On the Foxconn Unraveling and Related Reflections

This supplements earlier references in these pages to Wisconsin’s relationship with Foxconn: a transaction that is now becoming almost undisputedly recognized as a fiasco. Despite Foxconn’s recent declaration – after jawboning by President Trump – that the facility will include manufacturing capability, upon hearing of the Foxconn statement, I had the same thought as set forth by Charlie Sykes in The Bulwark article linked below:

“[The Foxconn statement about maintaining manufacturing at the Wisconsin facility] seemed driven more by a desire to kiss the president’s ring than by business realities. So what will Foxconn do? Short term, they are likely to maintain a sort of Trumpian Potemkin village in Wisconsin to keep up the appearance that the company is doing Trump’s bidding. [My emphasis].”


Mr. Sykes clearly implies that he believes that Foxconn simply intends to wait out Mr. Trump. If the President’s political fortunes continue to slide, it would seem likely that Foxconn will ultimately quietly scuttle its Racine manufacturing plans with no real fear of U. S. reprisal … but with possibly significant consequences for Mr. Trump’s potentially-pivotal 2020 Wisconsin electoral prospects.

Mr. Sykes’ comment reminded me of a reference in a recent Wall Street Journal piece about current U.S. – E.U. trade negotiations, which suggested that in the face of aggressive U.S. demands, one of the E.U.’s strategies may be simply … to wait out the Trump Administration.  As recently as last Friday, the Journal similarly reported that in current U.S.-China trade negotiations, “…Chinese officials seem confident of a deal because they believe Mr. Trump needs the political boost … The Chinese team came [to the negotiating table the week of January 28] with very few new proposals … Instead, the officials largely reiterated [past Chinese] pledges ….”

If the President’s political standing doesn’t improve, Mr. Trump and his team may find that over the next two years, delay and retrenchment become favored tactics across a wide spectrum of those from whom the Administration is seeking concessions.

On William Barr’s Nomination for Attorney General: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there ;).

I understand that William Barr’s nomination for Attorney General will be reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. While I appreciate the unease that Democrats feel regarding the prospect of Mr. Barr’s directing the Special Counsel inquiry, I would suggest that their concerns are insufficient to reject his nomination. I would vote to confirm Mr. Barr as Attorney General.

As noted in Part I of this post, no one questions Mr. Barr’s objective qualifications to serve as U.S. Attorney General. The majority of Democrats’ concerns center on the memo he provided to the Justice Department (and President Trump’s legal team) in June of this year. While it strains credulity to discount the notion that Mr. Barr intended this memo as an application for the A.G. position, surprisingly little of the commentary I have heard has remarked upon what I consider a pertinent fact: that Mr. Barr’s apparent defense of the President was limited to what he considered, on public policy grounds, as an inappropriate expansion of the applicability of the federal obstruction of justice statute to acts of Executive discretion. Interestingly, he was making the case against such expansion at a time when conventional wisdom held (and apparently the President and his advisors believed) that Mr. Trump’s legal transgression, if any, had more or less arisen from an inadvertent obstruction of justice borne of his New York real estate instincts.

Beginning with Donald Trump, Jr.’s 2017 admission that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting involved a discussion of how Russian representatives could provide the Trump Campaign information damaging to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a string of ever-more-damning revelations seems to be casting aside the previously prevailing impression that in their dealings with the Russians, members of the Trump campaign were shady dupes rather than active conspirators. Now, we have seen serious indications that (1) agents of the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email server; (2) the Russian agents delivered the hacked emails to Wikileaks; and (3) Wikileaks was in communication with Mr. Trump’s longtime confidant, Roger Stone. Subject to correction by the learned eyes that read these pages, I understand that if Mr. Mueller is able to establish that Wikileaks affirmatively coordinated with the Trump Campaign, through Mr. Stone or otherwise, to “drop” electronically stolen DNC emails damaging to Ms. Clinton at times opportune to the Trump Campaign … that’s a criminal conspiracy.

It should seemingly be noted that Mr. Barr said little in his memo regarding the ramifications that would ensue if the Special Counsel presented solid evidence showing that the Trump Campaign had criminally conspired with the Russian Government against Sec. Clinton – and that what he did say, in light of current circumstances, may provide scant comfort to the President: “If [the President and his campaign engaged in illegal collusion], then the issue of ‘obstruction’ is a sideshow … Mueller should get on with the task at hand and reach a conclusion on collusion.

Partisans on both sides are currently all too-ready to impute ulterior motives to those with whom they disagree. If solid evidence that senior members of the Trump Campaign illegally colluded with Russia is presented to Mr. Barr by a universally-respected investigator, I suggest that one need assume either that he will bring the information to the Congress, or that he is a partisan – indeed, traitorous – blackguard. I am willing to believe, unless and until I have evidence to the contrary, that Mr. Barr will do what is necessary to protect the United States while conducting his duty. While he clearly auditioned for the position he will now hold, it should not be forgotten: that his opinions regarding the President’s constitutional prerogatives and the limitations of the federal obstruction of justice statute are legally defensible; that he is not a longtime confidant of President Trump, having risen in the G.H.W. Bush administration; that he has testified that he has respect for the Special Counsel, and does not believe that Mr. Mueller would engage in a “Witch Hunt”; and that he has indicated that he will release as much of the Mueller Report to the public as he can in accordance with DOJ guidelines. I judge his qualified responses regarding release of the Mueller report and any conflict of issues he might have to comport with what one would expect from an able, savvy public servant intent on keeping his options open. Even if he doesn’t release Mr. Mueller’s full report to the public (which could be for completely justifiable grounds such as protection of CIA and FBI sources and methods), it doesn’t mean that he won’t make the entire report available in closed session to appropriate members of Congress if there is evidence of behavior threatening to the Republic. I suspect that he will ultimately opt to release the full report, for two reasons: his failure to do so will raise doubts about his role in the process, and … it will inevitably get out anyway.

There is reportedly some Democratic concern that Mr. Barr might redact parts of the Mueller Report dealing with President Trump’s behavior because there can be no recourse against Mr. Trump arising out of the Special Counsel’s investigation; a sitting President cannot be indicted under DOJ guidelines. Even if such would be the case, I would offer that Democrats’ concerns are misplaced. I don’t believe that there is a DOJ policy against indicting a President’s relatives. If the Mueller team has uncovered solid evidence of collusion between senior Trump Campaign officials and Russian operatives, it will almost certainly implicate Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner; if indictments of those worthies are handed down, the media focus on their criminal proceedings will not only be tantamount to indicting the President, it will emasculate what remains of his presidency. We could ironically end up with a situation in which Republicans want the President removed from office, so they can begin a political recovery under then-President Pence, while Democrats are content to have Mr. Trump swing in the political winds.

Making Federal Election Day a National Holiday

I assume that most are now aware that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sharply criticized House Democrats’ Bill HR-1, which includes, among other electoral reform changes, a provision designating federal election days as paid holidays for federal workers. (There are many parts of the bill that seem, at least as reported, sensible to me, but I haven’t read the bill and a reaction to its overall effect is beyond the scope of this note and at least as of today, my ken.) No end of pundits have hooted at Sen. McConnell’s comments, noting that they constitute a tacit admission of what voting statistics have consistently shown for quite a while: at least in politically purple areas of the country, the more people that vote, the better the Democrats fare.

While I deplore Mr. McConnell’s obvious sentiment – as dewy-eyed as I know it sounds, every American should hope that every American that is legally eligible to vote does so – I concur with the premise that we do not need additional federal cost without productivity at a time of spiraling deficits. I would suggest that Democrats call Mr. McConnell’s bid, and raise: offer a separate bill that makes federal election days national holidays (a counter that would cover all of our nation’s workers, not just federal employees) while providing that Presidents’ Day (which is apparently technically still called, “Washington’s Birthday”) shall only be observed as a national holiday in years in which federal elections are not held. (I originally considered the notion that Election Day replace Columbus Day, which is closer on the calendar to federal election days, but I understand that not all states heed Columbus Day.) It does not seem Noise to suggest that the Father of our Nation might consider a change to federal law that made it easier for more Americans to vote a greater testament to his legacy than remembering his birthday; I know I would.

Such a modification to the Democrats’ current measure would facilitate voting by our citizens while not increasing federal costs. [Somehow, I still don’t think Sen. McConnell will go for it ;)].

First Warmups: 2020 Democratic Presidential Sweepstakes

Last week’s Presidential Sweepstakes news might be considered a bit disheartening for those whose primary objective for the 2020 Presidential Election is defeating President Trump (although I would venture that the President’s supporters probably didn’t consider the rest of week’s news particularly heartening). As the Special Prosecutor’s investigation and report remain in process:

  1. My initial reaction to Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), now that I’ve heard parts of her speech themes and researched a bit further into her background and positions, is that she’d be an ideal Democratic opponent from Mr. Trump’s point of view: an underqualified (I would submit that being a prosecutor and two-year Senator do not constitute sufficient presidential qualifications), avid progressive who will be certain to win California and New York … and against whom, as things stand today, the President would arguably have a realistic hope of holding Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia while making the Democrats work to hold Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Attached is a December, 2018, link to an article setting forth what various professional political operatives see as the 2020 Presidential swing states.




  1. If former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decides to run as an independent, Mr. Trump’s chances to be re-elected are significantly enhanced. I have always felt — long before I was aware that the Bush family felt the same – that Ross Perot siphoned enough votes away from President G.H.W. Bush in a sufficient number of states to tip the race to then-Candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.


  1. Former Vice President Joe Biden is waiting too long to declare his intentions. While all understood that he had no heart for a 2016 due to the loss of his son, saying that he’s got “family concerns” holding up his decision at this point is simply dithering. By this time, he should either have made peace with his family concerns … or realized that he can’t, and said so.  In the first full week of January of this year, he should have come to the podium and either declared for the presidency — thereby freezing out some centrists who probably won’t run if he does — or indicated that he wasn’t going to run, enabling those centrists to get in and counteract the early momentum of the avid progressives who, I would suggest, will make easier matchup opponents for the President.  Mr. Biden needs to get in … or get out.


  1. Finally, a run that will most probably be merely a footnote to the 2020 race that nonetheless gives me hope for the future: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Buttigieg is one of the announced hopefuls that I had never heard of before he declared. The Mayor, 37, an Afghanistan veteran and the first openly gay candidate to seek the presidency, is impressive, and provides what I find a powerful nonpartisan cross-generational message regarding our need to prepare for the changes to our people’s lives and occupations being and to be caused by automation. (Attached is a link to his video.) I believe that we could be very well served by electing Mr. Buttigieg president … some day. The mayoralty of a small Midwestern city does not provide sufficient grounding for the presidency; he needs some seasoning as Indiana’s Governor or U.S. Senator.





Much more to come.

On Delaying the State of the Union Address

Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States provides, in part, as follows:

“[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend for their consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient ….”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated that President Trump is not welcome to deliver the State of the Union address in the Chamber of the House of Representatives as long as the current government shutdown lasts. Although the Constitution does not provide that the President shall deliver his view of the State of the Union to the Congress every January (or even annually), nor indicate that the President needs an invitation from the Speaker of the House to do so, that’s the way it’s gone throughout my reasonably long lifetime. I’ve seen recent media accounts reporting that except in a relatively few nonpartisan instances, each of our Presidents since Woodrow Wilson in 1913 have come to Capitol Hill and delivered a State of the Union address.

Anyone that digs far back into these pages will find that I have repeatedly lambasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his refusal to allow either Senate hearings or a Senate vote on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Sen. McConnell’s motives were blatantly partisan; he realized that hearings would demonstrate that Judge Garland was a well-qualified candidate for the Supreme Court, and that the Senate’s inevitable rejection of the nomination (because Judge Garland was considered too liberal for conservatives) would be castigated as flagrantly political. Mr. McConnell’s actions constituted an abject dereliction of duty.

I don’t believe that those of us that advocate for adherence to the rule of law – or even simply to our traditions – should feel free to abandon that stance when maintaining it is less comfortable. Although Ms. Pelosi originally cited security concerns as a subterfuge for delaying the President’s Address, it is glaringly obvious that she wishes to prevent the President from using the Address to assert his view of our need for the border wall – and to cast blame for the current government shutdown on Democrats – while leveraging Congressional trappings to enhance his credibility.

I find the President’s assertions regarding the need to extend a southern border wall to be based on fabrication and bigotry; given his messaging, I consider Mr. Trump’s “Wall” to be, symbolically, akin to the Nazi Swastika. He is an unscrupulous reality show charlatan that manipulates a segment of our people’s darkest fears and instincts for his own advantage. I have sympathy for Ms. Pelosi’s desire to deny the President an august forum to spread disinformation with overtones of racial bias. In the context of the current dispute, it was an adroit maneuver, and I acknowledge that it may have avoided a fraught scene that every American would find alarming. It nonetheless seems to me that her refusal to allow the President to speak until the shutdown ends constitutes an abandonment of her responsibilities not that unlike Mr. McConnell’s actions with regard to Judge Garland.

Mr. Trump is the President of the United States. The Constitution mandates that he provide Congress information regarding the state of nation from time to time (now, by longstanding custom, in January on Capitol Hill), “… and recommend for their consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient ….” The fact that what Mr. Trump “judge[s] necessary and expedient” is abhorrent to many of us is not, in my view, sufficient ground to deny him the House pulpit. Although this is an extreme (and hopefully unique) example of such a virulent dispute, what happens the next time that the President and the Speaker are from different parties? Would it have been appropriate for former Republican House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan to have refused to invite Democratic President Barack Obama to speak until he agreed to water down the Affordable Care Act?

I think it would have been wiser for Ms. Pelosi to let Mr. Trump deliver the State of the Union in the traditional manner, with Democrats providing a rebuttal in a suitably impressive setting (I can’t believe they couldn’t find one) immediately thereafter. Mr. Obama, significantly more popular than his successor, would seem the obvious choice to deliver such a response.

Perhaps as great a danger of Mr. Trump’s presidency as the lies and hate he spews is the way he has taken us to the tops of so many slippery slopes.

Democratic Presidential Nomination: Early Musings

As anyone within reach of media is aware, California Sen. Kamala Harris has just announced her candidacy to be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee. She has joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and several other people you (or at least I) have never heard of as announced candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. There are obviously many more prospective presidents intending to enter the race, rumored to include former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke; one will obviously need a huge screen – both wide and high — to watch any early debates among the Democratic hopefuls.

First, an admission (although one of which I’m confident that anyone reading these pages is already aware): it is virtually inconceivable that I won’t vote for whomever the Democrats nominate if President Trump is the Republican nominee. I have heard it reported that Mr. Biden has asserted that the primary consideration for Democrats in choosing a nominee should be who can beat the President; while I wholeheartedly echo Mr. Biden’s sentiments, I would add a second factor, which Mr. Biden has seemingly taken for granted: that the nominee actually be qualified to be president.

As part of a November piece posing that the President might ultimately choose not seek re-election, I noted that despite former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s obvious weaknesses as a candidate, she still won 232 Electoral College votes in 2016; I suggested that “any reasonably acceptable” Democratic nominee running against Mr. Trump in 2020 might understandably anticipate readily carrying the states Ms. Clinton had won, and that to win the presidency, the Democrat might therefore only need to win Pennsylvania (20 Electoral College votes), Michigan (16), and Wisconsin (10)—three states that no one had expected Mr. Trump to win – or, instead of Wisconsin, Arizona (11) (a state which the 2018 GOP Senatorial candidate narrowly lost after unabashedly embracing Mr. Trump).

This is not a handicapping note; it is clear that at least half of the Democrats who intend to seek the 2020 presidential nomination are yet to declare. However, since I am fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate, given the barrage of presidential campaign ads that await Wisconsinites in the fall of 2020) to live in what may be the ultimate swing state, I have the following early impressions as to some of the factors that might affect the Democratic nominee’s chances to defeat the President, admittedly influenced by my instincts as to what type of candidate can beat Mr. Trump in Wisconsin:

  1. S/he will have to look strong on the stage against the President.  Even aside from the mantle of the presidency, he is a master at diminishing the stature of his opponent (ask Messrs. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, among others). Americans will not hire a weakling.


  1. S/he will have to have the requisite knowledge and experience.  I suspect that a number of marginal Trump voters now appreciate that not everyone can do this job; Democrats should nominate someone who is perceived as not only able to stand up to Mr. Trump, but also to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.


  1. No “identity” candidates. Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe positively gushes when talking about all of the qualified women running for the Democratic nomination. Ms. Brzezinski lives in an elitist bubble. Our people want candidates that are interested in helping them. Any candidate that emphasizes his/her identity differentiator will, in my view, lose to Mr. Trump. Stick to the issues; let identity speak for itself (as then-Candidate Barack Obama did, brilliantly, in 2008).


  1. No shiny new toys. I understand that Mr. O’Rourke may be preaching “Hope” as did Mr. Obama, but Mr. O’Rourke couldn’t even win his own state’s Senate seat. His national experience is six years as the El Paso representative.  (Although I credit Mr. Obama for using his charisma to pull us out of the Great Recession, I would suggest that his four years in the Senate ultimately proved to be insufficient grounding for the presidency.) Millennials may be coming, but older people vote in stronger numbers.


  1. No overtly progressive candidates. A debate is reportedly raging within the Democratic Party as to whether it should go further left, in the manner of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or more to the center in the manner of … Bill Clinton. If winning the presidency is the Democrats’ goal, this seems to me to be an unproductive debate. The Democrats need the center to win. Independents’ and party moderates’ concerns about Mr. Trump center upon his demeanor, his veracity, his biases, and his disregard for our institutions, and much less on his substantive policies (whether they should be concerned with the latter is a separate issue). Given their abhorrence for Mr. Trump, all liberals will vote for whomever is the Democratic nominee. The conservative media will be very effective at painting any avowedly progressive Democratic candidate in scary tones. Don’t put up a candidate that some of Mr. Trump’s now-uncertain followers may be persuaded to find as alarming as he is.


  1. No unlikeable candidates (as contrasted with the affirmative need to be “likeable”). Mr. Trump is sufficiently unlikeable to a sufficient number of voters that there is no need for the Democrat to dazzle the voters … but s/he can’t be irritating in his/her own right. This may be a drawback for Ms. Warren, who occasionally seems too much the nagging schoolmarm.


  1. Have a credible plan to address the needs of a large swath of our economically desperate people. Mr. Trump’s supporters that yearn for a culturally homogeneous America are appropriately unreachable by a Democrat. The Democratic candidate must persuade those Trump supporters whose primary frustration is the lack of economic attention paid to them by both parties over the last 40 years that s/he hears them and has a plan to help them. Since polls show that most Americans now view the 2017 tax cut as primarily benefiting the rich, Mr. Trump may well have squandered his goodwill with this segment of his 2016 supporters.


I would submit that presidential elections are like football and basketball games: victory frequently depends upon matchups. Despite Democrats’ desire to emphasize their diversity, my current inclination is that their best chance to defeat President Trump would be to nominate either Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg; either has the gravitas to hold the stage against the President, can’t easily be painted as scary, and age won’t be a notable drawback. On the other hand, if the Republicans ultimately nominate a candidate not appreciably tarnished by Mr. Trump — for example, Nikki Haley — the matchup factors influencing victory might drastically change, and perhaps afford a different Democratic nominee greater electoral opportunity.  Much more to come.

Shifting Shutdown Stakes

Liberal talking heads are chortling about the latest polls setting forth Americans’ views regarding responsibility for the government shutdown [approximately 50% blame President Trump, 35% blame Congressional Democrats and 5% (from a certain perspective, perhaps the most discerning) blame Senate Republicans], and suggesting that the two sides are now so deeply entrenched that only an occurrence such as a general travel shutdown or air disaster – perhaps due to the absence of sufficient air traffic controllers or TSA officials – will bring it to an end.  These same liberal pundits clearly believe that if such an event occurs, it will be predominantly blamed on the President.  I’m not so sure.  One could pose that as things stand today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have more at risk than Mr. Trump if there is a calamity or dramatic disruption in our people’s lives attributable to the shutdown.

First, Mr. Trump:  he has nothing to lose by holding out.  The 35% of our people that currently blame Democrats for the shutdown are his core base, and no disruptive or tragic circumstance is going to alter their opinion that the shutdown was caused by the Democrats.  The only thing that could damage his standing with his supporters would be his abandonment of his position; if he does so, he’ll be assailed as a weak capitulator by the alt-right and scorned as an impotent loser by the avid left.  (It is no small irony that alt-right commentators, and not his detractors, goaded him into the contest that now threatens the viability of his presidency.)  He does, moreover, have a unique advantage:  he cares only about himself.  What the shutdown is doing to others is of interest to him only insofar as it reflects on him.

Ms. Pelosi and Democrats face a different challenge:  while a portion of the liberal base (the alt-left, if you will) may be so interested in defeating Mr. Trump that they have lost perspective as to where the goal posts are, the real public relations battle here is over the impressions of independents and moderates of both parties.  Currently, these remain with the Democrats, undoubtedly due in significant measure to the President’s tactically idiotic public assumption of responsibility for the shutdown.  However, none of the reporting I’ve seen has shown the Democrats to have effectively articulated the moral case against the wall arising from Mr. Trump’s many bigoted pronouncements, nor have they made any meaningful effort to increase pressure on Senate Republicans by repeatedly informing the public that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to take up measures that Senate Republicans approved before the shutdown began.

Which causes me to suggest:  if Democrats sit on their hands and rely on current polls, and there is a tragedy or widespread disturbance in Americans’ lives arising from the shutdown, many of our citizens – already possessed of deep reservations about whether our government works any more – will blame both sides.  Confidence in our system will be yet further degraded.  It would call into further question Democrats’ premise that we are best served by a strong governmental presence.  Any outcome which further erodes our people’s already terribly-frayed trust may initially inure to the benefit of Republicans – who have little use for government – but, I would submit, ultimately benefits no American, because there have been few points in our history when we have been more in need of sound governance.

Although I’m obviously not shy about adding my two cents regarding what might be done to address a difficult situation, I have relatively little of a practical nature to offer here.  I would recommend that Ms. Pelosi do a much more aggressive job of articulating the moral case against the wall, and putting some fire under Senate Republicans; but additionally, I would have the staff come up with an aggressive set of demands that would resoundingly affirm a national welcoming stance toward immigrants in return for perhaps $1 Billion in wall funding:  not only a path to citizenship for DACA “children” and what the Republicans have already agreed to, but perhaps a legislatively-mandated doubling (from Obama Era levels) of the number of immigrants – both family- and commercially-related – annually allowed to legally enter the country, a path to legal status (if not citizenship) for illegal immigrants (not guilty of any other crimes) already in the country, etc., etc.  (Such proposals might garner support from some Republican donors in the commercial and agricultural sectors whose businesses depend on immigrants; the way to a reluctant politician’s heart is through his/her donor base.)  While Mr. Trump and his advisers would almost certainly reject such proposals, these overtures might persuade party moderates and independents that Democrats were indeed willing to compromise — to work for us – which will, hopefully, help shore up our people’s faith in the ultimate ability of our leaders to govern if there is a major disruption – or worse, a tragedy – that arises as a result of the shutdown.