A Point of Personal Privilege


Several decades ago, Dr. Aardvark and I met, dated, and married at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

I taught a course in introductory political science. On the last day of class, I asked the students to tell me what they had learned. There ensued an extensive discussion in Cantonese, and they selected a spokesperson to respond, stating the group consensus. “Mr. Aardvark,” the spokesman said, “in your course we have learned that in the West there is too much freedom.”

My students’ grandchildren are now manning the barricades.

May the Lord Buddha protect them.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, Which is Infallible, Would Like You to Know that Republicans Hitched Their Wagon to the Wrong Star

My attention has been drawn to a November 6 Wall Street Journal editorial—written after Trump’s Kentucky catastrophe but before his Louisiana debacle. The infallible WSJ Editorial Board concludes,

Senate Republicans know that … their majority is … at risk. They can’t win merely by turning out the Trump base. The GOP needs a strategy and agenda to regain support in the suburbs or they will lose the House, the White House and the Senate in 2020.

Buck up, everybody. No, don’t be complacent. And don’t accuse me of supporting complacency.

Just buck up. And remember the other side isn’t ten feet tall.

We are treated daily to massive gaslighting–making even the strongest minded among us question their hold on reality.

We are treated to a concerted effort to dissolve the boundary between right and wrong.

We are experiencing something analogous to an evil Nazi medical experiment on the body politic.

Science, enlightenment, and expertise are being tested.

But rationality will prevail.

You have it one the authority of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.


Nowhere to Go But Down

This from a new ABC/Ipsos poll out today:

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 12.16.41 PM

A whole bunch of polls, asking a whole bunch of varied questions—“Trump said the moon is made of green cheese, how strongly do you agree?”—have yielded that same 25 percent figure. So, we can say with some confidence, that’s his base, and that’s his base line. The 25 percent of us who are cultists will stick with him, because they think he’s God’s Anointed. As for the remaining 75 percent of us, it can only get worse for the Trumpster. Ain’t nothin’ on the horizon that might improve his position.

A Perfect Phone Call All Right—Perfect Evidence of Bribery

Trump’s July 25 call was indeed perfect: a perfect example of the crime of bribery.

Republicans are transitioning to the No-Harm-No-Foul defense. That defense does not cut the mustard. That dog won’t hunt. That cock won’t fight.

Relying on help from a more learned friend, I explained the point in a previous post. Now, Randall D. Eliason, Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University*  lays it all out in Trump and Ukraine: Call it Bribery, Not Extortion.  I won’t relay all the technical legal analysis, but here is the key passage:

The federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201, makes it a crime for a public official to corruptly demand, seek, receive, accept, or agree to receive or accept anything of value in exchange for being influenced in the performance of an official act. In this case, the public official is president Trump. The thing of value he demanded was public investigations of his political rival Joe Biden and of a debunked conspiracy theory involving interference in the 2016 election and a computer server supposedly located in Ukraine.  And the official act Trump would perform in return would be releasing the approved military aid to Ukraine. Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine readily meets the elements of the bribery statute.

A key factor in this charge is the breadth of the term “thing of value.” It encompasses anything of subjective value to the official that would have the potential to influence his or her behavior. Offers of future contracts or employment, sexual favors, companionship, and other intangibles all have been held to be things of value for purposes of the bribery statute. Publicly-announced investigations that would benefit Trump politically would certainly qualify. Trump’s actions in seeking the investigations, both personally and through intermediaries such as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, amply demonstrate how personally valuable he thought Ukraine’s actions could be.

*”Randall D. Eliason spent 12 years as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, working in various areas including misdemeanors, grand jury, narcotics, general felonies, and the Violent Crime Unit. For more than eight years, Mr. Eliason specialized in white collar crime as a member of the Public Corruption/Government Fraud section. From 1999 to 2001, he served as chief of that section, supervising a staff of eleven AUSA’s prosecuting white collar cases in federal court.

“Mr. Eliason is the recipient of numerous awards and commendations from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies. While at the U.S. Attorney’s office, he lectured at the Department of Justice National Advocacy Center in South Carolina and at the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. He also served as the Professional Responsibility Officer (ethics advisor) for the Criminal Division.”

Right Numbers, Wrong Conclusion


Philip Bump, Another warning for Republicans: Trump can’t win you your election

Yesterday, I wrote about how Trump when to Louisiana begging voters to make the election for governor a referendum on his impeachment. He wanted them to “send a message”—and said so very plainly. His efforts juiced voting among his cultists in rural areas, but they ginned up even more anti-Trump voters among African-Americans and among folks in the suburbs of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

In the remote event you pine for a lot of detailed data supporting that thesis, then Mr. Bump’s article is the article for you.

A Little More Context

I’ll add a bit more data. In 2016, 1,178,638 Louisiana voters exercised the franchise for Donald Trump, while 780,194 chose Crooked Hillary. Deceitful Donald won 58.1 percent, Crooked Hillary received 38.4 percent, and a hodgepodge of weird third-party candidates garnered a collective 3.6 percent of Louisiana voters.

On Saturday, the notorious socialist, Governor Edwards, got the nod from 774,469 voters—pretty much the same number who liked Crooked Hillary in 2016. Republican candidate Eddie “Me Hug Trump” Rispone got 734,128.

Let us take a swig of coffee and reflect on those numbers. Almost half a million Louisiana voters—444,510, to be precise—voted for Trump in 2016 but chose not to vote for the candidate Trump endorsed in 2019, all while he was begging and pleading with them to send Washington a message on impeachment. Putting it another way, 62 percent of Trump’s Louisiana voters still believe his bullshit and are still willing to do what he tells them to do. The other 38 percent of his voters? They’re either immune to his gaslighting, or maybe they want to send a different message: go ahead and impeach the sonofabitch.

Right Numbers, Wrong Conclusion

Bump writes,

To be fair, Trump has never been terribly effective at delivering general-election victories. In 2018, his endorsed candidates went about 50-50, though he’d been effective at winning primaries for Republicans.

But right now Trump needs Republicans to feel more confident in his ability to win elections than he did then. When Bevin lost, we noted the difficulty of the timing for Trump. With impeachment looming in the House, he needs Republicans to feel as though they can’t buck him without paying a political result. Expending a lot of political capital on winning gubernatorial races in red states only to see the Republicans lose doesn’t send that message. Quite the opposite.

The underlined passage is wrong. If a Louisiana senator voted to remove Trump from office, the data discussed here imply he would lose at least 62 percent of his base. “Voting to buck him” would indeed likely be politically disastrous.

On the other hand, a vote to acquit might cost up to a third of his base.

Dear Leader is Ill

lolcat get well

From Daily Kos:

On Saturday, Donald Trump was whisked off to Walter Reed Medical Center for what the White House Press Secretary would soon insist were “routine checkups.” Yes, on a Saturday. Yes, with no prior indication. The trip to Walter Reed was not on the schedule as of Friday, a source told CNN, and the medical staff was not alerted that Trump would be coming. …

So the story is that Donald Trump, famously lazy and extremelydevoted to finding time to golf on nearly every weekend, decided on a whim that rather than go golfing or sitting his behind down in front of Fox News he felt like randomly popping in, unannounced, to get some blood drawn because he’s been looking over the 2020 schedule and no, sorry, all booked up. Sure. Everyone has hobbies; if Donald’s hobby is unannounced routine medical visits who are we to argue. Perhaps the lobby has a brand of mints he hasn’t been able to find anywhere else.

To Defenestrate or not to Defenestrate: The Bad Guys are in an Impossible Position


Gordon Sondland is in an Impossible Position

The Guardian, Impeachment inquiry: Trump ally must choose between loyalty and saving himself: Gordon Sondland may try to balance fealty to Trump with the fate that has befallen others in the president’s circle: prison time:

Donald Trump’s fate in the impeachment inquiry could rest in the hands of a donor and supporter under pressure to turn against the US president to save his own skin.

Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, is due to testify on Wednesday during the second week of televised hearings that have rocked the White House.

Sondland is certain to be questioned about the biggest revelation from last week: a phone call he made to Trump from Ukraine in July in which the president was overheard asking about an investigation into one of his political rivals. Sondland allegedly assured him it would go ahead.

The ambassador made no mention of the call in a deposition to the inquiry behind closed doors, nor in a revised statement three weeks later that conceded a quid pro quo over military aid. Now, in front of TV cameras and an audience of millions, he will be asked why.

As he weighs his answer, Sondland may try to balance fealty to Trump with the fate that has befallen others in the president’s circle: his former lawyer Michael Cohen and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort are both behind bars, while political operative Roger Stone was last week found guilty of lying to Congress.

“Hey Ambassador Sondland,” tweeted Joe Scarborough, a former congressman turned TV host, “Roger Stone lied to Congress for Trump and is now going to jail. Just like his campaign manager and lawyer. Are you next? Your call, Gordy.”

Ambassador Sondland’s best move would be to flee the jurisdiction. And I am not kidding.

His second best option would be to take massive doses of Prevagen, show up, and tell the truth: that the Trumpster told him to extort the Ukrainians.

Republicans Who Want to Defenstrate Sondland are also in an Impossible Situation

If he shows up and tells the truth, the Republican pols will hop up and down and ask the same. question about 97 times: Were you lying then or are you lying now?

But the question actually has an answer: I was lying then but I’m telling the truth now.

“OK,” Shouty Shirt will shout, “How do we know you’re telling the truth now, when you just admitted lying under oath a few days ago?”

But the problem for Shouty Shirt is that his rhetorical question has an answer: “I was lying then, because I wanted to protect Trump. But I’m telling the truth now because my lies have been exposed, and I want to avoid further legal exposure for perjury.”