Seriously?

When listening to politicians speak it is always entertaining to observe the high opinion they have of themselves. The latest entry in the comic book hero series comes from none other than Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. Toward the close of her presser today Pelosi noted that she will have to miss the San Francisco 49s playoff game because, she said, “I have, unfortunately, responsibilities to save our country from peril.”

Speaker Pelosi is very busy saving us from ourselves these days. Why just recently, on December 5, in the matter of President Trump’s impeachment she said: “If we don’t act now, we would be derelict in out duty.” By December 18 she had decided that “It is a matter of fact that the president is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy.”

On December 19, the House voted to impeach Trump along strict party lines. But soon after the urgency for action seems to have faded. As of January 8, Pelosi had still not sent the impeachment articles to the Senate; nor had she appointed impeachment managers to make the case before the Senate. Pelosi, with the support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, instead insisted that she needed to be assured that the Senate would conduct a “fair trial” before she sending the 2 impeachment articles to the Senate for trial. 

Included in Pelosi’s particulars for a fair trial is a demand that the Senate call witnesses that she declined to call when the impeachment inquiry was underway and she had the power to do so. And the Senate rules that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer find so onerous were the ones used in the impeachment trial of then President Bill Clinton. Those rules were approved at the time by all 100 Senators. Which means that Chuck Schumer voted for them the last go around. 

In the meantime, most of the Democrats in Washington, and all the senior ones, have signaled their disagreement with Trump’s decision to order the killing of Iranian General Soleimani. The latest argument is that Soleimani wasn’t an imminent threat to U.S. interests, thus the killing was illegal. That is quite an interesting argument because it implies that the U.S. President can only take action if an enemy combatant poses an imminent threat. Unless of course they are prepared to argue that Soleimani was not an enemy combatant despite the fact that he has spent decades supervising terror campaigns against the U.S. and its allies, not to mention killing American soldiers and civilians. 

The argument is especially hard to swallow when you consider that previously they had no objection to President Obama’s order to kill (without trial) Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemini-American Imam (born in Denver) who planned terrorist operations for al-Qaeda. His 16-year old son was also killed in that drone attack. Nor did Democrats object when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton successfully convinced Obama to start a war in Libya without Congressional approval. Obama said he ordered U.S. military intervention in Libya’s civil war in order to protect Libyans and enforce “the writ” of the international community. 

So judging from their behavior it would seem that what matters is who is taking action rather than what the action is. Which is why serious people do not take them seriously. 

JFB

The Ever Changing Story

She is at it again. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House who famously said we have to pass this bill to see what’s in it, has issued a conditional “never mind” in the matter of the Trump impeachment. Consider her remarks in March of this year and the subsequent path of events.

“I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this, impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.” 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

So said Nancy Pelosi in the Washington Post Magazine, March 6, 2011, as reported in the March 11, 2019 Washington Post. 

By September 24, 2019 Speaker Pelosi had changed her tune and authorized the beginning of “an impeachment inquiry” after consulting with her caucus, but without seeking a vote in the House. She assigned 6 different House Committees jurisdiction over various aspects of the inquiry.  Stating that she had “no choice” but to act, Mrs. Pelosi voiced “regret”. 

In the beginning, the inquiry was conducted not by the Judiciary Committee which had jurisdiction in prior impeachments, but by the House Intelligence committee. That arrangement allowed the inquiry to be conducted behind closed doors allowing Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to selectively leak documents and broadly hint that there was much more that he was not at liberty to reveal. 

After considerable pressure, Speaker Pelosi eventually relented and sought a floor vote authorizing an impeachment investigation. On October 31, 2019 the House voted 232-196  in favor along partisan lines. So much for the need of bipartisanship. 

Impeachment Was Always Inevitable

When Speaker Pelosi expressed regret at having “no choice” but to go forward with impeachment she did so with crocodile tears. Once they had the power, the Democrats were always going to impeach Trump. The effort began in December of 2016 before Trump had even taken the oath of office. That December, Democratic senators introduced a bill that would require the president of the United States to divest any assets that could raise a conflict of interest. The bill noted that failure to divest such assets would constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution. The senators who introduced the bill were: Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, Chris Coons, Ben Cardin and Jeff Merkly. All Democrats, they were obviously laying the groundwork for down the road if and when the opportunity presented itself.

Sure enough, by December 6 of 2017, a motion to impeach Trump was introduced that accused him, among other things, of obstruction, and associating the White House with Neo Nazism and Hatred. Democrat Al Green who introduced the motion also noted that Trump had criticized NFL players who knelt in protest during the national anthem. In the event  the resolution failed as only 58 Democrats voted for it. 

Green’s second attempt came about a month later, instigated this time by Trump’s demeaning and typically idiotic remarks about African countries. That one failed as well, but it picked up some more votes, this time garnering 66 Democratic Congressman in favor. 

The third try was even better. Ninety-five (95) Democratic Congressmen voted voted for it. This time the motion accused Trump of bringing “ridicule, disgrace and disrepute” to the office. This time though was different. The Democrats had just recently captured the House. The 95 who voted “aye” were 40% of the Democratic caucus, including the Squad, and most infamously Rashida Tlaib, who had announced “We’re going to impeach the M***F***” within hours of her swearing-in.

Democrats, now in the majority, began their next attempt to impeach Trump, this time with the backing of the Speaker. With a huge assist from Trump (naturally enough), the 4th time was luck. The vote was 232 voting “Aye” versus 196 voting “Nay”. Only 2 Democrats voted against; No current Republicans voted Yes. A former Republican, Justin Amash, who is now an independent, voted Yes. 

Once they gained the majority, leaning on the slimmest of reeds, the Democrats quickly voted two articles of impeachment. After insisting that an impeachment was such a momentous event that the case had to be bipartisan, overwhelming and compelling, Speaker Pelosi abandoned her prior position and scrambled get to the head of the parade. 

Occam’s Razor

The obvious question is: Why? Employing Occam’s Razor produces a straightforward answer.  Pelosi was about to lose control of her caucus, which now largely reflects the world view of “The Squad”. Rather than let her power slip away she decided to go the impeachment route. 

During the impeachment inquiry / hearings Speaker Pelosi insisted that impeachment inquiry proceed post haste. Which it did, in deference to the “moderate” members of the caucus who did not want to defend their seats after a long drawn out affair. So less than 3 months after the inquiry began, the full House voted 2 articles of impeachment. 

But after the vote, Speaker Pelosi seems to have had another one of those frequent changes of heart to which she is so prone. She announced that she would not yet name impeachment managers for a Senate trial. Nor would she send the just passed articles of impeachment to the Senate so that a trial could begin. It seems that she now agrees with Senator Schumer that, before that can happen, it has suddenly become imperative for the Senate to subpoena specific witnesses that she herself refused to subpoena when she had the power to do so during the House inquiry. 

So at this point, here is where we stand.

  • The Speaker of the House says that impeachment has to be bipartisan. It isn’t. The articles of impeachment passed on a party line vote.
  • The Speaker said that the impeachment case must be compelling and overwhelming. It isn’t compelling and if anything it is underwhelming. 
  • The Speaker says that in the impeachment matter she acted reluctantly. Really? There were already 3 prior attempts, the first one coming before the end of the first year of Trump’s term of office. She acted as soon as she had the votes.
  • The Speaker now insists that she wants to see a “fair trial”; that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has gone “rogue” and that he is not impartial. (Of course he isn’t; neither is she). But she seems not the least bit concerned that 5 Democratic Senators seeking the Party’s nomination have already indicated that they are going to vote to remove Trump. 
  • The Speaker had insisted that time was of the essence in seeking an impeachment vote. Now she is deliberately delaying the process so that the Senate can subpoena witnesses whom she refused to subpoena when she had the power. All to speed up the process that now has to be slowed down.

What is Going on Here?

The con here is on the moderate Democratic Congressman who are about to be sacrificed in the 2020 elections. We have seen this movie before. The moderates were sacrificed for the sake of the Obamacare vote in November of 2009; prior to that the moderates served as sacrificial lambs for the gun control vote in 1994 when Clinton was President. In each case they were wiped out in the following Congressional elections, and the progressive wing kept its grip on the party machinery. 

So the prudential question currently facing Democrats is really not primarily about impeachment and removal. That effort is doomed to failure. The real question has to do with the nature of power within the Democratic Party. Will the Party, egged on by its activists, the #Resistance, its Twitter Mob and most of all its long time office holders, virtually all of whom come from safe districts, maintain their grip on power in the Party by once again leading moderates to electoral slaughter? 

They certainly seem intent on doing so.

JFB

Progressive Failure

The current imbroglio over the impeachment of Donald J Trump, and the various investigations associated with it combine to present a text book example of why progressivism, better described as managerial socialism, is doomed to failure. Like all forms of socialism. It is doomed to failure because, seen through the progressive lens, the world is simply a series of challenges to be met on the road to perfection. Human nature, in the progressive mind, is infinitely elastic and challenges along the road can be met by scientifically discovering and implementing the right policies designed to achieve the correct outcome, which is ultimately the  perfection of man and society.

Speaker Pelosi

Progressivism has no understanding of, or framework for coping with the tragedy of the human condition. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (properly deconstructed of course) is simply a story of a problematic lack of communication between the Capulets and the Montagues. Nothing that a Blue Ribbon Panel and a little diversity training couldn’t solve. And so in the end, progressivism becomes a soulless and soul crushing bureaucracy. Managed by experts, of course. 

This is where the problem lies. The belief that we can “solve” problems emanating from the imperfections of human nature if only we adopt the right policies and procedures necessarily leads to coercive bureaucratic behavior. It won’t “solve” the problem because it can’t, but it will inevitably lead to more and more bureaucratic coercion as managers adopt tighter and tighter restrictions on individual freedom in order to achieve their desired ends.

Which brings us to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

It is often said that people argue process when they are losing the substance of a debate. That is probably true. And there should be little doubt that Trump & his sycophants are arguing a lot of about process these days. But consider this: we do not seek either justice or freedom in the abstract; we seek to achieve both in a real world that is imperfect. That requires a delicate balancing act. As part of that balancing, we require the state to meet several procedural tests before it may properly resort to coercion. And the severity of those tests ascends with the consequences of state action. 

Because the legal system takes into account the foibles of human nature, checks and balances are built into it. For instance, a person charged with a crime has the right to an attorney and the right to confront his accusers. The state may not apply new law ex post. Persons may not be made subject to double jeopardy. A person may not be compelled to testify against himself, and a refusal to testify may not be considered as evidence of guilt. The state must prove guilt, the defendant is not required to prove innocence. The state must get a search warrant from a court before conducting a search.

Norms, policies and procedures developed over time to protect the rights of the accused were obliterated in the Trump investigations, particularly by the FBI in its pursuit of evidence against Trump in the Russia collusion case. It was from this soil that his impeachment came for charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

Which brings us to the FISA Court. 

The FISA Court is unlike any other in the United States. By law it operates in secret and when the FBI seeks a warrant from the Court, there is no defense attorney to contest it.  That, and the misstatements contained in the Carter Page FISA warrants, is why Judge Rosemary M. Collyer observed that the FBI has a higher requirement of candor when submitting a request to the FISA court. In the case of Carter Page, that is a requirement the FBI spectacularly failed to meet. As a result, on December 17, 2019 Judge Collyer issued a blistering order telling the FBI to report to her by January 10, 2020 on what it has already done and what it will continue to do in the future to reform itself. The order can be found at this link. 

Which brings us to why progressivism, best described as managerial socialism, is bound to fail. For its implementation it necessarily relies on independent agencies managed by Platonic philosopher Kings divorced from the hurly burly of politics and political accountability. The predictable result is policy failure and more centralization of power in an increasingly coercive central bureaucracy whose raison d’être eventually degenerates into the accumulation of political power for its own sake. All in the name of managerial efficiency in the pursuit of an unattainable end; namely the perfection of man and society.  

None of which is to imply that Trump is innocent of abusing the power of his office. Of course he did. So did Barrack Obama and George W Bush, unless of course you think it’s just fine for the President of the U.S. to have on his desk a kill list of U.S. citizens to be summarily executed by drone strike. Or perhaps turn the IRS loose on political opponents as in the Lois Lerner affair.

But let’s go to President Clinton for an example of behavior that is more directly comparable to the behavior for which President Trump has been impeached, but Clinton was not. (He was impeached and acquitted for a whole other set of alleged misdeeds). This instance concerns a memo leaked to the Washington Times, as reported by the Washington Post. The relevant paragraph is quoted below. 

“The memo, as quoted in the [Washington] Times, said Clinton pledged to work with Yeltsin to maintain “positive” relations with the United States as both men seek reelection this year. One way to do this, the memo quoted Clinton as saying, is for Yeltsin to stop restricting poultry imports. Clinton said “this is a big issue, especially since 40 percent of U.S. poultry is produced in Arkansas,” the memo said.” See the Washington Post link here. 

So with respect to Nancy Pelosi and Company “having no choice” but to impeach Trump, spare me the sanctimony. Sure, his judgment and behavior  have been, and probably will continue to be appalling. So what else is new? But let’s not pretend that this is anything other than a progressive power play designed to court the base and short circuit voter preferences before the elections on November 3, 2020. 

Democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies on the front page in plain sight of all those willing to look.