The Buffalo Bills of the Political World

Special Elections are odd ducks in American politics. A lot of pundits try to use them as Roman Seers did the entrails of chickens. And both groups had probably the same rate of success. The elections can serve as insights into how parts of the Country view the then political status quo. The US government is still, regrettably, a duopoly. So no matter how much candidates try to make it all about them, special elections are tied to the parties. A vote for a Republican in the special election is a vote for the Trump agenda. A vote for a Democrat is a vote against the Trump agenda. This why pundits like to see them as massive bellwethers.

Going against that concept is a special election allows the parties and their various political surrogates to concentrate their firepower (i.e. money) on a single election in a manner they cannot replicate during a general Congressional election. Yesterday’s Georgia 6 special election cost the parties approximately Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000.00). To replicate that in 2018, across 435 Congressional Seats would require spending Twenty-One Billion Seven Hundred Fifty Million Dollars ($21,750,000,000.00). While that might be the most honest “shovel ready” jobs politicians could create, it just ain’t happening.

While they might not be bellwethers, special elections can serve as a canary in the coal mine for political parties. If the party out of power racks up surprise victories, the party in power needs to take notice. If the party out of power keeps losing, they need to reassess their strategy.

For example, the January 2010 win by Scott Brown’s the vacant Massachusetts Senate seat (along with the Republican victories of the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey in November 2009) should have been a wake-up call for Democrats that the American public was very uneasy with the Democrat’s agenda. They should have stopped with Obamacare. They opted not to do so. And the result was the 2010 wave election.

The Republican victory in GA-6 does not qualify as a bellwether. While this would be an Ossoff victory would have been an upset (the first Democrat to represent the District since ’78), the closeness of the race would have mitigated against it. The intense focus of the democrats on that election would have been something they would not have been able to replicate 18 months from now. But, take Handel’s 3.8 point victory and the 3.1 point victory by Ralph Norman in the under-reported election in South Carolina and the GOP should pause for a moment. While they have won all of the special elections this year, the margin of victory has been incredibly small, especially in traditional Republican districts (the last poll for SC-5 had Norman up 53-37. Given his 52-48 victory, all of the undecideds apparently broke for the Democrat). And these districts have been in various parts of the Country, giving a better snap shot of America’s views. The people may not like the Democrats, but they are clearly not enamored with the Trump Agenda.

The Republican party is going to be battling some strong headwinds in 2018. Historically, midterm elections are referendums on the party in power. The lower the popularity of the President, the worse his party does. Having a President with a popularity rating in the low 40s is never been a good sign for his party. If the GOP wants to insulate itself from any chance of losing the House, they will need to come up with a legislative agenda they can pass. And given the short-attention span of the President (Last week was announced as infrastructure week and very little in the way of policy was set forth) and the risk aversion of the Senate to initiate anything (see the one infrastructure policy Trump did announce), and Paul Ryan needs to put together a group of high profile bills he knows he can pass to show the American People Congress is doing something.

As for the Democrats, they also need to keep in mind that these elections are not bellwethers. But they also have to overcome the fact that when it comes to picking up Republican seats, they are 0-4 in special elections this year, despite backing truckloads of money into each of the races. And in each case they came tantalizingly close to winning, only to lose in the end. Between 1990 and 1994, the Buffalo Bills were the AFC Champions and played in Super bowls XXV through XXVIII. They lost each one. Almost all were heartbreakingly close games.

The Democrats are the now the Buffalo Bills of Politics.

#sad
The epitome of #sad

The Democrats need some serious introspection. It is said that armies are always preparing to win the last war. The special elections show the Democrats are always prepared to lose the last election. The idea that they could run a campaign solely built on a hashtag (#Resistance) and blind opposition to the President has to be considered a failure. The idea they could bring someone into Georgia Six who didn’t live there and was funded by major donors from outside of Georgia was a hell of a gamble that failed spectacularly. (And Ossoff whining this morning that despite his campaign spending $40 million that somehow a lack of campaign finance is the reason he lost shows a stunning lack of awareness). I would commend you to read this long twitter rant by someone who lives in the District to understand how badly the Democrats handled this.

And the blame has to start at the top with Nancy Pelosi. She has been the leader of the House Democrats since 2006. With Hillary wandering the back woods of Chappaqua like some sort of pant-suited Bigfoot, Pelosi is the “Face of the Party”. The minority leader is the poster child for costal liberal elitism. The day she retires (or is ousted from Leadership) will be a sad day for GOP fundraisers. And her policy agenda s shows a complete lack of awareness of the reality that allowed Trump to win the presidency.

But even party members have to get a grip. During Ossoff’s concession speech, there were reportedly cries of “Not our Congressman”. This continual refusal to acknowledge the other party’s victory as legitimate is doing it no favors with those people who don’t live breathe and eat politics. National Review’s Kevin Williamson summed it up best:

So, the election didn’t go your way. That means America is finished, defeated, corrupted beyond redemption? Grow up. Nobody said being free would be easy. We, all of us, have work to do — childish fantasies and childish temper tantrums aren’t getting it done.

The Democrats have to stop treating anyone who opposes them as being some sort of racist, misogynistic xenophobe. This strategy failed in 2016. And it has failed five times in 2017. A new strategy is required.

The biggest problem with the Democrats is they love the pomp and circumstance of being the opposition. But they don’t like the details. In contrast, the Tea Party was founded in not in opposition to President Obama, but to his policies. The Tea Party had a very clear agenda: they were for cutting spending, reducing taxes and reigning in government. They had very clear goals. And the Tea Party was equally clear they were ready, willing, and able to work with President Obama. It was Obama who decided to ignore the Tea Party and opted instead to become President Phone & Pen.

Democrats keep trying to replicate the 209-2014 Tea Party movement and failing. Sure, the Occupy Wall Street protests had all the visual hallmarks of the 1960s protest movements. But they never had a solid agenda of what they wanted to have happen. It was always this vague re-hashed of discredited Marxist-Leninist ideas. The #Resistance is the same thing. The main agenda item for them is the impeachment of Trump. That idea precludes any idea of them working with the President. Which means, from a practical standpoint, whatever policy ideas they get around to promoting have no shot of being implemented. Trump is nowhere unpopular enough for people to realistically believe he would be convicted by Senate. And while the #Resistance makes noises about also impeaching Pence and installing Pelosi as President, they have failed to produce a single item about the Vice President to even remotely suggest he has done anything that could be considered a misdemeanor, never mind a high crime. A vote for the #Resistance is a vote for a futile gesture.

The Democrats can be the party of No. But they have to have solid agenda. If you oppose Trumpcare, then have a basic plan for how to fix Obamacare. Opposing tax reform? Then what’s the bullet point ideas you have? Show the American people there is something more than just a foot-stomping, holding your breath until you get your way from the party.

The one good thing about this is neither party will actually undertake any introspection. They will continue doing what they normally do. And so the 2018 election will be decided, as every election since the fall of Berlin Wall, by the words of the Apocryphal Harold Macmillan:

“Events dear boy, events.”

And since the duopoly is content to let events controlled their fortunes, it gives opportunities to third parties to step into the breach.

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Comey & May… in June

A few quick thoughts

In about ten minutes, former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. When the news first broke about Comey’s meeting with Trump and the claims that Trump seemingly attempted to obstruct justice, I noted there were two possibilities: Either Trump had obstructed justice and needed to be impeached or the media vastly overplayed its hand. Based on Comey’s prepared introductory remarks, it seems like option 2 is what we are seeing.

On one level, Comey’s recitation of his history with Trump shows the President to be a rather insecure narcissist who really has no idea how government is supposed to operate. His demands for loyalty make sense for a businessman who has just completed a hostile takeover of a company, but have no place when dealing with government officials in positions where they required the advice and consent of a co-equal branch of the government. Comey did not owe loyalty to President Trump. Comey’s duty of loyalty was to the United States Constitution and his oath to uphold the law.

This is where Comey’s testimony hurts him. Comey does not appear to be some guardian of Truth, Justice and the American Way. His own words damn him as bureaucrat seeking to maintain his position. He promises the President “honest loyalty” and then immediately runs home and drafts a CYA memo outlining everything he thinks Trump did wrong. That is not loyalty. More important, that is not honesty.

Comey’s claims regarding the incident when Trump is said to have pressured him to end the investigation into Mike Flynn also doesn’t make sense. Leaving aside his claims that he “understood the President to be requesting we drop any investigation of Flynn”, that means whatever you want it to mean and doesn’t even remotely come close to obstruction. What damns Comey is his reaction. If he really believed the President was attempting to obstruct an investigation, he had an obligation to notify the Attorney General ASAP. Comey claims he didn’t because he believed Sessions was going to recuse himself into the Russian Investigation. But Sessions had just been sworn in five days prior. There was absolutely no indication that Sessions would recuse himself. Indeed, the news at the time seem to suggest Session wouldn’t recuse himself. And it wasn’t for another two weeks that he did. So there was nothing on February 14, 2017 that would allow Comey to believe Session shouldn’t be told that President of the United States was committing a crime.

Likewise, Comey claims he didn’t tell the then Acting Deputy Attorney General, Dana Boente, “who would also not be long in the role.” Boente was appointed as the temporary AG on February 9, 2017, the same day Sessions was sworn in as the Attorney General. Boente remained in that position until April 25, 2017 when Rod Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate. Even if you believe that Comey had some special insight that Session would be recusing himself (and there is nothing in the prepared statement to support that assertion), the idea that Comey thought it better to conceal the possibility of Presidential criminal activity from the Deputy AG who would be on the job for another six weeks rings hollow.

And there is something very odd in Comey’s belief that the best way to enforce the laws of the United States and make sure the President wasn’t breaking them was by writing it down in a memo. As that was the only action he took regarding Trump’s remarks, then the FBI cannot claim the President was obstructing its investigation

(As an aside, I am also surprised by Comey’s claim that he only spoke privately as FBI Director with President Obama twice. Even accepting Comey’s view that he reports to the Attorney General, the idea that the President would not call the head of the FBI to have a one on one conversation shows a surprisingly low level of interest by President Obama in law enforcement activities, especially given the various terrorist attacks, such as the Pulse Nightclub, or the San Bernardino attack. Maybe it was true that Obama found out about everything that happened in his administration through the media).

The great irony in all of this is Trump’s demand for loyalty seems to have stemmed from a desire to have the DOJ and FBI publicly confirm what Comey told the President privately three times: Donald J. Trump was not under criminal investigation in connection with the Russian Influence Investigation. Comey as a private citizen did what Trump wanted him to do while he ran the FBI.

So there is no obstruction and no criminal wrong doing by Trump. And it is very unlikely anything Comey says today is going to change those facts.

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pond, the citizens of the UK are voting in a snap election. As we await the first election results from Sodor, it appears likely that Theresa May will return as Prime Minister of a Conservative Government and Jeremy Corbyn and Labour will be the opposition. The polls showed a tightening race. But interestingly, the Conservative vote remains steady, at about 45% (+/- 3 pts) in all the polls. Labour’s gains came from the other leftish parties. So it is not that Labour convincing people not to vote for the Conservatives, but convincing people not to dilute the opposition. It’s not really clear this is a viable long term election strategy, especially in a campaign that was, until the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London, primarily focused on the Brexit campaign.

And while May and the Conservatives have a lot of questions to answer about why there are so many potential terrorists walking around the UK, Corbyn’s views of Islamic Terrorists does not appear to be one that will resonate with voters who wish to feel safe.

Comey may win. In which case, the populist revolt which gave us Brexit and Trump rolls on, confounding the chattering classes who thought/hoped the wave had broken in the French Elections. And that means we are truly be living in interesting times.

Au Revoir Paris Accord

It is expected President Trump will, at a 3 pm Press Conference this afternoon, announce the United States is withdrawing from the Paris Environmental Agreement. While the withdrawal is a good idea, from both an economic and scientific stance, the method being used is not smart politically.

Why? Well for that we need to set the WABAC machine to 1997.

Waybackmachine3[1]

 

We first go to Kyoto, Japan. There, we see members of the United Nations agreed on a treaty calling for significant cuts in the emission of Greenhouse Gases. The emission cuts would come almost completely from the developed nations and up and coming countries, such as China and India could pour as much CO2 in the air as their little hearts desired. As it is relevant to the United States, the Kyoto Protocol would have required the United States to reduce its carbon output to pre-1990 levels. It was estimated that the cost to the US economy would have been a loss of $397 Billion in the GDP and 900,00 jobs. In addition, It was also estimated it would additionally burden the economy by an additional $338 billion in new regulatory and tax costs. Despite this, then Vice-President Al Gore signed the Treaty on behalf of the United States. Under the United States Constitution (Article II, section 2), the Senate must ratify any treaty by a 2/3rd vote.

Now, let’s hop from Japan to Washington, D.C. On June 12, 1997, which is shortly after Gore signed the Treaty, but before the Clinton Administration sent it to the Senate for Ratification, Senator Robert Byrd (D) introduced Senate Resolution 98 :

Declares that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997 or thereafter which would: (1) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex 1 Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period; or (2) result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.

Calls for any such protocol or other agreement which would require the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification to be accompanied by: (1) a detailed explanation of any legislation or regulatory actions that may be required to implement it; and (2) an analysis of the detailed financial costs which would be incurred by, and other impacts on, the U.S. economy.

On July 25, 1997, S.Res. 98 passed 95-0. 54 of the 55 Republican Senators and 41 of the 45 Democratic Senators voted. (Democrats Bryan (NV), Feinstein (CA), Harkin (D) and Reid (NV) did not vote as did Grams (R)). This was a swift and clear repudiation of Vice President Gore and the Clinton Administration’s actions in siging the Protocols. Clinton never sent the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate because his own party told him it was DOA.

Fast forward to 2001. President George W Bush decided to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, noting the 1997 Senate Vote. That was the mistake. Because Bush just withdrew from the treaty without a formal Senate rejection, it allowed Democrats to claim that they thought the treaty was a good idea without having to answer any of the difficult questions about the costs. Had he sent the treaty for ratification, it would have locked the Democrats into either supporting the job-killing treaty or admit it was a bad idea.

That’s why President Trump would be making the same unforced error if he simply withdraws from the Paris Agreement. Instead, the President should announce that he and his advisers have determined the Paris Agreement signed by President Obama meets the legal definition of a treaty. Since it is a treaty, under the Constitution, the Senate has the duty to advise and consent on such matters. As such, he is sending the Paris Agreement to the Senate for consideration.

This is not without precedent. In 1848 President James Polk sent the Senate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo for consideration. The treaty, which would end the Mexican-American War, had been signed on behalf of the United States by Nicholas Trist after Trist had been recalled by Polk. Polk sent the Treaty to the Senate, explaining how it came to be, but noting since the Treaty had been signed, Polk felt it was his obligation to forward it to the Senate for consideration. The US Senate ratified the Treaty on March 10, 1848.

By having the Senate consider the Accords as a Treaty, it will force pro-Paris politicos to defend the costs and strictures the treaty would place on American Industry, including the job losses. How many Democratic Senators from Red States and/or states Trump won in 2016 will want to be seen voting for a job-killing treaty? Especially those Senators up for reelection next year? Every US Senator will be forced to publicly commit to a position on the Agreement.

In addition, the refrain from Democrats since November 9, 2016 is Trump was the illegitimate winner of the Election. If Trump simply withdraws there will be a drumbeat from the media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) that this is another illegitimate act. But if the Senate votes down the Accord, there can be no claim of illegitimacy as the Rule of Law will have been followed.

It’s Almost June and We Still Have Snowflakes [Updated]

So by now, you are aware of the kerfuffle regarding Kathy Griffin and her… joke/performance art/cry for help. Ms. Griffin will almost assuredly have a couple of Secret Service Agents dropping by for coffee, much like Madonna did just after the inauguration. So, let’s get these facts out of the way:

  1. What Griffin Did Was Not Funny
  2. The Secret Service Does Not Consider a Sense of Humor to be an Asset to the Job.
  3. What Griffin Did Was Stupid

Beyond that…. Why is this a big deal?

Is there a certain level of media hypocrisy in underplaying Griffin’s actions as opposed to… oh, I don’t know, say creating a national incident over a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask? Yes. Indeed, a Hell Yes would be accurate. But this isn’t new. Everyone knows this. Getting outraged at this is like getting outraged at the sun rising in the East or a Tiger going Tiger. Why are we getting hysterical over something we already know to be true?

Honestly, this is not really a threat to the President. No one is going to go all Guiteau because Kathy Griffin inspired them. If Kathy Griffin had the ability to convince people to kill, she would not have been Joan Rivers’s answer to Joey Bishop. She wouldn’t be a D-List celebrity telling unfunny jokes to an increasingly uncomfortable Anderson Cooper on CNN every New Year’s Eve. She wouldn’t have been the spokesperson for Squatty Potty.

And yet to judge by the social media circles of conservatives, they seem to be in a bit of melt down over this. They find what Griffin did to be mean and unfair and these folks need a safe space to be protected from Griffin’s meanness. These conservatives are in fact, becoming Snow Flakes.

Now, just like Leftist Snowflakes, it’s not really their fault that they think they have the right to be shielded from unpleasant facts. They can point to the success from their Leftist colleagues have had in being protected from wrong think and point out “I learned it from watching you!“.  Plus, our education system does a piss poor job of teaching American History. If we did a better job, these folks would realize American Politics is rather tame in comparison when men were men and women were women and everyone walked 20 miles, uphill, in snow, to get anything done. You know, the days when America Was Great. Back then politics was a rough and tumble contact sport.  Someone holding up a pretend head of a politician you like gives you the vapors? Geez, they used to routinely burn effigies of candidates they didn’t like. Politicians these days never had it so good.

Again, it is beyond cavil that what Griffin did was stupid, unfunny, and tasteless. She apologized for her actions and she was fired as the spokesperson for Squatty Potty. Isn’t that enough?

(And I mean really, at this point Griffin needs to take a time out and examine the choices she has made in her life that led her to believe being a celebrity spokesperson for something called Squatty Potty was a good idea.)

The point is for people to stop deciding every damn thing is a hill worth dying for. Screaming up and down about the media’s double standard on this topic isn’t worth it. Especially when she apologized for what she did. Kathy Griffin doesn’t need to be fired by CNN for what she did. I mean personally, I would rather watch the fake disembodied head and the statue of the dog pissing on fearless girl than endure another edition of Cooper/Griffin. She is simply not important enough to exert any sort of energy over her employment status.

(In fact, I think her presence on the network is some sort of punishment, though I’m not sure who is being punished. Reminds me of the punchline of a Bill Clinton in Hell Joke: “’I can handle that!’ Clinton proclaims enthusiastically. ‘Very well,’ says Satan. ‘Monica, you may go.’).

We don’t need a modern, secular Auto-da-fe every damn time some famous person says or does something insipid. That becomes nothing but a show trial with people abjectly apologizing for giving offense. History shows no good comes of it and there’s already enough of that nonsense in the world without us adding to it.

**Updated**

Of course just after this went through the pneumatic tubes of the interweb, I see this:

CNN

So she is now unemployed.

North Carolina and Maine Show The Voting System Remains a Mess

This past Monday, the US Supreme Court Struck down two of North Carolina’s Congressional Districts. And in typical fashion, folks are failing to understand what the Court did. The issues in Cooper v. Harris, were whether North Carolina’s First and Twelfth Congressional Districts (herein after NC-1 and NC-12) were improperly drawn. The Court answer yes to both questions. But what people are glossing over is the Court was unanimous in finding NC-1 improper. Everyone is focusing on the 5-3 split regarding NC-12. In doing so, the chattering classes, both conservative and progressive, are missing the forest for the trees.

For NC-1, when redistricting occurred following the 2010 census, the State found the district was short 100,000 people. There is and was no dispute the borders of the district would have to be altered. The question was how to do it. Ultimately, the borders of the district were drawn in a way the State thought it had to be done to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act. And that was, the State argued, was by making the district a Majority Minority District.

(Brief diversion- for voting rights purposes, a majority minority district is one where a majority of the population is made up of one or more non-white racial groups and where they can elect someone they want. This is to prevent minority groups being put into districts where the white population, if it voted en bloc, could deny the minorities a representative they wanted).

The Court said the State didn’t need to do it because there was no evidence the white population of NC-1 (which is deeply Democrat) was voting in a way that prevented the minority communities (in this case, primarily African-Americans) from electing their choice for office. NC-1 was a heavily Democrat before redistricting. Nor did it matter that past performance was no guarantee of future performance. Because in the moment the district was electing members of the political party that a majority of the minority group approved.

This wasn’t an issue where those dastardly Republicans were trying to screw African-Americans. They were acting under a legitimate belief that if they didn’t do what they did, they would be in violation of the voting rights act. This suggest the problem lies not with the legislature, but with the law they must contend with.

NC-12 is a different story. And as the Court notes, this district has been before the High Court 4 times in the last 25 years. Justice Gorsuch did not participate because he was not on the bench when the case was heard. That meant only 8 Justices decided the matter. And if the Court deadlocks at 4-4, the lower Court is affirmed, but the Supreme Court decision has no precedential value. The dispute between the Majority and the Dissent was whether the Court was bound by the ruling it made the last time the issue was before them. The 3-member dissent (all from the conservative side) said they were so bound and the 4-person majority (all from the progressive side) said they were not. Now keen observers will note that 4+3 is 7. What about Justice Number 8? Well, that was Justice Thomas. He sided with the majority because he doesn’t think race should be a factor at all. And in this situation, that means he agreed with the Sotomayor, etc.

The one thing the Court still refuses to address is gerrymandering for political advantage. While the Court has been traditionally very wary of entering such discussions, this matter of drawing district boundaries to favor one party over another has to be addressed. The best way to get politicians to be more responsive to what the voters want is to put them into competitive districts and to increase the valid choices voters have instead of the current crap choices the two party system creates.

That’s why I have been intrigued by ideas such as ranked voting and this was something I had wanted to discuss a while back but the Scandal Par Heure of the Trump Administration kept putting it off. Main had a ballot question in November changing the way the voting would be conducted. Currently, most elections in this country are “first pass the poll”, i.e. whoever gets the most votes wins, even if that total is less than a majority of all votes cast. Under the system Maine voters sought to adopt, if no candidate got at least 50% of the votes cast, then the voters second choice votes would be considered. It is a system known as Ranked Voting. On Tuesday, Maine’s Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative saying it violated the State’s Constitution.

Now on the one hand, it’s not that bad of a loss since all it means is amending the State Constitution. But on the other hand, I am still not convinced Ranked Voting will survive a Federal Challenge. I suspect the Supreme Court will decide, given its numerous precedents, Ranked Voting violates the “One Man, One Vote” Doctrine. Which is a shame. The more choices people have, the more likely the Country will break the duopoly that gave us Clinton v. Trump.

Now I Understand Why National Review is Plugging the Rock as the Next President

(Note: This has been another week where there have been too many items which could be discussed and not enough time to do so. I originally was going to do a single post but it was far too long. So instead, this weekend I will be posting one a day to try and get caught up.)

In the early hours of the morning here on the East Coast, Greg Gianforte won the special election for the Montana At Large Congressional seat vacated by Ryan Zinke’s confirmation as Interior Secretary. The election came less than 24 hours after Gianforte attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter from the British Newspaper, The Guardian.  Apparently, the Brits seem to think American politicians are supposed to answer real questions about legislation, such as the CBO’s report on Trumpcare. They didn’t realize that we Americans have stopped expecting politicians to tell us anything other than prepackaged, focus group approved talking points. (And doubly so on health care where the norm is to pass a bill to find out what’s in it.) Asking substantive questions guarantees a politician goes full Rowdy Roddy Piper on the reporter’s rear end.

The Democrats were hoping to win this seat, outspending the GOP 3-1. And it was thought the attack might influence the election. However, Montana is one of those states that allows early voting. The final numbers aren’t in yet, so the details are still fuzzy. But, the margin of victory appears to be about 6%, which puts it in the normal range for the Montana House seat. But, it is not clear how many of the pro Gianforte votes were cast prior to the alleged Battery committed. This is going to be an important distinction.

If Gianforte win is based on those who voted early, (and therefore lost among those who cast their ballots on the day of the election), there will be a lot of discussion as to whether early voting is a good idea. I don’t think it is, for this sort of reason. (Though I never thought attacking a reporter was something that could plausibly happen). There were reports yesterday that there were people who voted early for Gianforte and wanted to change their vote because of the last-minute revelations. (They couldn’t). This time it was a low-level criminal charge. What happens if the next time, a candidate wins despite being accused of a serious criminal charge?

On the other hand, if Gianforte’s election day numbers are the same, or even better than his early vote results, then we as a society have turned a corner. It was only in February that Conservatives were decrying Progressive for saying it was ok to punch a Nazi as an unacceptable escalation of violence and rhetoric against opponents. And yet on Wednesday night and all day yesterday, many of those same Conservatives were justifying the use of violence against an opponent. And in fact, there seems to be a whole cadre who have gone full Oliver Stone in seeking to show this is part of some vast conspiracy to take the House of Representatives back and to the left.

(My favorite non-sequitur by Conservatives in trying to waive this away has been the cry of “Where’s the video?” These would be the same Conservatives who explain away every violent encounter between the police and citizens as the video doesn’t show what really happened. There is no doubt that if there was video of Gianforte’s actions, we would be inundated with hot takes from Conservatives “proving” that video was faked and/or that the reporter was struck but was a bigger flopper than Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined.).

On one level, I welcome this rank hypocrisy. Conservatives are actually proving one of the central arguments of Libertarianism: the Republican and Democratic parties are the pigs and the farmers at the end of Animal Farm:

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Approval or opposition is not based on merit or standards, merely on party affiliation. And both sides justify it, claiming the “But this is a war” excuse.

But there is no excuse, especially not for a politician to use force in response to a question from a reporter regarding a CBO score. And yet, the number of people on social media who not only approve of what Gianforte did, but think this a policy which should be expanded, is truly horrifying.

As noted before, the mainstream media has done itself no favors with its increasingly hysterical and biased reporting against Trump. The press has cried “Wolf” so often that not only does a large segment of the population reflexively no longer believe the claims, but we  have now reached the point where they are actually rooting for the wolf to win.

People are getting their news from sources which simply reinforce their viewpoint and discarding everything else. Conservatives now only believe Milo Yiannopoulos and Briebart with Fox News being declared an un-person/media for having committed the unforgivable sin of being insufficiently pro-Trump. Liberals believe only what they see in the New York Times and on MSNBC and CNN. And Libertarians have the luxury of pointing out both sides are so full of excrement, it’s amazing their eyes aren’t all brown.

We are moving back to the future. This was how it was in the early days of the Republic when there were Federalist and Anti-Federalist newspapers and you read the one that tracked the way you voted.

We are moving closer to the world Arlan Andrew describes in Shirt Story in Freedom’s Light. (On sale now. All proceeds go to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).

The other reason the “how Gianforte won” matters is to get an idea of how the mid-term elections are shaping up. Historically, the party holding the White House doesn’t fare well in the mid-terms and the lower the President’s approval rating, the worse it is. So in some ways, this should be good news for the Democrats. But they have lost the special elections held so far for Congress. And right now, per Real Clear Politics, the Generic Ballot has the Dems up +6. But for various reasons, Democrats always do slightly better in this poll. So, a +6 is actually a sign of the status quo. And the geography of the Senate races favors the GOP retaining control of that chamber. Thus, if Gianforte’s win was a result of early voting, the Democrats can take some solace and Republicans should be wary that the lack of accomplishments by the GOP coupled with questionable behavior will cause the people to throw the bums out.  If Gianforte’s numbers were stable before and after he went WWE on a reporter, then the Democrats are going to have trouble making any inroads in 2018.

Crisis Ahead

One of the problems in writing pieces about the current political climate is that it changes faster than the actual weather. When it comes to this administration, every tidbit is treated as a “Constitutional Crisis” or an “Unprecedented Threat to the Republic”. And most of the time there is, in fact, precedent for what has happened and no part of the Scandal De l’heure actually touches upon the Constitution.

The one that broke yesterday is the exception to the rule. No, not the “Trump Shares Highly Sensitive Intelligence with the Ruskies”, but the story first reported in the New York Times that then FBI Director James Comey wrote a Memorandum following a meeting with President Trump that stated, in part, the President wanted the FBI to end an investigation into former Trump advisor Michael Flynn. (There was another troubling piece in the memo, which will be discussed below.). This comes following Trump’s dismissal of  the FBI Director and the 48 different explanations the Administration put forth to explain why Comey was fired, all of which were shown to be false when the President admitted he fired him because he didn’t like him and would have done so no matter what the Justice Department.

It also comes after President Trump’s blackmail-ish tweet threatening to release audio tapes of conversations he had with Comey if Comey leaked to the press.

Trump

Clearly that threat didn’t work.

So we know have a situation where the press is reporting the President of the United States pressured the FBI to end an investigation into the activities of a Presidential associate. We’re living in an episode of 24 or a bad 1990’s conspiracy film.

The head of the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform, Jason Chaffetz, sent a letter to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe requesting this letter and all documentation regarding conversations Trump and Comey had.

Chaffetz

Chaffetz did the right thing. But that is not enough as Congressman Justin Amash tweeted last night:

Amash

Comey needs to come before the Oversight Committee and state under the pains and penalties of perjury whether President Trump ordered/told/asked the FBI to end an investigation into Michael Flynn.

Either way, this is not going to turn out well.

  1. The Memo is Real.

If the sum and substance of the memo is, as the New York Times reported, accurate and Comey acknowledges it as such, then two things are clear. A) James Comey deserved to be fired for failing to report this conversation to Congressional Leadership as B) this is a clear instance of the President of the United States interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation. It is textbook obstruction of Justice.

18 U.S.C. 1512(b) states:

Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to—

(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;

(2) cause or induce any person to—

(A) withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;

(B) alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding;

(C) evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official proceeding; or

(D) be absent from an official proceeding to which such person has been summoned by legal process; or

(3) hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense or a violation of conditions of probation supervised release, parole, or release pending judicial proceedings;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

(Section (d) of the 18 U.S.C. 1512 would probably also apply as it deals with obstruction by harassment.)

And must also be noted that 18 U.S.C. 1512(f) says

For the purposes of this section—

an official proceeding need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the offense;

(emphasis added)

It will be very hard for House Republicans to dismiss these allegations. Speaker Ryan et. al. would be compelled to have the Judiciary Committee began an investigation to consider Impeachment Articles. And there would also be the very real possibility that at least 19 Republican Senators would be prepared to remove Trump from Office.

This would be a Constitutional Crisis.

  1. The Memo is Fake.

If the memo is fake, that is the New York Times fell for a forgery, or it made it up whole cloth, or the memo exists but doesn’t say anything about Trump trying to shut down an FBI investigation, then all hell will break loose.

The media who has been writing Trump’s political obituary since June 2015 will have destroyed the last bits of credibility it has. It will have cried “Wolf!” for the last time. The New York Times, et. al. will be seen simply as the propaganda wing of the Democratic National Committee and will have almost no influence over a large segment of the population. Remember Trump’s quote during the campaign that he could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot people and get away with it? He would actually be able to do it and people would dismiss any news accounts as just “Fake News”

Negative Stories about Trump will be seen as nothing more than click bait. Tweets like this one from the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler will be endlessly paraded as proof of the perfidy of the press:

Kessler

It will also embolden this administration to go to war against the First Amendment. We already know Candidate Trump believed libel laws should be relaxed to allow him to sue people who say mean things about him. The Times story suggest President Trump wants to take this one step further:

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

The party in charge of the executive branch hates leaks while the opposition party loves them. But this takes it one step further by punishing journalists for reporting news. Remember, but for the Snowden revelations reported in the press, we would never know the NSA was illegally and unconstitutionally spying on American citizens. Nor would we know that the recent ransomware epidemic is a direct result of America’s intelligence agencies’ exploitation of software bugs.

If the memo is false, there will be precious little support for protecting the likes of the Times, Post, CNN, et. al.

This would be a Constitutional Crisis.

 

There really doesn’t seem to be any good outcome here.