Rothman At-Large

Oblige Trump. Impeachment, Please.

June 5, 2019

Our “extremely stable genius” loves to depict himself as a victim of witch-hunters. Impeachment? Bring it on! That’s what Donald Trump has said. Although Trump has been sending off mixed signals, I still believe that he pangs for impeachment.


But what if witch-hunters and friends came up with a well-crafted impeachment strategy for the here and now—mixed with a good, actionable vision for the 2020 campaign?


The key is to make a solid case for impeachment in the Democratically controlled House while expecting that the Senate Republicans almost surely will fail to follow through. Be proactive. Vaccinate the voters ahead of time against Republican lies and excuses. Then use this outrageous stubbornness—the GOP’s protection of the odious Trump—to the Democrats’ advantage in 2020 in congressional as well as presidential campaigns.


Ahead I’ll discuss the most promising areas for an impeachment inquiry. Then I’ll tell how the full impeachment process could work politically.


For those insisting on a legalistic approach to impeachment, keep in mind that Special Counsel Robert Mueller contradicted both Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr and refused to say Trump did not obstruct justice. Mueller has broached the obstruction question in 10 instances, and hundreds of former federal prosecutors now believe that Trump would indeed face “multiple felony charges” if he were not in the Oval Office. For example, with the Russian investigation mainly in mind, Trump fired FBI director James Comey. He also tried to get rid of Mueller himself. Those are examples of starting points with which countless legal experts and voters would feel comfortable.


With an official impeachment inquiry underway, Democrats would stand more chance of obtaining the court rulings and documents they need to prove what would surely be the underlying crimes. Questions abound on matters like the bromance between Trump and his good buddy Vladimir Putin. Chances are excellent that congressional investigators will discover money laundering on behalf of Putin’s pet oligarchs.


Just by doing their jobs, congressional Democrats may also discover tax evasion, fraud and other crimes happening domestically—if we go by New York Times reports on the Trump family’s massive tax dodges in the past. And the results could be lethal to Trump as a candidate even if he is not prosecuted while in the Oval Office.


Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist in the White House, is a right-wing nut, but in speaking to journalist Michael Wolff for a book titled Siege: Trump Under Fire, he was dead on. “In the book,” as summed up by the Daily Beast, “Bannon predicts Trump’s presidency will fall after investigations into his finances reveal to his supporters that he’s not some incredible self-made billionaire, but a crook. ‘This is where it isn’t a witch hunt—even for the hard-core, this is where he turns into just a crooked business guy, and one worth $50m instead of $10bn,’ Bannon is quoted as saying. ‘Not the billionaire he said he was, just another scumbag.’”


Those facts and more could come out as a daily TV production, not only a written report. The hearings could take place while Democrats kept pounding away on bread-and-butter issues such as healthcare and wealth and income distribution, along with the increasingly saleable climate change.


Yes, many of Trump supporters live inside the Fox News bubble. But in spreading the results of their investigation, Democrats can still reach The Base through massive, well-targeted spending on programs on other networks likely to appeal to Trumpish demographic groups. They can also try social media.


Other targets of the Democrats’ pro-impeachment campaign could be:

  • Nonvoters–the real ones who elected Trump. Motivate and anger them. So many of them are young or poor and distrustful of the political system. An aggressive investigation of Trump could help win many of them over.
  • Independents upset over Trump’s abuses of the system–and open to many of the same arguments.
  • Democrats who feared the ugly discord that impeachment could spread. The revelations from the hearings could make this issue less relevant.

By enlightening the citizenry about both Trump and his senatorial stooges in one swoop, Democrats can weaken the GOP before the 2020 election, when 22 of 53 Republican Senate seats are up for grabs. A loss of just several seats would give the United States a Democratic Senate, and presumably the House would remain blue.

Meanwhile, the more mud oozes out about obstruction, Russia and the rest, the more likely Trump will regret saying he’d love impeachment. In some of his latest mixed signals, he refers to impeachment as a “dirty, filthy, disgusting word.” May the Democrats work hard to make this his overwhelming sentiment!

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Joe Biden's Kickoff Video Made Me Appreciate Mayor Pete All the More

April 28, 2019

Charlottesville. Neo-Nazis. Kluxers. Joe Biden homed in on Trumpish grotesqueries in the video kicking off his presidential bid—as if to say, “You need me to return us to the good old days of yore.” No one except bigots or Republican hacks would deny the cosmic-level threats here, or President Trump’s crooked and traitorous ways.


Why, then, did Biden’s well-crafted video disappoint me and make me grateful that more promising Democrats are running for president?


Simple. Albeit outstanding artistically, the video just reinforced a common perception of the 76-year-old Biden as more rooted in the past than eager to move on to the future. Ahead I’ll opine on my favorite of his primary rivals so far, the more forward-looking Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, while not glossing over Buttigieg’s own flaws. But first back to Uncle Joe.


A smarter video still could have reeled in viewers via Charlottesville images, but only briefly for the sake of contrast. We would have cut to Biden in a factory churning out clean electric cars, then to him on a hilltop overlooking a pastoral scene of windmills, then to Joe in a high-tech hospital room, then to him talking to workers at a bridge construction site, then to teachers at a multiracial, multi-ethnic school. All this time he would have been discussing the related issues—the environment, jobs and energy sources for the future, healthcare reform, infrastructure, education, race and immigration. Timely bread-and-butter appeals worked just fine for many Democrats during the 2016 congressional elections. America, on the other hand, is sick of Trump, even attacks on him. I love the idea of continued investigations leading perhaps to impeachment. But it’s most telling that even the Mueller Report, for now, hasn’t claimed its full due of public indignation toward the president.


The Charlottesville fixation wasn’t the Biden campaign’s only mistake in the anti-Trump video. Inflation-adjusted wages for working people have been more or less stagnant for years—before millions of young voters were even born. Is this the glorious past Biden wants to return us to? The same messes that commentators have rightly said helped give us Trump in the first place? Similarly, racism has long been a part of the American scene; and in an increasingly diverse Democratic Party, reflecting the country’s changing demographics, a 76-year-old white dude’s nostalgia just isn’t going to fly even though he says he has evolved. Same in regard to gender matters and me-too issues.


No, millions of voters have not been so enamored of America, either in recent years or going back to the late 20th century. Corporate-friendly politicians opened us up to free trade without adequate protections for workers through job retraining or decent payments to see them through the transition. The weakening of labor unions didn’t help, either.


Likewise, in past statements, Biden has unwittingly come across as too much of a creature of the Northeast, as opposed to someone in touch with the country as a whole. In 2017 at the University of Pennsylvania, Biden complained: “You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about that guy working on the assembly line making 60,000 bucks a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess in a restaurant.” Please, Joe. The real median household income in the U.S. in 2017 was a mere $61,372, well below the $92,000 in the Biden scenario.


Now, compare Biden to Democrats more in touch with America’s current and future concerns. In Pete Buttigieg, we have a relatively young Rhodes Scholar and gay veteran of Afghanistan who has wreaked miracles in turning around South Bend, Indiana. High-tech start-ups there are thriving in a former Studebaker plant, and condos are springing up downtown. Even Buttigieg’s homosexuality, in the end, may be a tailwind rather than a headwind. The most gung-ho homophobes will probably go for Trump anyway. And even some conservative voters on the fence may be swayed by Buttigieg’s brains, military service and religiosity.  


On top of everything else, the man is just plain likable. Buttigieg projects an air of calm, open-mindedness, empathy and optimism—a stark contrast to the self-absorbed, callous and grumpy Trump. Here is a devout Episcopalian willing at least to try to engage the evangelicals. He is “normal” and above-normal enough in various ways to counter the demonization of LGBT Americans. That, in turn, chips away at the credibility of Pence-style bigots, not just on gender issue but also others. Buttigieg exemplifies the competence that gender-related discrimination, just like racial and ethnic kinds, can cost the country in an era of stepped-up global competition.


Granted, Buttigieg comes with his own negatives, such as the controversy over the firing of a black police chief. Furthermore, many African-Americans in South Bend apparently regarded the mayor’s urban renew efforts as a form of at least accidental “Negro removal,” to use an old expression. If a Huffington Post article is right, that’s far from his only lapse in regard to the poor and minorities (the result not of bigotry but rather of classic technocratic lapses, such as not considering all data). What’s more, I agree with critics calling for more policy specifics from him, even though it’s clear he’s a fast learner capable of picking up ideas from others to complement his own.


The good news is that the defects are repairable—in part through the policy papers and other documents that Buttigieg has yet to share. Take race. Elizabeth Warren drew applause from black women after she came up with a plan to deal with the outrageous rate of maternal mortality among African-Americans. I want to see Buttigieg catch up in such crucial areas. As somebody interested in libraries as poverty reducers, I would urge Buttigieg to propose multiplying the number of K-12 and public librarians from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially people of color. Thousands of school librarians, particularly in minority communities, have lost their jobs in recent years amid mean-spirited budget cuts. Not the best way either to reduce poverty or help assimilate immigrants. I doubt that illiterates make the best medical technicians or computer coders.


For further inspiration, Buttigieg and his policy team should scrutinize The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future, by his rival Andrew Yang, which brilliantly lays out problems and possible solutions, such as a guaranteed income for all, including the millions of Americans whom automation will displace while enriching billionaire shareholders. Even National Review, albeit with caveats, has taken notice of Yang as a useful tracker of present and future crises.


How much better to look ahead with a fresh perspective rather than just talking over and over again about the same tired old nostrums dear to the Biden generation. Of course, if Biden can surprise us and beat Buttigieg to the punch, thereby disproving my current belief that he isn’t future-minded enough, that would be wonderful. But don’t count on it happening.

So go, Pete! Just please show us that you’ve learned your lessons from South Bend and can use policy papers, not just rhetoric and campaign glad-handing, to prove you’re sincere.

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Nancy Pelosi vs. Female Misogynists?

January 31, 2019

In a scenic mountain town in Trump country, a professional woman in her 50s scanned the front page of the local daily.


She read a headline about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump—at odds over the partial government shutdown and The Wall.


America’s oldest kindergartner had vowed to hold federal workers hostage until funding came for his monument to bigotry. FBI agents, air traffic controllers and others in crucial jobs could not do their work without worrying about getting paid. Clerks with cancer wondered where the money would come for their chemotherapy.


But guess who the professional woman sided with?


“Can you believe this?” the woman told a friend nearby. “She won’t let him give the State of the Union speech? How petty. I don’t like her.”


The friend, anti-Trump just like the newspaper reader, agreed.


Well, as it happened, Nancy Pelosi was more savvy than petty. She knew that as part of her powers, she could prevent Donald Trump from addressing the House of Representatives. And so she did—forcing Trump to reopen the government, at least temporarily. If this is “petty,” let’s see more of it. And now a question—the main one I’m addressing here: Just why do the two women and so many others hate Nancy Pelosi almost as much as they loathe Donald Trump?


No mystery about many men’s hostility toward her. They find such a powerful woman emasculating.


But what about women? The political junky who overheard the Nancy-hating in the mountain town marvels to me: “Here is a woman who has helped engineer landmark legislation, who has no scandals, who is highly successful at her job, who embraces her role as mother and grandmother, yet she is reviled by many. So she has money—I’d say most of the people in Congress do. We’re fine electing women to serve our country, but when they rise to the top of the power platform, that’s going too far. It’s too much of a threat. To get there, she must be catty, back-stabbing, bossy and bitchy, because as many women believe, that’s what you have to do to rise in your profession. So she must be that way, many think.”


Two words, in my own opinion, sum up much of the problem. Selective misogyny. The adjective is a “must” in many instances. Women can be perfectly enlightened on gender-related issues on the whole but still apparently show a touch of gender self-hatred or at least doubt in certain contexts. The newspaper reader mentioned at the start of this commentary supports the Equal Rights Amendment. What’s more, she is a career woman, a hardworking, well-regarded professional. So we’re not talking about a 19th-century level of conservatism here. Still, the misogyny factor is why, in my previous column in the Georgetown Dish, I said the Democrats cannot win in 2020 with a female at the top of the ticket. As a VP candidate? Very possibly, I’d hope. But not at the top, given the composition of the Electoral College, favoring conservative rural states. I cited research showing that ambitious, power-seeking men did well but that people often resented similar traits in women. Not just males but also females.


My own theory is that the main cause is cultural. So many women, even highly intelligent ones, at times put their brains on autopilot and often let others, especially the men in their lives, do the thinking. That’s what their mothers were expected to do, so why not? They see Nancy Pelosi as a disruptive threat to their core beliefs.


The fact that Pelosi is from the West Coast greatly compounds the perceived crime. Never mind that she grew up in Baltimore. Her mostly liberal politics, her age and her interest in power don’t help. Remember, a lot of people felt this older woman should step aside for someone younger. Would they have been so vehement if Nancy Pelosi had been a man? Hard to say. I myself worry that the Democrats have not opened up enough opportunity for younger people, but I would apply this concern to men as well as women. Still, we’re endlessly lucky in Pelosi’s case that experience triumphed; could rivals for the speakership have fared so well against Trump? Score one for the Speaker and consider anew whether her gender, not just her 78 years, got in her way when she was vying for her old job.


A redeeming trait in some people’s minds might be Nancy Pelosi’s ability to be very female in her outspokenness. She is the mother of five and is perfectly capable of scolding Trump as if he is an out-of-line preschooler. As reported in the Washington Post, she “told colleagues she was ‘trying to be the mom’ in the room when she and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were at the White House to discuss the wall with the Trump. When the occasion calls for this, she can be subtle about it in a female way. Her daughter Alexandra has said: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding. That’s all you need to know about her.”


Permanent relief from the shutdown isn’t assured, but if Nancy Pelosi wins, this will be another reminder of the dangers of misogyny and the related dissing of women. As CEOs and as investors, women have done better than men. And if Pelosi is typical, then, in the wake of the electoral victories of so many new female politicians, we might be a better country.

That’s my take on such matters. It’s all very much in the realm of opinion, and I’d love to hear from others even if they think I’m full of malarkey. How do you feel—especially in regard to why so many women, not just men, hate Nancy Pelosi?

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