Saturday, May 15, 2021
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) threw down the gauntlet on Wednesday, refusing to accede to her party’s transformation into a cult. Calling out the liars in her midst, she is now House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s worst nightmare. “I think that he is not leading with principle right now,” Cheney said in an NBC interview. "And I think that it is sad, and I think it’s dangerous.” In other words: He’s a spineless pawn of the former president who will do his bidding no matter how outrageous the demand.
As Cheney tosses McCarthy (R-Calif.) around like a rag doll, she is making crystal clear how high the stakes are in 2022. A MAGA Republican House majority controlled by the disgraced former president would be a threat to the republic. Making a midterm election about the unfitness of the challengers rather than a referendum on the incumbents is a gift to the Democratic Party, which would love nothing more than to make McCarthy the poster boy for toadyism to a despot who tried to steal an election.
But for all her gusto and courage, Cheney might simply be a victim of wishful thinking that there is a Republican Party to be rescued. The chance that non-MAGA Republicans will constitute a majority of the House or Senate Republican membership is virtually nonexistent. The more realistic option — from the point of view of pro-democracy, pro-sanity Americans in the center right — may be to flee the party.
That’s where a new group of challengers to the GOP comes in. On Thursday, 150 former governors, members of Congress, Cabinet officials, senior administration officials, strategists and grass-roots leaders issued their own declaration of independence with an explicit threat to leave the party if the GOP does not abandon the MAGA mentality. In a document titled, “A Call to American Renewal,” the signatories reference Cheney’s ouster and write, “This ‘common-sense coalition’ seeks to catalyze the reform of the Republican Party and its recommitment to truth, founding ideals, and decency or, if unsuccessful, lay the foundation for an alternative.”
Co-founder Miles Taylor, the former Homeland Security official fired under the last president and author of the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, explained in an interview with MSNBC that this is the “'I’m not crazy’ coalition inside the Republican Party.” He added, “We’re gonna announce a group of Republicans and ex-Republicans that say we want rational, pragmatic governance,” but backed up with the threat to leave the party if the GOP doesn’t get its act together.
The group set out a list of principles, emphasizing democracy, constitutional order, truth, ethical government, conservation (“stewardship of America’s resources — natural, environmental and financial”), pluralism (rejecting the notion that America is defined by race, religion or birthplace) and rejection of “all forms of bigotry.”
Some of the stated principles hint at stances on current issues. In declaring they “oppose disenfranchisement of voters,” for example, the signatories position themselves as opponents of the voter suppression laws growing like weeds around the country. . . . Noteworthy is the absence of issues such as abortion or gay rights, suggesting the members of the group have agreed to disagree on some topics that are not central to its aim of restoring democracy.
This could be the platform of any GOP presidential nominee before 2016. Principles such as “rule of law” (which Cheney describes as the “most conservative of conservative principles”) were fundamental and uncontroversial within the party until the MAGA era began.
The declaration raises a host of questions:
- Will any current elected leaders, besides state leaders, sign on to these principles?
- When and how do they decide that time’s up for the GOP?
- Do they run a slate of candidates, either as Republicans or under a yet-to-be-named new party’s banner?
- Is this an effort to ideologically redefine the GOP as a center-right rather than far-right or nativist party?
- If the GOP is hopeless, do these dissidents envision the new party akin to the moderate agenda of GOP governors such as Charlie Baker of Massachusetts?
These Republicans have not quite departed from the GOP, although they certainly are hovering around the exit door. While Cheney might seek the election of non-MAGA Republicans, this group surely understands that any GOP House majority would be controlled by the disgraced former president, and hence, a threat to the republic. If Republicans still nominate a MAGA-type presidential candidate in 2024, the dissidents with one foot out the door will need to field a third party or simply back President Biden (as they did in 2020), assuming he is the Democratic nominee. Ultimately, their goal is not restoration of the GOP, but marginalization of the GOP as currently constituted.
For now, Cheney and this group of dissident Republicans might embrace a common endeavor: stripping the bark off McCarthy and his enablers to make sure voters know the danger in handing over the House to MAGA cultists.
Hopefully, they flee the GOP and take enough moderates and independents with them to make GOP victories much less frequent.
Friday, May 14, 2021
As part of its criminal investigation into possible bank, tax, and insurance fraud by Donald Trump, Cyrus Vance Jr.’s Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has for months been working to flip Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime CFO who has described himself as the ex-president’s “eyes and ears” at the firm. Last month a seemingly significant development occurred on that front when Jennifer Weisselberg, Allen’s former daughter-in-law, turned over a trove of documents to Vance‘s office concerning the finances of both Allen and his son, fellow Trump Organization employee Barry Weisselberg.
Vance’s office is currently in possession of the kind of information that could conceivably get one of Trump’s highest-ranking employees to cut a deal with prosecutors, and according to The Wall Street Journal, there may be more where that came from:
New York prosecutors have subpoenaed a Manhattan private school as they seek the cooperation of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer in their investigation of former president Donald Trump and his company, according to people familiar with the matter. The subpoena seeks information from Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, where grandchildren of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg are students, the people said. From 2012 to 2019, more than $500,000 of the children’s tuition was paid for with checks signed by either Mr. Weisselberg or Mr. Trump, the two children’s mother, Jennifer Weisselberg, told The Wall Street Journal. She is the former wife of Mr. Weisselberg’s son Barry. . . . Former prosecutors not involved in the probe said the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office could be examining whether the Weisselbergs evaded taxes with the tuition-payment arrangement.
While none of the Weisselbergs have been accused of wrongdoing, as the Journal notes, “prosecutors often seek the cooperation of someone possibly involved in a crime to obtain confidential information and provide a potential road map to records or documents. Typically, prosecutors offer a potential defendant leniency in exchange for their help. Putting pressure on a possible defendant’s family is one way to encourage cooperation.” People who know Allen Weisselberg told the Journal that he is loyal to the Trump Organization and were skeptical of the idea of him turning on the former president. On the other hand, he already cooperated with prosecutors investigating Trump on two separate occasions—during both the 2018 federal probe into hush money payments and the 2017 New York attorney general’s investigation of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was ultimately forced to shutter. As Weisselberg’s ex-daughter-in-law said last month: “Trump doesn’t care about Allen, but Allen knows every bad thing he ever did.”
Thursday, May 13, 2021
It should be noted that this guy acquired much of his couple of hundred million dollars of wealth through a quarter-century of work at The Carlyle Group, notorious for advising oil sheiks, dictators, the sovereign wealth funds of a number of countries, and some extremely wealthy individuals on which American companies (and industries) to buy into -- and which to sell out. Think of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, but then some.We know that for 25 years this Trump wannabe -- but SUCCESSFUL -- has had the financial interests of foreign entities as the focus of his energies. Has there even been any indication of the level of his interest in human Americans other than as units of labor?
Also of deep concern is Younkin's far right religious beliefs and his ties to some of the worst extremists in Virginia (he was wildly endorsed by nefarious Family Foundation, the descendant of pro-segregationists behind "Massive Resistance" in Virginia. Like Trump he will likely seek to wage war on LGBT Virginians, deprive citizens deemed "other" by evangelicals of voting rights, resist equal pay for women, and give a wink and a nod to white supremacist elements in the Virginia GOP.
If there is any good news about Younkin it is that his endorsement by Trump may help make him radioactive to many Virginians, especially those in the critical "urban crescent" extending from Northern Virginia south through Richmond and then southeast to Hampton Roads which will largely determine the winner in the November general election. A piece in Politico looks at Trump's endorsement of Youngkin. Here are excerpts:
Less than 12 hours after Glenn Youngkin locked up the GOP nomination for Virginia governor on Monday night, former President Donald Trump barreled into 2021’s most competitive statewide election.
"Glenn is pro-Business, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Veterans, pro-America, he knows how to make Virginia's economy rip-roaring, and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement!" Trump wrote in a statement Tuesday morning that was circulated by his political action committee.
But unlike states like Arkansas or South Carolina — red states where Trump has already made endorsements in a 2022 gubernatorial race — the former president’s support in Virginia carries more risks than benefits.
Trump’s presidency ushered in an era of defeats for Virginia Republicans: a Democratic sweep of statewide elections in 2017, the loss of three swing congressional seats in 2018 and, finally, Democrats flipping both state legislative chambers in 2019, giving Democrats complete control of Richmond for the first time since 1994.
Youngkin and his Republican opponents embraced key parts of Trump’s legacy as they courted the support of GOP activists in last week’s “unassembled convention.” But the next six months before the general election will test Youngkin’s ability to create enough distance between himself and Trump in a fast-changing state that has repeatedly rejected the modern GOP. It’s an early trial run for whether Republicans can claw back territory they lost in the 2022 midterms.
[Youngkin advertises himself as] a very faith-based Christian,” said Ron Wright, a Republican state central committee member and a co-chair of the Northern Virginia Republican Business Forum. “And I think that he’s a good retail politician.”
At a post-primary launch event Tuesday afternoon in Richmond, Youngkin leaned on his Christian faith and business record, and he promised to lead the state’s post-pandemic opening. Notably, he did not mention Trump’s endorsement — nor did his campaign acknowledge it in its press releases or on its Twitter accounts, where it trumpeted the support of other Republican figures . . .
He did, however, address the Trump endorsement in a local news interview published later Tuesday night. "I'm totally honored, and I appreciate it this morning," he told WVEC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Hampton Roads, saying it reflects the party coming together.
One of his earliest moves in the race was creating an “election integrity task force” — an echo of Trump’s repeated false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him — and Youngkin wouldn’t explicitly say that President Joe Biden fairly won his election. He pledged to push for a voter ID requirement for Virginia's elections in his post-nomination speech.
Democrats are eager to tie Trump’s legacy — and his endorsement — around Youngkin’s campaign while their own nominating process still plays out.
“Glenn Youngkin is the epitome of a pro-Trump Republican, who has demonstrated complete allegiance to the former president’s most dangerous conspiracy theories. Where Trump leads, Glenn follows,” state Democratic Party chair Susan Swecker said on a call with reporters on Tuesday.
The challenge for Republicans in the state is being able to shake Trump’s unpopularity, given how rapidly suburbs have moved away from them during Trump’s presidency. Republicans hope they can claw back some support in the suburbs — first in Virginia, then in other states in 2022 — with Trump off the ticket and out of office.
In a February poll from The Wason Center at Christopher Newport University, a majority of Virginia voters said that Trump was “definitely worse than most” of the past several presidents. Among Virginia Republicans, 37 percent said he was “one of the best,” and an additional 41 percent listed him as “better than most.”
In addition, 68 percent of Virginians surveyed said that they believed Biden won the election legitimately. But just 27 percent of Virginia Republicans agreed, with over 60 percent echoing Trump’s lies that Biden did not win legitimately.
McAuliffe — who was prevented by law from running for a second term in 2017, when now-Gov. Ralph Northam won with McAuliffe’s support — spent Tuesday gladly tying Youngkin to Trump.
“I've defeated extremists like Glenn before, and I've got the big bold policies and broad, diverse coalition to do it again,” McAuliffe said in a statement following Trump weighing in, and his campaign also released a digital ad highlighting the endorsement.
And it points to the awkward Trump dance for Youngkin.
When asked about McAuliffe calling him a “Trump loyalist” by Fox News Channel during an interview on Tuesday morning, Youngkin demurred. He did not raise Trump’s endorsement of his bid, which was made public minutes before the interview, and instead attacked McAuliffe: “All you get from Terry McAuliffe is division. That's not what we'll do in our campaign.”
Youngkin's demurrer when asked about Trump's endorsement and his refusal to admit that Biden was legitimately elected are more than enough to repel many Virginians. Throw in his allegiance to Christofascists and white nationalist and the man is a clear and present danger. He - and Trumpism - MUST be defeated in November.
The takedown of Representative Cheney was not an “inflection point,” as some have called it. It was the opposite — the latest (but it won’t be the last) confirmation that the Republican Party is diseased and dangerous, increasingly subversive and illiberal, caught in the grip of what Ms. Cheney described in The Washington Post as the “anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”
“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Ms. Cheney, unbroken and unbowed, said in a speech on the House floor Tuesday night. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.” Her Republican colleagues, cowardly and classless, cleared the chamber as she began her remarks. But they can’t escape her searing indictment.
Declaring fealty to a lie has become the single most important test of loyalty in today’s Republican Party. Everyone recognizes this, but from time to time we need to stop to register its true significance.
“It’s a real sickness that is infecting the party at every level,” Barbara Comstock, a Republican who represented Virginia’s 10th Congressional District before Mr. Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs sank her chances in the 2018 election, told Lisa Lerer of The Times. “We’re just going to say that black is white now.”
This should come as a surprise to exactly no one. For more than five years, the Republican Party and its leading media propagandists embraced and championed Mr. Trump’s mendacities, conspiracy theories and sociopathic tendencies.
As a result, they have detached themselves from reality. The expectation that once Mr. Trump left office the Republican Party would become a normal party again was wishful thinking from the beginning. There is no post-Trump fight for the “soul” of the Republican Party. At least for now, that battle has been decided.
Liz Cheney understands that only a decisive break with Mr. Trump will stop the continuing moral ruination of the Republican Party. But her break with the former president, while courageous, came too late to change anything. She is trying to rally an army that doesn’t exist.
It doesn’t exist for two reasons. The first is that many grass-roots Republicans, having been fed a steady diet of fabrications and disinformation for the last half-decade, are deluded. They believe Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories, in large measure because they want to believe them, and now they are addicted to them. And addictions are hard to break.
These Republicans believe they are truth-tellers and patriots, sentries at freedom’s gate. They are utterly sincere; they are also quite dangerous. They are taking a sledgehammer to pillars of American democracy: confidence in the legitimacy of our elections, the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power.
Most Republican members of Congress, on the other hand, don’t believe President Biden was illegitimately elected. Kevin McCarthy, Elise Stefanik, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham aren’t deceived. They are play acting in ways that are unethical and cynical, but they are not stupid. They’re fully aware that the cancerous lies have metastasized — they each played a crucial role in spreading them, after all — and to refute those lies publicly would put targets on their backs.
Many of the most influential figures in Republican politics have decided that breaking with Mr. Trump would so alienate the base of the party that it would make election victories impossible, at least for the foreseeable future.
So we have reached the point where a member of one of the Republican Party’s leading families, a person of unquestioned conservative credentials, is now less popular with the Republican base and more reviled by the House leadership than the onetime QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, who just before the Jan. 6 insurrection referred to that day as Republicans’ “1776 moment.”
Ms. Cheney was stripped of her leadership post because she committed the unpardonable sin in 2021’s Republican Party: She spoke the truth about the legitimacy of the 2020 election results and refused to back down. Whatever she was before, she is a voice of conscience now, reminding her colleagues of their Faustian bargain with their peculiar Mephistopheles, Donald Trump. It enrages them even as it haunts them.
Today the Republican Party is less a political party than a political freak show. It is being sustained by insidious lies. And people who love America, starting with conservatives, should say so. Otherwise, if the Republican Party’s downward spiral isn’t reversed, it will descend even further into a frightening world of illusion.
Sadly, at this point only Trump's death - or perhaps repeated electoral defeats - can alter the GOP's course to total moral ruin.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
[T]he right has transformed a term that originally referred to an academic school of thought into a catchall for resentments over diversity initiatives and changing history curriculums. Since I first wrote about anti-critical race theory activism in February, it’s become hard to keep up with the flurry of state bills aimed at banning the teaching of what are often called “divisive concepts,” . . .
Part of the reason the right is putting so much energy into this crusade is because it can’t whip up much opposition to the bulk of Joe Biden’s agenda. Biden’s spending plans are much more ambitious than Barack Obama’s were, but there’s been no new version of the Tea Party. Voters view this president as more moderate than Obama, . . . Republicans have groused about how hard Biden is to demonize. They need a more frightening, enraging villain to keep their people engaged.
Critical race theory — presented as an attack on history, a program to indoctrinate children and a stealth form of Marxism — fits the bill.
Youngkin is all onboard with this agenda. He touts that he will "stop all the terrible policies coming out of Richmond, and make Virginia the best state in America to live, work, and raise a family," but this will be true only if one is white, heterosexual and far right Christian and long for a return of the Virginia of the 1950's. Blacks, gays, women, voting rights advocates and the religiously non-affiliated should view Youngkin's ideal Virginia with horror.
Equally troubling is Youngkin's allegiance to Donald Trump and the "Big Lie." A piece in Washingtonian looks at these troubling aspects about Youngkin:
He’s not as Trumpy as others, but he’s still Trumpy
Though other candidates in the race were more enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump, Youngkin still made a play for the MAGA crowd. For example, according to the Associate Press, Youngkin made election integrity the central issue of his campaign—a move that allowed “him to appeal to Trump voters who still believe the 2020 election was stolen from him without having to invoke Trump’s name directly.”
He has not acknowledged Biden’s White House win
In an even Trumpier move, Youngkin has so far not acknowledged the reality of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to the Post.
With Youngkin's personal wealth, it is critical that Virginians who want to keep Virginia trending blue unite behind a candidate who can defeat Youngkin and the reactionary policies he would seek to force on the Commonwealth. Personally, the husband and I are supporting Terry McAuliffe because we see him as the only Democrat in the race who can defeat Youngkin. Far too much is at risk to back a lesser known candidate with questionable fund raising abilities.
Near the beginning of the document that made us free, our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
There you have it. From the very beginning of America, our freedom has been predicated on truth. For without a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, our democracy will not last.
On Wednesday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) will most likely lose her leadership post within the House Republican Conference, not because she has been untruthful. Rather, she will lose her position because she is refusing to play her assigned role in propagating the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Cheney is more dedicated to the long-term health of our constitutional system than she is to assuaging the former president’s shattered ego, and for her integrity she may well pay with her career.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your contemporary Republican Party, where today there is no greater offense than honesty.
It seems a good time to examine how we got to a place where such a large swath of the electorate (70 percent of Republican voters, according to polling) became willing to reject a truth that is so self-evident.
This allergy to self-evident truth didn’t happen all at once, of course. This frog has been boiling for some time now. The Trump period in American life has been a celebration of the unwise and the untrue. From the ugly tolerance of the pernicious falsehood about President Barack Obama’s place of birth to the bizarre and fanatical fable about the size of inauguration crowds, to the introduction of the term “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, the party’s steady embrace of dishonesty as a central premise has brought us to this low and dangerous place.
When I became an unwitting dissident in my party by speaking in defense of self-evident truths, I assumed that more and more of my colleagues would follow me. I remain astonished that so few did. Congresswoman Cheney, I know how alone you must be feeling. But just know that history keeps the score, not Kevin McCarthy or Elise Stefanik.
In January 2018, three years before the Capitol insurrection, I said the following on the Senate floor: “Mr. President, let us be clear. The impulses underlying the dissemination of such untruths are not benign. They have the effect of eroding trust in our vital institutions and conditioning the public to no longer trust them. The destructive effect of this kind of behavior on our democracy cannot be overstated.”
Three years later, it’s clear that I didn’t know the half of it. The destructive effect of the president’s behavior — and the willingness of Republican elected officials to indulge, excuse, defend, justify and, in many cases, just roll with it — has taken a devastating toll.
[W]e did not become a great nation by believing or espousing nonsense, or by embracing lunacy. And if my party continues down this path, we will not be fit to govern.
Cheney has proved her fitness, and today it seems that adherents to the “big lie” will cast her out. Hold your head high, congresswoman. Those of us who believe in American democracy and who live in objective reality are grateful that you have chosen to take a stand for truth — self-evident truth — regardless of the consequences.
Sunday, May 09, 2021
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised Saturday to push ahead with another Scotland independence referendum after her party gained a strong showing in Scottish Parliament elections, setting up a potential clash with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Sturgeon said that an independence referendum was the "will of the country,," with her Scottish National Party and pro-independence allies taking a majority of the 129 seats after all the votes were counted.
That will probably boost calls to redo a 2014 independence referendum — dubbed "indyref2" — which could lead to the crackup of the United Kingdom under the strains of Brexit and its deep divisions.
Sturgeon's SNP won 64 seats, one seat short of a majority. But she said that, along with the Green Party, there would be overall support in the Parliament to again bring the independence question back to voters.
“Given that outcome,” she added, “there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future.”
Britons went to the polls Thursday for a number of regional elections, but the counting has been slower in part because of pandemic-related restrictions.
The SNP wants another swipe at an independence plebiscite, which its side lost in 2014 by 45 to 55 percent. But the SNP insists that views have changed since the 2016 referendum to break with the European Union, which 62 percent of Scottish voters opposed.
Many are calling this past week’s elections the most consequential in Scottish Parliament history. The Scotsman newspaper said that turnout looked set to smash that of previous elections.
Many Scots tell pollsters they want their regional government to get the economy back on track from the brutal pandemic losses before they begin to wave the blue-and-white flag for independence.
The British government says that legally, Scotland needs permission from the British Parliament to hold a referendum.
But even if the SNP has to rely on support from the Green Party, it would probably have enough votes to push through referendum legislation. Many analysts expect the Scottish government to then take its case to the courts, where it would argue that the power to call a referendum should rest with the Scottish Parliament.
“The Scottish problem is Boris Johnson’s biggest single political headache,” said Jonathan Tonge, a politics professor at the University of Liverpool.
There are also reasons to think that the Scottish quest for independence won’t simply fade away.
Demographic trends show that young people are overwhelmingly in favor of Scotland breaking free. One recent poll found that 72 percent of voters ages 16-34 would vote in favor of an independent Scotland.