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Staying-Sane 2020

by Kevin Kelton

As we count down to election night and then a week or two of uncertainty following it, it’s important that everyone take a step back and settle in for the possibility of BOTH outcomes. With that in mind, here’s a few tips on how to survive the next two weeks:

1) Remember that no election is ever a sure thing. It’s okay to like your chances and feel optimistic. Just remember that no matter which way the polls are leaning, either candidate could win. It’s when you go in to an election night thinking the outcome is certain, that you come out devistated.

2) Realize that history is longer than you and me, and America isn’t falling apart due to any election or presidency. Even given another four years, this guy can’t undo 240. America survived James Buchanan (barely), Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover (barely again), Richard Nixon, and two Reagan terms. (And believe me, plenty of us thought he was pretty awful at the time.) If you don’t know much about these infamous stains on the presidency, listen to a few episodes of the Very Presidential pocast. You’ll learn that Trump is just the latest in a long history of crazy, narcisistic, incompetent a-holes who somehow fooled enough voters to get to the Oval Office. Sure, Trump is worse by far, and a second term would be dreadful. But he won’t dismantle America. He’ll just reset the bar a few notches lower.

3) Know that we’ve had conservative SCOTUS courts before. But a somewhat sane middle tends to emerge. Look at John Roberts. Look at Anthony Kennedy, who was a conservative appointee. Look at Sandra Day O’Connor (a Reagan appointee), David Souter, John Paul Stevens, Earl Warren. All Republican appointees who moved considerably left over time.

4) Read some history to get some perspective. American presidential politics tend to swing to extremes, from Coolidge and Hoover to FDR… from Eisenhower to JFK… from Nixon-Ford to Carter… from Carter to Reagan… from Reagan-Bush to Clinton… from W to Obama… from Obama to this guy. I suspect it will swing again in 2020. But if it takes until 2024 or even 2028, a progressive Democrat will occupy the WH eventually and there will be a new progressive era, with a progressive congress to help move this country in the right direction. Shifting demographics and the arc of history dictate it. You can take that to the bank. (Even to a Chinese bank account.)

5) Reset your priorities. Our job in life is not to obsess over D.C. and MSNBC/FOX all day. All you can do is volunteer in campaigns, donate, advocate, and vote. Then you have to let your representatives (loathesome as some may be) do their jobs while we return to our lives. As everyone in Open Fire knows, I love politics. You probably do too or you wouldn’t be reading this. But it’s not healthy to become obsessed with it. Live you life! Eat good/bad food. Play golf, or travel, or see a show. Make love. Enjoy your kids and grandkids. Do great things at work and build a nest egg. Find Facebook friends you genuinely like go meet them in person to make new real-world friends (as I did recently). Politics – like work, sex, family, sports, and cleaning up your dog’s poop – need not dominate your mind and soul. You don’t have to live every day under Trump’s spell.

6) Finally, take heart. Because I promise you this: this man you detest, he will get his comeupance. He’s too vulnerable and too crazy not to. And because of who he is, it will be gnawing and painful. His marriage is vulnerable. His children are (very) vulnerable. His business is vulnerable. And there will be legal consequences. Nixon fell. Weinstein fell. Cosby fell. OJ fell. Epstein fell. This guy will too. He’s a walking timebomb and his mouth is the lit match. So sit back and wait for the fireworks.

Because THAT show, whether it’s in 2021 or 2023 or 2025, will be freaking awesome!

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

 

Don’t Tape Me, Bro! (Ep. 274)

This week’s episode looks at the new Bob Woodward book and Trump’s audio tape confessions, the potential sale of TikTok to Oracle and what that could mean for the popular social media platform, and the state of the presidential race as we march toward the debates.

The MPU Impeachment Journal

This column is a compilation of separate thoughts on impeachment and the state of American politics.


As I predicted on the podcast, the two limited and obtuse articles of impeachment that Nancy Pelosi and company adopted are woefully inadequate for the task at hand: galvanizing the nation’s attention and exposing President Trump’s lack of fitness for office. First, they do not allege actual criminal acts, a charge that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans may very well use to prematurely dismiss the charges in the senate as legally meaningless. The terms bribery and extortion should have peppered the articles’ text, which should have contained one separate article just titled “Bribery and Extortion.” Similarly, opting for the amorphous term “Obstruction of Congress” instead of the criminal code crime of “Obstruction of Justice” was a fatal wimp out on the Democrats’ part.

Moreover, leaving out the Don McGahn incident and other obstruction of justices outlined in the Mueller Report allows Republicans to claim that the entire impeachment is over “one telephone call” instead of the panoply of Trump’s unconstitutional misdeeds over three (or more) years. Campaign finance corruption, emoluments, unlawful executive actions – these should all be in the mix on the senate floor. Make senators Susan Collins, Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner vote to acquit Trump of everything he’s done, instead of hiding behind a very limited single incident. That would have produced a national outrage commensurate with an impeachment trial.

I understand that the House majority’s expensive lawyers probably argued against using those legal terms. But having clashed with attorneys all through my television producing and corporate training careers, I’ve learned that lawyers have a very narrow view of the world that often misses the bigger picture. In this case, they lawyered the Democratic caucus right out of a meaningful impeachment trial.


For Mitch McConnell to stand on the senate floor and complain that Democrats have talked about impeachment since the start of Trump’s administration is the height of hypocrisy coming from the man who announced his goal of making Barrack Obama “a one term president” on the very first night of his first term in office.

Democrats had good reasons to anticipate impeaching Donald Trump. He showed a personality and temperament highly likely to violate the the oath of office. He had talked about forcing himself on women. He had run a scam university and was known for stiffing his contractors. He urged Russia to commit international computer hacking. He refused to sever his ties with his vast business empire, which right there promised to violate the emoluments clause (as he has for three straight years). He lied about charitable donations and it was common knowledge that he misused and abused his charitable foundation. He spoke in vulgar terms and showed little respect for women, children, minorities, international treaties, contracts, and laws. He hid his tax returns and lied about the reason. He regularly defied court orders (one of the charges he was eventually impeached over). His first national security advisor lied to the FBI within two weeks of his appointment to the job. His former campaign chairman was a known international scam artist. He fired his FBI Director for purely personal political reasons and lied about it on national television. He held private, off-the-record meetings with Putin. And as we later found out, he hectored his attorney general and White House counsel to obstruct justice for him. We would also learn he was negotiating with the Russian government to build a hotel in Moscow while actively running for president (the height of poor judgment and bad faith), and he used private channels to run his nefarious schemes, scams, illegal use of campaign funds, and he’s been a serial cheater on every wife he ever married. And his hero is Roy Cohen.

So yeah, people who weren’t mesmerized by his silly tweets and vulgar rallies could read his character and expect he would run afoul of his oath of office. What’s amazing is that 197 congressmen, 53 U.S. senators, and some 60 million Americans did not see it coming.


Trump keeps complaining about the Obama administration spying on him (which is factually untrue). Yet no one ever mentions that he professed to send private investigators to Hawaii to privately spy on President Obama regarding his birth certificate, an invasion of privacy that Trump had no legal standing to commit since he is neither a journalist nor a member of law enforcement. Now, it’s quite possible that he was lying about sending lawyers to Hawaii. But he still made the claim, just as he still keeps making the bogus claim that he was the one who was spied on illegally. People who live in glass houses should not be throwing private investigators.


The Republican Party has allowed itself to become the party of Trumpism. But as the defeats of Matt Bevin, Eddie Rispone, and Ed Gillespie demonstrate, even in red states, you can’t win on Trumpism if you aren’t Donald Trump. Someday The Donald won’t sit in The White House. And the politicians who anchored their careers to him and his perverse style of governing may just find themselves submerged in the anti-Trump backlash that will inevitably rise.


Many Americans think that the senate impeachment trial will be no big deal because the outcome is pre-ordained. Nothing could be further from the truth. There has only been one impeachment trial in modern American history, which established a limited set of precedents for how presidential impeachments should proceed. But Mitch McConnell shows the potential to rewrite the impeachment process and with it all future presidential impeachments ad infinitum. 

If McConnell refuses to allow any prosecution witnesses, he’ll upend the precedent set by the Clinton impeachment trial, when Monica Lewinsky and two other witnesses gave video taped depositions. Or worse, he might submit the entire case for early dismissal which, if successful, could drastically minimize the significance of the impeachment process and forever alter the precarious balance of power between the three branches of government. Should McConnell rig the process to avoid a real final verdict of guilt or acquittal, future Congresses may be more empowered to use the impeachment process as a glorified form of presidential censure. 

It is imperative that impeachment not be dumbed down or diminished to be something other than what the Founders meant it to be: a sober and serious examination of a president’s fitness for office. If the majority party can swat away articles of impeachment without a serious examination of the charges brought by the House, future presidents will be emboldened to break the law whenever their party controls the upper chamber. 

Impeachments will always be a political and partisan endeavor, as they are the product of a political system. But that doesn’t mean we should allow one party to summarily revise the rules that have held U.S. presidents accountable to the people for 232 years.

Article 1 of the Constitution gives the senate sole power to” try all impeachments.” But it does not give the senate majority leader sole power to rewrite the impeachment language in Article 1 for posterity.

 

Kevin Kelton is the co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and a founder of Open Fire Politics.

 

Life After Mueller (Ep. 208)

 

Portland radio personality Carl Wolfson joins the gang to discuss Robert Mueller’s press conference, the chances of having an impeachment inquiry, the state of the 2020 Democratic race, potential primary challenges for Trump, and LGBT Pride Month.

A Mother’s Day Brother’s Day (Ep. 205)

This special Mother’s Day episode features each host talking about their Mother’s Day plans, their families, and a political issue that’s been on each of their minds this week.

Does Not Exonerate (Ep. 202)

This MPU episode looks at the redacted Mueller Report and how Democrats should respond to it in congress and on the 2020 campaign trail.

Our 200th Show! (Ep. 200)

 

This week, the MPU hosts celebrate their 200th broadcast by reflecting on the week in politics. They also talk about the history of the podcast, let us meet their families, and share some fun surprises along the way.

We Need to STOP Talking About Joe Biden

by Kevin Kelton

We rarely do this, but I am going to respectfully rebut the opinion article of my fellow More Perfect Union host, Rebekah Kuschmider, on the subject of Joe Biden. Yes, this is a debate, and no, there is no hate. Just a lot of disappointment.

You see, I agree with Rebekah that we need to have a serious dialogue in this country about women’s rights and male behaviors. Men have gotten way too free with our hands and our attitudes over the last several decades, and there is no excuse for it. We have badly abused our role and our rights in how we relate to women in the workplace, the dating world, and even on the campaign trail. It’s a long-overdue conversation, and we men need to do a hefty dose of active listening.

But the current kerfuffle over Joe Biden isn’t about the #MeToo movement or women’s personal body space. Let’s get honest here. If women wanted to have a serious conversation about Biden’s behavior, it could have happened during his many years in public life prior to the eve of his entree into the 2019 primary race. It could have happened when he ran for president in 1988, or again in 2008, or during his eight years as vice president, or during the two years since. It could have been a sincere discussion about how millions of men his age, not just Joe Biden, have to re-learn what’s socially acceptable behaviors and come to a higher understanding of what’s appropriate forms of affection and what’s not.

Joe Biden has to learn it. Al Franken has to learn it. Garrison Keillor has to learn it. Donald Trump has to learn it. And millions of non-famous men like me have to learn it, too. It could have been a positive social discussion of gender and age and societal rules and changing social norms.

But it hasn’t been. Instead, it’s been a personal hit job on one very public man, just days before he enters the race for president.

So please don’t try to kid me that this is some high-minded social revolution that’s going on here. It is not. It is a very purposeful, very cruel attempt to destroy a single man’s reputation for petty partisan gain.

The people lining up to go public with their personal grievances with Joe Biden aren’t dispassionate non-partisans. They are self-admitted Sanders supporters, women who want to see a female at the top of the ticket, angry far-left liberals trying to stave off another moderate Democratic nominee, and of course Trump sycophants who’d love nothing more than to see the the campaign of the one Democrat they fear the most aborted before his primary run even begins.

As for the handful of women and men who may sincerely be outraged by “Uncle Joe’s” chauvinistic old-school manners, they are blinded by their own self-righteous indignation. The #MeToo movement should be used to advance relations between the sexes, not turn it into a take-no-prisoners blood match to the death.

Any honest study of Joe Biden would show that he acts that way with women and men, girls and boys. A simple Google image search turns up dozens of photos of Joe getting intimate and handsy with other men, with his sons, with his political opponents, even with his old boss, Barack Obama. It’s not that Joe is a creepy perv. It’s that he’s too publicly affectionate, period.

But that is not a crime worthy of public scorn and humiliation. Nor is it a reason to stop a good and highly qualified man from seeking the presidency.

As for Biden’s so-called accusers, let’s take a gander at their motives for a moment. It was telling that one of the women who suddenly came forward last week is an ardent pro-Bernie supporter, and the other used her five minutes of fame to advocate for a female nominee. They both smack of bitter political agendas, and their nasty attempt to turn Biden’s ham-fisted shows of public affection into some kind of creepy sexual predator persona is abominable.

The truth is, Joe Biden is an American hero. A deeply religious man who is clearly devoted to his family, he served his party and his country admirably for almost five decades, including being a great two-term vice president. He was one of the first high public figures to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage, forcing others to follow his lead, and he has been a true champion of women’s rights and gender rights. He’s made mistakes in the past, as pretty much every male of his generation has. (Including this writer.) But to publicly tar and feather him for minor transgressions of contemporary social mores is a sin of all four orders.

If Joe Biden is not the person to lead Democrats into the next election, let the voters decide at the polls. There are plenty of good reasons to support Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Roarke, Pete Buttigieg, or one of the many highly qualified women and people of color in the race. Let them make their cases and let Joe make his.

Yes, Rebekah, you’re 100% right – it’s high time we learn to treat women as equals with full control over their own bodies and their own autonomy. That conversation is ongoing and should continue. But doing it by hoisting a good man on a burning cross doesn’t make it holy. It makes it hollow.

So, with all due respect, I think it’s time we stop talking about Joe Biden. Biden isn’t what’s wrong with America or American politics. The “creepy Uncle Joe” caricature is.

College Daze (Ep. 198)

This week the MPU gang talks about the college admissions cheating scandal, the rise of white nationalism, and Beto O’Roarke’s entrance into the 2020 Democratic primary field.

Waiting for the Man (Ep. 195)

This week the MPU gang tells you why the Mueller Report is unlikely to be the dud that some cable news talking heads are claiming it could be, why Trump’s meeting with Kim Jung Un will be a bigger dud than Trump is would like it to be, and what they’ll be snacking on when Michael Cohen drops a dime on The Donald in his televised congressional testimony.

Listen at…

Unseating Trump

by Kevin Kelton

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
–Sen. Mitch McConnell, 2010

Every opposition political party has a duty to try to oppose and, when justified, defeat the party in power, and that starts with its highest leaders. Just as the Republicans worked their tails off to unseat Barack Obama in 2012, Democrats have an obligation to their voters to do everything in their constitutional power to unseat Donald Trump.

The question is, How?

For one, Democrats should not be afraid of impeachment and so cowered by the right as to turn the mere mention of the word into a taboo. The “I word” is not a curse; it’s a constitutionally sound legal process that The Founding Fathers created for just this reason. The House is fully in its constitutionally mandated oversight rights to investigate potential high crimes and send articles of impeachment to the Senate if justified. Yet with a “jury” comprised of 53 Republican senators, it’s doubtful (though not inconceivable) that body will achieve the requisite 2/3 vote to remove Trump from office. 

But that does not mean an impeachment trial would be in vain. While the decision to vote for or against an impeachment conviction is a political calculation made by each senator, the damning testimony and evidence that would likely be unearthed in an impeachment proceeding would greatly inform the 2020 election.

The 2018 midterms showed that most Americans have lost patience with the lack of character and moral compass of this president. The revelations that could come out during an impeachment trial would greatly add to that impatience. Like the Titanic taking on water, Trump’s presidency cannot float forever. With each dirty revelation that surely would come out, each compartment of Trump’s illicit ship of state will begin to flood, and the entire administration will quickly submerge.

From Paul Manafort to Michael Flynn to Michael Cohen to Roger Stone – and maybe even Jared Kushner and Don Jr. – the wrong-doings that would come out during testimony in a public impeachment trial will send the Trump dominos falling. The president himself would probably survive thanks to his GOP firewall in the senate, but his presidency would be mortally wounded and on life support just as it heads into the 2020 primary season.

The idea that Trump might emerge from an impeachment acquittal victorious and vindicated is nonsense. He is not as likable as Bill Clinton, and his high crimes will prove much more than a sordid sexual affair. And it cannot be overlooked that even with a bump in Clinton’s approval ratings after his acquittal, that still didn’t stop his vice president, Al Gore, from losing the presidency in 2000.

One could even anticipate a GOP primary challenge to Trump on moral grounds. His poll numbers might get so bad that Trump would be compelled to forgo a re-election run, handing the nomination to Mike Pence in an effort to salvage some scraps of his presidential legacy. (A Hail Mary pass that didn’t work so well for Hubert Humphrey or Gerald Ford.)

But invariably, we will have to unseat Trump (or Pence) at the polls. While right now the pundit banter seems to flitter around who is the most progressive candidate or who is the new, younger face the party needs, I suspect that an impeachment process will change that equation. Voters often lurch from one extreme to the other – from Reagan-Bush old stodginess to Clinton young dynamism; from Clinton philandering to George W. Bush family values; from Bush II recklessness to Obama coolness.

If Trump is proved in a senate trial to be a dirty con artist who scammed his way into office and continues to profit illicitly from it, decency and honor may be the commodity 2020 voters crave.

Joe Biden is well-positioned to make that case. Just as George W. Bush was able to run on restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office, Biden could run on honor, decency and competence. So might another Democratic candidate who can project a similar sense of honor and character in a way Hillary Clinton could not. A Trump-weary electorate might flock to that message and messenger.

The way to unseat Trump is to hammer his faults relentlessly and then offer a clear contrast. An impeachment trial in the senate, even one ending in acquittal, would magnify that contrast.

Trump’s policies may resonate with conservative voters, but his bankrupt character is what will ultimately defeat him.

 

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

The Mueller Report NOT To Expect


                                                     
           

September 1, 2018

 

The Honorable Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General
United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.

 

          Re:  Final Report from the Office of Special Counsel

 

Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Members of Congress,

          It is with great regret that I must issue this Final Report from the Office of Special Counsel announcing that we hereby close our investigation into Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election with no finding of wrongdoing in this matter. I am sorry to say that after fifteen months of rigorous investigation by the nation’s premier team of criminal investigators and prosecutors, and at a cost of millions of dollars to U.S. taxpayers, our efforts were all for naught. Quite simply, we were stymied by the superior intelligence and cunning of Donald J. Trump and his campaign cohorts. In short, we failed.

          Specifically, while my team was successful at chasing down thousands of leads and obtaining some 19 indictments and five guilty pleas from individuals and companies who worked together to elect Mr. Trump, we were helpless to build a case proving their illicit actions really happened. Even with bank records, wire-tapped conversations, thousands of emails, and other incontrovertible evidence of their web of conspiracy to affect the 2016 election, we have decided to hang it up and call it quits without attempting to make a case to the American people, the task we were specifically assigned and sworn to carry out.

          While there is ample evidence that campaign staffers Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page met with Russian operatives to discuss publishing materials meant to discredit candidate Hillary Clinton in exchange for a more favorable foreign policy toward Russia once the election was over (including changes to the RNC platform made at the behest of campaign manager Paul Manafort to benefit Russia in the Ukraine), we are stymied about how to prove said quid-pro-quo conspiracy so that rural voters and GOP Senators might comprehend it.

          Further, despite thousands of documents showing unreported illicit financial transactions and favors of influence between Russian oligarchs and Mr. Trump’s family, we were unable to connect the dots of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, even though the President himself is on public record asking for their help to smear Mrs. Clinton with illegally hacked emails, and even though the President’s son, son-in-law and campaign associates met and spoke repeatedly with Russian operatives in furtherance of their efforts to illegally obtain and release her emails, and even though Mr. Trump and family would have been the sole beneficiaries of said collusion to affect the outcome of the election.

          Moreover, while we have documented proof through emails, tweets and sworn witness testimony that Trump confidant Roger Stone personally engaged Julian Assange and the Russian hacker Guccifer 2, who went on to procure and release DNC and John Podesta emails to damage Clinton’s campaign only days after Stone predicted those events on multiple media outlets, we felt we had no choice but to accept his explanation that he was merely joking and the timing and specificity of his “jokes” was a coincidence. True, we could have called Mr. Stone to testify under oath and catch him in multiple changes in his story, but why bother? He said it was a misunderstanding and we have to take an upstanding man like him at his word. To have done less would have been a perjury trap.

          Similarly, the fact that the President attempted to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James Comey and through other documented efforts to derail our investigation is simply beyond our capacity to prove in court. As you know, the President claims it was all a misunderstanding, and the American people would surely believe a sitting U.S. president with a 13% “honest and trustworthy” rating over contemporaneous FBI memos, the sworn testimony of multiple eye witnesses, and every single officer of the U.S. Department of Justice.

          I know you and the American people were hoping to find closure through our investigation. But frankly, the only way to do that would have been to put the key witness on the stand. And any effort to subpoena the President to testify under oath, as was done in Clinton v. Jones and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would have been an unconscionable perjury trap and may have insulted the President’s feelings as well. No president of the United States can be expected to testify truthfully and get his multiple different stories straight under that kind of pressure.

          In all candor, it appears that Mr. Trump and his team of neophyte political amateurs were just too cagey and sinister for us. For that, and for all the negative press generated by the President’s disinformation campaign while we professionally and meticulously investigated this case out of the public eye as we were constitutionally charged to do, I humbly apologize. And if you’ll authorize it, I would like to testify in front of Congress so I may publicly clear the President’s good name and admit the folly of our partisan attempt to reverse his magnificent electoral mandate.

          Oh wait!… No, I take that all back. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien writing.

          We are still investigating. Further criminal indictments and referral for impeachment forthcoming.

Sincerely,

 

 

Robert S. Mueller III

(As dictated to Kevin Kelton, cohost, The More Perfect Union podcast)