Democracy Is Too Important To Be Left To the Lawyers. But. . .
Plus: Liz Cheney’s Red Line.
Liz Cheney made some news Saturday night at the Texas Tribune Festival by crossing a red line that she’s been reluctant to breach until now.
AUSTIN — Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said Saturday that she would be willing to campaign for Democrats as she criticized her party's acceptance of candidates who deny the results of the 2020 election.
“Yes,” Cheney said simply when asked if she’d be willing to stump for Democrats — the first time she’s said so explicitly…
Asked specifically if she’d campaign for Katie Hobbs — Lake’s Democratic opponent — Cheney said: “I am going to do everything I can to make sure that Kari Lake is not elected.”
The staunchly conservative Cheney said she continues to identify as a Republican, citing the legacy of Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower. But she made it clear that her party allegiance was not unconditional.
“I'm going to make sure Donald Trump, make sure he's not the nominee,” Cheney said. “And if he is the nominee, I won't be a Republican.”
On Trump’s testimony before the House January 6th Committee: “Any interaction that Donald Trump has with the committee will be under oath and subject to penalty of perjury.”
On Kevin McCarthy: “At every single moment, when our time of testing came and Kevin had to make a decision . . . he’s made the politically easy-for-him, or the politically expedient, decision instead of what the country needed,” she said.
On Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin: “He’s demonstrated that he’s somebody who has not bought into the toxin of Donald Trump — but he campaigned recently for Kari Lake, who’s an election denier, who is dangerous,” Cheney said. “That’s the kind of thing we cannot see in our party. We cannot see an accommodation like that, and I think it’s very important that we be clear about that.”
You can watch the whole thing here:
Happy Monday and Shana Tova!
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Democracy and the lawyers
During a taping of the “TalkingFeds” podcast at Tribfest this weekend, I offered some random thoughts about the various legal efforts to hold DJT accountable. One of them: our system shouldn’t have to depend on prosecutors to save us.
To be clear, I don’t mean any disrespect to the lawyers, even though I admit to being a longtime fan of lawyer jokes. (What do you call 500 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.) Shakespeare also had some thoughts about the profession.
But here we are; this is what we got. The legal system may be our last line of defense, and that’s a shame.
All of the guardrails we’ve relied upon — churches, the media, Congress, even the electoral system — have proven inadequate or unreliable.
So we’re left with a flawed justice system that has never been tested this way. Despite the insistence that “no one is above the law,” the reality is that no president or former president has ever been held legally accountable, and certainly never criminally charged.
Until (maybe) now.
This was not the role that Merrick Garland ever envisioned for himself.
But sometimes history plays cruel tricks, so the man who really wanted to be an attorney general in the apolitical model of Edward Levi, instead finds himself thrust onto the political barricades.
There are two vital goals here:
Holding Trump accountable for his behavior
Preventing his return to power and unleashing a Vengeance Presidency
The Department of Justice can directly address only one of those goals; the other one only indirectly. It is bound by strict limits of evidence, law, and the judgments of courts and unpredictable juries. As it should be.
But its failure to act at this point will create an enduring precedent that the presidency — unlike every other office of public trust in our system — is, in fact, above the law.
This, is why I think DOJ needs to go big. To be clear, I’d be delighted if Trump were caught in an airtight violation of say, the tax laws — but I don’t think it would be sufficient to meet the moment. The charges should be a historic marker rather than a mere legal gotcha. DOJ needs to make it abundantly and dramatically clear why it is taking such an unprecedented action: not simply because of technicalities, but because we are dealing with the sort of threat that Abraham Lincoln warned about in his January 1838 Lyceum address.
Most famously, Lincoln said: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Lincoln was, of course, foreshadowing the increasingly violent fight over slavery. But he was also warning against what he called “something of ill-omen, amongst us,” which was “the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country, the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts.…”
Anything strike you as familiar there?
Lincoln warned that “this mobocractic spirit” could break down the “strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours” — “the attachment of the People,” especially to the rule of law.
In the chaos that ensues, he said, “men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric, which for the last half century, has been the fondest hope, of the lovers of freedom, throughout the world.”
Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.
“How shall we fortify against it?" the young Lincoln asked. The rule of law, he declared, which should become the “political religion of the nation.”
Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.
As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;--let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty.
Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.
And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.
To be sure, neither Merrick Garland, nor any other prosecutor, judge, or court can make this happen.
But at this point, who else have we got?
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A polling reality check?
Some of the key findings from the new Wapo/ABC poll:
Biden’s approval rating is at 39 percent.
The likely voter model has a 51%-46% Republican-Democratic split.
Just 35% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Biden for the 2024 nomination; 56% want the party to pick someone else.
Republicans and GOP-leaning independents split 47%-46% on whether Donald Trump should be their 2024 nominee — a 20-point drop for Trump compared with his 2020 nomination.
The GOP has a big edge on economic issues; the Dems have big leads on abortion and climate issues.
How will this play out in the midterms?
Via the Wapo: “Among those who say the economy is the single most important issue in their vote, 64 percent say they would vote for the Republican in their congressional district, while 58 percent of those who cite inflation as their top issue say they would vote Republican. Among those who cite abortion as the single most important issue, 66 percent say they would vote for the Democrat in their district.”
Nate Silver says (before this latest poll): “The Polls Still Do Not Show A GOP Bounceback.”
And via Politico: “Pollsters fear they’re blowing it again in 2022.”
“Look at those losers”
From Maggie Haberman’s “Three Conversations With Donald Trump”
Can you believe these are my customers?” Donald Trump once asked while surveying the crowd in the Taj Mahal casino’s poker room. “Look at those losers,” he said to his consultant Tom O’Neil, of people spending money on the floor of the Trump Plaza casino. Visiting the Iowa State Fair as a presidential candidate in 2015, he was astounded that locals fell in line to support him because of a few free rides in his branded helicopter. In the White House, he was sometimes stunned at his own backers’ fervor, telling aides, “They’re fucking crazy.” Yet they loved him and wanted to own a piece of him, and that was what mattered most.
Speaking of interviewing DJT:
1. What just happened in Italy?
Damon Linker connects the dots:
Put it all together—populist hostility to immigration, pro-business economic policy, support for federalism, and social conservatism on religion and cultural issues—and we have an incoming coalition that overlaps in important ways with the post-Trump configuration of the Republican Party (without the embrace of election-fraud conspiracies), as well as with the current governments of Hungary and Poland, the recently elected anti-immigrant government of Sweden, and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in France.
2. Letitia James and Trump’s Costly Lies
Kim Wehle, in today’s Bulwark:
Although a trial date is likely years off, Trump has reason to worry that the law might actually stick this time around.
Bottom line: The state of New York alleges that the defendants, in their dealings with banks and insurance companies, grossly and fraudulently inflated their assets by billions of dollars—over 200 separate times—in order “to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, and to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.” According to the complaint, these asset evaluations were all done internally, so Trump can’t readily rely an it-wasn’t-me defense.
3. The Internet Is a Playground for Tyrants
Shay Khatiri writes that American complacency has let the internet become a tool of oppression for autocracies around the world—but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
The best counter-practice for free countries is to ensure that the enemies of freedom fail in restricting access. This would redound to the benefit of the United States, as well as those it would help get online. American support of VPNs to help Russians circumvent the Kremlin’s censorship is a good start, but a small one—and it wouldn’t help if Russia or another tyranny decided to cut access to the internet altogether. We have yet to see the potential of Starlink to maximize access to the internet, but its use in Ukraine is a good case to study (which was also financed by the U.S. government). And Elon Musk recently requested a waiver from sanctions to give access to the Iranians, which the Treasury Department quickly approved. A day later, green spots in Iran began popping on the Starlink tracker Satellite Map.space, proving that people were already using Starlink in Iran. Other technologies such as internet balloons show promise. Investing in such technologies is now a matter of foreign policy necessity for the United States—and it is worth remembering that the internet itself is a DARPA product.
I understand that inflation is rough, and Dems' messaging, frankly, has been malpractice grade. But man - R's do nothing except yell and point, have absolutely no plan, Trump admin verifiably contributed to the current situation - and there they are running up huge margins on these issues, just by showing up.
Same with crime: people everywhere screaming about bail and how CJ reform is failing, and Dems take the brunt of it...and yet, it's like Trump never signed (and bragged about...remember Kim K. in the oval office) the First Step Act, and people continue to ignore basic facts, including that crime ticked up significantly under Trump in 2020, that red states have dominated the top 10 in crime for years, etc.
Even immigration...thinking back to 2018, after two years of unified Republican rule, they used the "caravan" in their favor, even though it was happening entirely on their watch. I really have a tough time with all of these polls and narratives when they are so contrary to reality and recent history.
I am wondering why people think the GoP has an edge in economics (including inflation)... then I remember that people are , by and large, economic illiterates and idiots.
The reality is that a lot of this supposed concern over economics, inflation, etc. is merely a mask or rationale for voting your partisan lean/identification. Democrats have an economics disadvantage because they are identified with "socialism" (whatever that actually is in this day and age--it certainly isn't the actual dictionary definition of socialism) while the GoP is identified with good old market capitalism (which screws a lot of people over, but hey, it is the American Way).
Same thing with Law & Order.. the GoP gets an unthinking nod here for some reason--despite the fact they they are openly increasingly lawless and led by someone whop thinks that the law is for little people.
So what it REALLY comes down to is not what is actually done or doable (because the GoP has no plan or ability to "fix" the economy or curb inflation) but a combination of:
voting against whoever is in charge;
who you are most angry at because of what your central issue/value is (IOW, does abortion outweigh economics, does the election denialism outweigh other factors, and so on).
Basically a small group of voters decide things in many places, and they decide it largely on a non-rational basis, although it is rationalized through claims of voting kitchen table issues or whatever.