The Election 2024 Chronicles, Volume 12; The Trump Chronicles, Volume 163: April Update

It’s obvious that I haven’t been attending to this blog. I haven’t posted since January. It’s not for lack of thinking; it’s just that the news these days is hard to read. As I write this Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the presumptive nominees and one of them will be elected President in November. Virtually every election is known as “the most important of your generation/lifetime/country’s history” but this one may well be.

There’s a lot I don’t need to write about (e.g. Trump’s dozens of indictments) but my fears boil down to this: whichever way the election goes the Trump camp will do their best to end our democracy and usher in a new era of fascism.

I’ve been suggesting that as the legal nooses continue to constrict around his neck Trump will not face justice. He will instead flee to Russia and ask Putin for asylum. This would explain Trump’s continuing craving of Putin’s approval. Unfortunately Trump has been successful in delaying justice through a long, strange series of inane legal arguments. I fear that none of his trials will conclude before the election.

So here’s my fear:

Scenario 1: Trump wins the election. This may sound crazy but he did win in 2016 after I had spent months saying this was impossible. We’re too far away from the election to be able to make a prediction. If he returns to office he has already promised to use the Justice Department to seek revenge against his enemies. See this article in the Texas Tribune. Ironically this is what he charges the Biden administration of doing: weaponizing the Justice Department against him. He also spends a great deal of time talking about the border with Mexico. He clearly can’t close the border as Mexico is much to important a trading partner. But this threats of mass deportation and increased enforcement will discourage some of this and will be bad for the economy. Most importantly he promises to dismantle the executive branch so that loyalty isn’t to the American people but to him. He perpetuates the lie of the existence of a “deep state” of government employees who wish to take down the government by liberal policies; ironically he will attempt to take down the government through his fascist policies. Trump recognized that many of his goals weren’t achieved because he chose people served the American people over him. He won’t make that mistake again.

Scenario 2: Trump loses the election. Even if Biden wins Trump will (again) refuse to accept the results. When this happened in 2021 he tried to block the peaceful transition of power on January 6th. It was a chaotic day filled with mistakes that he won’t make again.

Trump famously predicted that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose support. I didn’t believe him at the time but I do now. His support base is strong and deep and they have lots of guns. I don’t say this lightly but our only real chance of remaining a democracy lies in some outside factor. Polls show that if Trump is convicted in one of his trials he will lose support but I don’t believe that. He’s gotten too much mileage claiming he’s being persecuted. I do believe he’s running in part to avoid jail time; he has already raised the possibility of pardoning himself.

I can’t promise I’ll get any better at posting to this blog but I’ll try.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 164: Another Day In Court

Yesterday former President Trump and his legal team were in court yesterday, specifically US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It stems from a criminal case linked to his January 6, 2021 attempt to overthrow the government and remain in power. Trump’s team filed a brief arguing that he is immune from prosecution because he was acting in his role as President. There is reason to argue that a sitting President cannot be charged with a crime but Trump wishes us to believe that he can never be prosecuted, unless his crime causes him to be impeached and removed from office by Congress.

I subscribe to an excellent podcast called Prosecuting Donald Trump and yesterday they gave me access to the recording of the hearing. I listened to it so you don’t have to. Here’s what I learned:

Trump’s legal team argues that if a President breaks the law he cannot be prosecuted, even after he leaves office, unless he was impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the Senate. They argued that without this protection Presidents would always have to “look over his shoulder” when making decisions and worry that after they leave office they will be prosecuted. The President needs this protection to govern effectively.

Jack Smith is prosecuting the Trump case and his team responded that this is not sufficient. For example, if a President breaks the law he can then resign and provide no avenue for him to answer to his actions. Additionally they reminded the court that after Trump was impeached for his actions on January 6th several Senators advised against voting to convict. They argued that once Trump left office he would be subject to criminal charges and since he was leaving office on January 20, 2021 there was no point. Now the Trump wants to have it both ways.

It’s no surprise that I disagree with Trump but I just can’t get past the idea that the President can break the law with no fear of consequences. Trump argues that if a President can be prosecuted for actions in office it would open floodgates. One of their examples was President George W. Bush lying to Congress to get their agreement to invade Iraq. There are two problems with this: President Bush honestly believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (because his Vice President and Secretary of Defense told him so). Additionally, it’s not illegal to lie to Congress unless you’re under oath. He never was. President Trump claims he honestly believed the 2020 election was stolen from him but we have tape of him admitting he lost. This just doesn’t work.

The US Court of Appeals will likely render their decision in the next few weeks and it will almost certainly go to the Supreme Court. I can only hope the court rules against Trump.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 163: Looking at January 6th, Three Years Later

On the morning of January 6, 2021 I didn’t expect the date to be important. But newly defeated President Trump did. He knew that the Senate would convene that day to accept the electoral votes of the 2020 election and preventing that was his last chance to stay in office. He proclaimed, then and now, that he won the election but it was stolen from him by corruption and voter fraud.

Trump was far from the first president to be defeated in his quest for re-election; that goes all the way back to John Adams. But he was the first who fomented violence to keep his job. On December 19, 2020 he tweeted this: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

On that morning he held a rally near the White House and told his followers to march to the Capitol to “take back our country.” In fairness he expected to join the crowd but his Secret Service team refused his request and took him back to the White House.

What happened next shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The crowd marched to the Capitol, broke windows, climbed over barriers, assaulted law enforcement and attempted to prevent Congress from certifying the vote. At first even Republicans saw this for the terrorist act it was. But it didn’t take long for that to change.

Even those who were in harm’s way have now claimed this wasn’t an attempt to overthrow the government but a peaceful protest. Trump now refers to those convicted of crimes related to this are hostages. You can read an excellent article: here.

We can’t let Trump and his minions rewrite history. Our future depends on it.

The Election 2024 Chronicles, Volume 11; The Trump Chronicles, Volume 162: Why I Believe Trump Is Ineligible To Be President Again

As of a few days ago we are in an election year. This election, alas, has been hard to watch and I wish I had written more. By the election I hope to have written enough to have given a good sense of the year.

This is unusual this early but the nominees are almost certainly set. Once again, presumably, Joe Biden will run against Donald Trump. We’ve had a rematch before. We’ve been this way before. Grover Cleveland served from 1885 and 1889 and lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Cleveland ran again in 1892 and defeated Harrison’s bid for reelection. He served his second term from 1893 to 1897 and retired after that.

But the election of 2024 has a few wrinkles. For the first time in our history in 2020 the loser refused to concede. Trump has spent the time since 2020 successfully convincing a large percentage of Americans that he was fraudulently defeated and the Presidency was stolen from him. Frankly conceding defeat is custom but not a requirement.

But on January 6, 2021, in the waning days of his Presidency Trump planned to overthrow the government and stop the peaceful transfer of power. That was the day the Senate was to gather and accept the electoral votes and vote to name Joe Biden the 46th President. But on that day Trump gathered his supporters at the White House and directed them to march to the Capitol and stop the voting. They almost succeeded. It was only through the heroic actions of Vice President Mike Pence, the Secret Service and the Capitol Police.

So why does that make him ineligible to run again? After the Civil War we passed three Constitutional amendments: 13, 14, and 15. The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to newly freed slaves who were born in the United States but it does several other things. Section 3 says this:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 3 intended that those who betrayed their oaths by fighting for the Confederacy couldn’t come back to government service. But according to my reading Trump’s actions fit this. He took an oath of office at his inauguration in 2017 and called for the violent overthrow of the government in 2021 to stay in office.

Those who support his reelection claim that it should be up to the American people to chose our next President. But if you want someone who is under 35 or was not born in this country to be President, you can’t have what you want. Several years ago when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the wildly popular governor of California there was talk about finding a way to be President. His political star fell soon after that but even if it hadn’t he couldn’t become President. Even a naturalized citizen can’t be President.

Constitutional amendments don’t expire and they don’t become guidelines. They are the law of the land unless they are repealed (as was the 18th Amendment).

More later.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

On this day 82 years ago 2532 people woke up on the last day of their lives. In addition to 2,403 Americans, 129 Japanese also died at Pearl Harbor. With every passing year there are fewer and fewer survivors and it won’t be long until the last survivor dies.

It’s a reminder of many things, including the frailty of life and how life can change in an instant. I’ve been blessed to have met 2 survivors in my career in hospice; I’ve also listened to hours of people telling me where they were and what they were doing when they got the news over the radio or from a neighbor. Most had never heard of Pearl Harbor and had only a vague idea that Hawaii was somewhere in the ocean.

The next four years brought out the best and the worst of us as Americans. We kept President Roosevelt’s promise to defeat the fascist empires of Japan and Germany. After the war we rebuilt both of those nations and paid for the education of nearly 8 million of those who fought. On the other hand we allowed our prejudices to imprison over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry because of how they looked.

To quote Civil War General William T. Sherman, “war is hell.” On Pearl Harbor Day 2023 we see war in so many places (not just Ukraine and Gaza) and it’s a good time to recognize that decisions made today will reverberate for generations to come.

In meantime let us continue to pray for the dead and wounded and may we always strive to be a nation worthy of those who put on their uniform each morning with no guarantee that they will wake up tomorrow.

The Election 2024 Chronicles, Volume 10: Goodbye Tim Scott (and RFK Jr.)

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this category, not because of a lack of activity but because other topics have been making more noise.

Last time I wrote Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was running for the democratic nomination but has switched to run as an independent. Unlike other elections I have chosen not to follow independents only because it’s too hard to differentiate who is a viable candidate. RFK Jr. is running on a platform of vaccine denial and I don’t anticipate him garnering many votes.

On the Republican side former Vice President Pence dropped out late last month. He has run on his Christian credentials which necessitated a strong showing in Iowa. But the polls in Iowa showed him doing poorly and he saw the writing on the wall. Hard to know if his political career is over, and if not, what he’ll do next.

The news now is the departure of Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He attempted to run without criticizing Trump and may have been a victim of his own civility. The GOP debates were free for all’s rife with interruptions, talking over each other and general incivility. While most of us appreciate politeness and deference it meant he was pushed out and just couldn’t find his lane. This is nothing but good news for his fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley. She now has the inside track for South Carolina’s primary, set for February 24th.

Of course former President Trump continues to dominate the GOP polls and as of right now is favored to win the nomination. Stay tuned for how his trials are going.

Democratic Candidates:

Republican Candidates:

Thoughts on War, Noncombatants, and Hostages

Hamas’ invasion of Israel last month has called us to look at several ethical issues around war. Let’s look at the involvement of noncombatants and then the taking of hostages.

It may seem odd to think of there even being “rules of war” but there is agreement on some things. When we think of war we divide people into combatants and noncombatants. Combatants are those who are armed, have some method of identification (e.g. a uniform) and participate in battle. But others may be in the vicinity of battle but are not involved in the battle. They may be medics, chaplains, journalists, or bystanders.

Hamas’ invasion of Israel on October 7th has led to a dizzying number of violations. Hamas didn’t target Israeli soldiers or bases. Of the initial 1200 Israelis killed the New York Times reports 70% were civilians. No war is completely clean and civilians always suffer from wars because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But this was blatant. And inexcusable.

Now that we’re into the 2nd month of this war we’re also dealing with wounded Palestinians. Problem is they have also used hospital patients as “human shields” hoping that Israel will not attack. In other words they are counting the Israeli’s having a stronger moral compass than they do.

And now about hostages. Every war has prisoners of war (POW’s); problem is that true POW’s are all combatants who were captured in battle. There is also the expectation that they will be able to receive aid from humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross.

However we may feel about the treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza there is simply no justification for what Hamas has done. I pray they hear this.

More later.

We Have A House Speaker. Now What?

After three weeks it appears Congress has finally chosen a House Speaker: Mike Johnson of Louisiana. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t despair. Almost nobody has. He’s only 51 years old and first arrived in Congress in the 2016 election.

So why him? Well, a couple of reasons. First, Trump likes him; that’s pretty important. The last few weeks have shown that Trump can’t anoint a speaker (Jim Jordan) but he can shoot one down (Tom Emmer). Also, and equally important, he hasn’t done anything to piss off his fellow Republicans. The last few weeks have shown House Republicans sometimes act like rivals at a 3rd grade lunch table with all the petty grudges and silly hurt feelings.

I have to confess I’m a little troubled by this selection. It’s true that Congress can now get back to work on support for Ukraine, Israel and keeping the government running. But Mike, like Kevin McCarthy before him, sits under a sword of Damocles because any one member of the House can call for a “motion to vacate,” essentially call for a vote of no confidence. Again he can afford to lose only four votes before we do this all again.

Essentially, other than a new person in the speaker’s seat, nothing has changed. Several Republicans have voiced opposition to ongoing support for Ukraine and the Republicans who opposed McCarthy were (among other things) unhappy that he worked with Democrats to vote on September 30th to keep the government running until November 17th.

So what does Mike bring to the table? Good question.

The role of Speaker of the House requires a great deal of knowledge. There are countless rules and customs around how legislation passes, how committee assignments are made, et. There is a steep learning curve and it’s not a job for legislative novices.

Frankly I fear Speaker Johnson will enjoy a short honeymoon and once the far right Republicans who drove out McCarthy start resharpening their claws, well…

Stay tuned.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 161: Let The Flipping Begin

In a post last month I spoke about (among other things) Georgia’s indictments against former President Trump. I suggested that there were so many co-conspirators because the prosecutors hoped one or more of them would “flip,” that is, agree to testify against Trump in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Well it’s happened. Two of those indicted, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, have agreed to testify in return to reduced sentences. This happened as jury selection was beginning for their trial. One of the conditions of the agreements is that they both truthfully testify against Trump and the other conspirators. They both avoided jail time and we have to believe they have pretty devastating testimony against Trump.

In other bad news, Trump’s choice for the next House Speaker was Jim Jordan and his fellow Republicans voted today to remove him from consideration. It appears that Trump’s strategy of bullying and threatening to get his choice is no longer working.

More later.

Gaza: 9/11 Or Prison Break?

Everyone knows this now but on October 7th members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip invaded and bombed Israel. Since then both residents of both Israel and Gaza have suffered tremendously. Most conflicts these days are complex and confusing and this is no different.

I’ve been thinking a great deal these days how best to encapsulate what is going on and I recently heard a good metaphor: is this Israel’s 9/11 or is it Gaza’s prison break?

First a little history: before 1948 the area we now call Israel was Palestine and while it had a Jewish population it was ruled by Palestinians who were Arab Muslims. After World War II Zionists (Jews who believed they needed a homeland) waged war and conquered Palestine. Most Palestinians fled to the area North and West of Jerusalem (called the West Bank and ruled by Jordan) or an area on the Mediterranean Sea (called the Gaza Strip and ruled by Egypt). In 1967 after the Six Day War both areas were taken by Israel. In 2005 and 2006 governance of Gaza was given to Hamas. Problem is, Hamas is founded on the desire to destroy Israel and return Palestine. Please note: this is an incredibly simplistic explanation.

So if you’re Israel this is your 9/11: Foreign terrorists attacked without warning and want your destruction. They need to be crushed without mercy and taught never to do this again.

But if you live on in Gaza you’ve been imprisoned there since 1948, oppressed and trapped without mercy. The attack was simply self defense in the need to end your imprisonment.

But what now? The lines have been drawn in ways that surprise nobody. Arab nations are lining up behind Gaza and while there is no proof of this Iran may be or get involved. The Iranian government has allied with Hamas. The United States, long an ally with Israel, is backing Israel. Of course since the US has no House Speaker there’s not much we can do but that’s the subject for another entry.

Hamas, for all its weaponry, is small and nobody really believes they can conquer Israel. If Iran and some of the Arab nations band together this could turn into a regional war but there’s been no sign of it and President Biden is working hard to make certain this doesn’t turn into a bigger conflict.

Israel has told people in the northern part of Gaza to evacuate and prepare for a ground invasion. It’s a given Israeli troops will invade Gaza but, well, here we go again. I suspect Israel will find that getting into Gaza will be easier than getting out. While they are there they will be an occupying force surrounded by people who don’t want them gone, they want them dead. It will look like the British army’s occupation of Northern Ireland last century.

In the meantime innocent people on both sides will die. Keep the prayers coming.