Impeach Mint Snacks

* “We … believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses.”–No, that’s not partisan-speak from Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, “Squad” members or Democratic presidential candidates. It’s part of a sobering, pro-impeachment statement, co-signed by 17 former members, Dems and GOPsters, of the special prosecutor team that investigated Watergate.

* “Tell the truth, I think, for a change.”–Former President Jimmy Carter, when asked what advice he would give President Donald Trump. Not normally the way a former president would talk about one of his successors. But nothing is normal now.

* Trump nuance update: “They didn’t help us in the Second World War. They didn’t help us with Normandy.” That’s vintage Trump on how he ignorantly rationalized America’s abandonment of the Kurds, our erstwhile Middle East ally. In so doing, he made the elimination of ISIS less than a fait accompli and sent an un-nuanced signal that the U.S. is not to be relied on unless you’re Vlad Putin. Even Bibi Netanyahu must be concerned.

* Trump nuance update II : “From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll. Whoever their pollster is, they suck.”

* Trump nuance update III: “(Democrats) want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called socialism.”

* Most GOPsters fear being “primaried” if they go off the Trump reservation, but there is an uptick against Trump over the Kurds and what’s unraveling in Syria. Even supplicant Sen. Lindsey Graham is willing to jeopardize his golf rounds with Trump with high-profile criticism.

* Would that the (YouTube-available) video featuring a fake President Trump brutally assaulting political opponents and members of the media inside the “Church of Fake News” were as shocking as it was disgusting and disturbing. Nothing, no matter how inflammatory and dangerous, is a shock anymore.

* We are reminded daily of two constitutional phrasings that have caused endless, unintended consequences as well as food for thoughtless partisans. “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state …” still hovers ambiguously over 21st century, Second Amendment right-to-bear-arms context like some grammatically awkward artifact. Then there’s “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It was meant to accord Congress impeachment discretion. In addition, it accords Congress, as we are being reminded, a partisan rationale.

As we know, presidential impeachments are rare, and actual convictions nonexistent. But over the years, about half of Senate impeachment trials have resulted in a federal official being convicted and removed from office.

* Note to President Trump on sending an additional 3,000 American troops to Saudi Arabia. Read the minutes of previous meetings. A key motivator for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers was the U.S. troop presence that remained in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War. To the most radical elements, this was considered an “occupation” of Islam’s holiest land, home to Mecca, and further fueled the rage against Western “infidels.”

* The next “Cold War” would be with China. From intellectual-property connivance and currency manipulation to South China Sea aggressiveness and self-serving, global-infrastructure scenarios, it’s been game on for a while. But this is not like dealing with the old Soviet Union–or even contemporary Islamic militarism. We’ve got stuff in common with China besides pragmatic trade synergy. For all of our ideological differences, including censorship and protest rights, we both have a special place for billionaires and basketball.

Dem Notes

* Lights, cameras, talking points and posturing. Twelve candidates on stage for a “debate” is oxymoronic.

* If the impeachment process gets as far as the judge-and-jury Senate, look for Sen. Kamala Harris to make her closing argument for why she should have been the Democrats’ presidential nominee.

* It’s not unfair “ageism,” to cast doubt on a 78-year-old presidential candidate coming off a heart attack. Bernie Sanders, well off the record, would likely agree–in terms of what’s best for the country and for his own health in the uber-stressful process that is the unfolding 2020 campaign. But what Sanders can’t do is hang on too long and too loudly, such that too many of his dejected and disillusioned far-left supporters reprise 2016. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Septuagenarian candidates are also reminders that the vice presidential choice has to be Oval Office ready, not just a standard, politically-strategic fit. Even Sarah Palin might agree. Might.  In fact, a 70-something presidential nominee should be open to the prospect of a one-term reset of what America stands fervently for and adamantly against–and then revitalization follow-up by the incumbent vice president, who did more than balance a ticket.

* Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has raised a few Democratic–and Republican–brows with frequent drop bys on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. She’s an Iraq war veteran with an antipathy toward a “world’s policeman” role for the U.S. Gabbard’s isolationist foreign policy views resonate with many–including on the right–including the occupant of the Oval Orifice. Last electoral cycle she endorsed Bernie Sanders–not Hillary Clinton.

* One sign of a candidate’s campaign confidence and expected longevity is the number of campaign field offices operating in the first four primary states. To date, the leaders are Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

Scoot Around Hipness

So, St. Petersburg is moving forward on e-scooters, and we could see them in the mobility mix next year. Here’s hoping that St. Pete rethinks and scoots around this commitment, even with restrictions. We all know the gut issue–and it’s not non-hipster types who are too easily annoyed. It’s safety; its jeopardy is a function of carelessness, cluelessness and coolness, the perfect storm of scooter reality in notorious, traffic-challenged cities such as St. Pete and Tampa.

We also know what it’s going to take to change the minds of elected decision-makers. What ultimately awaits is a tragedy borne of too many vehicles, too many pedestrians and too little attention paid to rules of the road that, yes, still apply. The media coverage, likely more than local, will be over the top. St. Pete will look negligent and Visit Tampa Bay will cringe. The post-mortem rehashes will spotlight sorrow, outrage and recriminations–not hipness.

Sports Shorts

* “Everybody uses the word ‘resilient,’ and that’s great. But we’re also very good.”–Rays manager Kevin Cash. True. The Rays took Houston, the team with the best record in MLB, to an ALDS fifth game. By the way, the Rays were 6-6 against the Astros for the year. 

* Shout out to Auden Tate, a graduate of Wharton High, for putting up impressive numbers–five catches for 91 yards–for the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

* Here’s what we (still) know about Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. Having a Heisman Trophy (see Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel), being an overall number one draft pick and signing a big contract guarantee nothing but expectations. Winston is a legitimate NFL QB, but not a winner and definitely not a franchise QB. If in your fifth year, you are still a work in progress, then that’s your identity: disappointing underachiever that the team ultimately can’t count on.

Quoteworthy

* “The Cold War split global civilization into two alternative forms, both of which promised people a better future. The Soviet Union undoubtedly lost. But then there appeared a strange Western utopia with no alternative, ruled over by economic technocrats who could do no wrong. Then that collapsed.”–Gleb Pavlovsky, former senior strategist for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

* “In dealing with Western businesses, intimidation is China’s policy of first resort.”–Elliot Kaufman,” Wall Street Journal.

* “The Syria decision contributes to the hardened impression that in foreign policy (Trump’s) all impulse, blithely operating out of his depth. It adds to the hardening suspicion that in negotiations he’s not actually tough; he’ll say yes to a lot of things, and some very bad things, to get the deal, the photo-op, the triumphant handshake.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “The House under the Constitution sets its own rules, and the House has sole power over impeachment.”–House Judiciary Committee attorney Douglas Letter.

* “Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it.”–White House counsel Pat Cipollone, in declaring that the White House will halt any and all cooperation with the impeachment probe by House Democrats.

* “We want to make sure that we meet the needs of the investigation and not give the president or his legal minions the opportunity to tailor their testimony and in some cases fabricate testimony to suit their interests.”–House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, on why he wants to hold impeachment-inquiry testimony behind closed doors.

* “Democrats know they can’t win on the facts, so they’re having to move it behind closed doors. I believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant.”–Georgia Congressman Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

* “(The Russians) sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.”–Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report.

* “President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with a congressional inquiry … he’s already convicted himself.”–Joe Biden.

* “If Trump were cannier and more self-controlled, the march to autocracy might well be unstoppable. He has the backing of a party whose elected representatives have shown no sign of democratic scruples. He has de facto state media in the form of Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch empire. He has already managed to corrupt key government agencies, including the Justice Department.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.

* “(Trump’s) not an ideological president in the sense of having policy formulas ready to implement; he’s instead a catalyst of conflict with the right’s opponents.”–Daniel McCarthy, Modern Age: A Conservative Quarterly.

* “If President Donald Trump serves the full 15 months that remain in his term of office, how bad will the damage be?”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “Giuliani’s a hand grenade.”–Former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

* “Patriotism is not looking at our past through rose-colored glasses and a revisionist history; it is having the courage to examine more closely those areas that are broken, and it is believing in the power of the system to fix them.”–Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

* “Donald Trump may be the most unreligious president ever–an undisciplined force of corrosive evil. And yet he tweets comparisons to himself as the Messiah and bullies his way around the world with the blind support of white evangelical Christians.”–Timothy Egan, New York Times.

* “In the early years of this decade, back when people associated social media with Barack Obama or the Arab Spring, Twitter executives referred to their company as ‘the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.’ Sticks and stones and assault rifles could hurt us, but the internet was surely only a force for progress. No one believes that anymore.”–Andrew Marantz, author of “Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians and the Hijacking of the American Conversation.”

* “Doubt is weakness in the age of the elevator pitch; nuance never trends on Twitter.”–David Von Drehle, the author of “Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year.”

* “The rich definitely pay less in taxes than they did in the past and less than they should.”–Jason Furman, Harvard economics professor and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama.

* We’re going to end up with the world’s best standards.”–Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, describing his department’s efforts to eliminate the Common Core, create more understandable and measurable expectations and streamline testing.

* “I’m not sure why anybody would think that we’re trying to elbow anyone out. We’ve proven ourselves to be a really good regional partner.”–Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, which is changing its name to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.

* “There’s not a competitive relationship going on with the chambers. We share a lot of members. This was just a natural, evolutionary move for us.”–Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Rohrlack, on plans to change the chamber’s name to Tampa Bay Chamber.

* “The purpose of a CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) really is that you don’t trust the government to spend money in an area where you think it needs to be spent.”–Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson.

* “It’s very, very important to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay. … There are many ways to get a stadium built.”–Tampa Mayor Jane Castor

President Pelosi?

With the gobsmacking, unconscionable election of Trump, nothing is beyond the presidential pale anymore. Nothing. So how about an impeachment scenario that is energizing, convincing and not Robert Mueller-dependent? One that moves relentlessly forward with more names dropping, including that of Mike Pence for being a Biden dirt-solicitor. And just suppose enough Republican senators listen to what remains of their consciences, honor their oaths of office, reclaim their spines and vote for an unprecedented conviction.

If President Trump is removed and Pence is part of the removal, then it’s House Speaker next up: President Nancy Pelosi. And that’s, inexplicably but constitutionally, how America gets its first woman president. Not Hillary Clinton, not Elizabeth Warren, not Kamala Harris, not Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Nothing is beyond this presidential pale. Nothing.

  • No way does William Barr recuse himself because he was named in the whistleblower complaint that his office was seemingly covering up. Trump has already fired one recused attorney general.
  • Fed rate too high. They are their own worst enemies. They don’t have a clue. Pathetic!” Vintage Donald Trump.
  • “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” Ditto.
  • “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey.”–More troubling Trump bombast.
  • “Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked.” Remember when we had presidents who talked like, well, presidents, not narcissistic bullies and slandering mobsters?
  • “It’s time to turn down the lights on the circus.”–That was West Point grad and former Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo during the 2016 campaign urging fellow GOPsters to come to their senses and resist the boorish reality TV act that was Trump. He also warned that Trump would be “an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution.” As it turned out, he was more prescient than patriotic. And he backed Marco Rubio for president.
  • President Trump: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous, tremendous power.” Tremendously out-leveraged China presumably agrees.
  • So Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, senior Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, are speaking at the University of Florida this week for a $50,000 fee courtesy of UF’s speakers bureau. Security and logistics will not be nominal matters. While Trump more appropriately belongs at the Villages or Bob Jones University instead of UF, the speaking engagement underscores what democratic institutions of higher learning–at their best–are best suited for: providing forums that welcome diverse, often controversial, opinions and the open and free exchange of ideas. As long as public safety isn’t compromised. As long as the rules of engagement are well promoted and fair.

In this case, there will be a Q&A at the end. Unless there is weird screening or filibuster answers, one question likely touches on the appropriateness of Junior’s father using presidential leverage to get dirt on the Bidens via Ukraine and China. In short: “Is this just the logical extension of what we saw when you and your brother-in-law and your dad’s campaign manager met up at Trump Tower with Russians for dirt–disguised feebly as adoption updates–on Hillary Clinton? You know, the one that prompted that infamous ‘I love it!’ from you. And a follow-up, if I may: What politically non-partisan charity is the $50,000 going to? And is it embarrassing that Pitbull was paid a lot more ($130,000) for his talk at UF last year?”

  • Eight more years.” What Trump worked to elicit from his rally crowd at the Villages.
  • “They want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called socialism.”–What else resonated at the Villages–besides the sounds of “We’re Not Going to Take It” by Twisted Sister.
  • Speaking of the Villages, we were reminded that Gov. Ron DeSantis, the beneficiary of a subterranean low-bar comparison with Rick Scott, is still an embarrassing Trump lackey-enabler with further political plans beyond Tallahassee. He and his wife were prominent props in the staged back-drop behind Trump.
  • “When America fails to lead, global chaos inevitably follows.” That was Sen. Marco Rubio–but not recently. Rubio said that–and more–when he was facing off with Trump during the primaries. We remember, even if the erstwhile “Little Marco” seemingly doesn’t.
  • Not that it matters enough to matter anymore, but how hypocritically ironic that the one targeting Biden and son over alleged family scheming is the avatar of nepotism. From Fred Trump to Donald Trump to the grandiose kids.

Biden Time

  • The time for a quick, set-the-record-straight, damage-control response–PR 101–has long passed for the Joe Biden campaign. But the need to address weaponized misinformation manifestly remains–for the good of the country, for the good of the campaign. Whether it comes from the DNC, Jill Biden or Barack Obama, Biden needs someone to cut to the politically pragmatic chase and tell him–over a beer or via memo–what he has to do to get out of the diversionary cross hairs that Trump has affixed. Specifically, make a media-targeted, Eastern time zone presentation–not unlike Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia in 2008. Recall, that was the one that dealt with the incendiary, racially-charged sermons of his former minister and mentor, Rev. (“Not God bless America. God damn America.”) Jeremiah Wright. Obama distanced and disavowed, pivoted to an inclusive, positive theme and ultimately headed to an historic win.
  • OK, Biden is not Obama. Nobody is. But Obama’s former vice president needs to give Biden family context and clean up the dirt manufactured and dispersed by Trump. And he needs Hunter Biden to publicly explain his involvement and frankly apologize for trading on his surname. In the context of the sleazy Trump “dynasty,” acknowledging that reality would hardly be harmful. Then Hunter Biden needs to underscore what a uniquely special guy his dad is and why this fraught moment in our history needs the institutional experience and international perspective of a Joe Biden. And, BTW, Hunter is Biden’s son, not his “kid.” He’s 49 years old–or two decades older than his father when he was elected to Congress.
  • And then Joe Biden needs to pivot while he has the nation’s undivided attention–like no “debate” forum can provide–with an agenda, both global and domestic, that progressive Democrats, independents and country-first, non-Trump GOPsters can rally around. He needs to emphatically–and methodically–put Trump and his America-demeaning record on the impeachable defense and by so doing galvanize public opinion. He needs, maybe literally, to say (without beginning with “Look, folks”) directly to the American electorate: “Who out there doesn’t think we are better than this?”
  • In short, Biden would then be talking about America, its place and role in the world, and the ongoing threat that is the unprincipled, impulsive Trump Administration–not “quid pro Joe” diversions.
  • Maybe it’s karma or irony or just politics, but when Joe Biden first ran for–and was elected to–the Senate he was 29. By the time he was sworn-in officially in 1972, he had turned the required age of 30. He ran against the Delaware incumbent Cale Boggs, who more than doubled his age at 63. The media had referenced Boggs as prone to being “tongue-tied.” Biden ads underscored Boggs’ links to bygone days (“In 1950 Cale Boggs hoped to make Americans safe from Stalin.”) with an emphasis on the younger candidate’s mantra of “new thinking” and “new solutions.” What goes around … .

Sports Shorts

  • Ceremonial first pitches for the Rays Monday playoff victory against Houston were tossed by U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. Nice regional touch, Rays.
  • The Trop crowd for that Astros win, more than 32,000, was the largest home crowd in three years. No less noteworthy: It was all Rays–not an allegiance mix skewed by local Red Sox and Yankee fans. It matters. Ask the players.
  • Common Sense 101: When you’re a university, especially one in Kansas, and you’re putting together your annual basketball kickoff night, think twice about inviting Snoop Dog as your headline attraction. That’s what the University of Kansas did, and it didn’t go well, unless you really, really have no problems with pole-dancing babes and MF-bombs as a way of celebrating the arrival of another Jayhawk basketball season. Or maybe this is also part of the new normal.

Quoteworthy

  • “The strategic decision Kim Jong-un is operating through is that he will do whatever he can to keep a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and to develop and enhance it further. Under current circumstances, he will never give up the nuclear weapons voluntarily.”—Former national security adviser John Bolton.
  • “Existentially, we look at China as our greatest threat from an intelligence perspective, and they succeeded significantly in the last decade from stealing our best and brightest technology.”–William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence & Security Center.
  • “He tells me what he wants, he asks me what he can get from us.”–Polish President Andrzej Duda, on his relationship with President Donald Trump.
  • “(The U.S.) must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. … Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”–Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, in response to President Trump’s decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria.
  • “This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer or better. No pressure at all.”—President Donald Trump, on his controversial conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
  • “(Trump) wanted an investigation into a seriously conflicted former vice president of the United States who damaged the reputation of the United States in Ukraine.”–Rudy Giuliani.
  • “To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.”–Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • “I believe the whistleblower is operating in good faith. I think the whistleblower did the right thing.”–Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
  • “(Pompeo) should immediately cease intimidating (State) Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the president.”—Joint statement from three House Committee chairmen: Adam Schiff, Intelligence; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Elijah Cummings, Oversight.
  • “(He has) undermined our national security, our Constitution and our electoral system. … Sometimes I think (Trump) is having a limbo contest with himself, to see how low he can go in his rhetoric.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • “With what we know, the president’s actions warrant impeachment.”—Former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
  • “It is Trump’s brazenness and shamelessness that make the argument for impeachment and removal that much stronger.”–Daniel Larison, the American Conservative.
  • “We won the Mueller probe. I tell you what. If Mueller was a war, this is a skirmish.”–Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal lawyers.
  • “Is Trump so narcissistic that he can’t help but use his office for his own personal ends? Is he so sociopathic that he can’t be trusted to follow, let alone faithfully execute, the law? … The people have a right to know, and a need to see.”–Washington attorney George T. Conway, the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
  • “We’re not fooling around here.”—House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, in underscoring that any effort to interfere with the Democrats’ investigations would be considered evidence of obstruction and could be included in articles of impeachment.
  • “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”–Donald Trump.
  • “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that is anything other than politically motivated.”–Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney.
  • “Just as the president is not above the law, the attorney general is not above the law. The president’s betrayal of his oath of office and the Constitution is the primary offense here, and we need to stay focused on that, but the attorney general’s prostitution of the Department of Justice for the president’s political agenda has been necessary to the president’s schemes and he will face his own reckoning.”—House Judiciary Committee member Jamie Raskin, D-MD, a former constitutional law professor.
  • “Simmering trade tension is the obvious culprit for the manufacturing weakness.”—Eric Winograd, senior U.S. economist at AllianceBernstein.
  • “Many of the superrich aren’t satisfied with living like kings, which they will continue to do no matter who wins next year’s election. They also expect to be treated like kings, lionized as job creators and heroes of prosperity, and consider any criticism an unforgiveable act of lese-majeste. … If Warren is the nominee, then, a significant number of tycoons will indeed go for Trump; better to put democracy at risk than to countenance a challenge to their imperial self-esteem.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.
  • “After two and a half years, we came up with something that basically is within our right of way, that’s going to help safety, is going to help operations pretty significantly, but it’s not going to impact the neighborhoods like we’ve shown before.”—FDOT District Secretary David Gwynn, in announcing the department’s $175 million plan for Malfunction Junction that requires far less land than previous proposals did.
  • “This is good news. This is the most positive thing that has happened in a long, long time.”–Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, in response to confirmation that St. Petersburg has no objection if Hillsborough and Tampa want to try again to persuade the Rays to move across the bay after 2027.
  • “Tampa is a city with unlimited potential, and these investments today will pay off tenfold for generations to come.”–Mayor Jane Castor, on city council’s approval of her $3.1 billion plan to upgrade Tampa’s sewer and water systems.
  • “If there were no television, no air-conditioning and no cell phones, every house would have a front porch. That was the way of communicating at one time. That has changed.”–Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, during discussion of a new initiative to make it easier for residents to add front porches to their homes.