C’mon, Joe

Below is a link to a YouTube clip of a heavier-set Iowa voter who, after acknowledging the untoward behavior of President Trump and his cohort in Ukraine, challenged former Vice President Joe Biden face-to-face regarding the involvement of his son, Hunter, in the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. While the voter made an unfounded allegation – that Mr. Biden had sent young Biden over to Ukraine to get a job at Burisma for which he had no experience so as to sell the Ukrainans access to the presidency – his tone didn’t seem to me to be particularly antagonistic.  Mr. Biden responded with what under the circumstances was, in my view, inappropriate fervor – not unlike how I would expect Mr. Trump to react — calling the voter, a “Damn Liar,” and not so obliquely poking fun at the voter’s physique by challenging him to do pushups. Toward the end of the exchange, Mr. Biden declared: “No one has said that my son has done anything wrong.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g51dwY0wuak

C’mon, Joe.

Many of us have children, and we place the wellbeing of our kids above all else. We can understand your reluctance at a period in your life when your son, Beau, was dying during the waning months of your Vice Presidency, to deal with your other son, Hunter – who has by at least some reports achieved relatively little without using your name and position – and the lucrative, legal but patently sordid opportunity that was obviously offered to him only because he was your son and you were Vice President of the United States. The impeachment hearings made clear that the State Department raised concerns about the perception of conflict of interest manifest in Hunter’s Burisma arrangement. By all accounts, you’re an honorable man; we can sympathize with what we might surmise was your irritation and frustration that Hunter had placed you in such an embarrassing position.

At the same time, did you figure: What the hell? Hillary had the 2016 Democratic nomination sewed up; you’d never run for office again. In influential American circles, you were about to be somebody that used to be Joe Biden … so if Hunter could make a little money in a legal if smarmy way, what was the harm? If he managed to not fritter the money away, it might even help alleviate any worry you had about what would happen to him as you aged and died.

Any parent will get that. Play straight with us. We’ll understand if you use gentle language in describing your son, but play it straight. We already suspect that Hunter can’t run a two-car funeral on his own, and may have questionable scruples. We parents know that kids … are who they are. We’ll understand that you love your son, and wanted to see him get ahead as long as it was legal, even if he didn’t earn it.

Those reading these pages that know me personally are acutely aware that at times, I can be a bit … Irish, and that I’m very tribal about our children. Even so: Joe, you’re too obviously defensive. Don’t insult us by calling a voter who makes an incorrect but not (given the circumstances) entirely outrageous allegation, a “Damn Liar,” and impugn the voter’s physical appearance. Admit what all of us – even those of us that consider you the most qualified of the announced candidates to be the next president – know: that your son had no business on that board. It may not have been illegal, but it was, indeed, wrong. He should have declined the offer, but since he didn’t, you should have quashed it. Quit dodging it. Own it, and move on.

The Green and Gold After the Bye

There is little to add about a week of impeachment hearings presenting largely undisputed accounts of our Chief Executive’s scheming against another American and his rationalizers’ sophistic defenses; perhaps because this note addresses football, it occurred to me that the evidence we heard this week might best be characterized by the legendary postgame assessment once offered by late Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings Coach Denny Green: The President and his agents are … who we thought they were.

Even so, as the Green Bay Packers come off their bye week, it seems appropriate to point out this fall’s other momentous occurrence: the team’s 8 – 2 start. It enters its 6-game stretch run this weekend.

The statistical good news: Green Bay enjoys a one-game lead in the NFC North; it has beaten every NFC North opponent; if the season ended today, the team would have the second NFC playoff seed; and absent a complete implosion, the Pack should secure at least an NFC playoff spot.

The good news on offense: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers seems as good as ever and has been deadly effective in taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes. I would suggest that Aaron Jones is the best Packer running back since Ahman Green, and with Jamaal Williams as his alternate, the Packers have a strong running game. Davante Adams’ short-term injury enabled Green Bay to develop other receivers, and it can now put more credible receivers on the field on any given play than any defense can effectively cover.

The good news on defense: The unit is unquestionably improved over last year. Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark all made the list of Pro Football Focus’ top 25 pass-rushers after Week 9. I consider the defense to have been generally decent so far against the run. Middle Linebacker Blake Martinez remains a tackling demon. Jaire Alexander has been overall effective at one corner, and Kevin King has been generally credible as the “other” corner.  (More on the Packer secondary below.)

All that said … I would submit that the team is not as good as its 8-2 record would indicate. It is arguable that Green Bay could just as easily be 5-5, perhaps worse.

Although the team deserves kudos for exploiting the breaks it has received, Green Bay has been … lucky. It got to play a lot of its early games at home, while the offense was learning Coach Matt LaFleur’s new system; but more importantly, it seems – even if one is an avid Packer-backer – that the team has been the recipient of a lot of advantageous calls and situations through its first 10 games. Officials’ mistakes clearly led to Green Bay’s win over the Detroit. The Packers won their first game in part due to questionable decision-making by Chicago Quarterback Mitch Trubisky. They won their second by catching Minnesota before Vikings’ Quarterback Kirk Cousins found his groove. Their third win demonstrated that Denver Quarterback Joe Flacco’s best days are behind him. Their road win over Dallas resulted primarily from Cowboy turnovers. The Oakland game was in doubt until Quarterback David Carr’s ill-conceived attempt to extend the ball over the Green Bay goal line resulted in a fumble that completely altered the game. They eked out a victory over Kansas City without playing NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. They secured their last victory on what seemed to me to be a somewhat questionable call that the Carolina running back was stopped short of the Green Bay goal line as time expired.

I would suggest that Green Bay’s offensive pass protection has been uneven.  The team’s renowned left tackle, David Bahktiari, hasn’t appeared as solid as in past years. If Mr. Rodgers was any less mobile than he is, the team’s impressive receiving corps would perhaps be of limited value.  Weak pass protection could be hard to correct, and might haunt Green Bay when it plays the San Francisco 49ers — who feature the best pass rush in football – this weekend.

Moreover, I would submit that although the team’s secondary seems manned by a strong blend of experience and talented young athletes, its most critical defensive weakness has been its pass coverage.  It gives up too many big plays. The team’s two losses have come against two very able veteran Quarterbacks, Carson Wentz and Philip Rivers. There has been a stream of blown coverages over many weeks, and the middle of the field is frequently open. The League has recognized that the young secondary hasn’t yet figured out how to cover crossing routes. After the promising start, veteran Adrian Amos and Packers’ first round draft pick Darnell Savage have more recently appeared to make every opposing tight end look a Hall of Famer.

On a brighter note: the secondary is young, fast, aggressive, and athletic. Blown assignments and deficient crossing coverage techniques are vulnerabilities that young, able athletes can perhaps improve upon. If Green Bay can shore up its pass coverages, it might make a real run. If it can’t, it could well be fodder down the road for a hot Kirk Cousins, a Drew Brees, a Russell Wilson, or – if it would somehow manage to get that far – a Tom Brady. Their next receiving test will be the 49ers’ Tight End George Kittle, one of the best in the NFL. Mr. Kittle has missed San Francisco’s recent games; perhaps Green Bay will catch another break if he is not sufficiently recovered to play.

And yet … I’m not sure that there has ever been a season that I’ve more appreciated the Packers. Despite the NFL’s commercialism, apparent inability to control unwarranted player ferocity, and the indisputable evidence of brain injuries and other physical damage the game wreaks on its players (I hope that none of our grandsons ever play the game), the Packers are the one diversion that actually takes my mind from the constitutional challenges confronting our nation. So indeed, this weekend … I’ll be Waiting All Day for Sunday Night …

Nancy’s Percolating Brew … and a Pitch for Mitch

Two unrelated — or perhaps in one respect, not so unrelated — impressions arising from the week’s events …

I suggested not long ago that I suspected that Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s goal in instituting impeachment proceedings is — through the continual drip of incriminating information about President Trump and his agents and without regard to the outcome of the inevitable Senate trial — to politically weaken the President with that small (but likely electorally decisive) segment of voters who aren’t already irrevocably committed to or against him. (This goal being in addition to the most important: that Mr. Trump’s undisputed interaction with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy constituted an abuse of power sufficient to warrant his removal from office.) Some opine that the hearings won’t change any minds. I disagree. While the testimony of State Department Officials William Taylor and George Kent perhaps merely reinforced the pre-existing impressions of the voters following the proceedings, I thought Friday’s testimony by Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine that Mr. Trump summarily dismissed after she was shamelessly smeared by his agent, Rudy Giuliani, and whom Mr. Trump himself maligned during his July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelenskyy … was, politically, devastatingly effective. Although the President’s Republican House defenders were technically correct that Amb. Yovanovitch, having been removed months before the Presidents’ July call, had little to add to the crux of the Democrats’ central impeachment allegations (although her testimony did demonstrate a pattern of behavior by the President’s agents to pursue his interests above the nation’s), her controlled but obviously distraught (at times, you could see her eyes glisten) description of the way she was driven out of her post by bullies when she had done nothing wrong, her career irreparably changed and leaving her and her family emotionally abused – was, in my view, a damning account. Mr. Trump is already relatively weaker with women, our majority voting segment. If the Democrats can’t develop 2020 campaign ads — depicting the President’s live tweet during the hearing, “Everywhere Marie Yavonovitch went turned bad,” and Ms. Yovanovitch’s visibly distressed reaction — that will viscerally resonate with those Republican and Independent women in swing states who are already uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s selfish bullyboy tactics, they don’t deserve to win the election. I would submit that Ms. Pelosi’s percolating Election Day brew got a notable boost in flavor this week.

Years and years ago, due to his support of legislation that would be very beneficial to my organization’s primary customers, I gave a very small personal contribution to a campaign of Republican U.S. IA Sen. Chuck Grassley. My reward for that contribution was being placed on Sen. Grassley’s contributors list. For years, I received his solicitations, which I tossed. I was finally moved to write Mr. Grassley — in an appropriate tone 😉 – taking issue with his partisanship and positions. The Senator did not thereafter cease the behavior that concerned me; he did, however, seemingly take me off his mailing list.

Until this week. Perhaps through a glitch in the Republican National Committee’s direct mail systems, I got a letter from Sen. Grassley, asking me to contribute – not to his campaign, but to that of … U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Mr. Grassley declares how Mr. McConnell “… as Senate Majority Leader … is showing everyone that he’ll stand strongly in the face of a radical Democratic Party that is embracing socialism and is rabidly obsessed with destroying President Trump …. [Democrats will] spend millions of dollars smearing Senator McConnell with reckless, false attacks …. [U]ltra-rich leftists, radical environmentalists, anti-gun activists, pro-abortion supporters, coastal elites, and a nationwide army of angry liberals will do whatever it takes to try to defeat President Trump…. [If Mr. McConnell] is defeated in Kentucky … there [will] be another liberal in the Senate taking marching orders from Chuck Schumer …. That is why I am asking you to support Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign. It’s important for Iowa, and for all of America, for him to continue leading Republicans in the Senate.”

I’ve never received a Democratic solicitation; I suspect that they are similarly full of inflammatory hyperbole. It did occur to me how seemingly odd it was for Sen. McConnell to be reaching all the way into the Midwest for support in a race that he should handily win in a strongly red state. It brought to mind comments I’ve heard in recent months from a close friend located much closer to the Bluegrass State than I am, who asserts that Mr. McConnell can be beaten by the Kentucky Democrats’ leading Senate candidate, Amy McGrath, a 20-year Lt. Col. Marine fighter pilot. By the looks of this solicitation, Mr. McConnell agrees with our friend. Mr. McConnell’s stout support of a President who appears to enjoy intimidating women may not serve him so well if he’s up against a 20-year celebrated female Marine …

I Cede the Rest of My Time …

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. … I am embarrassed that these gentlemen have to sit here today. The President says, “Read the Transcript.” Actually, it’s not a transcript, it’s a Memorandum – but I did read it. What I saw was an American President asking the leader of a foreign country to help him against another American. It was despicable. He is obviously unworthy of the office he holds, and of us. But what is equally despicable is that our Republican members are too cowed, too gutless, too worried about losing their own little hallowed seats, to do their Constitutional duty. Collegiality is important, but this is more so. You know — you know — what he did was wrong. Donald Trump will always be a rip in our national fabric, but we can mend that and move on. What is going to be harder to recover from is the realization that at this moment in our history, half the members of the Congress of the United States abandoned their sacred duty … simply to save their own hides.

I cede the rest of my time …