The Nunes Memo Doesn’t “Vindicate” Trump, but his Base Probably Believes Him

(If you have little idea of what the Nunes memo is, I suggest you look at this primer provided by the Washington Post.   The matter is too complicated for me to describe simply and shortly.  Or first read what I’ve written and go to the Post for details and clarifications.)

As you have probably noticed, the Nunes memo has been the foremost political story over the past few days, with Trump and his supporters claiming it proves FBI malfeasance in how it began to surveil the Trump team for possible collusion with Russia and for a cover up of that.  Trump’s claim that the memo “vindicates” him only may seem true if you abandon all logic, like Trump’s TV mouthpiece Sean “hysterical” Hannity, who claimed the memo makes Watergate look like stealing “a Snickers bar.”

The surest evidence that Trump is not vindicated is that Trey Gowdy, and three other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee which Nunes Chairs, all asserted on Sunday talk news programs the memo had no bearing on the Mueller investigation.

Neither Trump nor Nunes could have been happy about that conclusion, but Gowdy is yet another Republican who has decided not run again in 2018, so I think he cares more about protecting his reputation as a lawyer than pleasing Trump.

Gowdy, who was a federal prosecutor, and who for years investigated the hell out of Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi tragedy (discovering little, but doing great damage to her reputation) is the only one on that House committee to actually have seen the evidence given to the FISA court, selected to do so by Chairman Nunes because of his legal background.

Let me repeat.  Gowdy was the only one on the committee to be allowed to see the FISA warrant evidence, so his opinion should mean more that those both on the committee and elsewhere, especially when those opinions attack it like the plague.

And Gowdy concluded  “I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe.” 

Well it shouldn’t impact the probe, but Trump will continue to make the memo mean whatever he wants it to  (and his Greek chorus at Fox News and other conspiracy hot beds will amplify the nonsense).  Trump will certainly gather whatever alternative facts he can think up that maintain the illusion he is being unfairly prosecuted by those biased towards Democrats, while ignoring the inconvenient fact that all the top guys he has fired and/or criticized in the DOJ and the FBI are Republicans, most of whom he nominated.

However, this figures to muddy the waters enough to allow his base to support him whatever the conclusion of the Mueller probe.  It also might embolden Trump to find other ways to impede the that probe through additional firings, a topic I’ll save awaiting to see if it materializes.

Today the House Intelligence committee will vote on releasing the Democratic memo in response to the Republican one.  If released (which now seems likely), Trump will have five days to figure out what to do with it.  Who knows what he’ll dream up?

Meanwhile the government is scheduled to shut down again Thursday, which in reality is a more substantial topic, but more boring (kick the can a few more feet down the road anyone?), so the Nunes memo and its after effects seem likely to continue to get higher ratings.


CORRECTION:   When publishing this earlier today I mistakenly indicated Sally Yates, one of several high ranking staff in the FBI or DOJ who Trump fired or resigned, is a Republican as are the others.  No, she is a Democrat.   Sorry, but she is the exception.

Advertisements

Paul Ryan for President. Or Maybe Santa.

Were it not for the weirdly mesmerizing quality of the Donald Trump phenomenon, Paul Ryan, the relatively new Speaker of the House of Representatives would be drawing a lot more attention for making Congress actually work for a change.

“Work”, like in getting things accomplished.

Friday Congress passed a bill funding the government through the 2016 budget year, so we won’t face budget brinkmanship this time around.   Earlier in his six week tenure as Speaker, laws were past to overhaul the No Child Left Behind education act as well as “a bipartisan bill to improve the nation’s aging and congested highways and transit systems,” as stated in an ABC break down of 2015 bi-partisan legislation.”

Our Congress seems best known for legislation it has blocked, like immigration reform, rather than what it has accomplished. While a number of factors coming together led to this avalanche of agreements, the biggest single factor in my mind has been the shift from John Boehner to Paul Ryan as Speaker.

Ryan’s ability to shepherd the budget deal is the most impressive.  It would be tough to imagine Boehner being able to get his far right contingent to go along with a deal that adds  some $600 billion to our national debt, though most of that loss lies in tax cuts, so it is more palatable to them.  Still, it goes against their line in the sand of less government spending, not more.

Ryan can get away with something like this because he admits that the kind of process that led to this bill is lousy and he promises to change the way things are done in the House.  Unlike with Boehner, the far right caucus trusts him (for the moment).  While they tend to be viewed as grenade throwers by the liberal press, they have often indicated their naysaying was not just a matter of the issues but of the way they were ignored by Boehner except when they refused to go along with him.

Of course, you can find staunch critics of all this legislation, and Ryan himself, portrayed by one very liberal source as a “puppet of the Koch brothers.”  My position is it is demoralizing at home and nerve wracking to much of the world when the Congress of the United States continuously argues over the same issues and seldom resolves anything.

One’s viewpoint depends on what one values most.   While I have liberal leanings, I think of myself more as a pragmatist when it comes to the operation of government.

“The full faith and credit of the United States” is not just a slogan to me, but something we should value enough not to appear dysfunctional to the world at large, a world with various countries that would like to cut into the central role our nation plays in international commerce, the safest place for investment and the home of the “dollar”, the world’s touchstone currency.

This recent legislation, whatever its flaws, gives a sense of a government that can work together despite its differences, which raises my holiday spirit.   Thanks Congress, especially Paul Ryan.

—————————————————————————————————————-

P. S. – The ABC article linked above outlines bi-partisan agreements by this year’s Congress.  For a better picture of the omnibus bill that included the budget, check out this article in The Guardian.  As Paul Ryan summed it up:  “Democrats won some, they lost some. We won some, we lost some.”

Ah, its nice to hear “compromise” not being used as a dirty word, even if a number of special interests profited from this deal as the article indicates.   That’s why “sausage making” is often used as a metaphor for legislation.  I’m just happy that in 2016 I won’t have to hear much about budget strife, the need for a new national educational policy and the need to deal with our collapsing infrastructure.  There are plenty of other things that need work.

 

Miss the 5th Republican Primary Debate? You Didn’t Miss Much

Given the fact that Ted Cruz had actually topped Donald Trump in a poll of likely caucus goers in Iowa I among many others was hoping to see an interesting encounter last night between the two, as Trump has shown a tendency to verbally cut down whoever seems to be robbing a bit of attention from the great bloviator.

It turned out just the opposite.  Though Cruz had recently suggested Trump’s judgement wasn’t up to snuff for a president and Trump had employed the label “maniac” in describing Cruz, neither went at the other last night.  Just the opposite.  Standing next to each other, they were almost best buds.

When the “maniac” comment was brought up, Trumped disowned it with a laugh and a friendly jab at Cruz.  Ted apparently had morphed from a maniac into a good guy.  Such is the unexpected nature of the Donald’s thinking.

It seems the two have an unstated alliance.   They benefit by not attacking each other at this point as they are well clear of the pack in Iowa and attacking each other at this point would only provide openings for the others to attack them.  They remind me of Hitler and Stalin who found it in their best interests to get along, having each others’ backs until Hitler decided it was time to stab Stalin in the back.

As the February 9 caucus date approaches, will that time come?  I expect to see the fun couple begin to find more wrong with each other and it really could get interesting after that if Cruz has the audacity to win in Iowa.

While I see Cruz as a weasel and Trump as a snake oil salesman, I have to tip my hat to the skillful way they have played this political version of Survivor.  What seems surreal to people like me, seems just a new reality that they have adjusted to better than the rest.

Trump has been playing the media and American angst like a virtuoso while Cruz has been drafting behind him like a nascar driver awaiting his chance to pounce.

Unless something surprising pops up that makes the other candidates relevant, Trump and Cruz are the Republican race in Iowa and I’ll be especially curious to see what Cruz does.   He’s got a better chance to trump Trump in evangelical Iowa than he has in the more secular New Hampshire, but does he really want to get into a mano a mano with Trump?

Perhaps he is hoping like many others that the Trump balloon will eventually pop by itself, which would leave Cruz in a prime position to sweep up his followers and then race to the finish line as the survivor last standing.

Or how about this?   What if the Trump bubble does not  burst and Cruz maintains good relations with the self-proclaimed great man, and rather than stab each other in the back they unite their forces:  President Trump and Vice-President Cruz?

Now that could really get interesting.  Scary, but very interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OOPS! Mea Culpa Ted Cruz

(I wrote this post this morning before all hell broke loose in Paris, which is being covered on TV behind me.  That makes what I write below pale in significance, but I still want to send this out to tie up a loose end that bothers me.)

I have a passionate dislike for the way that information has become spun or twisted out of context or simply lied about to fit an ideology or cause.   What was called the “age of information” in my youth has become, at least in the realm of politics and all it touches, an age clearly marked by misinformation,   Gandhi said:  “Truth is God.”   I may not go that far, but I can relate.

So, I feel compelled to confess I was careless when I wrote:  “While the candidates touted their various economic plans and directed viewers to their web sites for details, the most important point seemed a sin of omission:  none indicated where they would cut spending, despite often wanting to spend more on one or more areas, national defense being the prime example.”

What failed to register in my mind is Ted Cruz’s saying he wanted to eliminate:  “..the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and HUD.”  Yes, he did mention Commerce twice, but on his web site indicated the fifth department was the Department of Education.

Certainly those would be some major budget cuts, but they didn’t register as such with me at the time.   Perhaps subconsciously I marked it down as Ted throwing more red meat to his base.  But, in any case I was plain wrong in my statement about no indications of cutting spending.

On the other hand, Cruz has a whole tax plan that according to a Vox analysis ” will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and lead to an enormous tax cut for the richest Americans.”  True, Vox would have to be seen as liberal leaning and more conservative analyses would undoubtedly be kinder to Cruz.

I just want to indicate a more balanced sense of Cruz’s vision.

The 4th Republican Debate was more Informative than the Other Three: Boring

The general consensus of the media regarding last night’s debate was that it dealt more substantially with the issues, a phrase I have come to equate with “boring”.   The Donald didn’t even spice things up, partially because he has elected to present a lower profile in the debates  while remaining his old outrageous self on the campaign trail.  And partially because he wasn’t attacked much.

As such I could only stand watching for a few minutes at a time, so I switched back and forth most often to a recording of the TV series Fargo, which is not brilliantly funny like the movie but is grimly gripping.

During the last presidential race I often heard complaints that a key issue to most of us, the economy, was seldom really talked about.  It wasn’t but then, truth be told, most of us don’t want to hear about plans for the economy, even if we indicate we want to in polls.  We all want a better economy, but we don’t want to hear about detailed plans that will only be pilloried by various “experts” and we laymen won’t really be able to figure them out because it would require a major devotion of time and energy which would likely confuse us more than anything else.

AND WE DO HAVE LIVES.  Even me.

And even if it is a great plan, it will die on the desiccated vine of congressional politics, so……what’s the point?   This is a good part of the recipe for Donald Trump’s and Ben Carson’s success thus far.  They have no plans.  They just want us to believe in them as trustworthy successful individuals who can parley that success into making government work better.  Given the frustrations we all feel about government, a good share of us are willing to put our faith in their being able to do just that.  At least at the moment.

While the candidates touted their various economic plans and directed viewers to their web sites for details, the most important point seemed a sin of omission:  none indicated where they would cut spending, despite often wanting to spend more on one or more areas, national defense being the prime example.  This implication of greater spending is a weak spot for a party whose identity is based on fiscal conservatism to a large degree, something Rand Paul pointed out.  But the others were mostly content to emphasize their spending would be less and serve us better than Hillary Clinton’s would be.

From what I’ve read since the debate it seems all eight presenters at the main debate were judged to have performed reasonably well, even Jeb Bush, who I’ve come to think of as “dead man walking.”   Chris Christie is said to have won the preliminary four candidate debate and you may have noticed he has a heart felt video on drug addiction that has gone viral, so his campaign seems to be picking up.

But I would rather not dwell on how anyone is doing in the Republican race as it seems that the chances of each candidate will go up and down like the stock market in upcoming months (for example, in Christi’s case there are still trials pending on bridge gate which still could damage his campaign).

The one thing that does seem clear is that the party is divided enough that most of these candidates will be sticking around for a few months at least, most betting that over time the believe-in-me candidacies of Trump and Carson will gradually lose steam and the race will become wide open at that point.  When the music stops who knows who will be in position to crab the one remaining chair?

For those interested in knowing more about the debate, google:  We’re finally seeing the deep fault lines at the heart of the GOP nomination battle   It’s the title of an article in the Washington Post which I’ve tried to link you to, but the link doesn’t work..

The next Republican debate is five weeks from now.   I hope something will attract my interest by then.

“The Science Behind Trump-Mania”: The Bloomberg Poll

Regular readers know that my disdain for Donald Trump of only a couple of months ago has given way to the excitement of a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I just can’t wait to see more.   How far can reality TV go before it is our collective river of reality, not just one of many tributaries?  All the way to the presidency?

When can I laugh at the man again and not worry about it?

Although the Donald is riding a great wave right now, the waters figure to get more and more choppy in the months ahead, something I will speculate upon as time goes by.   But I’m riding his surf board piggy back until the upsurge.   No matter how it eventually plays out, the future of The Candidate reality show is secured.   It’s a big hit that figures to remain big for months to come.  Perhaps the great greatest success of this consummate narcissist.

There has been endless theorizing how Trump has pulled this off, but the recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll breaks it down as well as anybody, so let’s take a look at what they have to say:

“Donald Trump‘s startling transformation from reality TV star to serious presidential contender in the eyes of some key Republican voters happened because he’s been able to sell himself as the straight-talker most candidates aspire to be, a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.

A look underneath the poll’s headline numbers, which put Trump atop the GOP field in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating caucuses on Feb. 1, suggests the New York real estate mogul is making the sale in large part because of qualities that aren’t part of the average political résumé. Everything that conventional wisdom says would torpedo his candidacy is instead making it stronger.

Penchant for brash pronouncements: Thirty-seven percent of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers say the billionaire’s willingness to “tell it like it is” is the most attractive feature of his candidacy, according the poll.

Lack of political experience: Trump’s next best-scoring assets, at 18 percent each, were his success in business and the fact he’s not a career politician.

Ostentatious lifestyle: His outsized wealth came next in the list of qualities that voters find attractive, with 12 percent saying they like it because it might free him from outside influence. Seven percent said Trump’s most attractive quality was that he’ll do what he says he’ll do.

“I think he would be a good change to have the government run more like a business,” said Trump supporter Garrison Reekers, 43, a deputy sheriff from Belle Plaine, Iowa, who participated in the poll. “He can afford to pay his own way so he doesn’t have to take special interest money.”

So there you have it, or much of it.  Go to the poll and you can find caucus goer mentality sliced and diced in numerous ways.  Two points stick out in my mind. First, that of these projected caucus goers, 35% of them don’t believe President Obama was born in the United States, with the number rising to 46% of Trump supporters.   OMG! Are they still around in such numbers?

Funny, as the birther movement was forging my image of Trump as political clown, it was planting the seeds of his present campaign.  I lose. The Donald wins. (So far).

Second, while Trump gets a favorable response in terms of most campaign issues, especially the economic ones like world trade and job creation (in the 80’s), his worse two ratings are in “working with congress to get things done” (43%) and “improving race relations” (42%)…….

If predominantly white Iowans (over 90% in the state), many of them supporters, see Trump as weak on those last two issues, can you imagine the rest of the country giving him higher marks?

How do you become elected president if race relations and working with congress are your two weakest suits?

Well, it depends on how frustrated and angry we are down deep with our present collective circumstances.  How desperate we are to find a simple solution in the form of a savior.  As shocking as it would be here, it wouldn’t be the first time in history a dictator has been elected.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR? I HAVE NO IDEA…..

Twas the day before New Year’s and despite wracking my mind, no upbeat year’s end message can I find.   However, I do have a  web site I want to share with you, The Fiscal Times brought to my attention by a reader who sent me a link while saying:   “It is this crap that drives me crazy, and adds further evidence that there really isn’t any difference between the parties after the rhetoric dies.”

He is referring to the 1600 page budget bill Congress passed before heading home for the holidays, which included many late-addition “surprises” hardly anyone noticed before the bill was passed.  The article linked here points out five of them that are head shakers for honest folk whether on the left or right.

The article isn’t long, so rather than me summarize the points I’d rather add a couple of points of my own.  First, despite the outrageous way this bill was passed, I am glad they passed it.  The alternative was to go into next year without a budget and a Republican controlled Congress, including libertarians who seem quite willing to continue to treat the “full faith and credit of the United States” as if it were a pin ball game.

They are so focused upon smaller government they seem not to have noticed the Chinese economy just surpassed ours in size this year and that China has taken various steps to develop currency exchanges that do not hinge upon the American dollar.  Nothing the Chinese would like more than for us to offer further evidence to the world that we have an increasingly unworkable order.

So, I’m glad that budget was passed despite it’s ugly underbelly.

Here is my other point.   While I have run across The Fiscal Times before, I never took a good look at it.  Since I liked that article I began exploring other pieces on the The Fiscal Times web site and found them interesting and not obviously partisan like so many other sites.  In their Statement of Purpose, they claim to be non-partisan, and so far I believe them.

If you do check it out, let me know what you think by replying using the comment link at the end of  all that stuff below.  If you like the site, think of it as a late Christmas (holiday) present.

If not, you can think of me as the Grinch.