“From the river to the sea.”

“From the river to the sea.”

This is what I saw on a news video of a sign at a pro-Palestinian protest of Israeli brutality recently.  Rhetorical question No. 1: is there any doubt what that means? 

Following close on the heels of Rhetorical question No. 1 comes Rhetorical Question No. 2:  Were Hamas to abandon its call for the destruction of Israel and those Jews in it, is there any doubt that peace would break out within months?  I am not here to argue the justice or injustice of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.  I am not here to argue the justice or injustice of the 1948 Partition.  I am here to argue (and it should be virtually indisputable to all rational observers) that, IF the Palestinian community were to accept the 70-year-plus existence of Israel, there would be peace.  Borders would be adjusted, new settlements would be razed, and Palestinian children would not be wounded or killed by anyone’s rockets.   But that requires a collective will that the Palestinian community has not shown; in fact, it has rejected the very idea of living in peace with its neighbor.  Gaza and the West Bank voted for different leaders, but none of them have explicitly declared their allegiance to allowing Israelis to live in peace without threats from neighbors.   Their regimes, as well as that of Syria, are corrupt and eaten up with hatred. Land for peace was offered and rejected, years ago.

So all these calls for justice for Palestinians, particularly by U.S. liberals, ring hollow.

Rhetorical Questions Nos. 3 and 4:  would you rather be a Jew in Gaza or a Muslim in Tel Aviv?  Would you rather be a homosexual in Gaza or a homosexual in Tel Aviv?  Don’t be silly.  Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah truths are fundamentally (yes, that word) opposed to such freedom. Sensible people know the answer to these questions. Does Bernie Sanders?  Does Rashida Tlaib?  Or Lamont Jones? 

It’s time to think hard about truth, freedom, and peace, and what we stand for.     

“Unify the Country”–here’s how

There is a substantial group of irredentists who claim that President Biden’s call to unify the country rings hollow.  Most of them are simply disappointed that his policies differ from his predecessor.

While carpers and croakers cannot always find something to complain about, there are at least five (maybe six) things that this Administration can do that even Trumpistas should heartily endorse, thus allowing the President to take the verbal cudgels out of their hands.  He is already well on his way down many of these paths.

First, the President should announce that Antifa does not get a pass—that violence from the left deserves a firm response from law enforcement (not the Army, thankfully).  Statements from Press Secretary Jen Psaki are no substitute for a direct, forceful statement by the President, along the lines of his recent announcement that Putin does not get a pass for its misconduct.  And it wouldn’t hurt for President Biden to call the mayors of affected cities (Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, to name a few) to offer (publicly) federal assistance to quell rioting and violence, perhaps to shame them into enforcement of their laws and ordinances. 

Second, President Biden should continue to call out Putin’s Russia for its hostile actions, whether minor pinpricks such as buzzing United States ships, or major violations such as offering bounties on American military personnel, or disreputable disruptions and hacks of U.S. official and commercial interests.  There is a laundry list of Putin’s villainy, not the least of which is the attempted murder of Alexei Navalny, and the Kafkaesque imprisonment of that man for failing to report back to Russia while he was in a coma being treated for Russia’s poisoning.  The President should be able to distinguish between Putin and the Russian people in his words and deeds.

Third, President Biden should reiterate that China is an intellectual property thief and a repressive, inhuman regime.  China’s treatment of ethnic minorities, particularly the Uighurs, amounts to cultural genocide, and should be publicly condemned.  From the top.  Over and over again.  And each time Chinese-backed hackers are identified, the Justice Department should seek their extradition, and consider bringing the issue before international tribunals.  There’s nothing wrong with telling the truth.

Fourth, while President Biden and then-Secretary of State John Kerry were all-in on the original Iran deal (now called the JPCOA), times have changed.  This Administration has so far refused to buckle and let Iran off the hook for sponsoring terrorism and probable violations with respect to the enrichment of uranium. It should stick to its position.

Fifth, President Biden should continue the Trump policy of making overtures to other Arab states to further isolate the Iranians and the radical Palestinian murderers.  For too long other Arab states have been hostage to Palestinian blackmail.  At some point the Palestinian people must break free of their terrorist influencers and recognize Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.  When that happens, and hopefully in our lifetimes, peace will break out.

The five initiatives above should be no-brainers, even for Trump diehards.  But finally, and this would be Item No. 6, President Biden can be a law and order guy by enforcing immigration laws and expanding legal immigration.  Not by child separation, but by funding the Border Patrol, funding additional equipment for surveillance at the border (rather than an ineffective, expensive, and environmentally destructive “wall”), funding the hiring of screeners to weed out terrorists, funding expanded immigration courts, and hiring more immigration judges.  Ultimately, instead of the hypocrisy employed by the Trump Administration, we will have the tools to adjudicate whether people who want to become Americans have demonstrated the qualities we look for – essentially, decent people without felonies on their record.  Rational Republicans decry people violating the law and jumping to the front.  Well, the “law,” or what passed for law under the Trump Administration, was an ass.  We need more immigrants, not fewer.  The vast majority are sincere refugees and would be entitled to asylum in a rational world.  The Trump Administration essentially made them “criminals” by refusing to honor the laws.  By the way, these oft-cited “caravans” consist of relatively few people numerically (particularly when compared to 330 million Americans) and the people in them are willing to walk hundreds or even thousands of miles to come to the U.S. for better lives.   That takes a great deal of moxie.  Why should we exclude them?  They may not become hedge fund founders, but they are not freeloaders.  They are generally younger than the U.S population, they work, and they will pay taxes—more than they do now, once they are allowed out of the shadows. Look at Israel, which really is a “nation of immigrants.”  And a very successful one.  Immigrants are in many ways better citizens than those of us who had the good fortune to be born here.  A comprehensive immigration bill is the only way. This is a “first 100 days” issue.  We need to do it.  Now.  And if it is coupled with the law and order provisions, it might pass.  It will make for a younger, better, stronger America.

The next 26 days are going to be hellish, so donate NOW!

In the wake of the dismissive comments from the White House, we simply cannot rely upon the United States of America to address the urgent, immediate human crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no time left to blame the (currently absent) occupant of the White House; he ’s playing golf. Maybe he’ll sign the current compromise $900 billion stimulus package. Or maybe he won’t. Let’s show him what we can do, with or without him. No matter what we’ve done up to now, it’s time to give more. To any real charities that will do something to help the least of us. Perhaps we’ll raise only $900; perhaps $900 million. Perhaps more. I encourage everyone to think hard about whether there are people for whom Christmas has been an empty reminder of better times—and what they can do to help them.  NOW.   If not now, then when?

Please feel free to forward this to anyone who might care.

How President Biden Can Begin to Calm the Waters

It is impossible to ignore, let alone forget the Trumpian assault on our institutions.  But since nearly 74 million people chose Donald Trump over Joe Biden, our new President would be well-served by following through on his emollient comments to the American public since the election.  Nothing would be more welcome than a calm interlude during which partisanship and bitterness subside, if only slightly.   Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” That’s too much to hope for, of course. However, as a gesture to start to heal our fractured national psyche, President Biden should recognize publicly some of the accomplishments of the Trump regime.  Four major accomplishments come to mind, two of them domestic and two of them international.

First, Operation Warp Speed is the main (perhaps the only) constructive feature of the Trump Administration’s efforts to confront the worst domestic crisis since the Vietnam War — the COVID-19 pandemic.  https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/explaining-operation-warp-speed/index.html. Notwithstanding President Trump’s dangerous dismissal of the nature and severity of the pandemic, and his boneheaded endorsement of hydroxychloroquine, the development of vaccines within less than a year is noteworthy. It is difficult to imagine any vaccine gaining approval in less than 5 years, let alone multiple separate vaccines being on the track – developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, and perhaps others. And while the roughly $10 billion to pay for it was made available through Congressional action via the CARES Act, the Administration deserves credit for its support.

Second, criminal justice reform became a reality under the Trump Administration.  The First Step Act, Public Law 15-391, became law only after tortured travels through both Houses of Congress, and it had many shepherds, with wolves lurking at every corner.  Without the White House’s involvement, however fitful, the sheep would have died on the trip.

Third, the Trump Administration unapologetically identified China as an international thief and bad citizen of the world.  Previous administrations continued to pretend that the emperor had clothes — or was about to try some on.  In fact, one of the Trump campaign’s more effective commercials focused on Joe Biden’s soothing posture (from another era) to the Chinese regime.  It’s true that the Trump Administration’s response often smacked of xenophobia and convenient blame-shifting for domestic COVID-19 deaths, and also true that President Trump failed to secure Chinese respect for American companies’ intellectual property,  but the American populace is now unquestionably alerted to this global threat.  President Biden would be well-advised to maintain the firm positions of his predecessor, without the namecalling.

Fourth, the Trump Administration’s accomplishments in the Middle East provided the first glimmer of hope in over 40 years for breaking the logjam of Arab states unwilling to stray from utter loyalty to the Palestinians, no matter how closely Palestinian leadership has been aligned with Iranian misconduct and intransigent hatred of Israel.   Opinions may vary about the wisdom of exiting the initial Iran deal, but it was always no more than a stopgap measure.  The U.S. about-face regarding Iran is a breath of fresh air which underlines our belated abandonment of wishful thinking. It reflects our long-overdue recognition that the world cannot tolerate a violent, fanatical, unscrupulous, nuclear-armed Iran. And the Administration should not let up on the pressure on the Palestinians to think long and hard about their irredentist approach to Israel.

Recognition of these accomplishments may undercut, if only by a smidgen, the unreasoning hatred of the Trumpistas for the Biden-ites. But it is the right thing to do.

Free at last!

“Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” I’m talking about the backoffice celebrations by the talking heads at Fox News, not the eloquence of Martin Luther King and other civil rights heroes.  It must have been extremely disconcerting, not to mention exhausting, for the Foxers to have to defend the indefensible throughout the Trump regime.  For the last 3 ½ years this GOP house organ has had to excuse, and even stand up for, the ridiculous tweets, the outright nativism and bigotry, but even worse, the Trumpian reluctance to condemn Putin’s thugocracy, the brief love affair with Kim Jong Un, the budget-busting initiatives springing from the worst impulses of a sleazy developer, the absurd predictions about the pandemic, the “manliness” of disdaining masks, the contempt for science, the likely-illegal payments to prostitutes, and so on.  Now Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, Levin, Watters, Hilton, Gorka et al can return to a more familiar trope – the Republicans are the party of family values and personal responsibility, in contrast to the Democrats, who constitute the party of Socialism, welfare queens and riots. 

Once Mr. Trump exits, the hypocrisy will be less pronounced; unfortunately, abortion will continue to roil the waters.  And the “progressive” left, which is really not progressive, will continue to afford Fox with inviting targets.  It still astounds that the mayors of Portland and Seattle did not move swiftly to reassert community values of nonviolence and public safety.  In so doing they furnished great fodder for the Trump media blitz in the last weeks  before the election. We can expect to see those videos well into 2022, if not 2024. It just goes to show that “the gene pool has no lifeguard.”

The Most Despicable Gambit Yet

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to limit each Texas county to one drop-off location for mail ballots is the most transparently despicable act in his entire career in public life. Harris County, the state’s most populous county, spans 1,777 square miles. Voters in the town of Tomball would have to drive over 30 miles (35 minutes or more) to drop off ballots. It’s hard to imagine a more naked effort to discourage voting, particularly in Democratic bastions.

Maybe he’ll get away with it. But we should remember. In the meantime, this writer urges everyone to call the Governor’s office at (800) 843-5789 or (512) 463-1782 to express his or her views.

John Cornyn, you’re no John McCain

In August 12, 2008, during the heat of his presidential campaign against Barack Obama, a woman came up to John McCain at a campaign rally and said, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.” Without hesitation, Cain took the microphone back and said:

“No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

That was in 2008, or in the words of George Lucas,  “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

Since then, Donald Trump has campaigned for and become President, and here is a tiny sampling of what have we learned  about him — or heard from his lips:

Porn star payoffs from campaign funds (and lies about same),
mocking people with physical disabilities,
encouraging rally supporters to beat up protesters,
paying judgments by robbing a charity,
curiously expedited Chinese trademarks for family members,
taxpayers’ money going to Trump golf clubs that hired illegals and short-paid them,
leveraging foreign officials over foreign aid in “perfect phone calls” to get dirt on opponents, seeking help from Her Majesty’s Government to land the British Open at the Trump Turnberry golf course,
multiple convictions of Trump lawyers, campaign officials and other parasites for various crimes,
clearing peaceful protestors from public property in violation of their First Amendment rights (and lying about same),
making wild, unscientific recommendations about the pandemic, minimizing its consequences, and undercutting real scientists,
condemning mail-in voting as fraudulent without any basis,
attempting to defund the United States Postal Service to skew the election and impair citizens’ voting rights, even  to the point of removing mailboxes in key states,and, most recently,
in a smarmy trope reminiscent of the “birther” controversy with President Obama, wondering out loud whether Kamala Harris is really an American citizen.  

Back to John McCain.  We know what he said when someone expressed hateful ignorance about Obama’s citizenship.  Is there anything Donald Trump might do or say that would elicit disapproval (never mind condemnation) from our senior senator John Cornyn?  Most likely no reporter has been able to catch Cornyn in the hallways for comment on the issue of Senator Harris’s citizenship, but we can guess.  Based on past experience, either Senator Cornyn will mischaracterize Trump’s inquiry as legitimate or he will excuse it as unserious.  Earlier this year, Cornyn defended Trump’s decision to clear a path through peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets so he could go hold a Bible upside down and take a photo in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church as “a necessary security measure” because the protesters did not clear the area when they were asked to do so.  In other words, even though the order was blatantly illegal, the protestors were at fault.  And, when President Trump suggested that the November election might be delayed (which did not happen even during the Civil War or World War II), Senator Cornyn’s reaction was, “I think it’s a joke, I guess, I don’t know how else to interpret it,” he told reporters. “Obviously he doesn’t have the power to do that.”   

Where was the condemnation?  Or the outrage?   

Yes, 2008 was a long time ago, in a different age. 

Senator Cornyn, you served in the same Senate with John McCain, but you’re no John McCain.      

Think again!

There seems to be an assumption among Democrats that Donald Trump is so odious, dishonest, narcissistic, corrupt and petty that he cannot possibly win in November.  His impulsive, often false narratives during the pandemic and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police have cemented the Democrats’ contempt for Trump and reinforced their view that November should be a walkover.  MSNBC talking heads gleefully cite bad poll numbers, while occasionally barely nodding to the fact that the election is still 100 days away.  Trump cannot win?  

Think again.

“Defund the police.”  Is there any expression better suited to reinvigorate Donald Trump’s re-election campaign?  Where would we be without law enforcement?  The average voter still believes in policing, so this catchphrase, which has been massaged to mean many other things, is frightening.  And Trump knows this.  His ad “Abolished” capitalizes on this fear. Watch it and think again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOOlOMLaFho

There have been many sober discussions about what really needs to be done about policing–community based policing, more outreach for recruiting, better training, higher standards.  But all of these require funding.  Even if we strip the police of their surplus DoD equipment, it will take more, not less funding for such labor-intensive tasks as increased training, recruitment with higher standards, as well as quicker and more certain punishment for criminal rights violators.  How about “Reform the police?” Or “Fix the police?”

Joe Biden seems to have recognized this.  In early summer, he said, “We don’t have to defund the police departments, we have to make sure they meet minimum basic standards of decency.” https://apnews.com/afs:Content:9083703494  Decency. That’s the word that should infuse the Biden campaign.

In the era of soundbites, and the 24-hour news cycle, Trump is currently winning the war, notwithstanding the fact that all but one major media player denigrates him.  Part of the reason for this is Trump’s cavalier disregard for the truth.  He is not deterred even when decisively contradicted by a Fox News employee—Chris Wallace – on this occasion, regarding his false allegation that Biden signed a charter to defund the police. (Side note:  how does a journalist like Chris Wallace keep his job at a network so singlemindedly devoted to the President’s reelection?) 

But the Democrats have made it too easy for the incumbent.  What in the world is the Mayor of Portland thinking?  How can he not deploy the Portland police department to prevent demonstrators from trying to torch the federal building?  Mayor Wheeler may be right that the federal agents are “inflaming the situation,” but a little more common sense on Mr. Wheeler’s part would be helpful.  All he has done is provide the GOP with more video for what will be 100 days of inflammatory, deceptive advomercials for Mr. Trump.  And why won’t Lori Lightfoot admit that Chicago has a problem instead of telling Trump’s press secretary to “watch [her] mouth.” Mayor Lightfoot should be out there telling Chicagoans that if they try to torch anything, they will be dealt with. Firmly. But the Mayor is seemingly more focused on Bill Barr’s bullyboys, not law enforcement. So, think again.

The Democrats are their own worst enemy.  Trump won the last election over a qualified, capable but flawed opponent by portraying himself as caring about the Forgotten.  Ironically, this millionaire who steals from his own charity set himself up as the enemy of the uncaring Elites—the Elites who think free trade is a good thing even if it displaces some bluecollar workers, and who wring their hands over some “isolated” rough stuff (like murder) by police while being indifferent to violent civil disobedience that includes torching private shops.   .

Why is this? Marc Thiessen, one of the President’s more rational apologists (setting the bar low here), observed recently that the pandemic has impacted Trump’s voting base much more deeply than it has the upper middle class: “The brunt of the damage is not being borne by the elites who work in the information economy but by those at the middle and the bottom of the economic ladder — the forgotten Americans who were finally doing better under President Trump until this crisis arrived. Before the pandemic, the U.S. economy had added a half-million manufacturing jobs and low-wage workers were experiencing the fastest pay increases. Most of that progress has been wiped out. For these Americans, today’s lockdown seems like a return to the nightmare they experienced following the 2008 financial crisis …. Now, these Americans see the same elites dismissing their suffering once again — insisting we must continue draconian lockdown measures that are putting them on the brink of financial ruin. They see the contempt of the media elites who mock the anti-lockdown protests taking place across the country (look at those rubes, they’re not even social distancing while they march!) and who heap scorn on Trump for his focus on reopening the economy. The message they get is: The elites don’t understand the utter devastation I am experiencing, but Trump does.” 

Of course, the Republicans are their second-worst enemy. The fact that the GOP is in disarray over the next round of help for the truly downtrodden doesn’t seem to register – yet. 

My sideline, amateur, but earnest advice to the Dems is:  support “law and order” but emphasize that it means good, non-brutal policing, join in bashing China, and continue to point out Trump’s affinity for the rich, even including Ghislaine Maxwell.  Fight hard for a stimulus that focuses on the truly needy.  Finally, don’t forget the key distinguishing factor between Joe Biden and Donald Trump  — decency. SIx-pack Joe is decent in a way that Trump does not aspire to, let alone could ever become.

Decency will pave the way.

The Next President?

Greg Abbott has fired the first shots of the 2024 Abbott for President campaign.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott is more affable than the incumbent, but that is deceptive.  Students of history will remember how Dwight Eisenhower outmaneuvered Robert Taft, and then Joe McCarthy, all behind a deceptively mild façade.  Abbott is more facile than Ike, more restrained than Trump (setting the bar low here), but as hard-edged and calculating as either. The Governor’s mostly-successful effort to ban hospitals from performing “non-essential” surgeries (read: abortions) during the COVID-19 pandemic provides an excellent example of marrying allegedly highminded notions to catering to his base.  His detailed plan for a phased re-opening of Texas is a master stroke.  It calls for most establishments to reopen at 25% capacity now, and 50% capacity after an evaluation to occur around May 18.  It also distinguishes between urban and rural counties, which makes some sense but also liberates his voters, many of whom reside outside Texas’ large cities. https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-announces-phase-one-to-open-texas-establishes-statewide-minimum-standard-health-protocols

But most telling, while working in apparent tandem with the Trump Administration, the Governor has presented a plan that seems comprehensive, thoughtful, and workable, and without the haphazard caterwauling that characterizes so many Trumpian initiatives.  A few weeks ago, Abbott appointed like-minded personnel to his Strike Force to Reopen Texas—Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, along with media-savvy business types such as Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and Tilman Fertitta.  Contrast that to the revolving door in President Trump’s university (I say “university” because so many of his acolytes are “schooled” by Trump and later cast aside as scapegoats). The Governor makes no such mistakes, in part because his pronouncements are limited and nuanced.  He will not be blamed if COVID-19 cases and fatalities spike after a phased re-opening of our State.   He will simply pull back on his plan.    Although he may have been unsettled by President Trump’s 24-hour turnaround on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp for attempting to follow the President’s signals to reopen his state, Abbott retains the flexibility to slow down his initiative.

Abbott believes in “federalism”—but only to the extent it favors the position he currently occupies.  Local governments have been pilloried by Governor Abbott for years, perhaps because Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio contain voting majorities well-disposed toward his political opponents.  His plan to re-open Texas also had the effect of superseding and nullifying directives from Democratic county judges in the major urban counties (who are the chief executives for those counties), including mandatory masks, thus achieving the two-fold purpose of gratifying the base and frustrating officeholders who are political opponents.

Meanwhile, Governor Abbott has touched every radical base during his tenure.  The first eyebrow-raiser occurred early in his first term when he directed the Texas State Guard to “monitor” U.S. military exercises in central Texas (the Jade Helm exercises) so that Texans would “know that their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”  Who else but a wingnut could think that the U.S. Army was plotting to take over Texas?   Later. when Abbott signed an open carry law, he chose Red’s Indoor Range, a popular gun store and shooting range in Pflugerville, as the site for the signing ceremony.  By turns during his gubernatorial tenure, Abbott has made overtures to the anti-vaxxers and those who oppose local ordinances limiting plastic bags.  But he’s careful about it.  The Texas Supreme Court bailed him out on the plastic bag ordinance by finding that cities did not have the authority to enact such ordinances.  When Dan Patrick advocated for a “bathroom bill” to force everyone to use a restroom corresponding to the gender of their birth, and wasted a legislative session that had serious issues such as education funding to address, Abbott stood on the sidelines waiting to see what would happen.  When the bill failed, Abbott was unsoiled.  On the other hand, the Governor expressed outrage at the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision upholding gay marriage. He actively encouraged Texas’s 254 county clerks to refuse to issue marriage license to gays if their conscience forbade it.  And this from a licensed attorney and former state judge who presumably understands the meaning of Article III of the Constitution.  

Governor Abbott’s hostility to immigrants, a key ingredient of our economy, is palpable.  (Houston is home to the renowned Texas Medical Center, where at least 25% of healthcare workers, including physicians, are foreign-born.)  A few years ago, Abbott announced that Texas would refuse to admit a pitifully small number of Syrian refugees who had managed to escape Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime and had been thoroughly vetted by the Trump Administration.  (His lawsuit against the federal government was, not surprisingly, unsuccessful).   The Catholic bishops of Texas, despite hearty approval of Abbott’s strong anti-abortion stance, nonetheless condemned his stance on refugees.

Governor Abbott’s record on voting rights is reliable. That is, reliably hostile to making it less onerous to vote by mail.  He also opposes votes by non-citizens.  (Well, who doesn’t?)  A few years ago, David Whitley, the Abbott-appointed Secretary of State and chief elections officer, sought to purge over 90,000 registered voters from the rolls — wrongly.  Many of those individuals were legitimately registered and entitled to vote and Mr. Whitley had to backtrack—and resign. The Governor’s protestations that he had nothing to do with that debacle were disproved by emails showing that he was advocating strong action to purge the rolls to the officials involved before the policy was implemented.  So he’s not just a conservative, he’s a prevaricator. 

Most disturbing, Abbott has called for a national convention of the States to write a new Constitution to remedy perceived abuses by the United States Supreme Court.   Presumably he wants to make sure that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.  But the possibilities and dangers inherent in a constitutional convention are endless.  Such a convention requires just 2/3 of the state legislatures to call for it—in other words, 34 states.  Trump carried 30 states in 2016, so it could happen.   Over the last 40 years, many state legislatures have called for constitutional amendments, ranging from anti-abortion moves to a balanced federal budget to adjusting the Electoral College.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_state_applications_for_an_Article_V_Convention  The mind boggles at the thought of such a convention influenced by a President with Abbott’s inclinations.  Just imagine a new American regime, but instead of an Attorney General like William Barr, a President of similar ilk.

This man is a calm, unruffled, purposeful radical, whereas Trump is simply an impulsive, self-centered lout.  Abbott is smarter than Mike Pence (who actually visited the Mayo Clinic without a mask just this week).  He’s the governor of a large state and will receive outsized attention both within and without Texas.  And he will undoubtedly leave Nikki Haley in the dust.  That’s not necessarily based on Abbott’s talents, which are formidable, but an accident of birth and heritage.  The Republicans are not going to nominate a woman who was born Nimrata Randhawa, even if she has a “neighbor girl down the block” nickname, even if her husband is Methodist and served in the military, and even if she has slavishly complimented Mr. Trump over the last few months.  Better a handsome Anglo male than a sometimes-even-tempered woman from a deep red state like South Carolina.

You have been warned.  

This is Not Impeachable

Phase I of the “trade deal” with China is not an impeachable offense.  But President Trump, who fancies himself a master dealmaker, has once again managed to maneuver the United States out of a strong position into another unmitigated defeat.  Notwithstanding all of his foreign policy outrages and blunders, including offending most of our allies, Mr. Trump was on the side of Right when he identified China as a serial cheater deserving of retribution.  But the key issues on China trade have always been its theft of our intellectual property, often through limiting access to Chinese markets to foreign companies that shared their IP with their Chinese counterparts—and then sponsoring the theft of that IP.  Phase I of this trade deal does nothing – nada, zilch, bupkus – to address this.

What was our key leverage on China?  First, tariffs on Chinese imports.  Approximately $160 billion in tariffs were scheduled to go into effect later this month. And second, although it was not widely reported, rising citizen discontent arising from food shortages, exacerbated by a pig disease (African swine fever) that has caused the price of pork to nearly double in China.  Pork is a staple in China on most household tables.  In the last year, nearly half of China’s hog population has died, whether from the disease or slaughter.  That’s around 100 million hogs.  There aren’t enough hogs in the rest of the world to satisfy Chinese needs. So China needs our pork.

With a predictable political master stroke to enhance his personal re-election chances, Trump and his courtiers (Lighthizer, Navarro, Mnuchin, and Kudlow) abandoned the fight. We have agreed to halt the scheduled imposition of additional tariffs in Phase I, lower some existing tariffs, and (we think) secured an agreement from the Chinese to buy more of our agricultural products.  Sounds like a win-win?  Not at all. Some U.S. farmers will be happy.  But the Chinese have scored a great victory—they can continue to sell into our markets, keep their component manufacturers happy, and steal our technology while satisfying their citizenry’s need for protein.  The President has also bought a few more votes in the Midwest, enhancing his reelection chances—not to mention deflecting attention in a timely fashion from the impeachment process.  But on the key issues, Phase I is merely another example of the American President and his claque benefitting Trump while allowing the USA to be taken to the cleaners.  We have no reason to even expect a Phase II. 

What he has done is Not Impeachable, but it is incredibly damaging and boneheaded.  If one considers only American interests, Mr. Trump has now moved into second place behind Neville Chamberlain in the pantheon of Great Suckers.  The Dealmaker has sold us out and virtually guaranteed the Chinese will proceed in their planned march toward hegemony—in Asia and sooner than we should have expected, the world.