Choosing When to Back Off

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” ~ W. C. Fields

Nancy Pelosi is no fool. Conservatives may think she is evil and nasty and ugly and an old hag. And they hate everything she stands for – all that liberal crap. But she’s sneaky. She’s sly. She’s methodical. She holds her caucus in the House together. She has for years. She’s no fool. Donald Trump’s withering dismissive nickname for her is “Nancy” – which makes here smile. She has stumped him. And now she’s done it again. As the de facto leader of the Democratic Party as it reorganizes to face Trump again, she pulled the rug out from under him again. She offered a new party position on impeaching Donald Trump. That ain’t gonna happen. There’s no point – at least not now. Her now solidly Democratic House can impeach him, sure, but Mitch McConnell’s solidly Republican Senate will never convict him and send him packing – so there’s no point in the House impeaching the guy. Unless something changes, which is unlikely, there’s no use being a damn fool about this. And besides, an impeachment in the House would tear the country apart, and “he’s not worth it” – implying that there’s no point in tearing the country apart over one petty little man who will be gone soon enough.

She is good at withering insults to which there is no possible reply, because she’s no fool:

Months after taking control of the House on a promise to hold President Trump accountable, Democrats are signaling that they’re unlikely to pursue impeachment, lowering expectations that the special counsel’s report will spur an immediate attempt to unseat the president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in an interview with the Washington Post released Monday that impeachment is too divisive to pursue “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.”

On Tuesday, rank-and-file Democrats largely fell in line. Some said the House must first complete its own investigations to determine whether Trump committed impeachable offenses. Others said even if they determine he did, an impeachment process would be too harmful to the country unless the majority of Congress and the American people agreed.

And there’s the problem. The American people have not agreed that it’s time to consider impeachment, yet, if they ever will, and then, if they do, the majority of Congress may have to agree with them, to keep their jobs, but the majority of Congress also knows the angry voters of their own districts. This is a long shot at best. So the best Pelosi can do is take away all of Trump’s ammunition:

Pelosi’s remarks appear to be part of a larger strategy Democrats are pursuing to downplay special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s much-anticipated report and prevent Republicans from using the threat of impeachment to rally conservatives ahead of the 2020 presidential race… It’s also an acknowledgment that the risk of failure or backfire is huge. Even if an impeachment measure got through the Democratic-controlled House, the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to convict Trump. And pursuing a partisan kamikaze mission would give Trump a convenient political foil for the 2020 election, many Democrats fear.

And there’s history:

Looming large in the minds of veteran Democrats is the impeachment of President Clinton. The Republican-controlled House voted to impeach him, but the GOP wasn’t able to get two-thirds of the Senate to convict him. Clinton’s political contemporaries believed that the effort was viewed unsympathetically by the public and hurt Republicans in the next midterm.

So, move on:

House Democrats are also trying to refocus public attention on their own investigations, which just got underway. The House Judiciary Committee recently asked 81 people or organizations for documents related to the president and the Trump organization.

But not everyone is happy:

By coming out against impeachment, Pelosi is putting herself between the party’s more liberal voters and activists who are clamoring for impeachment and moderate Democrats – many of whom were just elected to their first term – who are more skeptical about impeachment. Those moderates, many of whom will go before voters next week at town hall meetings during the congressional recess, now can redirect some of that frustration to Pelosi, who has long been willing to take the heat for her rank-and-file lawmakers.

But announcing her opposition to impeachment even before Mueller has released his report is unlikely to sit well with everyone in the progressive wing of the party.

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) still plans to pursue impeachment and potentially force a House vote. He forced a similar measure last year when the House was controlled by Republicans. Only 66 Democrats voted on a procedural measure in support of the articles of impeachment.

He may be the fool here:

Most Democrats appear in alignment with Pelosi’s position. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York and even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the highest-profile freshman and a progressive leader, said they are willing to tap on the brakes.

“I’ve always been very clear that I’m supportive and how I would vote in terms of impeachment,” she said at a news conference in New York last week. “I understand that leadership may want to build a stronger case and subpoena more records or figure out what’s happening, perhaps in the Mueller investigation.”

She said she would “defer to party leadership.”

That’s cool, but Jennifer Rubin notes the complications here:

Impeachment is a monumental undertaking so you better have reason to do so. This is an appropriate analysis since impeachment, undoing an election via Congress, is contemplated as a political, not legal, process and requires a super majority for removal. The American people must be convinced that he cannot remain in office. If there is some atrocious smoking gun and/or the accumulated evidence is so weighty, then even Republicans’ minds might be changed.

Okay. Pelosi is right, but not quite:

The rub is if the evidence is truly compelling but Republicans remain his obstinate defenders. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe argues that in such a case you also have to consider “the danger of NOT impeaching a president whose guilt has become clear just because the Senate seems too beholden to the president to remove him.”

Former prosecutor Renato Mariotti had a similar reaction. “While I understand why Speaker Pelosi believes that it would not be politically advantageous to impeach Trump if Senate Republicans will not vote to convict, the House has a constitutional duty to uphold the rule of law.” He adds, “Given the Justice Department’s view that a sitting president cannot be indicted, a decision by the House not to impeach unless conviction in the Senate is certain allows a Senate minority to ensure that a president escapes punishment for serious crimes. While her decision may be politically savvy, the American people deserve to know where each Member of Congress and Senator stands, and for the constitutional process to play out.”

But then Pelosi is right:

Still, Pelosi understands the politics and knows that defeating Trump in 2020 is of the highest priority. If an ultimately ineffective impeachment detracts from that goal, it’s not worth it. It would in fact be a gross political error. Moreover, if a smoking gun does turn up, the possibility of bipartisan consensus remains.

But, you say, this means he’ll “get away” with it! Nonsense – as soon as he is out of office, he can be prosecuted like any American at the federal or state level – and on any number of possible charges including obstruction of justice, campaign finance violations and a host of financial crimes involving his business and/or foundation.

It may be best to just carry on:

Why bother with congressional hearings? Well, it’s important for the voters to know what Trump has been up to so they can hold him accountable at the polls in 2020. In addition, other people’s crimes or noncriminal wrongdoing may be revealed. The very act of congressional investigation is critical to reestablishing democratic norms and the separation of powers.

Moreover, let’s remember that Congress is supposed to investigate lots of things that aren’t crimes – e.g., a disastrous child-separation policy, conflicts of interest, carelessness in handling security clearances, receipt of foreign emoluments, incompetent foreign policy. That is what we do in a democracy. (I know, it’s difficult to remember after Republicans did nothing.) We insist government be transparent and we hold those responsible to account for their conduct.

Finally, remember that both the special counsel and Congress are investigating a counterintelligence matter. Who, if anyone, cooperated or conspired with the Russians. If Trump, members of his family or current officeholders did it, or were negligent in preventing others from doing it, we need to know.

Rubin says worry about that. The impeachment stuff will take care of itself.

No it won’t. Brian Beutler argues this:

Because of what they have said – the terms they have committed themselves to – Democratic leaders have all but doomed themselves to the worst-possible approach, one in which they unearth damning evidence and then make the conscious decision not to act on it; one in which they tacitly bless all of Trump’s wrongdoing and pray both that voters do all the hard work for them, and that nothing tragic happens as a consequence of their inaction…

What Pelosi really did was affirm that Democrats long ago gave the Republican Party a silent veto over whether Trump should be held accountable for anything. Back in May of last year, when Democrats were still in the minority, House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff insisted, “there will be no impeachment, no matter how high the crime or serious the misdemeanor,” unless “Democratic and Republican members of Congress can make the case to their constituents that they were obligated to remove him.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler adopted a similar standard recently, and yesterday he endorsed Pelosi’s view. “She laid down a number of conditions— it has got to be bipartisan, the evidence has to be overwhelming – which is what I’ve been saying.”

Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler are seasoned politicians who don’t say much that’s unrehearsed. Their position that passing articles of impeachment – a process that requires a simple majority in the House – must be bipartisan sends a clear message to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP leaders, that the key to Trump’s continued impunity is for Republicans to simply continue doing what they’ve been doing all along – ignore or celebrate his misconduct, attack the investigators, lie as much as it takes to keep Trump’s base of support from falling through the floor.

This is actively supporting the unsupportable:

When Republicans inevitably take this path, the Pelosi standard will commit Democrats to the course of consciously, publicly choosing to proceed no further – to say Congress will take no position on Trump’s obstruction of justice, his violation of the emoluments clause, and his criminal schemes. That might or might not be the safest political course of action for the party, but it will establish a new precedent in our country that presidents can make themselves untouchable, to the law and to Congress, if only they’re willing to be as selfish and malevolent as Trump.

This, then, is abdicating all responsibility:

Under the Pelosi standard no abuse of power is too severe to tolerate if a third of the country can be convinced to overlook it. Under the Pelosi standard, Republicans enjoy a handicap where they and their propaganda allies can short circuit the Constitution through relentless disinformation and culture war nonsense, and never face a referendum on their underlying conduct or character. Under the Pelosi standard, Republicans can openly embrace any impeachable conduct that actually delights their supporters, which means Trump and future GOP presidents will have a freer hand than they already do to sic the Justice Department on their political enemies.

If Pelosi merely wanted her impeachment-happy members to dial it back, she could have told them to simmer down, let investigators compile evidence, and allow the party to decide internally whether that evidence is “compelling and overwhelming.” She instead told them that they will do nothing with the evidence, no matter how compelling and overwhelming, unless Republicans suddenly become willing to do the right thing. And that makes her declaration, if it holds, an abdication all Democrats will come to regret.

Brian Beutler does not agree with W. C. Fields. Try again, and again, and again. Be a damn fool about it.

Or forget it. There are losing battles. Some things are what they are and they’re not changing. Bosses hire their feckless children all the time, because they can. There’s usually no way to stop them from doing that. They’re the boss. This usually ends in disaster, but Donald Trump hired his daughter and son-in-law and that’s not an impeachable offense. It’s not even illegal, although the anti-nepotism laws are a bit vague, so it might be illegal, if anyone wanted to do something about this, but no one does. There’s no use being a damn fool about it. Let it go.

No, don’t. The Mercury News’ Martha Ross explains why:

A new tell-all book, which focuses on how Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner rose to “extraordinary” power in the White House, is sure to bolster the opinion among President Donald Trump’s critics that his daughter has a princess complex and that nepotism is the only reason she and her husband have their jobs as senior advisors.

This book will not help matters in Washington:

According to the New York Times, “Kushner Inc.,” by journalist Vicky Ward, portrays Ivanka Trump and Kushner as the heirs of New York real estate empires who were forged by domineering fathers. However, in Ivanka Trump’s case, her father was “disengaged,” and her childhood often was “isolated.”

The book also describes, in reportedly unflattering ways, how the two “climbed to positions of power by disregarding protocol and skirting the rules when they can,” added the Times, which got a sneak peek at Ward’s book.

There’s nothing impeachable here, just nonsense:

One example of Ivanka Trump and Kushner’s apparent sense of entitlement and rule-skirting comes in the way they have demanded use of Air Force One at times when it was “not appropriate,” Ward writes, according to the Times.

The couple wanted to control who could travel on trips funded by the State Department, according to the Times. When former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied their requests, the couple tried to get around him by inviting along a cabinet secretary, usually Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to get access to the plane.

That’s not a big deal, but all the little deals do add up:

One purpose of the book is to dissect the kind of influence Ivanka Trump and Kushner have on President Trump and on his administration’s management and policies, the Times reported. There is a common “narrative” that the two serve as “stabilizing voices inside an otherwise chaotic White House,” but the book instead depicts the two as Trump’s “chief enablers,” the Times reported.

This appears to be the case in Ivanka Trump’s reaction to her father blaming “both sides” following a deadly white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.

The book reports that top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn considered resigning when Trump refused to condemn the white nationalists outright at a news conference. Cohn shared his concerns with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and came away “shocked” by Ivanka’s response.

“My dad’s not a racist; he didn’t mean any of it,” Ivanka Trump reportedly said, echoing those who defended her father’s controversial statements, according to the Times. She also insisted that her father’s critics were misinterpreting his words. “That’s not what he said,” the first daughter declared.

While Cohn did not resign over the Charlottesville controversy, the episode changed his view of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, according to Ward.

He was worried, as he should have been:

Since joining the White House, Ivanka Trump has created a portfolio that includes issues that have bipartisan support and are mostly noncontroversial, CNN reported. However, Ivanka Trump’s advocacy for some issues, notably women’s empowerment and combatting sex trafficking, have bought accusations of hypocrisy because she appears to stand in opposition to White House policies and her father’s actions and rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Jared Kushner more controversially has been tasked with leading U.S. efforts to forge Middle East peace, but he has been criticized for his friendship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The two know next to nothing about most of everything, and even Daddy understood that:

“Kushner Inc.” depicts the president as going back and forth over wanting to push Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner out of the White House, especially after it occurred to him that the two, who had no experience in government service, “didn’t know how to play the game.” Individually and together, they also have generated their share of negative headlines for the White House, which became a concern for the president, according to the book.

At one point, Trump gave his former Chief of Staff John Kelly the task of getting the couple to move back to New York. But now Kelly is gone, and Ivanka Trump and Kushner are still around. It appears that the president has resigned himself to their presence or realized that he can’t rely on many others to be so loyal. According to reports, Ivanka Trump and Kushner’s power has only grown since Kelly’s departure in December.

And then there’s this:

The idea of Ivanka Trump’s “princess” complex has been reported before. In another tell-all book, published last year, “Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family,” she and her siblings “seized on the opportunity” of their father winning the presidency.

Ivanka Trump, in particular, had stars in her eyes when it came to her father’s transition and the inauguration, according to author Emily Jane Fox, who also writes for Vanity Fair. She came from a family that long hoped to fashion themselves into a “modern version of the Kennedys,” Fox wrote.

For Trump’s inauguration, the marketing-savvy Ivanka Trump “seemed particularly attuned to the stagecraft,” Fox reported. She was keen on the potential pageantry and symbolism of the occasion and worked with a stylist on devising her inauguration day outfits. She told friends she wanted a “princess moment,” according to Fox.

She got that. She is the perpetual princess now. And her husband is crown prince. His new best friend, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will show him the ropes on that, and perhaps show him the bone saws too. But this is what it is. The boss hired his kids, who knew little about anything, so expect disasters, but hey, they’re his kids. As with the impeachment, let it be. And wait.

No. Be a damn fool about it. This has to stop.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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