That Double-Edged Sword

  • To impeach or not to impeach. That is the obvious question; the contextual answer, much more equivocal. Would it be–and be seen as–a democratic win for rule of law, separation of powers and moral imperatives? Would it gin up and rally the anti-Trump, fear-and-loathing left and motivate independents and disgruntled establishment Republicans? Or would it further gin up and rally the Trump base, antagonize swing voters, deepen the volatile, visceral political chasm, add more Washington psychodrama and result in serious backlash against Democrats?

Impeachment without conviction (and there’s no precedent for a formally impeached-president conviction) could–realistically and ironically–make matters (even) worse and provide perverted momentum to Trump’s (“Exonerated Again!”) re-election campaign. Would Trump sycophant and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell treat articles of impeachment like some Obama Supreme Court nomination? 

Ideally, it should be the people who should speak up in 2020 and demand an end to the Trump presidency and the devolution of American democracy. The electorate put him in, and the electorate should throw him out. That’s how it should end, with no provision for a Mike Pence presidency. But after what we saw in 2016—and what we’ve been seeing since—would voters pivot from political theater and actually take advantage of an electoral mulligan?                                                       

  • Impeachment is like an indictment. It’s not a synonym for (bipartisan) conviction. More like a constitutional Rubicon crossed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi underscored that reality and who it is that holds the ultimate Trump card. “It’s up to the Republicans,” she pointed out, “whether they honor their oath of office or honor their oath of Trump.”
  • As this thing plays out, we could see the re-emergence of Mitt Romney as a non-Trump Republican who matters—and is in revisionist mode. Recall that as the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, he solicited Trump’s endorsement and then became a supplicant in 2016 when he had hoped to become secretary of state. Now the Utah senator sounds like somebody who regrets all that and is genuinely appalled at what this impulsive, unhinged, immoral president routinely does. “I can’t imagine being in the Senate … and looking around to see who’s with you,” said Romney. “You stand for what you believe in.” Good. Now back it up.
  • You can imagine the eye-rolling at the United Nations when Trump declared that “The future does not belong to globalism. The future belongs to patriots.” A prime reason there is such an international body as the UN is to counter all that self-serving countries do under the guise of nationalism and “patriotism.”
  • “I used to be the king of good press. They covered me well—otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be here.”—That was Donald Trump in a rare moment of veritable candor. Indeed, he used to get more than his share of “good press” when it was the New York tabloids responding to his “fake news” calls as “John Barron.” He was good copy for the gossip-craving paparazzi and the “Apprentice”-enamored show-biz media. And, yes, there was the mainstream media that couldn’t help itself during the run-up to the 2016 election. Trump had turned the primaries into a demeaning, pop-culture reality TV circus with CNN, MSNBC and Fox as enablers looking for ever-better ratings. Recall: “We’re going to have to interrupt our panel so we can go live to Possum Trot, Mississippi for a Trump rally.” Absent that kind of base-ramping coverage, Trump, arguably, “wouldn’t be here.”
  • For those who found the Mueller Report shy of impeachability, even though steeped in obstruction scenarios, the Ukrainian-whistle-blower-and-coverup is a blunt reminder that this unexonerated president has already been cheating for 2020.
  • Imagine how the spineless Republicans in Congress would be acting if anything remotely like what we’ve been seeing from Trump had been uncovered during the Obama Administration. From ally alienation to an exploding deficit to hush money to emoluments conflicts to justice obstruction to soliciting dirt on a political rival from a foreign country. Hell, remember how the GOPsters went after Obama for his “apology tour” and deference to foreign rulers!
  • “For Democrats, independents and non-Trump Republicans looking for even more immediate incentive to rid our democracy and our world of this existential White House threat, here’s another motivator. The day after the 2020 election, the terms of the Paris climate accord will formally permit the U.S. to withdraw from it. But that, of course, only happens with Trump’s unconscionable re-election.
  • If Republican legislators–not unlike their predecessors during the Watergate revelations–would think country before career, they wouldn’t be finding themselves held hostage to Trump fealty.
  • Former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon had an interesting take on a key similarity between Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “They’re both showmen, they’re both performers,” said Bannon. “The trouble is, that gets you elected, but it doesn’t help you govern.”
  • For a long time, Trump got by with having one personal attorney, the disgraced-and-incarcerated Michael Cohen. Now he has three: Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and William Barr.

Biden Time

  • Unforced error: Whatever Hunter Biden’s gas-company board work in Ukraine involved, this much is clear. He shouldn’t have been there—of all places—doing it. The money was good, the optics were bad, the ethics questionable. It’s yet another example of a family member trading on the name of those who came before them. Down deep, Ivanka might even agree. Not. But if Joe Biden is the nominee and pushes the “quid pro quo” Ukrainian probe, count on a sneering, base-pleasing “quid pro Joe” pushback.
  • When it comes to quotes, Biden has, as we well know, a “greatest gaffe hits” track record. Here’s a memorable one that, in effect, ended his 2008 presidential run. He referred to then-candidate Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Some compliments are more complimentary than others.

Media Matters

  • Remember when White House press secretaries would hold daily press briefings? The current—and third—WH press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, still hasn’t held one. But if there’s something worthy of WH response, there’s always Twitter and the op-ed page of the Washington (not Post) Examiner. Not that we miss Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but the public is entitled to regular, live White House announcements, updates and clarifications as well as the journalistic scrutiny of non-Fox media.
  • “Make no mistake: Neither the fictional character ‘Joker,’ nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind.” That was a Warner Bros. statement, in reaction to criticism of the movie “Joker” for glorifying violence. But imagine having to say that! It’s what you get when you live in a fraught era of visceral societal divisiveness, mass shootings, legal assault weapons and gratuitously violent Marvel-comic movies.
  • “Politics is being consumed like entertainment. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure reality.” That was, alas, Republican digital strategist Eric Wilson’s all too accurate take on the overlapping of politics and show business.
  • “I miss the Senate a lot, but I’m not there, so I want to be a voice.” That was former Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who now has a weekly radio gig on SiriusXM.
  • “They’re scum. These animals in the press. They’re animals, some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.” That was—never mind–you know who the hell that was.

Sports Shorts

  • High fives,fist bumps,congrats and kudos to Plant High alum Pete Alonso, who finished his incredible, rookie Major League Baseball season with the New York Mets by leading MLB with 53 home runs. Alonso also set a Mets franchise record as well as the MLB standard for homers by a rookie.
  • However this ends, the Rays—with all their familiar issues, from attendance and Montreal scenarios to payroll and personnel attrition—deserve big-time credit for making it to the post season with so many cards stacked against them. And imagine if Tyler Glasnow didn’t get hurt, and they had gotten what they expected from Blake Snell and Jose Alvarado?
  • After five years, Joe Maddon is out in Chicago. Savior to scapegoat. The Cubs didn’t renew the contract of the manager who had five winning seasons, four post-season appearances and one memorable World Series win that ended a 108-year drought. It was the most successful stretch in franchise history. In effect, Maddon was a victim of his own, history-making, early success. When you win a World Series in your second year and miss the playoffs in your fifth, it comes down to a familiar, however unfair, bottom-line: What have you done for us lately? Frankly, all Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, had to do was look in the mirror at the guy who overspent on underperforming free agents.

Quoteworthy

  • “All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidize Iran’s bloodlust.”—President Donald Trump at the United Nations.
  • “He’s got some sort of hold on the British psyche.”—Sonia Purnell, author of “Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition.”
  • “What we’ve seen so far is not the kind of climate leadership we need from the major economies.”—World Resources Institute Vice President Helen Mountford.
  • “The easy-to-dodge days for Senate Republicans are coming to an end. … The Democratic House must impeach the president and force the question on the Senate; yea or nay on Donald Trump.”—Mike Murphy, Republican consultant and co-director of the University of Southern California’s Center for the Political Future.
  • “A president telling a president-elect of a well-known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects the US is doing his job.”—Rudy Giuliani.
  • “I think the whistleblower did the right thing.”—Acting Director of National Security Joseph Maguire.
  • “I would like for you to do us a favor.”—Outtake from Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
  • “If the president asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme.”—Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee.
  • “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • “(Pelosi’s) efforts to restrain her far-left conference have finally crumbled.”—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • “Impeachment will doubtless roil the Democratic primary race in unpredictable ways. The most bellicose candidates may profit as the impeachment wars grow more vitriolic. The moderates may be further marginalized.”—David Brooks, New York Times.
  • “It turns on a basic question. Is it legal for the president of the United States to ask a foreign country to intervene in our election to help him and investigate his potential opponent? And I think it is clearly illegal.”—Larry Noble, former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission.
  • “To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.”—South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
  • “This is Joe Biden’s scandal, and the Democrats are trying to use it to steal the (2020) election.”—Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
  • “Sadly, we’ve known who Donald Trump is for some time. … And now we know that in the course of his duties as president, he’s endangered us all by putting his personal and political interests ahead of the interests of the American people. (He has) turned American diplomacy into a cheap extortion racket.”—Hillary Clinton.
  • “What is immediately striking is that no one who has spoken in defense of the president, including his spokesmen, has said these words: ‘Donald Trump would never do that!’”—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.
  • “What (Trump) learned is you can get away with just about anything if you’re willing to gamble and you have zero shame.”—Trump family biographer Gwenda Blair.
  • “Democrats are on a mission to impeach @POTUS. It’s their entire legislative agenda. They lost the 2016 election and can’t get over it.”—Sen. Rick Scott.
  • “Trump doesn’t need facts to mount a smear campaign. (Did Roy Cohn?) Trump concocts phony conspiracies and misleading narratives all the time. (Remember birtherism?)—David Corn, Mother Jones.
  • “The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large numbers of refugees.”—State Department statement announcing that the Trump Administration plans to slash the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to 18,000 in 2020. Last year’s total was 30,000. The cap was 110,000 in President Obama’s last year.
  • “If (Trump) follows through on his tariff threats later this year, then in all likelihood, trade will slow, and we would wind up in a recession next year.”—Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
  • “Policymakers must stand up to Juul and protect our kids by banning flavored e-cigarettes.”—Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
  • “People don’t realize that they’re playing Russian Roulette every time they ingest powder off the street.”—Paul Carey, narcotics division commander for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, on the opioid crisis and the availability of cheap and easily manipulated fentanyl.
  • “I was honored to be a part of President Trump’s successful 2016 campaign, and I remain fully committed to the President’s re-election to a second term.”—Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political chairwoman Susan Wiles.
  • “I’m glad that our community won’t be part of the president’s inhumane child detention policy, and I will keep fighting to ensure that all children are treated with kindness and care.”—Congressman Val Demings, D-Orlando, on news that Central Florida is no longer being considered as a site to house migrant children.
  • “I once again implore Mayor (Rick) Kriseman to quit kicking the can down the road, show some leadership and reach an agreement with the Rays to allow them to explore other possibilities.”—Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, urging St. Petersburg to reopen the Rays’ right to look at Hillsborough County.
  • “Social media is not the place to go criticize your fellow county commissioners.”—Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller.   

Post-Bolton Reality

  • Among the many not lamenting the departure of former National Security Adviser John Bolton is North Korea. Its envoy to nuclear talks with the U.S., Kim Myong-gil, has characterized the ouster of Bolton as a welcome and “wise political decision.” That downright diplomatic language had been absent when it came to the hardline Bolton. Recall that North Korea, which had blamed Bolton and hawkish aides for the nuclear stalemate, had turned up the anti-Bolton, anti-diplomatic rhetoric with references such as “war maniac” and “human scum.” Now the onus is on both sides to finally cut a meaningful denuclearization deal sans scapegoat.
  • New National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien is the author of “While America Slept,” billed as a “wake-up call to the American people.” In it he warned that the world had become more dangerous “under President Obama’s lead-from-behind foreign policy.” And now he’s signed on to the administration of the one who alienates and insults allies and unilaterally misleads from behind Twitter.
  • When it comes to those who testify before Congressional Committees, there are all-too-familiar optics. From preening, agenda-driven committee members to reluctant witnesses. As for the latter, some are terse. Or curt. Or obstinate. Or flat-out combative. And then there’s the contemptible Corey Lewandowski, who recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee on what role he might have played in helping the president curtail the scope of the Russian investigation. Lewandowski is a self-serving, infuriating punk who’s obviously still doing the bidding of Donald Trump—while using the hearing forum to promote that allegiance in a way that could help him politically. Oliver North never seemed so cooperative and pleasant.  
  • Beautiful.”—President Donald Trump’s tweeted reaction to Lewandowski’s opening statement.
  • “He’s filibustering. This is a coverup plain and simple.”—House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s take on Lewandowski’s testimony.
  • We know that there hasn’t been anybody like Trump as president before. Andrew Johnson never seemed so presidential. But there have been periodic foreshadowings, including the Nixon-Agnew take on the media and impeachment scenarios. Here’s another. Before there was Trump’s “basket-of-deplorables” base—as defined by Hillary Clinton in 2016–there was this high-profile incident during the Democratic primary of 2008. It came courtesy of HuffPo putting online audio of Barack Obama speaking at a private fundraiser in San Francisco. Obama referenced those in Midwestern small towns and rural Pennsylvania where a changing world had claimed traditional jobs. As a result, many white residents felt frustrated and embittered. They blamed government, turned to religion, reveled in their firearms and sought scapegoats.

“So, it’s not surprising then that (people there) get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” said Obama. The “bitter-cling” comments, ironically, were like news-cycle manna for the struggling Clinton campaign. “Americans need a president that will stand up for them,” responded Clinton playing the anti-elitist card. “Not a president that looks down on them.” Yes, that was then.

  • These are America’s biggest challenges: avoiding worst-case showdowns with Iran, North Korea and China; being part of the solution to the climate change threat; and protecting America’s democracy from Russian interference. Could there be a worse time for an ultra-impulsive, unprepared, arrogant, narcissistic commander-in-chief surrounded by career-first sycophants and opportunists? There’s a reason why “Seven Days in May” and “Dr. Strangelove” remain in the conversation.
  • Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision. A terrible communicator.”—Yes, that was the ‘communicator’-in-chief.  
  • “Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader?” That was the president’s vintage Trumpian response—as well as a rhetorical question–to an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint about a “promise” allegedly made by Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • TrumpWorld opportunist update: Sean Spicer just made his debut on “Dancing With the Stars.” His take: “Frankly, I’m just making money, trying to enjoy life.” How candid. Too bad he couldn’t be that honest when he was Trump’s sycophantic, tap-dancing spokesman.
  • Trump’s British counterpart, to the degree that’s possible, is Boris Johnson—or BoJo—as he’s known in the UK. And he’s no more popular with traditional western European allies than Trump is. They view Johnson as the villain of the Brexit campaign, and they still miss the early Tony Blair, who could woo the French, for example, in their own language. And the Europeans, ironically, also remember when Johnson was a journalist in the 1990s, spinning highly exaggerated stories about the EU that helped pioneer the outraged Eurosceptic style in the British press. 
  • Linda Ronstadt, the 10-time Grammy winner whose career was ended by Parkinson’s disease, will be honored in December at the Kennedy Center in Washington. She said she will be there to accept the honor—if Trump doesn’t attend. “I don’t think anybody would show up” if he were going, she underscored.
  • Donald Trump: “I think I’m going to get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things, if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t.” Whatever.

Dem Notes

  • All indications, including recent Iowa polling, indicate Elizabeth Warren is notably ascendant among primary candidates. Now she has earned the endorsement of the labor-aligned Working Families Party. In 2016, the WFP endorsed Bernie Sanders.    
  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio: “It’s clearly not my time.” Clearly.
  • Dems have to be careful about overthinking the “electability” approach to the nomination. “Too moderate,” “too progressive,” “too idealistic,” “too old,” “too frenetic,” “too young and gay,” “too much baggage” are not the disqualifiers of another era. That’s because the opponent is Donald Trump, an unhinged con man who morphed from “The Apprentice” to the president, and all bets are off in this deplorably “new normal.”
  • “Joe Biden’s record of getting things done speaks for itself. He has always put the American people above party lines and will continue to as president.” That was Congressman Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, who has endorsed Biden.

Gunning For Rationales

  • So, Colt has suspended its production of rifles, including AR-15s, for the civilian market.  Would that public safety were its overriding motivation. Actually, it’s a pragmatic business decision, because the market is now, alas, saturated with similar weapons.
  • When it comes to gun laws and addressing mass shootings, the Florida Legislature’s rallying cry is still “Incrementalism to the Rescue.” How stupid and spineless. When common sense and public safety cry out for assault weapons bans, non-loophole background checks and more, we get Tallahassee talk about the benefit of a threat-assessment alert system. It doubles down on “See something, say something.” It can help, but not nearly enough if we still allow assault weapons and too many gun sales to bypass serious background checks. Thanks for nothing, Rick Swearingen, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who gave his threat-assessment alert blessing without pushing for more meaningful measures. BTW, “See something, say something” needs updating. How about “See something, say something, actually do something”?
  • President Trump’s MO when it comes to guns is to furrow his brow, feign empathy, offer thoughts and prayers and call for reforms after the latest mass shooting. Then the reality of his white-nationalist, gun-enamored base and Republican fealty to the NRA kicks in and nothing legislatively meaningful happens. Again. And now Beto O’Rourke has been targeted, as only Trump can target, as a scapegoat. “Dummo Beto made it much harder to make a deal,” explained Trump. A lot of people think this is just a way of taking away guns.”

Media Matters

  • The Wall Street Journal was the first media outlet to report that President Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included the president pressing Zelensky for dirt on Joe Biden via his son Hunter. WSJ is not typically characterized by this president as a “witch-hunting,” “fake-news,” “lame-stream” “enemy of the people.”
  • The spring and, especially, summer are not known as prime cinema months. However, this year we’ve seen a spate of music-centric movies that remind us that, indeed, there is more out there than just “Marvel” and video-game movies as well as sequels of sequels. I didn’t see them all, but I can vouch for “Yesterday,” “Rocket Man,” “Echo in the Valley” and “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.” No, you don’t need to be of a certain generation to enjoy the music and appreciate the back stories—but, yes, it helps.
  • “The individual interview with someone who is a mom in a shopping mall can tell you more about what’s going on in the world and how people feel about it than any of those grand (big-stage) things.” Those were the words of the late Cokie Roberts, TV news pioneer, that told you volumes about her perspective and priorities.
  • No, it’s not just former Trump Administration officials who have books out, but also notorious national security leaker Edward Snowden, who just published his memoir, “Permanent Record.” But no reports of book tours or signings from Russia. And, no, Snowden didn’t abide by the non-disclosure agreement he had signed as a condition of receiving access to classified information.

Sports Shorts

  • Not that college football needs any more bowl games, but in 2020 three more will be added to bring the total to 43. That’s how you get matchups that include teams without winning records. One of the three new ones will be the “Fenway Bowl” in Boston. It will pit teams from the ACC and the AAC. Maybe this is how FSU and USF will next meet.    
  • Still seems weird to watch an FSU game, including last Saturday’s win over Louisville, with about half of the Doak Campbell Stadium seats empty.