It is, Among Other Things, Funny

twitter war

It is, among other things, funny, to see two elderly rich guys like Trump and Bloomberg duking it out on Twitter. That was Maureen Dowd’s insight. It seemed like a good idea for a column, but she really didn’t have much to say on the subject. That did not, however, dissuade her from writing the column anyway.

Here’s my two cents’ worth.

An effective politician has a whole variety of skills. One of the most important is to know how to communicate—in particular, to know how to communicate in a whole variety of ways, as the the situation demands and as the audience changes.

Trump is a one-trick pony. He knows how to bully and insult. He knows how to inspire fear and loathing. But he lacks the capacity to persuade by rational argument.

Trump insulted his way into the Republican nomination. But before you ascribe magic power to his insult comic routine, think about the context. What was his message about folks like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz? The message was that they were a bunch of empty suits whose own constituents didn’t like them much, and probably hated their guts.

And what made those insults effective, with the audience to whom they were addressed? What made them effective was that the audience knew the conventional candidates were a bunch of empty suits, and they largely hated their guts already.

Hardy haar haar! That sort of thing makes for a really good belly laugh.

Some people you can terrify, at least some of the time. Some people you can insult, at least some of the time. And some people you can bully, at least some of the time.

And some you can’t. Trump loves to insult people for being poorer than him. But that line of insult isn’t going to work on a rival who’s the twelfth richest person in the world and who could buy you out a hundred times over. And, by the way, having told your own cult followers to worship you because you’re allegedly wealthy, how can you turn around and say that wealth doesn’t matter.

So, Mike, just twit away. That’s what I say.

But, if you can, you need to show me that you have the right policies and the right attitude. And you have to address all the bad stuff about your “baggage” that keeps coming out. You can’t ignore it, and you know you can’t ignore it.

In short, Mike, you got some splainin’ to do.


1100 (and Counting) Former Federal Prosecutors Have a Few Thoughts on the Survival of the Republic


DOJ Alumni Statement on the Events Surrounding the Sentencing of Roger Stone

We, the undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations. Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.

As former DOJ officials, we each proudly took an oath to support and defend our Constitution and faithfully execute the duties of our offices. The very first of these duties is to apply the law equally to all Americans. This obligation flows directly from the Constitution, and it is embedded in countless rules and laws governing the conduct of DOJ lawyers. The Justice Manual — the DOJ’s rulebook for its lawyers — states that “the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice”; that the Department’s legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence”; and that the Department’s prosecutorial powers, in particular, must be “exercised free from partisan consideration.”

All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

And yet, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle, most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes. The Department has a long-standing practice in which political appointees set broad policies that line prosecutors apply to individual cases. That practice exists to animate the constitutional principles regarding the even-handed application of the law. Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case. It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.

Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.

We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters, either to punish his opponents or to help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility. But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.

For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation. We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives. The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.

If you are a former DOJ employee and would like to add your name below, click hereProtect Democracy will update this list daily with new signatories.

Signatories have been vetted to the best of our ability.

Goose the Turnout, or Persuade the Persuadable?


Turned on the teevee for a few minutes while I ate my croissants and sampled the Kroger French roast coffee I bought yesterday. (It was on sale. Turns out there’s a reason why it was so cheap.)

Saw Bernie castigating Bloomberg—who, apparently, in many ways, richly deserves to be castigated. Bernie went on to explain how “increased turnout is the only way to defeat Trump.” I drank the last mediocre drop and turned off the tube.

Went to read the pundits. This morning, the Washington Post is serving up someone named Ruy Teixeira, who wrote a book called The Optimistic Leftist. Sounds like my kind of guy. Mr. Teixeira’s thesis this morning is No, radical policies won’t drive election-winning turnout: Despite what Sanders says, Democrats still have to persuade voters in the middle. Ruy writes,

No myth is stronger in progressive circles than the magical, wonderworking powers of voter turnout. It’s become a sort of pixie dust that you sprinkle over your strenuously progressive positions to ward off any suggestion that they might turn off voters.

He then offers actual data to support his argument.

Think of that! Trying to support an argument—possibly an unwelcome argument—by using actual data to persuade. How quaint! Does this man not know what century we are living in?

So, sarcasm aside, we have a choice:

  • Find some other data that support the workability of Bernie’s strategy
  • Or, accept that the way to win is by persuading a good number of previous Trump supporters, not by goosing up the socialist turnout
  • Or, embrace the pixie dust and plan to move to Costa Rica or Finland if it doesn’t work.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.


Politico would like us all to know that we should wet the bed copiously because Trump drives massive turnout in primaries despite token opposition: His campaign is fine-tuning its get-out-the-vote machine months ahead of the general election — a daunting challenge for Democrats.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

So, fine, I’m very afraid.

So I took a moment to look at some numbers.

In New Hampshire this year, 296,622  voters showed up for the Democratic primary.

And what about the Republicans? How did New Hampshire Republicans express their white hot anger over impeachment? How did they respond to Trump’s massive, fearsome effort to drive up primary votes, as described so menacingly by Politico?

Well, 151,602  showed up for the Republican primary.

And did they all vote for Trump?

No, they did not. 129,696 of them voted for Orange Man. Meanwhile, 21,906 of the Republican primary voters in New Hampshire voted for Anyone But Orange Man.


We Continue to Report, You Continue to Decide

fair and balanced

Ross Douthat is a very smart fellow with a world view that is very different from mine. I generally have to force myself to read him, because who wants to hear from a very smart fellow who might challenge some of your preconceived ideas? This evening, I almost passed on The Bloomberg Temptation, but I am glad I read it anyway. Douthat writes, among other things, that,

Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are naked on his Twitter feed, but Bloomberg’s imperial instincts, his indifference to limits on his power, are a conspicuous feature of his career.  …

In our era of congressional abdication, all presidents are prodded or tempted toward power grabs and caesarism. But Bloomberg’s career, no less than Trump’s, suggest that as president this would be less a temptation than a default approach. And the former mayor, unlike the former “Apprentice” star, is ferociously competent, with a worldview very much aligned with the great and good, from D.C. to Silicon Valley — which means that he would have much more room to behave abnormally without facing a Resistance movement of activists and journalists and judges.

To choose Bloomberg as the alternative to Trump, then, is to bet that a chaotic, corrupt populist is a graver danger to what remains of the Republic than a grimly-competent plutocrat with a history of executive overreach and strong natural support in all our major power centers.

Having delivered himself of the above observation, Douthat immediately concludes, “That [i.e, picking “a grimly-competent plutocrat with a history of executive overreach” rather than “a chaotic, corrupt populist”] seems like a very unwise bet.”

Oooookay, then … Mr. Douthat, would you please tell us WHY it’s “unwise” to pick Bloomberg as the nominee? Because you think Donald Trump isn’t really all that bad? After all, who needs a constitutional republic?

Or is it because all the other plausible Democratic nominees are just as electable as Bloomberg?

You don’t really say.

John Cassidy of The New Yorker has Seven Questions for Mike Bloomberg. Mr. Cassidy covers much the same ground as Mr. Douthat, characterizing Bloomberg as “offering the voters a form of benign oligarchy” as contrasted with Trump’s “malignant oligarchy.”

“Can’t American democracy do better than that?” Cassidy would like to know. And so would I, Arius Aardvark: I, too, would like to know the answer to that very question.

But I am afraid that, as of right now, the answer is, no, we can’t do better.