a decade. It has played a critical role in Bashar Assad’s bloody repression of the popular uprising in Syria – spearheaded by Soleimani himself before he met his own well-deserved demise. It has continually, and successfully, waylaid attempts by the Lebanese people to escape its influence.

All of these have been swept under the rug by the projectile exchange – including a burgeoning anti-Tehran movement among Iraqi Shiites, as I noted last week. Tehran’s attempt to change the subject worked beautifully. Now, they’re hoping to reap the benefits by relying on outrage at “the Great Satan” to isolated domestic opponents and keep any of the aforementioned anti-Tehran movements from getting more oxygen.

At this moment, Trump can continue military action, or he can move to defeat Tehran in the region. Note, I said or, not and. America can (and should) deliver serious geopolitical defeats to Tehran, but they won’t be delivered via direct military force. What would it entail? As it happens, I provided some of that answer last week:

A broader strategy would have recognized and reached out to the Iraqi protestors (and their counterparts in Iran) and challenged the mullahcracy across all fronts – including Syria and Lebanon. It would go beyond the ridiculous yet stubborn false choice of nothing or full military force. It would work with regional and global allies to press the case for true democracy and the stability that comes with it. It would make clear that the Tehran regime itself is the problem, and that we recognize its behavior is but a feature of its tyranny and the anxiety that always comes from a lack of popular legitimacy.

Contrary to what Tehran would like us to believe, opposition to their influence in Iraq hasn’t gone away. Even as the Shiite parties in the Iraqi parliament voted to demand U.S. troops leave Iraq, the Sunni, Kurdish, and other non-sectarian Shiite parties refused to show up for the vote (Washington Post). Had six more Shiite MPs been unable to attend, the parliament would have lacked a quorum and been unable to vote on anything.

The largest of the parties that did vote for the demand that is led by Muqtada al-Sadr, whose anger at the U.S. is at least matched by his fury at Tehran’s influence in his country. The current Prime Minister there is already on his way out because of the anger of the anti-Tehran Shiite movement. An American president who understood the nuances of the situation would realize we could seriously damage Iran geopolitically without firing a shot.

Meanwhile, we do still have a military presence in eastern Syria, and thus still have an opportunity to build and support Syrians who reject the false choice of Assad or Wahhabism. Of course, that first requires a president who recognizes that to be a false choice. Again, a Syria without Assad would strike a major blow against the Khomeinist regime.

Finally, there is the matter of the dissidents within Iran itself. For all of Trump’s supposed toughness, he has repeatedly insisted he is not looking for regime change in Iran (CNBC). This continues to send the wrong message to the Iranian people – the regime’s first and longest suffering group of victims. Lest we forget, Ronald Reagan gave the Polish Communists fits by supporting the Solidarity movement with words, funds, and communications materials. The Communist regime fell in 1989 without a shot being fired.

The first two objectives, if achieved, would badly defeat the Khomeinist regime; the third would help the Iranian people end it entirely. The problems are these: direct military action against Iran is more likely to damage than to benefit efforts for all three, and Donald Trump has never shown an interest in any of them in the first place.

That is why I have been so critical of his policies in the region. That is why I came up short of three full cheers for the successful dispatching of Soleimani. That butcher’s death would have been very helpful at least regarding the Syria and Iraq objectives, but without said objectives, all we got was a president with a goosed-up ego and the business end of roughly a dozen missiles. That said, it’s not too late to shift gears and “go long” with the aforementioned objectives to actually defeat the Khomeinist regime.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

More Perfect Monologues (Ep. 234)

In this special episode, each of the MPU hosts speaks directly to you about issues that have been on their minds over the Thanksgiving holiday.