Looney Tunes

First, the good news. Vaccines to combat the pandemic are on the way. They are successful and people seem to be taking the shots. Let us all celebrate these holidays in our own way. Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Enjoy Kwanza! Happy Festivus! And stay safe.

Unfortunately, the real world raises its ugly head in the form of a bin full of cartoon characters that are trying to destroy our country. In any other context it would be known as treason or sedition. Last night the worst president ever and impeached one-term president put out another of his rambling screeds about the election in a video once again shot at the White House at taxpayers’ expense. He also pardoned or commuted the sentences of 20 of his bedfellows including convicted war criminals that killed fourteen innocent Iraqi civilians and includes rotten politicians and businessmen that scammed the public for lots of money. You know, his kind of people. He also threatened to veto the stimulus relief and government funding bills (it isn’t clear that he understands that they were wrapped together and that there are different provisions in each).

Before I could post this piece, in a fit of pique because of some relatively minor provisions, Mr. Trump vetoed the massive defense spending bill. The bill originally passed with bicameral and bipartisan support sufficient to override his veto. However, the bill must pass before the new Congress forms on 3 January 2021 or they will have to start over.

All of that is more work than he has done in weeks if not months. He has given up on the pandemic entirely. Not one word from the president as we pass 320,000 Americans dead. His only nod in that direction in weeks was to warn journalists away from giving any credit for the vaccine or its distribution to the incoming administration.

So what to make of all that? Should we worry or just shake it off and hold our breath until President-elect Joe Biden takes office?

Let’s address them in reverse order. By declaring the Covid-19 relief package a “disgrace” he did a terrific political favor for the Democrats. They have been pushing for increased payments to suffering Americans since May. When Mr. Trump declared he would accept nothing less than $2,000 for each recipient, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi jumped right in and offered an amendment to the just passed bill to add that in. Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell really only allowed the bill to go to the floor to help his Senators in Georgia claim that they were looking out for the state’s citizens, he finds himself in a dilemma. He and many of his party did not want any kind of individual payments. The current $600 payment was a fig leaf meant to sound good but of little use to most Americans in financial distress. Now his party must decide for the first time in memory whether to support the president or vote against the increased payment and unmask the fact that his party really does not want to help the economy at all. They can look more hypocritical than usual, put it on record that they really don’t want to help the economy, bring down the wrath of Trump on their heads or use some legislative legerdemain to avoid the whole thing. Perhaps all of the above. To me, Mr. Trump has no real interest in any of these bills be they Covid relief or funding the military. He is angry and wants to upset the apple cart and make some kind of point to Congressional Republicans that they must be loyal to him and support his efforts to overturn the election, or he will make life very hard for them.

Mr. Trump continues to break all of the norms. Whenever we think that we have hit rock bottom, he shows us that there is no bottom. This is true of many of his actions, but it was demonstrated clearly with his latest round of pardons. The list of twenty includes three jailed Congressmen, Medicare scammers and others with connections to Mr. Trump or his influential friends. A few were convicted on drug charges that resulted in excessive sentences. Two pleaded guilty following the Mueller investigation and reflect Mr. Trump’s efforts to undo everything connected with that inquiry. The most troubling pardons were for the four military contractors working for the now defunct Blackwater security company who killed seventeen people in the Nusoor Square traffic circle in Baghdad. During their trial, they were convicted of killing fourteen of them including women and children and wounding many more. The first to open fire was sentenced to life in prison. This follows a pattern for letting convicted war criminals out of prison when they are politically connected or a Fox News personality takes an interest in the story. In this case, Pete Hegseth, a favorite of Mr. Trump on Fox News, advocated for them. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, another Trump advocate, and he is the brother of Betsy DeVos the current Secretary of Education.

As we see the way Mr. Trump’s mind works, and following reports that he plans to award a blanket pardon to himself and his family, one wonders how far this could go. Is it possible for a president to order the killing of a political rival and then pardon the killer and himself? This was something I would never ever have thought about in the past, but we now know that Mr. Trump will use any loophole or power at his disposal to benefit himself. The next Congress should take a hard look at this unfettered Constitutional power to see if it can be codified in a way that allows for some form of oversight for preventing its abuse.

We are now in Never Never Land with the outrageous lies surrounding the election results. Multiple news sources report that Mr. Trump is shutting out even his most fervent and loyal advisers and instead listening only to a bunch of crackpots that are pushing all kinds of theories as to how to over turn the election that Mr. Trump lost in a fair and open way. Perhaps the most despicable of all of these crackpot advisers is Michael Flynn, the former Army Lieutenant General and National Security Adviser who confessed twice to lying to the FBI about his dealings with Russia. He is advocating the imposition of martial law and having the Army re-run the election in the swing states that Mr. Trump lost. By all accounts Mr. Flynn (I cannot in good conscience call him “general” anymore) was an outstanding military officer and leader. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am bewildered as to what happened to him but now he is a certified nut job. He should also remember that retired military officers (they are still being paid by the government as opposed to veterans who did not serve a full career) are subject to recall to active duty at any time and are thus still prosecutable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He should look up Article 94 pertaining to mutiny and sedition.

Worse still are the 126 Members of Congress that sought to join a case before the Supreme Court in an attempt to over turn the election in four states that went for Mr. Biden. The Court threw out the case hours after the briefing was completed. (Interestingly in this Through the Looking Glass world, several of those petitioning the court were from the states that they wanted overturned. Does that mean, by their own argument, that they should not be seated when the new Congress forms in January?) None-the-less, they are persisting. There is now a plan to protest each of the Electoral College slates from six swing states when the results are to be certified by Congress on 6 January 2021. The House has enough members pledged to mount the challenge (it only takes one), but while several Senators have toyed with the idea, none have yet to come out and say that they will do it. The closest Senator to do so is the Senator-elect from Alabama. Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach, thinks it is a viable idea. Of course Mr. Tuberville also thinks the three branches of government are “you know, the House, the Senate, and the Executive.” (Maybe we should have our elected officials take the naturalized citizen civics test.) Again, they only need one and via Twitter (where else) Mr. Trump seems to think he will be the guy.

There are a number of scenarios that could play out once the slates are challenged. One includes Vice President Pence as President of the Senate substituting the “alternative” Electors put forward in several states in place of the official certified slates of Electors. As much as Mr. Pence does whatever his boss wants him to, with little to no thought as to how ethical it may be, it is a stretch for him to even consider doing such a thing and in the end, it would not work anyway. Mr. Biden will be certified has having won the election.

The point is that there are elected officials of the United States that are actively trying to over turn an election and install Donald J. Trump as dictator, Dear Leader, autocrat, whatever it is that they think he will be for them. This is a direct and threatening assault on our democracy. We need to hold these people accountable. Many news organizations have published the names of the House Members that supported over turning the election. We need to throw the bums out at the first opportunity. By the way, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy forfeited his right to ever be the Speaker of the House regardless of any turnover of the House to Republicans because of his active role in trying to overthrow the duly elected future 46th President of the United States.

In fact, I hope that the attempt to overrule the American people does go to a vote. I want it on record for all to see and for history to note, who those elected officials are that think that loyalty to one man is more important than upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution.

More worrisome for me than these Congressional shameful shenanigans is that Mr. Trump is becoming increasingly desperate and unhinged. Serious consideration should be given to invoking the 25th Amendment. I am serious and this is a serious issue. Mr. Trump is not a well man. Surrounded by others that have seemingly lost their grip on reality, all kinds of bad things can happen. So far our democracy has survived this very severe stress test. We have identified weak areas and laws that need to be strengthened, but we came closer to losing our democracy than I think most people recognize. It was not a sure thing. Thank goodness we had state and local officials willing to stand up to the bully in the White House. We may not have those same good people in the future. Now is the time to strengthen our democracy against future wannabe despots.

In the meantime we have about four more weeks to go. Despite all the public hand wringing, I think that a year from now Mr. Trump will be fully in the rear view mirror and fading into history. I do not see him as a force in the future. Meantime, we need to get through this transition period. I am not sanguine about this period. Mr. Trump and his cultists can still cause a lot of mischief before he leaves. We need to keep our guard up and our focus on the future.

I for one am looking forward to the new year.


One Comment on “Looney Tunes”

  1. elhabels says:

    Thank you, Tom!


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