Between Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla

Been sayin’ it for some time now. Finally found a pundit who makes the same point.

David Atkins, Will GOP Senators Allow Trump to Sabotage Their Chances in Alabama?

They’re caught between Scylla and Charybdis. Atkins writes,

Senate Republicans are facing a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” situation in the looming impeachment battle. As Trump’s guilt become more obvious by the day–and defending him becomes ever more impossible and impalatable–Republican leaders are caught in a vise. If they don’t defend Trump from impeachment, the president’s loyal base will turn on them and may stay home from the polls in 2020. But if they do defend the raging tire fire of venom and corruption in the White House, they may lose enough people of basic decency that it imperils their Senate majority. And it’s not just in 2020: the damage may well last a generation or more.

Few contests make clearer than the Senate race in Alabama. Most scenarios in which the GOP maintains control of the Senate in a blue wave election year depend on winning back the Alabama Senate seat lost in a stunning upset to Doug Jones in 2017. The special election was necessitated because President Trump elevated Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, thinking he would get a loyalist lackey in the position. Sessions to his credit refused to play along, earning Trump’s heated ire before he was replaced by the much more corruptly pliable William Barr. Still, Alabama is a deeply red state, and the conventional wisdom is that Jones will not survive in 2020.

But the stars are not aligning in the GOP’s favor. Jones won mostly because his opponent was Roy Moore, a extremist fanatic who was not only exposed as too far right even for Alabama Republicans, but also as an alleged child molester. A normal person, having lost as his party’s standard-bearer in one of the safest seats for his party in the country, would find another line of work. But not Moore. He is running again–and if he wins the GOP nomination, Doug Jones may survive to serve another terms.

But Moore isn’t the only Republican running. Jeff Sessions has indicated he wants his old seat back, and plans to run as well. Sessions would likely be a much more formidable opponent for Jones than Moore: Alabama voters know him, and were used to sending him to Congress what once seemed like a lifetime appointment. A competent political party led by a competent president would simply throw its weight behind Sessions and that would be that.

But Donald Trump’s corruption may throw a monkey wrench in that plan. His hatred of Sessions for refusing to twist the Justice Department far enough in his favor may wind up costing the GOP his nomination and thus the Senate seat itself.

The National Review Would Like You to Know that “The Longer the President Defends a Lie, the More Americans Will Resent Being Lied To”

sorry

There is mucho commentary in the last few days dissecting Trump’s non-defense of his actions. Here is Jonah Goldberg, writing in the National Review:

The longer the president defends a lie, the more Americans will resent being lied to.

In l’affaire Ukraine, the president is guilty as charged. And the best strategy for him to avoid impeachment by the House and perhaps even removal by the Senate is to admit it, apologize, and let voters make their own judgment. It’s also the best way to fend off a disaster for Senate Republicans.

The president is accused — politically, not criminally — of trying to force the Ukrainian president to tar former vice president Joe Biden with an investigation into his alleged “corruption” in exchange for the release of military aid and a meeting in the Oval Office. I believe a plain reading of the rough transcript of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky supports the charge. So does testimony from the top American diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, as well as several other Trump appointees and aides, including Tuesday’s testimony from Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer who listened to the phone call. There’s still due diligence to be done, but it seems implausible they’re all lying.

Common sense also works against the president. If Trump were sincerely concerned about Ukrainian corruption, why has he never expressed similar concerns about corruption anywhere else? And, why, if the issue is Ukrainian corruption generally, did the Trump administration focus on the alleged corruption of a single Ukrainian firm, Burisma, where Biden’s son sat on the board?

The most plausible explanation is twofold. First, the corruption issue was a pretext; under the law, corruption concerns are the only justification for blocking congressionally approved aid. Second, Trump’s real goal was to bruise Biden. Indeed, according to Taylor, the White House said it would settle for a mere statement about Biden’s potential corruption — meaning Trump cared more about political gain than about an actual investigation.

Trump and his defenders are still pounding on outdated, unpersuasive, or irrelevant talking points. They rail about the identity and motives of the whistleblower who first aired these allegations, even though the whistleblower’s report has been largely corroborated by others. They claim that the process of the Democratic inquiry in the House is unconstitutional, which is ridiculous. They insist that hearings where Republicans can cross-examine witnesses are a “star chamber” or reminiscent of secret Soviet trials. Also ridiculous.

Republican complaints about the heavy-handed tactics of the Democrats have some merit, but they’ll be rendered moot when the Democrats move to public hearings or to a Senate trial. And when that happens, claims that the call was “perfect” and that there was no quid pro quo will evaporate in the face of the facts.

This is why the smartest Trump defenders are counseling the president to simply admit the obvious: There was a quid pro quo, and the president’s phone call fell short of perfection, but nothing he did is an impeachable offense. …

I’d go one step further. Rather than take the Mick Mulvaney line and shout “get over it” — now a Trump-campaign T-shirt — the president should apologize. Trump’s refusal to admit any wrongdoing imperils GOP senators who are already reluctant to defend him on the merits. Once the process complaints expire, they’ll be left with no defense at all.  …

I disagree with those who say that the allegations against Trump are not impeachable. But, politically, apologizing could forestall impeachment by giving politicians and voters a safe harbor: “It was wrong, but he said he’s sorry. Move on.” The longer the president defends a lie, the more Americans will resent being lied to.

Of course, contrition doesn’t come easy for Trump and would be embarrassing for him and his media cheerleaders. But it would also give Republican candidates a rationale for opposing impeachment that they could sell.

Trump is fond of demanding ever more loyalty from Republicans. But loyalty is a two-way street. If he thinks they should defend him, he should give them something defensible to work with.

The Power to Declare

cheese

Jeffrey Toobin probably did not write the headline that appears over his post at the New Yorker site this afternoon: Can Donald Trump Invoke Emergency Powers to Get His Wall?

The answer is Yessiree Bob, he can do that very thing. Yes, indeedy, he can do that exact thing. He can invoke until he is blue in the face. And while he is invoking and declaring, he can also declare that the moon is made of green cheese.

That two plus two equals seventeen.

That the week has twenty-two days.

Emergency + Shutdown

And here’s something else he can do, and, I think, very probably will do: declare his state of emergency, see how it plays in court, and try to keep the government shut in the meantime. See this evening’s Politico post: White House warns shutdown could carry on after emergency declaration: Trump may tap his emergency powers without reopening the government, a move some allies say could ‘screw’ Democrats.

Actually, the screwees will more likely be the Senate Republicans. See discussion below.

Donald’s Choice

Donald had a fundamental choice to make: either (1) back off the horseshit, and label whatever result he got on border security as a famous victory, or (2) go for broke, riling up the base, and painting himself into a corner where he couldn’t compromise and retain any credibility with his raging mob.

Actually, Donald Only Had One Option

Because Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh weren’t going to let him get away with choice (1).

And the shit is about to hit the fan with the Mueller report. Without a revved-up base, hopping up and down, his goose will be well and truly cooked. So his only option was to rile up his base and thus to severely limit his negotiating flexibility.

That was true last week. It’s true this week. It will be true next week. It will be true next month.

There is no off ramp for The Donald.

There will never be an off ramp for The Donald.

It’s Crunch Time for the Senate Republicans

Either the shutdown will continue, or the Senate Republicans are going to have to work out something veto-proof with Chuck and Nancy.

And, given that the rabble is roused to a fare thee well, a Senate Republican deal over Trump’s veto will drive a meat cleaver through the Republican coalition.

And why might they take such a suicidal course?

Because their paymasters, seeing the United States rapidly turning into a failed state, tell them that’s what they have to do.

off ramp

An Official Message from the Republican Majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee

slut shame

The following is the full text, from the official source:

Judiciary Committee Receives Statement Regarding Swetnick Allegations

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today received a signed statement from Mr. Dennis Ketterer, the former Democratic candidate for Congress and weatherman for WJLA Channel 7 in Washington, regarding the recent allegations made by Julie Swetnick against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Mr. Ketterer had a relationship with Ms. Swetnick in the 1990s.

Below are excerpts of the signed statement, which was provided to the committee under penalty of felony.

“During a conversation about our sexual preferences, things got derailed when Julie told me that she liked to have sex with more than one guy at a time. In fact sometimes with several at one time. She wanted to know if that would be ok in our relationship. 

“I asked her if this was just a fantasy of hers. She responded that she first tried sex with multiple guys while in high school and still liked it from time-to-time. She brought it up because she wanted to know if I would be interested in that.”

… 

“Julie never said anything about being sexually assaulted, raped, gang-raped or having sex against her will. She never mentioned Brett Kavanaugh in any capacity.”

… 

“Because I had lost Julie’s number I called her father to get it. When I talked to him about possibly bringing her on to help with my campaign, he told me that she had psychological and other problems at the time.”… 

“I know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted and not be believed. I was 9 years old when it happened at the hands of my grandfather’s best friend.”… 

“My heart still feels heavy, for me as well as Julie and the Kavanaughs. That said, based on my direct experience with Julie, I do not believe her allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh.” 

The full statement submitted to the committee can be found HERE.

A copy of Mr. Ketterer’s letter, found at the link immediately above, follows.

Ketterer2_Page_1Ketterer2_Page_2Ketterer2_Page_3Ketterer2_Page_4

The Correlation Between Male Wealth and Power and Approval of Sexual Aggression

privilege

Based on an informal poll of his wide circle of acquaintance, Morning Joe allowed as how women tended to see youthful sexual assault as disqualifying for a Supreme Court nominee, as did many men.

But, among Joe’s friends, men of considerable power and wealth were generally of the opposite view, arguing that “we’ve all done it,” ergo, if the accusation stands, we’re all vulnerable, and besides, it isn’t a big deal.

I hope we get some polling on this. I think it would vindicate Joe’s claim.

* * *

From F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Rich Boy” (1925):

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.

* * *

We continue to try to reverse engineer what the hell the Senate Republicans are thinking. Lots of overthinkin’ goin’ on. It may be there is an explanation of Doric simplicity underlying the Senate Republicans’ continuing to drive their bus into the ditch.

Metaphorically speaking, the Senate Republicans have devoted their lives to serving as towel boys in an exclusive rich men’s brothel.

Of course, they do what Richie Rich tells them to do.

In Kavanaugh, Richie Rich sees a man whose life’s goal is achieving the rank of chief towel boy.

Richie Rich is telling their Senators to get their boy Kavanaugh’s butt onto the Supreme Court.

Come hell or high water.