The Attorney General for the People Person of the US Receives Scrutiny
Once again I must turn to Bill-Barr
To examine behavior bizarre;
This is not the first time
That things seem to skirt crime
And his antics sink less than subpar.
Barr’s descent has made some feel quite sad
For the straight-shooter rep that he’d had;
But the gloss is long gone
And the battles he’s won
Have been awfully, terribly bad.
You recall when the Mueller Report
Raised questions of quite grave import?
Barr’s goal was persuasion
No Russians? Of course nyet, he’d retort.
He’s the President’s guy, that’s quite clear
In every last case that we hear;
According to his lights,
The Executive’s rights
Are absolute (I quiver in fear!).
He’s helped various convicted men
Such as Roger Stone and Mike Flynn
Although Flynn confessed twice,
His lies didn’t suffice–
Barr found “hinky stuff” made the case thin.
It was Bill-Barr who served as the source
Of that outside White House show of force–
When those marching in peace
Were peppered by police
While generals in haste reversed course.
And then came a Friday night surprise:
The US attorney’s job demise;
Though Barr said Berman quit,
Berman had none of it–
So was pushed out the door by sunrise.
Berman said that ongoing cases
Will move along on the same basis;
That appears an alert
He was nearing pay dirt,
Leading to some powerful places.
Expect Barr to go on the offense
With “findings” purportedly immense
The purpose: to confuse
It will all be a ruse
And may well be at Biden’s expense.
So what should happen now to Bill-Barr,
Who’s done damage that’s been wide and far?
Will the Dems try impeach
For his gross overreach?
Or at least, let us hope he’s disbarred!
Note: It is unclear at this point whether Barr will appear before the House Judiciary Committee, which he has agreed to do on July 28, to explain his sudden firing of Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his handling of other cases.
Two existing Department of Justice employees appeared before the Committee this week to express their dismay at the politicization of the department under Barr, including pressure to get a lighter sentence for the President’s convicted friend Roger Stone and interference in antitrust decisions based on his personal preferences–not the legalities.
But the most damning comment came from Donald B. Ayer, deputy attorney general under President George Bush, seen here on video explaining why Barr’s actions are setting the US “on the way to something far worse than Watergate.”
Previously, in an article in The Atlantic, Ayer had gone into considerable and specific detail about the damage that Barr is doing to our Justice Department and the rule of law.
“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.”
Very strong as impeachment manager African American woman Lives in a swing state (Florida)
Devoted to the law** Eloquent cop/public link: former police chief Modest beginnings—parents: maid, janitor Innovator—programs for at-risk kids Notable 40% drop in violent crime Graduate in criminology; Masters Public Admin Serves on Homeland Security, Judiciary Committees
…soft-spoken, straightforward, and rides a Harley!
Note: I have followed Congresswoman Val Demings with interest since watching her impressive performance during the impeachment hearings. She was thoughtful, measured, and a steely tough but polite questioner.
Though I wish she had more international experience, in view of what our current turmoil has revealed about our urgent societal needs, I’ve been wondering if this former police chief might be the perfect candidate for VP.
When I read her recent Washington PostOp-Ed, “My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?,” from which I quoted in an earlier post, I was further convinced that she’s quite special.
Here’s her conclusion:
“Everyone wants to live in safer communities and to support law enforcement and the tough job they do every day. But this can’t go on. The senseless deaths of America’s sons and daughters — particularly African American men — is a stain on our country. Let’s work to remove it.
“We have got to get this one right. Our communities, good police officers and generations yet to come deserve it.”
Here are a few of the comments she made about President Trump’s behavior before and during the impeachment hearings.
Last December, she tweeted the following:
**“I am a descendant of slaves, who knew that they would not make it, but dreamed and prayed that one day I would make it. So despite America’s complicated history, my faith is in the Constitution. I’ve enforced the laws, and now I write the laws. Nobody is above the law.”
She said this during the hearings to explain the importance of the process:
“This moment is about ensuring that every voter, whether a maid or janitor, whether a nurse, a teacher, or a truck driver, whether a doctor or a mechanic, that their vote matters and that American elections are decided by the American people.”
And then I saw this on Twitter from Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report:
“A few days ago, I asked a high-ranking R [Republican] whom Biden would be wise to pick as VP.”
Answer: “A black woman who grew up poor, rose from beat cop to police chief, comes from a swing state and rides a Harley? That’s a profile I’d be scared to run against right now if I were Trump.”
This post began as an exploration of presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s positions on the issues. I imagined myself chatting with him while he was endeavoring to campaign from his basement.
But the charges of sexual assault against him by a former staffer, Tara Reade, are getting a good deal of media attention.
Biden was slow to respond, allowing former staffers to speak on his behalf. But Friday morning, he issued a statement, which you can read here.
He speaks of his pride in the role he played in developing the Violence Against Women Act, and then he says:
“In the 26 years since the law passed, the culture and perceptions have changed but we’re not done yet. It’s on us, and it’s on me as someone who wants to lead this country.
“I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished. So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago.
“They aren’t true. This never happened.
“While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, two things are not complicated.
“One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced.
“The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.
“Responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways.”
He goes into detail about inconsistencies that I’ll cover shortly, and then he concludes:
“We have a lot of work to do. From confronting online harassment, abuse, and stalking, to ending the rape kit backlog, to addressing the deadly combination of guns and domestic violence.
“We need to protect and empower the most marginalized communities, including immigrant and indigenous women, trans women, and women of color.
“We need to make putting an end to gender-based violence in both the United States and around the world a top priority.
“I started my work over 25 years ago with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. As president, I’m committed to finishing the job.”
I emphatically agree that all women who claim to have been sexually assaulted deserve a fair and respectful hearing and the presumption that they are telling the truth.
And then their stories must be fully vetted by impartial observers. I am questioning whether that is happening in this case.
Former Vice President Biden wasn’t my first choice as the Democratic nominee. I do worry about his age and health—but not about his mental acuity. I’ve watched him any number of times lately, and he seems totally with it and highly informed and sensible.
At a CNN Town Hall shortly before this abrupt end to the primaries, he was actually terrific on substance, performance, and connection with questioners.
Nor do I worry that he’s a sexual predator. I hadn’t thought I’d have to address the sexual assault charge against him in this post, but it seems to be gathering steam, and I see it as a dangerous, misguided attempt by the press to pursue a story without due diligence.
Keep in mind that Joe Biden was fully vetted by President Obama’s team before he was chosen to be Obama’s Vice President. He served as Vice President for 8 years without a whiff of scandal.
It seems inconceivable to me that the Republicans would not have found any “dirt” on Biden if such an issue had existed.
We do know that eight women, including Reade, complained last year that Biden had inappropriately kissed, hugged, or touched them.
According to The New York Times,he “acknowledged the women’s complaints about his conduct, saying his intentions were benign and promising to be “more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”
Biden is widely regarded for his warmth, toward both men and women. He has been a hugger, a touchy-feely kind of guy. At one time, that behavior was fully acceptable. It no longer is, and he understands that.
In his current statement, he says he will “continue to learn from women, to listen to women, to support women, and yes, to make sure women’s voices are heard.”
It’s worth noting that Tara Reade’s original 1993 complaint did not include sexual assault: she made that charge in March of this year and filed a police report in April.
I have seen Ari Melber and Chris Hayes of MSNBC, and New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister all say the fact that an old friend (who says she’s voting for Biden) validated that Reade told her the story contemporaneously makes them take it very seriously.
In fact, it wasn’t contemporaneously, which means close enough in time so that memories are fresh. It was several years later. And Reade called the friend to apparently refresh her memory.
In addition, none of those I heard seems to have considered that a friend could be repeating a lie without realizing it.
But former prosecutor Michael J. Stern does explore this possibility in his compelling article in USA Today.
“The problem with statements from friends is that the information they recount is only as good as the information given to them.”
I am linking to Stern’s article and other sources that have persuaded me that Tara Reade is not telling the truth.
For those who don’t have the time to read through them, I’m quoting what I think are the most significant points.
First, Stern’s orientation: as a former sex crimes prosecutor, he writes:
“When women make allegations of sexual assault, my default response is to believe them. But as the news media have investigated Reade’s allegations, I’ve become increasingly skeptical.”
His reasons include the following:
—She has changed any number of details in her story a number of times, with “implausible explanations.”
Aside from the highly questionable one about changing what she says Biden did to her, she lied about losing her job.
She originally told The Union, a California newspaper, in 2019 that she refused Biden’s request to serve drinks at an event, and then “felt pushed out and left Biden’s employ,” according to The Union.
But she told The New York Times last month that she faced retaliation after filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate’s personnel office, and Biden’s chief of staff fired her.
To Stern, the disparity between those two assertions “raises questions about Reade’s credibility and account of events.”
—The three former Biden staffers whom she claimed to have told about the assault emphatically denied she did so.
“And they did not offer the standard, noncommittal ‘I don’t remember any such complaints,”‘ Stern writes. “The denials were firm.” One said: “‘She did not come to me. If she had, I would have remembered.'” Another’s comment was similar.
The third said:
“‘I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received any reports of inappropriate conduct (by Biden), period.’ If Reade had made such a complaint to her, she added, it ‘would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager.'”
—Although Reade provided a copy of her 1993 Senate employment records, she has no copy of the complaint she claims she filed against Biden when she left, or was fired, from her job in Biden’s office.
Nor could The New York Times find such a document. Biden has said he’ll ask The National Archives, where such documents reside, to do a search.
—She couldn’t recall the date, time, or location of the alleged assault.
“Reade’s amnesia about specifics makes it impossible for Biden to go through records and prove he could not have committed the assault, because he was somewhere else at the time.”
–She says she told her mother (now deceased) and her brother.
But when her brother was interviewed by The Washington Post, he didn’t mention the sexual assault–the most important part of her charge–but texted that detail to The Post several days later.
Stern finds that time gap questionable.
Similarly, her mother was, according to her, the anonymous caller to The Larry King Live show in 1993. That call was reported as new evidence last week.
The caller said her daughter had been working for a prominent Senator, “could not get through with her problems at all,” and chose not to go to the press “out of respect for him.”
“Given that the call was anonymous, Reade’s mother should have felt comfortable relaying the worst version of events. When trying to obtain someone’s assistance, people typically do not downplay the seriousness of an incident. They exaggerate it.
“That Reade’s mother said nothing about her daughter being sexually assaulted would lead many reasonable people to conclude that sexual assault was not the problem that prompted the call to King.”
–Multiple times, in 2017, she praised Biden for his work combating sexual assault. She also tweeted: “My old boss speaks truth. Listen.”
“It is bizarre that Reade would publicly laud Biden for combatting the very thing she would later accuse him of doing to her.”
–Also in 2017, Reade was condemning Vladimir Putin’s efforts to harm American democracy by interfering in the 2016 election.
But in 2018, she referred to Putin as a “genius” whose athleticism is “intoxicating to American women.”
“President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity.”
By 2019 she had expressed the belief that Russian interference in the 2016 election was hype.
More recently, she has claimed that her expressions of admiration for Putin, made in opinion pieces, were taken out of context for a novel she’s writing, and she doesn’t support Putin.
Stern provides other compelling examples as well. His examination is well worth reading.
–Also illuminating is the information provided by Lynn Hummer, founder of a California horse sanctuary where Reade was a volunteer from 2014-2016.
According to an article in Medium, Hummer claims that Reade “stole from her nonprofit, lied, and created stories to obtain sympathy and money.”
“Look, this isn’t about protecting women. This isn’t about the #metoo movement. This isn’t about Joe Biden. This is about truth. Tara Reade stole from me. She lied to me. She stole from my organization. She manipulated me and she duped me…And I have documentation, images and emails to prove it.”
Biden, to his credit, has said he’s not going to question Reade’s motives, though he doesn’t understand why she’s making the charge.
I think one of the reasons it’s so problematic for Biden and his supporters to speak openly about this issue is that to respond honestly, they would be casting aspersions on Tara Reade’s integrity and mental stability.
In this #metoo era, that is difficult to do. We are not talking here about all the women who succeeded, at last, in getting justice from Harvey Weinstein.
As Stern concludes:
“We can support the #MeToo movement and not support allegations of sexual assault that do not ring true. If these two positions cannot coexist, the movement is no more than a hit squad. That’s not how I see the #MeToo movement. It’s too important, for too many victims of sexual assault and their allies, to be no more than that.”
Chris Hayes, whose original reportage was so roundly condemned on Twitter that it morphed into a #FireChrisHayes movement (which I condemn), discussed the three groups of attacks he received.
The first and second groups he could accept: people who supported Biden and people who said “I don’t care; I’m voting for him anyway.”
But the third group–people who attacked Reade and cited other things about her, such as her strange fascination with Putin–he claimed, was doing just what the #metoo movement was designed to counter.
Hayes’s comments gave me pause because in citing Stern and Hummer, I am falling into that third group.
But how can we arrive at the truth if we simply focus on a single incident that inevitably comes down to a “he said; she said” dispute?
To me, hearing independent complaints from Hummer, the horse rescue woman, that Reade had manipulated and stolen money from her, is relevant to character.
Her comments about Putin, I feel, are an indication of instability. Can an unstable person still be a victim of abuse? No doubt, but all these are pieces in a puzzle.
When that puzzle threatens the integrity of a man whose otherwise worst charge was that he inappropriately hugged women who didn’t want to be hugged, I think all the pieces should be considered.
Experts in sexual abuse nearly uniformly say there is always a pattern–not a single instance.
I greatly worry that the press will make this into a “Hillary’s email” issue–though the topic is much more visceral, especially for women, who will be the deciding voters in the November election.
There are already calls for the University of Delaware to release his papers–despite his saying they have no personnel information and contain private conversations with President Obama and foreign leaders.
There are valid reasons that politicians uniformly keep their papers closed to the public until after they’ve left the political scene.
Nevertheless, this demand is made on today’s New York Times editorial page, which offers the following:
“Any inventory should be strictly limited to information about Ms. Reade and conducted by an unbiased, apolitical panel, put together by the D.N.C. [Democratic National Committee] and chose to foster as much trust in its findings as possible.”
All such demands seem to me ludicrous in these hyper-partisan times, and particularly unfair because the existing President has gotten away with hiding his income tax returns and a slew of other documents.
Why on earth should Biden do what to my knowledge no other candidate has done–and certainly not this most duplicitous and evasive opponent?
So I am deeply concerned that this drumbeat may seriously weaken the candidacy of a good man, and lead to Donald Trump’s reelection–he who has been charged by at least 12 women of sexual assault, including one who states that he raped her, and was elected despite having been shown on tape describing his modus operandi for sexual assault.
Press sources are saying this story of Biden’s alleged sexual assault of Reade now has “legs”–it’s not going away.
Of course the press has to follow this story to its conclusion. But they must look more closely at Reade’s contradictions, as Michael Stern has. And anyone who interviews Reade must ask her, politely, to explain her changed stories.
Many prosecutors and sexual assault victims on Twitter have agreed with Stern’s conclusions.
In important ways, I feel that Joe Biden is the ideal person to lead us now: his recent experience in the White House involved combating epidemics, resolving serious economic crises, and expanding health care—all critical to our near-term societal needs.
In addition, his obvious compassion is critically important for our hurt nation. And his willingness to work across the aisle suggests that if any bipartisan efforts are possible, he’ll be in a good position to take advantage of them.
I’ll leave my chat with him on the issues for another time–when I hope this story will fold its legs and–at the very least–give a closer look at all the charges against President Trump, whose behavior actually deserves scrutiny.
There were mea culpas after the damage was done from members of the media for obsessing over Hillary’s emails in 2016 while letting Donald Trump off the hook. That must not happen again.
Wow! Said she who always endeavors to be optimistic. Are we in trouble! First and foremost, of course, is this pandemic hanging over and among us. But the November election isn’t far off, and with so much uncertainty about how wide the pandemic will spread and how long it will last, the concept of voting by mail is an obvious imperative.
Yet this President, who now insists his powers are absolute, is claiming that vote-by-mail is a giant fraud that shouldn’t be allowed. Why? If we allow the Democrats to include funding in the next coronavirus relief package to expand voting opportunities and allow more widespread vote-by-mail in response to the pandemic, he said, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
In this case, he is simply voicing publicly what Republicans have been doing quietly for years. As The New York Timesreports:
“The push to limit voting options is in keeping with Republicans’ decades-running campaign to impose restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color, the poor, and younger voters, under the banner of combating voter fraud, which is exceedingly rare.”
“Studies have shown that all forms of voting fraud are extremely rare in the United States. A national study in 2016 found few credible allegations of fraudulent voting. A panel that Mr. Trump charged with investigating election corruption found no real evidence of fraud before he disbanded it in 2018. “
Indeed, Charles Stewart III of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a political science professor who studies “the machinations of voting” observed:
“What we know can be boiled down to this: Voting fraud in the United States is rare, less rare is fraud using mail ballots.”
In the face of the lack of evidence, the Republicans persist. The reason is fear of loss of power. As I’ll note below, their fears aren’t even justified.
But the operative concept is–or should be–quite simple: One Person, One Vote. You either believe that as many people should vote as possible, or you can’t claim to be representatives of our small d democratic republic. This is a huge issue.
So it’s clear to me that in response, we need a huge Democratic turnout reaching all levels of government in November—not just to save our democracy—but also, because of the mishandling of the pandemic by Trump and some Republican governors, to save our lives.
And that means every vote must be allowed to be cast and counted—no easy task. There are lots of impediments, both built-in (eg, the Electoral College), and human made (eg, gerrymandering, racial targeting, Russian interference). See this New York Timesarticle about the complexities involved.
I think it behooves us all—as concerned citizens also acting in enlightened self-interest—to demand that our electoral mechanisms are as geared up as possible to ensure the election results echo the voters’ intent.
Here’s Some Good News In That Regard
—Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden have introduced a vote-by-mail bill that they hope to get into the next Coronavirus relief package. It’s called The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act and “would expand early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail to all states and would reimburse states for additional costs in administering elections during the coronavirus pandemic.”
“And if you want to know what it’s like to vote in a healthy, safe and secure way—from the comfort of your own home—just ask President Trump. He’s been doing it for years.”
—Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan voting group, When We All Vote, has announced its support for expanding vote-by-mail, online voter registration, and early voting. Calling those efforts “critical steps for this moment,” she stated:
“There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country: making the democracy we all cherish more accessible, and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life.”
—The National Task Force on Election Crises, a “diverse, cross-partisan group of more than 40 experts in election law,election administration, national security, cybersecurity, voting rights, civil rights, technology, public health, and emergency response,” has set forth goals that include expanding no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail; maximizing early voting days and hours; increasing the number of polling places and other voting options; and proactive, transparent communication with voters.”
This group was founded to ensure that our elections are safe from interference by the Russians and others. It has now expanded its efforts in view of COVID-19. I listened to a very interesting podcast by several of its members on Talking Feds, chaired by law professor and political commenter Harry Litman, in which one speaker observed that Secretaries of State in states throughout the country are gearing up for this massive task.
—The brave Wisconsin voters have laser-focused our attention on the threat to our democracy.
I question whether anyone with an ounce of decency, regardless of party, could have remained unmoved by the sight of those loyal Americans standing on long lines to exercise their precious right to vote in the midst of this pandemic, forced to choose between voting and their health—and possibly lives—by outrageous and purely partisan decisions on the state and national levels by both legislators and the Courts, with the President as cheerleader.
To recap briefly:
On April 6, Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, sought to have the primary moved to June.
The Republican-dominated state legislature challenged his decision in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which struck down the Governor’s action.
The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling reached remotely from their own safe spots, voted to reverse a lower court’s decision to extend the deadline for receipt of absentee ballots by just six days to ensure people could vote safely.
The Republican state legislature wanted to keep the vote low, believing it would help them reelect a conservative state court judge. President Trump agreed. He lobbied hard for the guy and against vote-by-mail, saying it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
It turned out that was the case in Wisconsin this year. Though both Democrats and Republicans expected a low turnout, especially in Democratic stronghold Milwaukee, where there were only 5 polling places open instead of the usual 18, Jill Karofsky, the liberal challenger, defeated Justice Daniel Kelly, the Trump-endorsed incumbent, by more than 160,000 votes. (Joe Biden also decisively defeated Bernie Sanders in what might have been bigger news under other circumstances.)
This Should Not Be a Partisan Issue
But despite President Trump’s claims—and his unjustified cries of fraud (which, as noted previously, study after study have shown is practically non-existent at this point—oh, wait, there was that North Carolina election fraud case by a Republican operative in 2019)—vote-by-mail doesn’t automatically benefit Democrats.
In fact, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—all of which Trump won in 2016—already allow their voters to vote by mail for any reason.
A study published April 14, 2020, by the Democracy and Polarization Lab at Stanford University examined data from 1996-2018 and found no evidence that the roll-out of vote-by-mail in California, Utah, and Washington helped either party.
Vote-by-mail is already the primary method of voting in five states: Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, and Utah. Former Governor and current Senate candidate John Hickenlooper of Colorado said they’ve seen a handful of fraudulent attempts in the millions of votes cast since its inception.
So facilitating vote-by-mail should be a non-partisan issue, but it isn’t. And since some believe that the number of people voting by mail may double in 2020 and account for one half the voting population, the systems state-by-state are really going to need help to protect the integrity of the electoral process. And the Post Office must be ready.
“Experience and past election results show that in order to prevent vote by mail from inadvertently disenfranchising voters, states must adopt four key safeguards:
(1) Postage must be free or prepaid by the government.
(2) Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must count.
(3) Signature-matching laws need to be reformed to protect voters.
(4) Community organizations must be permitted to help collect and deliver voted, sealed ballots.
“We know that lack of pre-paid postage is an impediment to voting for many lower-income and young voters, and experts have found that requiring voters to have mail ballots received by Election Day, rather than simply post-marked by Election Day, has a disproportionate impact on minority voters. In 2016, a determination that a voter’s vote-by-mail signature failed to match the signature on file was the most common reason for rejecting a ballot. Finally, experience shows that laws that prevent community organizations from assisting voters with the collection and delivery of voted and sealed mail ballots disadvantage minority voters.”
Regardless of Party, We Should Want to Maximize American Voter Participation
Elias adds that because some voters, especially minority voters, strongly prefer to vote in person, they must be able to do so safely, with sufficient staffing by state agencies assisted by students. He foresees government workers being given overtime pay to do this, and high school and college kids receiving both payment and credit. In part, this effort will make up for the many elderly people who formed the bulwark of poll workers in the past.
Expanded curbside voting—in which voters drive up, get their ballot, and return it—without having to leave their cars, is now available in a number of states for disabled or elderly people. Elias and others recommend expanding it for everyone.
We have seen early voting being cut back in some states in an effort to disenfranchise voters. Elias recommends expanding it to include weekends, thereby reducing long lines and enabling those who want to vote in person but can’t get to the polls on Election Day to cast their ballots.
He recommends that “vote anywhere rules” be adopted by all states, so that a voter who appears at the wrong polling place may vote for the offices for which she or he would be eligible. This move, which some states already allow, would negate the need for provisional ballots that often aren’t counted.
And here’s a very interesting idea: states should create systems that enable a voter to reserve an off-peak hours time slot when they can vote, which would also reduce lines.
“The goal should be to avoid letting the rules dictate who wins based on whose voters can participate. Only by taking these steps can we be assured that the rules of the election won’t unfairly tilt the playing field.”
What You and I Can Do
In a recent visit to Twitter, where I am primarily a reader/lurker, I came across this tweet from a woman named Jo:
“Wisconsin is incredibly inspiring but no one should have to risk sickness or worse to vote. Be as patriotic as these fine folks and spend time today writing, tweeting, and calling your elected officials to support vote by mail and tell 12 of your nearest and dearest to do the same.”
I was so taken by the import of that simple tweet that I responded:
A sound and constructive plan that I should have thought of but didn’t. Thank you!
I have followed that advice, leaving messages with my senators and representative encouraging them to ensure that Congress allots the money needed by the states and the Post Office to make vote-by-mail viable in all 50 states by November. The Post Office support is an essential element. Apparently, President Trump has added the US Postal Service to his hit list.
It’s also crucial that Congress fund the other voting initiatives discussed above to secure safe in-person voting.
As I’m contacting my nearest and dearest, I’m adding you, dear readers, to my list. If at least twelve of you will deliver this message to your legislators—and, in turn, encourage twelve of your nearest/dearest to do the same—perhaps we can really make an impact.
This is the most important election of our lifetimes. We’ve got a lot of hurdles ahead of us. Now’s the time to make our voices heard.
Catastrophic delays Of equipment for patients and carers Reveal huge flaws in America’s design. One thing I do Not hear discussed Applies to the “have nots’” Vying for their tiny share of Income from the supposed stimulus: Registering their presence without Use of computers and Internet? Shadowy reminders of those we forget.
Small businesses Tethered lightly to viability In line for loans Must wait months to see $$ Urgently needed, as Life savings go out padlocked doors Unless some Cuomo-esque souls Snip through the bureaucracy…
Relying on small amounts, Each home health aide, waiter, Likely most in gig economy, live In fear of dislocation, Eviction, illness, as the Fat big business cats purr in delight.
Phase 4 bill? The Dems want more $$ to Aid states/locals still fighting virus, Care via family/medical leave, Keep first responders safe, Add to Fed food aid, Gird pensions for stability, Extend more checks to meet great need.
The three bills were bipartisan, a remarkable accomplishment at this time that meant both sides compromised. To date, the Republicans say no more stimulus is needed–except Lisa Murkowski, who wisely notes that serious mental health needs arising from the pandemic will have to be addressed.
The Democrats improved the Republicans’ bill, but said they’d be back for more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the first two bills were for emergency relief; the third for mitigation. The fourth will be for recovery.
In this fourth bill, the Democrats will plead for all in Phase 4 above, plus virus-revealed issues: money for Internet services, now a necessity; money for states and the Post Office for vote-by-mail to ensure our democratic processes can continue despite the pandemic.
(Will the President sign this bill? Speaking of the previous bill’s funding request for vote-by-mail, which is expected to enable more Americans to vote, he stated: “The things they had in there were crazy…that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”)
Two parties; two different wish lists.
For Phase 4 to pass, We, the People, must loudly say we agree. Do you? Will you?
Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio defied a state Supreme Court decision and cancelled his state’s primary election on March 17, citing “health concerns.” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, whom I greatly respect, said he’s been working with DeWine, knows him well, and is confident that his decision was based on the right reason: the desire to protect the health and safety of the people of his state.
So although there’s plenty of political shenanigans around, the Ohio primary cancellation doesn’t seem to have been one of them. That’s the good part.
The bad part is that DeWine’s decision sets a dangerous precedent—as historian Michael Beschloss confirmed on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show. When we get into the business of cancelling elections, we’re entering new territory fraught with negative implications for our democracy, which has been suffering mightily in the past several years.
The coronavirus has demonstrated that we are all interconnected and interdependent: We’ll have to work together to get through this pandemic that is threatening us now—and to deal with the unprecedented dilemmas it is posing.
Based on nearly all sources, who now include a recalcitrant President Trump (!), the pandemic will surely worsen over the next several months. Louisiana and Georgia have already postponed their primaries. It seems to be time to consider how important the remaining primaries are to our democratic process.
There is only one person who should make that decision: Bernie Sanders.
As of March 18, he faces a nearly insurmountable delegate deficit. Former Vice President Joe Biden has won 1165 delegates; Sanders’ tally is 880. The odds of his success are slim to none. After losing the primaries in Illinois, Florida, and Arizona by large percentages, Bernie is now “reassessing his campaign,” according to current reports.
If he decides that it is irresponsible to continue seeking delegates through the primaries because people’s lives will be at risk going to vote in primaries that won’t change the outcome—and suspends his campaign—he will be demonstrating a degree of reality-based unselfishness that will earn him a solid place in history.
In contrast, if he continues to campaign in whatever way he can, he will divert Biden from focusing his sole attention on President Trump’s massive failures, delay whatever reconciliation is possible between his supporters and Biden, and increase the chances that the most inept and harmful president ever may somehow win another four years.
Bernie’s place in history may then be as the spoiler who increased the possibilities of our democracy failing. I’m sure that is not the legacy he wishes. He has committed to voting for and campaigning for Biden, stating that defeating President Trump is the most important issue.
He can still play an active role in pursuing his ideas and ideals; he has already moved Biden to the left on education. But I hope he realizes that the primaries—and Biden’s increasingly large victories—have demonstrated that this is a center-left country.
Based on all the votes cast in the primaries to date, it’s now time for the battle of ideas among Democrats to cease in order to form a cohesive strategy to defeat Trump, hold the House, and retake the Senate.
Biden recognizes where he must be to forge what has so far been a winning coalition. If Bernie pushes too far, he risks validating those among his supporters who will refuse to vote for Biden because they view him as too much a part of the “corrupt establishment.”
I hope, therefore, that Bernie will soon announce the suspension of his campaign and devote his energies to ensuring that the Senate passes substantive legislation that will provide immediate and ongoing assistance to Americans in need due to the impact of the coronavirus.
And I hope that along the way, he will be able to convince many (most?) of his supporters that their vote for the man he calls “my friend Joe” is right and necessary.
We have Republicans in the Senate today sounding like Socialists (shhhhhh!), saying they’re ready to send dollars to the public.
We have a public that, after decades of accepting the Republicans’ fraying of the safety net, finally realizes due to the absence of good management and wise decision-making how very important the federal government is.
(With regard to the above point, I urge you to read this extremely important article in the Washington Post by Stuart Stevens, a now contrite Republican consultant, on the damage his party has wreaked on this nation, leading inevitably to our current crisis.)
In the midst of the horror we’re experiencing, if Bernie now declares he’ll no longer participate in the primaries, he can take pride in the role he’s played in changing people’s views. He just hasn’t succeeded to the point that they’re ready for his revolution.
Candidates flailing arms in the air, bent
on talking, one over another Hapless moderators—too many, too
weak to control the mayhem Another Democratic debate, Offering less light than heat Seemingly not laser-focused on our
closeness to the abyss.
In the far too-White House, a lawless
President—unrebuked by his
tarnished party— No-nothingly claims the gathering
pandemic will soon be gone
And helter-skelterly seeks funding only
after a ka-chinging Stock Market dives into waters darkened
by viral uncertainty… Even as he tears away our protective
Intel and Rebukes/replaces experts and judicious
judges, Instead producing pattern-setting
pardons of those justly Convicted of crimes against the State… As back in Russia, Vladimir does his
happy dance with wanton abandon.
When an aroused people stands together Elevating our shared goal beyond our
Change of the most positive nature can
unfold As we become Citizen Activists as never
before: Noting the work ahead, and
enthusiastically signing on
Exercising our right to vote for whoever
we think best—but Not turning away if the nominee is other
than our choice, Determined to banish the unclothed
emperor above all.
In this nation of great promise and
hard history This is our time, finally, to get
In my previous post, I cited the free newsletter by RB Hubbell of California (firstname.lastname@example.org). His February 26, 2020, issue (No. 380) is a treasure trove of action steps we can take, with links to organizations focused on the important issues of voter registration, turnout, and voter protection, among others.
They include several I’d never heard of, such as Changing the Conversation Together (in which volunteers have issue-oriented discussions with people in their homes), Vote Forward (you sign your name to letters on a template sent to under-represented voters), and one I found particularly interesting: Payback Project, dedicated to defeating ten Republican Senators (including Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Mitch McConnell), and thereby taking back the Senate.
And in today’s newsletter (February 27, 2020, No. 831), Hubbell adds another compelling possibility: Sister District Project, which tries to turn states blue by winning state legislatures, thereby helping to end gerrymandering. The organization says it has teams “across the country.” With the 2020 Census under way, leading to redistricting in 2021, it is vital that we have Democratic Governors and state legislators involved in this effort to ensure that representation is accurately apportioned.
After watching the pre-Nevada caucus Democratic debate, I began writing this post with feelings of frustration approaching despair. There were many things to criticize, and I was emptying my angst onto this page, and thus preparing to send it on to you.
With the latest evidence—which we already knew—from the Intelligence briefing to the House that reiterated Russian meddling in the 2020 election, which was followed by the President’s replacement of the acting intelligence chief with someone with less than zero qualifications for the job, I cannot and will not deny that we are living in increasingly perilous times. See The New York Times article here.
The question I’ve been pondering is this: as we search for someone who is best able to defeat Donald Trump, how do we handle ourselves? And that question makes me feel more closely attuned to my more optimistic, better self—the one that really believes we can find common ground.
What brought me to this more positive place? Meditation helps, but my “recovery” was nurtured by a very calming, cogent newsletter that a friend who had just subscribed to forwarded to me. Its author, RB Hubbell, is based in California. The daily newsletter is free and can be obtained by sending your email address to email@example.com.
A Voice of Reason
I don’t know how large Hubbell’s subscriber list is, but he began his discussion of the aftermath of the debate by saying his inbox had “exploded” with emails that “exhibited a level of angst, anger, and disgust I have not seen before.”
He then said he wanted to share readers’ reactions, because he’s been told that hearing from others helps his readers “ground their feelings and test their own reactions to this crazy mess in which we find ourselves.”
There’s nothing wildly original about Hubbell’s message or his readers’ reactions. Maybe I was just ready to hear his words, but they hit me exactly right. Here’s a sampling:
“Before we get to the details, let’s say the important things first: We must stick together. We are on the same side. If we do not stand together, we will fall together. Whatever passion or disappointment or anger you feel, it cannot cause you to withdraw from the process or give in to feelings of hopelessness or lash out in anger at fellow Democrats. We are facing a grave threat to democracy. Our personal preferences for president are subordinate to the need to ensure the election of the Democratic nominee—whoever he or she is.
“A secondary point is the need to focus on the long-term. Yesterday’s debate was freighted with expectations and led to disappointment. Accept that fact and move on. We can’t freak out every time something bad happens; otherwise, we won’t make it to the Democratic convention in July, much less the general election in November. If ever there was a time in our history when we needed to toughen-up, hunker-down, and keep our eyes on the horizon, now is that moment.”
It’s Okay to Withdraw, But Not for Long
Hubbell’s readers include many people who told him they’d withdrawn from the fray for the sake of their mental health. I can relate to that feeling. My last three posts were about goldfinches and squirrels; solar railways and my carbon BigFootprint, and guidance on comforting the sick and dying.
But I knew I had to return to politics because this is an “all hands on deck” moment.
Interestingly, although Hubbell probably wouldn’t reveal his preferred candidate under any circumstances, he notes that he’s mostly filled out his own ballot for the California primary but has not yet determined which candidate he’ll support.
He concludes in a way that ties in with my primary objective with this post, referencing a Twitter thread by Walter Shaub, the former Director of the Office of Government Ethics (when there was such a working institution in our government!). A “snippet”:
“ Take Action. Any action. It’s not big things that will save us. It’s persistent small actions carried out by one individual, and another, and another and another across the nation…Make a very small donation, even just a dollar, to something, sign up to volunteer for one hour, go learn how to register voters.”
I wish I could include the entire thread because there’s lots of wisdom there. If you’re on Twitter, go to @waltshaub and you can read through it.
A Valuable Way to Make a Difference
Many of us have been repeatedly sending money to the Presidential candidate(s) of our choice. That’s important. But my action at the moment is to focus our attention on the House of Representatives. We must, must, must maintain the Democratic majority in the House.
All the members of the Class of 2018, those moderates in either swing districts or districts that Trump won, have been targeted for extinction—in good measure because they flipped formerly Republican seats AND had the courage to vote for impeachment. Many won by a single vote.
They are among the more than 50 House members being targeted for defeat by the National Republican Campaign Committee. According to Roll Call, the NRCC Chairman, Tom Emmer of Minnesota, enunciated the slogan the Congressional Republicans plan to run on:
“Freedom or socialism—that’s the choice in 2020.”
These targeted Democrats need our help, as their opposition is often flooded with cash and a revved up base. I’m listing their names, districts, and web sites in the hope that if you feel strongly that it is imperative to retain a Democratic-controlled House, you’ll be able to support their reelections in whatever way you can, including volunteering and importantly by contributing, no matter how small the amount.
In addition to donating to them directly, in most cases you can also go through ActBlue. I’m planning to work my way down the list, eventually giving modest donations to all of them.
Remember: each one of these individuals did what he or she believed was right for this country and upheld that oath—knowing that vote might well end their careers.
Let’s begin with the seven brave souls—all with national security backgrounds—whose OpEd in the Washington Post was instrumental in changing Nancy Pelosi’s mind about the need for an impeachment inquiry. They are:
[update: Christy Smith is running for the seat vacated by Katie Hill. Though she wasn’t in Congress for the impeachment vote, she is being targeted–hard. This is a hard-fought effort to retain a Democratic seat that needs money and votes immediately–before May 14th!]
Note: Jared Golden (ME-02): jaredgoldenforcongress.com has also been targeted by the Republicans, but the Democrats aren’t happy with him either: He voted to impeach the President on Article 1, but not for obstruction of Congress.
Missing from my version of the list is Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), who switched his party affiliation and is now a Republican.
On this list of valuable legislators, one who has impressed me deeply is Katie Porter of California, who asks the tough questions and seems fearless in speaking truth to power. She is under particularly strong attack. I believe it is extremely important that her voice continues to be heard in Congress; thus, I’ve highlighted her information.
I’ll conclude with RB Hubbell’s closing remarks in the newsletter issue I referred to above:
“We are in the fight of our lives, but we are in it together. That should give us all comfort.”
That fight demands that we act positively and don’t despair. And make sure you’re registered to vote!
In case you didn’t see/hear or read about Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, it appears below.
I believe her focus here is the path the Democrats must take to win the Presidency, House, and Senate in November. It was the successful path to retaking the House in 2018, and there are many reasons to believe it will work again.
I’ve added emphases to several points, but I hope you’ll read the entire speech.
Good evening. I’m honored to be here and grateful that you’re tuning in. I’m Gretchen Whitmer, the 49th governor of the great state of Michigan. Tonight, I’m at my daughter Sherry and Sydney’s public school East Lansing high school. We’re here today with families and parents, teachers, and most importantly, students. I want to thank you all for coming.
But tonight I’m going to talk to those of you who are watching at home.
I’d need a lot more than 10 minutes to respond to what the president just said. So instead of talking about what he is saying, I’m going to highlight what Democrats are doing. After all, you can listen to what someone says, but to know the truth, watch what they do.
Michiganders are no different from Americans everywhere. We love our families and want a good life today and a better life tomorrow for our kids.
We work hard, and we expect our government to work hard for us, as well.
We have grit and value loyalty, and we still root for the Detroit Lions.
We and all Americans might be weary of today’s politics, but we must stay engaged. Our country, our democracy, our future demand it. We’re capable of great things when we work together.
We cannot forget that despite the dishonesty and division of the last few years, and that we heard tonight from the President of the United States, together we have boundless potential.
And young Americans are proving that every day by taking action. That’s what I want to focus on tonight.
Monte Scott is 13 years old and lives in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. Monte’s street was covered in potholes. They were ankle deep and he got tired of waiting for them to get fixed, so he grabbed a shovel and a bucket of dirt and filled them in himself.
During my campaign, people told me to fix the damn roads, because blown tires and broken windshields are downright dangerous, and car repairs take money from rent, child care or groceries. And we, the Democrats, are doing something about it.
In Illinois, Governor J. B. Pritzker passed a multibillion dollar plan to rebuild their roads and bridges. Governor Phil Murphy is replacing lead pipes in New Jersey.
All across the country, Democratic leaders are rebuilding bridges, fixing roads, expanding broadband and cleaning up drinking water.
Everyone in this country benefits when we invest in infrastructure. Congressional Democrats have presented proposals to keep us moving forward, but President Trump and the Republicans in the Senate are blocking the path.
When it comes to infrastructure, Monte has tried to do more with a shovel and a pile of dirt than the Republicans in D.C. have with the Oval Office and the U.S. Senate.
Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges, it burns them. Our energy should be used to solve problems, and it’s true for health care, too.
For me, for so many Americans, healthcare is personal, not political.
When I was 30, I became a member of the sandwich generation. That means I was sandwiched between two generations of my own family for whom I was the primary caregiver.
I was holding down a new job, caring for my newborn daughter, as well as my mom at the end of her brain cancer battle. I was up all night with a baby, and during the day I had to fight my mom’s insurance company when they wrongly denied her coverage for chemotherapy.
It was hard. It exposed the harsh realities of our workplaces, our health care system, and our child care system.
And it changed me.
I lost patience for people who are just talk and no action. So as a state senator, I worked with a Republican governor and legislature to expand health care coverage to more than 680,000 Michiganders under the Affordable Care Act.
Today, Democrats from Maine to Montana are expanding coverage and lowering costs. In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly is working across the aisle to bring Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands. In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham enshrined ACA protections into law.
Every Democrat running for president has a plan to expand health care for all Americans. Every one of them has supported the Affordable Care Act with coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
They may have different plans, but the goal is the same. President Trump sadly has a different plan. He’s asking the courts to rip those life-saving protections away. It’s pretty simple. Democrats are trying to make your health care better, Republicans in Washington are trying to take it away.
Think about kids like 17-year-old Blake Carroll from Idaho, who organized a fundraiser to pay for his mom’s colon cancer treatment, or 19-year-old Ebony Meyers from Utah, who sells art to help pay for her own rare genetic disorder treatment.
No one should have to crowdsource their healthcare, not in America.
But the reality is not everyone in America has a job with healthcare and benefits. In fact, many have jobs that don’t even pay enough to cover their monthly expenses.
It doesn’t matter what the President says about the stock market. What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans or prescription drugs.
American workers are hurting. In my own state, our neighbors in Wisconsin and Ohio, Pennsylvania and all over the country, wages have stagnated while CEO pay has skyrocketed.
So when the president says the economy is strong, my question is, strong for whom? Strong for the wealthy who are reaping rewards from tax cuts they don’t need?
The American economy needs to be a different kind of strong. Strong for the science teacher spending her own money to buy supplies for her classroom. Strong for the single mom picking up extra hours so she can afford her daughter’s soccer cleats. Strong for the small business owner who has to make payroll at the end of the month.
Michigan invented the middle class, so we know: if the economy doesn’t work for working people, it just doesn’t work. Who fights for working, hard-working Americans? Democrats do.
In the U.S. House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats passed a landmark bill on equal pay, another bill to give 30 million Americans a raise by increasing the minimum wage, and groundbreaking legislation to finally give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices for America’s seniors and families.
Those three bills and more than 275 other bipartisan bills are just gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Senator McConnell, America needs you to move those bills.
Meanwhile, Democrats across the country are getting things done. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf is expanding the right to overtime pay. Michigan is, too. Because if you’re on the clock, you deserve to get paid.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper are working to give hardworking teachers a raise. And speaking of the classroom, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers unilaterally increased school funding by $65 million last year.
In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has enacted free all day kindergarten, and in 29 states, we’ve helped pass minimum wage hikes into law, which will lift people out of poverty and improve lives for families. That’s strength. That’s action.
Democracy takes action, and that’s why I’m so inspired by young people. They respond to mass shootings, demanding policies that make schools safer. They react to a world that’s literally on fire, with fire in their bellies, to push leaders to finally take action on climate change.
They take on a road filled with potholes with a shovel and some dirt. It’s what gives me great confidence in our future, and it’s why sometimes, it feels like they’re the adults in the room. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. It’s not their mess to clean up. It’s ours. The choices we make today create their reality tomorrow.
Young people, I’m talking to you. And your parents and grandparents. Democrats want safe schools. We want everyone to have a path to a good life, whether it’s through a union apprenticeship, a community college, a four-year university, without drowning in debt.
We want your water to be clean. We want you to love who you love, and to live authentically as your true selves. And we want women to have autonomy over our bodies.
We want our country welcoming, and everyone’s vote counted. 2020 is a big year. It’s the year my daughter Sherry will graduate from high school. It’s also the year she’ll cast her first ballot, along with millions of young Americans.
The two things are connected. Because walking across a graduation stage is as important as walking into the voting booth for the first time. Her future, all our kids’ futures, will be determined not just by their dreams, but by our actions.
As we witness the impeachment process in Washington, there are some things each of us, no matter our party, should demand.
The truth matters. Facts matter. And no one should be above the law.
It’s not what those senators say. Tomorrow, it’s about what they do that matters. Remember, listen to what people say but watch what they do. It’s time for action. Generations of Americans are counting on us. Let’s not let them down.
Thank you for listening. God bless America. Good night.
I will note that I do miss the voices of Cory Booker and Julian Castro, reminding us of all the folks who haven’t made it into the middle class.