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A Blameless Life (Ep. 197)

This week’s MPU podcast looks at Paul Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life” prison sentence, the latest turns in the Democratic primary race, what’s behind Chelsea Manning’s refusal to testify against Julian Assange, and Rebekah puts forth a strong feminist view on a woman’s right to control her own body.

Trump’s Latest Unlikely Helper: Justin Trudeau

by D.J. McGuire

There are two governments in what is sometimes called “Anglo-America.” One of them is facing charges of corruptions, demands for resignation, and the real risk of defenestration by the voters in the upcoming election.

The other is the Trump Administration.

It’s been that kind of month in Canada, where former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould pointedly accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff of attempting to waylay a prosecution of a government contracting firm that, (1) donated $100,000 illegally to Trudeau’s Liberal Party, (2) is being tried for massive bribes to the Qaddafi regime in Libya, and (3) has insisted that any judicially imposed restrictions on its ability to win future contracts would cripple it.

The firm, SNC-Lavalin, has demanded a Deferred Prosecution Agreement ever since DPAs were enacted – as a paragraph buried in a multi-hundred page omnibus budget passed last year. The Director of Public Prosecutions said no; as AG and Justice Minister (the posts are combined in Canada), Wilson-Raybould ratified that decision. Trudeau and his minions tried to talk her out of it for months afterwards before demoting her to Veterans Minister. The current AG – who, like the PM, just happens to have his district in the same city as SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters – insists a DPA is now possible (Global News).

As I write this, the PM himself has just addressed the issue. Stunningly, he didn’t contradict Wilson-Raybould’s assertions that he personally intervened – he even acknowledged he mentioned his own political situation (although he laughably insisted it “wasn’t partisan in nature” – Maclean’s transcript). He even goes so far as to say he should have intervened further(same link):

In the months that followed that meeting, I asked my staff to follow up regarding Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s final decision. I realize now that in addition, I should have done so personally, given the importance of this issue and the jobs that were on the line.

It’s that last bit that begins to reveal how Trudeau, in his increasingly desperate attempt to save himself, may unintentionally be giving Trump a lifeline.

Yesterday, the PM’s former top mandarin – Gerald Butts – testified before the House Justice Committee about his own interventions. He, too, defended them on the basis of the jobs lost if SNC-Lavalin went under. Paul Wells of Maclean’s(full disclosure: my favorite columnist in North America) explains the disconnect (emphasis in original):

To put labels on the two viewpoints here, Wilson-Raybould obviously thought a decision by the AG to interfere in decisions about public prosecutions should be exceptional. Butts thinks it should be routine. Wilson-Raybould wants the independence of the director of public prosecutions to be robust. Butts wants that independence to be minimal.

Does any of that sound familiar?

At first glance, Trudeau’s excuse may seem more policy-driven than Trump’s. First glances can be deceiving though. In both cases, the national leaders are using the economy as a cover for stopping legal proceedings that would hurt their political prospects. They are both hoping their voters and their intra-party allies focus not on the damage done to the rule of law but rather the supposedly noble goals they were pursuing while doing the damage.

Of course, Trudeau and Trump would list those “noble goals” rather differently, but both lists include “jobs” – now more than ever. Moreover, with an election seven months away, Trudeau is almost certain to use Trump as a foil in the upcoming campaign, insisting the opposition Conservatives are kinsmen of the rancid Trump Administration in the hopes his Liberal base will stay with him via outrage and fear.

Of course, what works for Trudeau in 2019 can – and almost certainly will – be used by Trump in 2020. In fact, unless the Conservatives do dethrone Trudeau this October, Trump could use “Crooked Justin” as an asset for his own re-election, even as he borrows the PM’s playbook.

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.

The Cohen Mutiny (Ep. 196)

This week the gang discusses Michael Cohen’s public congressional testimony and offer up their dream tickets for the Democratic nomination.

Kim-Trump Summit: Thank God It’s Over

by D.J. McGuire

About a week ago, I wondered if Trump would cave to Kim Jong-un at the Hanoi summit. It turns out he did. However, it wasn’t enough to get a “deal,” for which we should all be very grateful.

Prior to the summit, there was widespread concern about what Trump might offer the bloodthirsty tyrant of northern Korea. As it began, we found out (NBC News).

U.S. negotiators are no longer demanding that North Korea agree to disclose a full accounting of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs as part of talks this week between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to current and former senior U.S. officials.

The decision to drop, for now, a significant component of a potential nuclear deal suggests a reality that U.S. intelligence assessments have stressed for months is shaping talks as they progress: North Korea does not intend to fully denuclearize, which is the goal Trump set for his talks with Kim.

Negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials in advance of Trump and Kim’s second summit…have focused heavily on a core component of Pyongyang’s program, the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, officials said.

To be fair, Donald Trump is notthe first president to decide a deal with the Kim family is worth jettisoning key priorities in the American interest. In this case, he was merely repeating the mistakes of his three predecessors.

Within hours, however, he ventured into territory none of them dared – and that wasn’t a good thing (NBC).

Kim Jong Un was not responsible for the horrific injuries sustained by American student Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after being released from 17 months of detention in North Korea, President Donald Trump said Thursday.

“Some really bad things happened to Otto — some really, really bad things. But he tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said, referring to the North Korean dictator.

The president added that Kim told him that he “felt very badly about it.”

There’s no way to spin this: that was utterly nonsensical and offensive to the Warmbier family – who made their feelings clear afterwards (NBC).

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”

The concessions and “lavish praise” were not followed by a codification of surrender, although Trump did cancel a military exercise with South Korea (Fox News via Twitter), likely to make Kim happy.

So while the summit was not the failure it could have been it certainly wasn’t a success. Avoiding a bad deal can be done without any meetings. All one has to do is look at the disastrous proposal from the other side and turn it down. Instead, we got … well, we got the aforementioned – with some added “likes,” if you will, afterwards (Fox News via Matt Gertz).

A few years back, the UN Human Rights Commissionerreported on the regime led by the fellow Trump “likes.” Now, I get the “UN” and “Human Rights” have been hard to say in the same breath sometimes, but this paragraph in the report says it all.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report says, adding that “Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”

Oh, and they developed and produced nuclear weapons despite promising not to do so in 1985 … and in 1994 … and in 2007.

Donald Trump has a horrible blind spot when it comes to tyrants: from Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-un. The only nice thing to say about his meeting with the latter is that it could have been a lot worse …

… but that was a reason not to have the summit in the first place.

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.

Primary Colors 2020

by Kevin Kelton

Democrats, forget left vs. moderate for a moment and talk raw primary politics. Because ultimately primary races are a battle of personalities, not political purity. Once Joe Biden and Beto O’Roarke jump into the 2020 race, the field will be set.* Now the game is primary chess. So let’s look at the board.

Bernie Sanders is likely to win or do very well in his neighboring New Hampshire, the second big prize, a place where an old school candidate like Biden is not likely to run well. (Granite staters tend toward newer flavors.) And South Carolina will be tough for both Joe and Bernie, two guys not known for playing to the grits crowd.

That means Joe must win Iowa. Otherwise he’ll be 0 for 3 in the first three contests⁺ and no one comes back from that except the ’04 Red Sox.

If Beto or Kamala Harris can knock off Sanders in New Hampshire, that could douse The Bern for good. Harris seems positioned to do well in minority-heavy South Carolina. But neither of them is likely to break free if they don’t win Iowa. At best, one might emerge as the fresh-face candidate who will still have to fend off the old guard to prove their mettle.

So once again Iowa is key, even more so this time than normally. (How do a few hundred thousand caucus voters kidnap the nation every four years?) Should Biden somehow win there, it’s probably a Biden-Bernie or Biden-Beto or Biden-Harris race.⁺⁺

That would set up yet another epic battle for the ideological soul of the party, with pragmatists behind Biden and ideologues splintering between Bernie and Beto or Harris. There’s only one lane out of that bowling alley, while Biden would be free to play to the pragmatist, anti-Trump crowd.

But for Joe to get there, it’s Iowa Iowa Iowa. Can he out-caucus Sanders in the heartland? Or will a smooth-talking Music Man (or Woman) from out west come in and steal their swooning Iowan hearts?

If Biden stalls in Iowa, NH and SC become the game. The party will lurch left. Everyone will be touting Medicare For All and play some version of a Green New Deal hand. “I’ll see your carbon tax and raise you a solar jobs bill.” Each will have their own version of a Robin Hood wealth tax, turning the debates into a giant Mathletes club. “Is 70% of an eight figure salary greater than 2% of a nine figure estate? Please show your work.”

And Trump will run against socialism, no matter who tops the ticket. Meaning the world may finally learn what would’ve happened if a Democratic Socialist had secured the 2016 nomination and ran against Trumpism.

There. I just spared you the next year of your life. Now, who do you like for 2024?

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast. He also runs the Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics.

* No one is waiting to see what Jeff Merkley or Michael Bennett will be doing. And Sherrod Brown doesn’t have the fire to catch fire.

⁺ The Nevada caucus actually comes before SC this time, but I don’t see that traditionally blue state being much of a factor. Considering it’s so far west compared to the others and what that entails in travel time, it may not get much candidate play at all.

⁺⁺ At this point I don’t give Amy Klobuchar much of a shot, but we can’t rule her out, since “Midwestern nice” plays well in Iowa. And though I personally like Elizabeth Warren, I doubt she can compete in this field. She has no lane that I can see, and I get no sense of traction for her in Open Fire, my Facebook focus group. 

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…

Hanging with Mr. Trump (Ep. 194)

This week, the MPU gang is joined by standup comedian Bruce Smirnoff, who regales them with stories about his 48 hours hanging out with Donald Trump.

Shutdown Showdown Hoedown (Ep. 188)

This MPU episode looks at the ongoing showdown between President Trump and the new Democratic congressional majority over his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall/steel slats/fence/drones/security/whatever, watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance on the top marginal tax rate, and Elizabeth Warren’s first week on the presidential campaign trail.

Rebekah Womansplains It All (Ep. 187)

This week we present a special New Year’s mini-episode where Rebekah takes on the guys without interruptions or mansplaining. If 2018 was the year of the woman, this is the MPU podcast of the woman.

Trump Train Wreck (Ep. 185)

This episode looks at the legal assault on Obamacare, the looming government shutdown, the continuing tragedy on the southern border, and the latest in the Robert Mueller Russia probe. Plus check out our Number 1 ranking on Podranker.com.

Border Disorder (Ep. 183)

This episode looks at the tragic chaos at the southern border, the comical chaos of the Trump administration, and the looming chaos of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.

Real debate without the hate!

Election Reform (Ep. 182)

This week’s podcast looks at the fallout from the midterms, some possible ways to improve the U.S. election process, Trump’s Jim Acosta banning debacle, crazy conspiracies surrounding Michael Avenatti, and rumors about Condi Rice and the Cleveland Browns.