An Aging Packer Fan’s Guilty Pleasure

I indicated in a post last January – after the Packers suffered an embarrassing playoff defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Green Bay due to a woeful special teams effort – that given the current dangers we face to American democracy, the Russian-Ukrainian hostilities, Climate Change, etc., etc., etc., the disappointment at the adverse fortunes of one’s pro football team didn’t even count as small potatoes.  At the same time, I confess to being pleased that Aaron Rodgers decided this off season to stay with the Green and Gold.

Since Brett Favre stepped on to Lambeau Field in September, 1992 – for the last 30 years, with this season beginning a fourth decade — the Packers have not played a game which either Mr. Favre or Mr. Rodgers was starting that any sports commentator would have entirely discounted the Packers’ chances to win.  I’m pretty sure that no other NFL team can make that claim.  The fact that only two Super Bowl trophies have been claimed during that stretch is regrettable, but the team has provided weekly autumn and early winter sustenance to its faithful for decades.

No matter what cares of a personal or larger nature may then be occupying my mind, the weekly rite of Green Bay football generally provides me a few hours’ welcome distraction.  While I don’t particularly like what I know of Mr. Rodgers personally, his skill is awesome.  I see that many analysts still consider him, at age 38, the second-best quarterback in the game, behind only 45-year-old Tom Brady and ahead of former League MVP Patrick Mahomes. (Some of the quarterbacks listed in the League’s Top Ten don’t seem, to these old eyes spoiled by Messrs. Favre and Rodgers, to even be that good.)  In the quarterback-friendly NFL, as long as Mr. Rodgers continues – and even if his skills diminish 10 – 20% — he will generally still be the best QB on the field in most Green Bay contests and the Packers will remain competitive.  There will be a day when Mr. Rodgers is succeeded by another, and on that day, it is much more likely than not that the Green and Gold carriage will turn into a pumpkin; but we’ll worry about that then.

Let’s go.

On Biden Administration Student Loan Forgiveness

As all who care are aware, President Joe Biden announced on August 24th that his Administration was canceling $10,000 in student loan debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year, and another $10,000 in such debt for those who had received Pell grants for low-income students.

In a post in May of 2021, I noted that one could sympathize both with those seeking relief from crippling higher education debt and with the millions of others who have either paid off or are paying off their loans and accordingly might resent any loan forgiveness measure then being urged by some Democrats.  Because the mountain of outstanding student debt was what I termed in that note, “a millstone around the neck of our future economic growth,” I ventured at that time that forgiving much if not all of such debt seemed a means to spur long-term economic growth that would benefit both those whose loans were forgiven and those who paid off their loans.  Although the high levels of inflation we are now experiencing didn’t occur to me – an oversight, given our last 40 years’ experience, that might be excused – I failed to take into account that such a debt-forgiveness measure would do nothing to curb rising college education costs or, more importantly, at least theoretically (since neither party’s officeholders seem to care any longer about our burgeoning national debt) add notably to the federal debt borne by all taxpayers, including those who perhaps for financial reasons didn’t go to college or managed to avoid incurring college loan debt.

What follows is the verbatim text of an email I received from a close friend – one sympathetic to the Biden Administration – the day after the decision was announced.  He termed it a “Rant.”  I received his permission to publish his email here.  Having considered the issue from more angles than I did last year, I associate myself with his remarks  😉 . 

“I think the student loan forgiveness policy is an awful decision.  $600-800B deficit spending with no revenue offsets.  Questionable legal authority tied to “emergency” powers in the Heroes Act (of all things!) that stretches the limits of presidential authority to a new breaking point.  It can only be viewed as inflationary at a time when we had just been making some progress on turning the corner on an inflation crisis and the power of the issue was starting to wane for the midterm elections.  It plays right into MAGA hands as it can be painted as elitist, making a direct “payment” to the college-educated at a time when the Democratic party is struggling to retain its historical blue-collar base.  Those who pursued trades occupations should be rightly insulted.  (See  https://www.newsweek.com/mike-rowe-slams-student-debt-forgiveness-1555317.)   It’s anathema to American Families taking accountability for their decisions and “educating” their children about the costs and payoffs of attending various colleges or other post-secondary learning or experiences.  Provides more red meat for the Republicans to take away Democratic momentum driven by the Roe decision.   A clear instance of caving to or at least mollifying far left progressives (who will not be pleased as it didn’t go far enough).  

The mid-term election fortunes were shifting. The Roe issue was “winning” over inflation.  Few if any candidates were asking for direct participation from Biden/the White House.  I can only conclude that this is an issue where Biden let his legacy and ego get the better of him.” 

Although some pundits are opining that the Administration action will help Democrats in this fall’s elections, I share our friend’s concern that Mr. Biden may have committed an unforced political blunder that will hurt his party’s prospects.  I know that we both hope that our fears prove unfounded.

Liz Cheney v. Mr. Trump’s BDE: Part II

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

As many have observed in recent days, if U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney elects to launch a campaign for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination, she will bring formidable assets to what I would see as a political guerilla effort – her goal being to politically weaken former President Donald Trump for the November 2024 general presidential election, not to defeat him for the Republican nomination.  She has strong name recognition and positive renown among many of our citizens (if not the Trumplicans), a strong campaign financial position coupled with enviable fund raising opportunities which will enable her to persevere despite what will almost certainly be disappointing objective results on the primary circuit, her pick of the best Republican strategists repulsed by the Trumplican movement, and a lot of sympathetic media.  While these are vital to her effort, all are but tactical tools to fulfill her strategy.  Unlike virtually every other presidential campaign I’ve ever heard of — in which the candidate dreams, no matter how quixotically, of achieving the White House, and thus seeks to pick up delegates in all states — Ms. Cheney’s aim from the outset will be to sow enough doubt about Mr. Trump in the states that will decide the 2024 November presidential election (judging by 2020, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, Florida, Minnesota, and New Hampshire) to deny Mr. Trump the presidency.  As such, I would submit that the important figure in her recent Wyoming Republican primary loss was not her opponent’s total, or the margin by which she lost, but rather the 28% that voted for her.  (I think it’s tenable to pose that the cross-over Democratic votes she received substituted to some extent for the votes of Republican Cheney supporters who didn’t participate because they knew she was going to be soundly defeated.)  A recent NBC News poll found that 57% of Americans want the investigations into Mr. Trump to continue, a seemingly reasonable indicator that he has significant political weakness with the general electorate (although it would obviously be more meaningful to have snapshots of the voters’ attitudes toward the investigations in the respective pivotal Electoral College states).  In order to condition her supporters to what will be disappointing primary vote totals by traditional political standards, from the outset of her campaign she must consistently message that she does not expect to out-poll Mr. Trump in any primary.  If through her campaign she can persuade perhaps 15% of self-described Republicans (about half of the sample size of her primary support) and a good share of the conservative Independents in swing states that they cannot support Mr. Trump in the 2024 November election, I don’t think he can reclaim the presidency if the Democrats run a suitable candidate (this latter caveat the subject of a previous post).

Some suggest that it will be difficult for Ms. Cheney to mount a nationwide campaign because those state Republican organizations under Mr. Trump’s control will seek to keep her off their primary ballots.  This would only matter if she was in it to win it.  I’ll hazard that her guerilla effort gains more than it loses where she’s kept off the ballot and can straightforwardly claim that a state’s Republican apparatus has been “rigged” against her.

Some suggest that the National Republican Committee will go to any lengths to keep Ms. Cheney out of any debates with Mr. Trump.  While such a shutout is the only logical course for Mr. Trump to take — I think most observers would expect Ms. Cheney to score heavily — if he doesn’t debate, such a maneuver will nonetheless put him in a box he won’t like:  he won’t be able to escape the impression that he’s afraid to debate … a woman.  Recently, Arizona Republican Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake actually lauded Mr. Trump’s “BDE.” (For those of you scoring at home, that’s “Big Dick Energy.”  Yes, really.)  What Ms. Cheney could do with an “Empty Chair” debate format in lieu of an exchange with Mr. Trump is tantalizing.  She could repeatedly point out that Mr. Trump was scared to face … a girl.  Right in front of our eyes, his BDE would … shrivel.  (I know, I know; I just couldn’t help myself.)  

Two final notes.  First, it is ironic that if Rep. Cheney actually won the Republican nomination – seemingly more than theoretically possible if she was facing not Mr. Trump himself but a field of Trump Wannabes, who would split the pro-Trump vote in the early primaries, perhaps enabling her to seize the nomination in a reverse of the strategy Mr. Trump himself used in 2016 – I think she’d have a much easier path to the presidency than Mr. Trump has.  Traditional Republicans are tribal – they’ve shown themselves in the Trump Era to be willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican mantle — and in the 2024 November election Ms. Cheney could probably compensate for the loss of Trumplican cultists with the votes of Independents and moderate Democrats grateful that she deposed Mr. Trump.

Second, as Mr. Trump continues to incite violence in a transparent attempt to avoid what now appears impending prosecution for a myriad of crimes, I wonder whether he realizes that if Ms. Cheney runs against him, and any of his supporters attempt to visit violence upon her, he will not be able to escape responsibility for the shock that would register in the minds of a determinative majority of Americans.  Even if he is able to stay out of jail, I think he would be finished politically, no matter whom the Democrats nominate for president.  Since he has no moral compass, hopefully he’ll realize that for his own good, he should immediately strongly speak out against violence toward Ms. Cheney if she mounts a presidential campaign against him.  I hope he will.  Since he’s emotionally a bad-seed preschooler, I realize he won’t.

When President Biden, a genuinely good man, assumed the presidency in January, 2021, I hoped that by his manner he could reintroduce some sanity and comity across most of our political spectrum.  Mr. Trump’s persistence in his Big Lie, the zealous gullibility of his supporters, and the traitorous discord sown over the last two years by Mr. Trump, his minions, and alt-right propagandists such as Fox News, have dashed such hopes.  Hoping for a gradual resolution of the toxicity inflamed by Mr. Trump hasn’t worked.  Now, the battle needs to be directly joined.  I see no one but Liz Cheney that can inject an antitoxin that will cleave the Republican Party and protect our republic.  She will obviously bide her time until 2023, to avoid providing Mr. Trump’s cohort the opportunity to cast an overt political taint on the work of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, for which she serves as Vice Chair.  I hope she will run, but she’s not my wife or daughter.  Given the physical dangers she will face if she mounts a campaign, I would fully understand if her husband, children, and parents hope that she doesn’t.

Liz Cheney v. Mr. Trump’s BDE: Part I

[Note:  the notions set forth in this post are ultimately based upon the perhaps questionable assumption that Trumplicans who have captured discretionary control of the electoral mechanisms in some swing states don’t deny the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee fairly-won Electoral College votes.]

What follows is largely cast on the presumption that former President Donald Trump will seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president.  At this juncture it seems overwhelmingly likely he will, and – perhaps to the surprise of those who know that I consider him and his acolytes a fascist cult – I hope he does. Trump Wannabes such as FL. Gov. Ron DeSantis are clearly seeking to exploit the resentment and unrest Mr. Trump has incited to their own political advantage, but such Wannabes, although potentially every bit as anti-democratic as Mr. Trump, would carry less baggage into a 2024 presidential election and thus, be harder for a Democrat to defeat; furthermore, even if a Wannabe was defeated, such might only serve to reinforce rather than diminish Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence.  I would submit that what we have seen over the last two years makes it clear that Mr. Trump himself must be defeated – he needs to be made a two-time loser — if we are going to start to excise the growing cancer in the American polity to which he has given license.

As all who care are aware, last week U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney lost the Republican primary to run as the party’s nominee for the Wyoming Congressional seat she now holds — to a Trump supplicant, by a 66.3% to 28.9% margin — and thus, will be leaving Congress at the end of this year.

Media commentators are now jumping over each other to declare that Ms. Cheney might run for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.  She has reportedly strongly hinted at a presidential campaign in interviews.  In January and May I speculated in these pages that she might mount such a presidential run, and upon the effect that such a campaign could have on the White House aspirations of Mr. Trump or, if Mr. Trump decided not to run, upon those of Trump Wannabes such as Mr. DeSantis.

First:  If Ms. Cheney declares for the presidency, she will, given the increasing tendency to violence fomented by Mr. Trump among his cult, be exposing herself to the most imminent physical danger of any presidential candidate at least as far back as U.S. MA Sen. Edward Kennedy’s 1980 campaign (Mr. Kennedy’s family and advisors then understandably feared the possibility that an unbalanced assailant might seek to replicate the assassinations of Mr. Kennedy’s brothers).  Such a campaign will require extraordinary physical courage.  If advising Ms. Cheney, I would therefore point out that she has strong reasons not to make a run:  foremost, her husband and five children.  I would also indicate what I am pretty sure she already knows:  she is probably the only person in America that has a real chance to bring about the political demise of Donald Trump.

Some pundits have suggested that Ms. Cheney might seek to confront Mr. Trump through a communications strategy rather than a political campaign.  If she is indeed willing to continue her battle with Mr. Trump, she should reject such a notion.  Think of the clever but largely ineffective work of The Lincoln Project.  It’s hard to see how any similar effort by Ms. Cheney – who, under such an approach, would be “yesterday’s news” – would be any more successful.

To command and maintain the media attention that an effective effort against Mr. Trump will require, Ms. Cheney needs to be “news,” which means that she must – to borrow a phrase from former President Richard Nixon – enter the Arena.  She must declare her candidacy for the Republican nomination for president.  I believe she knows this.  (If her goal is to keep Mr. Trump out of the White House, she cannot run as an Independent.  I am pretty sure that she and those around her must realize that such an Independent effort would ultimately siphon from the Democratic nominee the votes of those moderately-conservative voters uneasy with progressive policies who are nonetheless determined to vote against Mr. Trump; any split in the anti-Trump vote in November, 2024, will obviously enhance Mr. Trump’s chances to reclaim the presidency.)

Because Rep. Cheney has virtually no chance of securing the Republican nomination – of which I am also pretty confident that she is aware — I’ve heard more than one commentator accordingly declare that any campaign she would launch would be a “kamikaze mission.”  I disagree.  I would submit that her campaign from its very outset would be more accurately described as political guerrilla warfare – intended to weaken the enemy, not to defeat him outright.  The form such an effort might take will be addressed in Part II of this note.

On the Mar-A-Lago Raid … and Al Capone

[First, a qualification:  although I have heard legal analysts comment that the FBI’s recent search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate was not a “raid” because it was seemingly undertaken entirely according to lawful procedures, the word, “raid,” is nonetheless used at points in this note because it is significantly easer and shorter than the phrase, “a search conducted by the FBI pursuant to a warrant issued by a federal judge upon a finding of probable cause that evidence would be discovered leading to conviction of a crime.”  😉 ].

I suggested in an earlier post that in U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s place, what might cause me to refrain from bringing criminal charges against Mr. Trump – despite my beliefs that no one is above the law, and that there is cogent evidence that Mr. Trump is guilty of seditious conspiracy – was the practical problem of empaneling 12 open-minded jurors in an environment in which at least a third of Americans are in Mr. Trump’s cult.  I would feel – and strongly suspect that Mr. Garland feels – that for the good of the country, one cannot afford to bring criminal charges against Mr. Trump, and lose.

That said, my reluctance was expressed when considering and in the context of crimes that inevitably have a subjective element – and thus, the potential for Mr. Trump’s plausible deniability – including not only seditious conspiracy but crimes such as the instances of obstruction of justice described by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in Volume II of his report.

In apparently determining to first pursue Mr. Trump under the Presidential Records Act (the “PRA”), Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) team are seemingly being pretty tactical, but pragmatic.  They have perhaps chosen to start with an arguably relatively innocuous statute – at least as compared to the legion of other, potentially more momentous, charges for which there appears to be compelling evidence against Mr. Trump – because proving a PRA offense could be the most objective, and thus, the easiest to establish.  (That said, how harmless the offense might be will obviously ultimately depend on what, if any, material Mr. Trump might be proven to have illegally kept; more on this below.)  It’s up or down, black or white.  Mr. Trump either had illegally retained documents under his control at the time of the raid, or he didn’t.  Clearly, Mr. Garland – and the federal judge authorizing the Mar-A-Lago search warrant, based upon the DOJ affidavit presented in support of the warrant application – had a strong belief that he did.  If such records were on the Mar-A-Lago estate, presumably the FBI now has them.  Since negotiations regarding these records have reportedly gone on for months between Mr. Trump and federal authorities, it will seemingly be difficult for the former president to claim that he didn’t know that he had them (if he indeed did).  The DOJ perhaps considers the PRA the simplest vehicle to establish a straightforward violation with the potential for securing a relatively quick conviction.

Even so – and despite all the chortling by liberal media outlets – the obtaining of a search warrant and the execution of the attendant search doesn’t constitute an indictment, much less a conviction, of Mr. Trump.  Even if he is ultimately indicted and convicted, a fairly quick internet search of legal authority sets forth a legal view that such conviction would not, despite the PRA’s purported prohibition upon a perpetrator’s holding of federal office, prevent Mr. Trump from seeking and assuming the presidency because Congress doesn’t have the power to add hurdles to a citizen’s right to become president that are not set forth in the Constitution.

The ramifications of this week’s raid may ultimately be determined by what was retrieved.  If something truly significant was recovered, and can be publicized, such will seemingly have an impact upon Mr. Trump’s political fortunes as well as his personal freedom.  (I note with interest reports that Mr. Trump’s legal and media defenders – who for the most part probably have no better idea than anyone else what might have been recovered – are suggesting that the FBI might have “planted” evidence on Mr. Trump, laying the groundwork to enable them to sow doubt about any serious transgression in the minds of Mr. Trump’s credulous followers.)  On the other hand, if what Mr. Trump had in his possession merely amounts to a technical but inconsequential violation – what basketball fans call a “ticky-tack foul” – such could have little effect on Mr. Trump’s political aspirations or perhaps even generate sympathy for him among the moderately-conservative voter segments whose support he needs to reclaim the presidency. 

As Mr. Trump was fond of saying during his presidency:  We’ll see what happens.  Maybe this week’s raid will amount to something; perhaps it will amount to nothing.  However, and as many are aware, Al Capone was never convicted of murder, extortion, or bootlegging; he was ultimately brought low by a conviction for income tax evasion.  Perhaps Mr. Trump will suffer a similar fate due to an infraction far afield from the many, seemingly more significant, betrayals of our republic for which there is persuasive evidence of his guilt.

A Political Ad Worth Posting

This was called to my attention yesterday. As of 2003, I didn’t think it possible that I would ever again cite or refer to Dick Cheney with complete approval, but here it is my honor to do so.

On the Passing of Vin Scully

As all who care are aware, Vin Scully, who was the voice of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for over 60 years, passed away yesterday at age 94.  Since Mr. Scully also broadcast nationally for many years, he was well-known by sports fans nationwide.  He had the classiest, smoothest delivery of any sports announcer I have ever heard.  The most dramatic baseball moment I have ever witnessed as it happened was the gimpy Kirk Gibson’s 9th inning homerun off Hall of Fame Closer Dennis Eckersley in Game One of the 1988 World Series (it was Mr. Gibson’s only at bat in a series ultimately won by the underdog Dodgers over the Oakland A’s), and Mr. Scully’s call of the moment – in which he said little, and then let the crowd tell the story – by itself ranks as a classic in sports broadcasting.

My mother was from Brooklyn, raised five blocks from Ebbets Field, and could recall Mr. Scully’s start as second chair to Red Barber (a legend in his own right in Brooklyn).  Both of my parents were big baseball fans (my father was as rabid a Yankee fan as my mother was an avid Dodger backer, which both later agreed made for interesting Octobers in the late ‘40’s through the mid-‘50’s).  Throughout Mr. Scully’s career, he maintained the even-handed style of baseball announcing in which he was trained in New York (and upon which my parents grew up).  When we moved to the Midwest in 1959, both of my parents were appalled by the Chicago broadcasters’ “root, root, root for the home team” announcing style.  To their mind, Mr. Scully’s delivery was the way it should be done.  I came to share their view.

Hear in your head one more time that rich voice, as you would if he were discussing another: 

“His reporting brought respite from daily cares to millions of Americans over scores of years.  May he rest in peace.”

It Is We Who Are On Trial

Countless pundits have intoned that the hearings of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (the “Committee”) have put former President Donald Trump “on trial,” at least in the court of public opinion.  While there is no question that the Committee has established that Mr. Trump had more knowing complicity – “aforethought” – in the attempt to overthrow our democracy than even I, who has made regular references to Fascism in relation to Mr. Trump’s activities, had appreciated before the hearings began, with no background in criminal law I cannot assess whether learned criminal counsel consider the evidence that the Committee has put forth sufficient to convict Mr. Trump of seditious conspiracy (even assuming that a jury of twelve unbiased citizens could be found).  However, I would venture this:  if nothing more, last night’s hearing – the last of the first series, with further hearings to be conducted in September – unquestionably “convicted” Mr. Trump of unspeakable dereliction of duty.

Although less than 50% of self-described Republicans are reportedly paying significant attention to the hearings, and I understand that alt-right outlets are now seeking to discredit the Committee’s efforts by asserting, in addition to other claims, that Mr. Trump and his cohort haven’t had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, I thought that one reminder by Committee Vice-Chairwoman U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney near the conclusion of the hearing was the most telling observation of the night:  that virtually all of the testimony presented against Mr. Trump has been provided by Republicans, and the notion that any counsel for Mr. Trump would be able to effectively shake the testimony of former Attorney General William Barr (she could have listed any number of other Committee witnesses in addition to Mr. Barr) is simply not credible.

(Not significant but the most fun moment of the evening was watching the clips of U.S. MO Sen. Josh Hawley — who both instituted the Congressional initiative to obstruct the Electoral College vote count that in turn led to the insurrection and was pictured stirring up the crowd on the morning of the uprising — running for his life through the halls of Congress once the rioters actually broke in.  Since the Committee presented some evidence last night that contained what it called “harsh language,” I feel that it is within my purview to coarsen this post to this extent:  Mr. Hawley is not only a traitor but a gutless pissant.)

The Committee’s work has reached the point that I no longer consider Mr. Trump really its main subject; it is we who are.  While only the Almighty can judge morality, the nation-state is a human construct [which one might argue actually creates boundaries and loyalties antithetical to His (please excuse the male pronoun for a Being without gender) teachings], and thus I feel free to pass judgement to this extent:  anyone who maintains fealty to Mr. Trump despite the evidence presented by the Committee, or – in my view, every bit as bad – is remaining loyal to Mr. Trump after willfully refusing or negligently failing to take note of the evidence presented by the Committee, is guilty, notwithstanding all of the pledge of allegiance reciting, flag waving, and national anthem singing, of being … Un-American.

On Realpolitik

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Washington Post Associate Editor and Columnist David Ignatius observed about President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia [the nation which Mr. Biden described during his presidential campaign as a “pariah” due, among other reasons, to Saudi Arabian de facto leader Prince Mohammed bin Salman (“Prince MBS”) Al Saud’s seemingly-well established complicity in the assassination of Washington Post Journalist (and Prince MBS Critic) Jamal Khashoggi]: 

“Biden is going in a classic exercise of what diplomats call, ‘Realpolitik.’ … [The definition of ‘Realpolitik’] is policy that is premised on power.  Raw power and the needs of power, as opposed to values and principles.  And that’s what the President is doing.  He thinks American power requires a relationship with Saudi Arabia, especially during the Ukrainian war, especially when gas prices are so high, and so he’s going to do what’s necessary to establish a passable relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Prince MBS … is a bad man.  I described him in a post a while back as “arrogant, willful, and malign.”  Although it is up to the Almighty to judge, a case can arguably be made that he is a moral peer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and perhaps dozens of tinhorn dictators who maintain their power across the globe through terror, violence, and repression.  As the parent of a Washington Post journalist, I could not be more sensitive to Prince MBS’ culpability for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.  Even so, and although progressives and progressive media outlets may well condemn any indication of amity between the President and Prince MBS as a betrayal of American values, I completely agree with Mr. Biden’s apparent purpose.  When our power, vast as it is, is insufficient in and of itself, sometimes we need to make deals with bad men (and I suspect occasionally with bad women) to secure our interests.  U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill didn’t love Russian Chairman Joseph Stalin, but they were happy to have Russia’s help in defeating Nazi Germany.  Although Mr. Biden’s challenges are obviously of a markedly-lesser nature than those faced by Messrs. Roosevelt and Churchill, the principles of Realpolitik still hold.  We need Saudi Arabia’s help on energy today – which will lower the democracies’ costs and perhaps augment sanctions to weaken Russia’s economic condition — but more importantly, in the long term, given our reduced presence in the Middle East, we need to foster a bulwark, in which Israel and Saudi Arabia are necessary pillars, to hold off the advances of Iran.  

It is what it is.

2024:  Each Party’s Two-Word Problem

[Note:  this post is based on the perhaps questionable assumption that Trumplicans who have assumed discretionary control of the electoral mechanisms in some swing states don’t deny the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee fairly-won Electoral College votes.]

I would submit that each party has a two-word obstacle that it must finesse in order to win the White House in 2024.

The Republicans’ two-word problem is pretty obvious:  Donald Trump.  Given all of the opportunity we’ve had since 2015 to contemplate the former president’s psyche, I think it takes little insight to suggest that he is viscerally unable to relinquish the stage; he desperately fears being left behind, forgotten.  I may at some point have to concede that I was wrong, but I currently can’t believe that Mr. Trump won’t seek the Republican 2024 Presidential nomination.  If he wins the nomination, all of the animosities he stirs in those who oppose him, taken together with the political wounds he has seemingly suffered as a result of the hearings of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (the “Committee”), plus all of the unease and weariness that would exist in conservative Independent and moderate Republican quarters at the prospect of having to again deal with him, make it seem to me that it will be difficult for him to defeat the right Democratic presidential candidate (more on that below) in enough swing states to reclaim the presidency.  On the other hand, if he loses the nomination, I would venture that Republicans are fantasizing if they think that Mr. Trump – who in defeat will almost certainly retain the diehard allegiance of at least one-third of the Republican base — will docilely accept his defeat and line up behind the nominee.  The former president will instead claim that every primary he lost was “rigged” or “stolen.”  He will loudly and continuously denounce the GOP nominee.  He will threaten to start his own party – and may follow through.  In short, he will stir up enough discontent and uncertainty that in swing areas, enough disgruntled Trumplicans may stay home to enable the right Democrat to win in the Electoral College – which is the only tally that matters.

[I deliberately pass over the debate as to whether Mr. Trump should be prosecuted for sedition.  While I personally consider Mr. Trump guilty of sedition based upon the evidence uncovered by the Committee (while recognizing, of course, that if obliged to sit on a jury judging Mr. Trump, I would have to steel my mind and soul to consider only the sufficiency of the evidence admitted in his criminal trial), I am against such prosecution not because of any worry that such will set a precedent for future political persecutions but because I consider it extremely doubtful that with at least a third of our citizens in Mr. Trump’s cult, any prosecutorial team will be able to persuade twelve jurors to find Mr. Trump guilty of sedition beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Biden Justice Department can’t, for the good of the country, afford to bring a case against Mr. Trump, and lose.]

The Democrats’ two-word problem is almost as obvious:  Kamala Harris.  While I consider President Joe Biden to have thus far done a good job overall – a discussion for a separate post – he is showing every bit of his approximately 80 years (even those that support him concede that he looks old).  Elections are about matchups; up against Mr. Trump, he might well win despite his advanced years — by simply running on a slogan, “Do you really want to go back to him?” – but against any other, inevitably more vital-appearing, Republican nominee, it’s difficult to conceive of him overcoming understandable reservations among Independents about his ability to serve out his term.  Accordingly, if he runs and retains Vice President Harris as his running mate, this will necessarily cause any open-minded voter to seriously consider whether she is qualified to be president.  My conclusion – not new to anyone who read a number of entries in these pages during the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination process, and regrettably unchanged by anything I’ve seen in Ms. Harris’ performance as Vice President – is, she’s not.  My impression of Ms. Harris seems, crucially, to be shared by a number of our progressive Madison, WI friends.  If they have misgivings about her ability to conduct the presidency, concerns about her among Independents and moderate Republicans – the electoral segments which will determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election – make her a political liability that could sink Mr. Biden even against Mr. Trump, and an albatross that he cannot afford against any other Republican presidential nominee.

If the President is serious about running again, I hope that his closest aide will be sitting down with Ms. Harris immediately after the midterms, advising her that she will soon be announcing that for personal reasons and with great regret, she had advised Mr. Biden to nominate someone else to run with him in 2024. 

I would suggest that the 2024 political hazard Ms. Harris presents to Democrats is potentially exponentially magnified if Mr. Biden chooses not to seek a second term.  Unless the Vice President affirmatively and promptly declares that she will not seek the presidency, Mr. Biden’s withdrawal will immediately cause some in the media – in both liberal and conservative quarters, for different reasons — to anoint Ms. Harris as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.  If she seeks the 2024 Democratic Presidential nomination, I have severe doubts that progressive Democrats – who have an outsized voice in party affairs — will be able to unemotionally and pragmatically assess her qualifications and electoral prospects.  If she wins the nomination, I — as a resident of Wisconsin, which has become the ultimate swing state — don’t think she will be able to carry this state against Mr. Trump, let alone any other likely Republican presidential nominee with less baggage.  I’m finding that even those of our progressive Madison, WI, friends who are unwilling to express outright doubts about her competence have little faith in her Wisconsin electoral prospects.  If she can’t win here, it’s difficult to see how she can win the presidency.  If she seeks the nomination but loses the nomination to another candidate, I fear that it will be after a bitter campaign in which Democrats supporting any other candidate who is not also a woman of color will be denounced by the Woke segments of the party as either misogynist (if the competing candidate is male) or racist (if the competing candidate is white) or both (if the competing candidate is a white male) – despite the fact that there are regular indications that rank-and-file Democrats who are women and/or of color pragmatically prioritize competence and electability over diversity.  In a dilemma corresponding to the internecine discord facing Republicans related to Mr. Trump’s candidacy, I have severe doubts that if Ms. Harris runs, Democrats will be able to escape their own diversity-focused Wokeness sufficiently to cohere to defeat determined and organized Republican organizations in swing states (subject to the caveat that they might be able to do so if the opponent is Mr. Trump).

Make no mistake:  running against the wrong Democrat, Mr. Trump – or another like-minded Republican intent on instituting an American Apartheid – could fairly (i.e., without manipulation or fraud) win an Electoral College majority (if not the popular vote) in 2024, and thus, the presidency; if such a Republican does win the White House, the Republicans will not give it back.  And so:  who at this extremely early stage do I consider to be the right candidate for the Democrats’ 2024 Presidential nomination?  U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the first that comes to mind.  From a politically pragmatic standpoint, I am hoping that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris will step back to clear the way for Ms. Klobuchar or some other competent and electable moderate Democrat to give us an opportunity to preserve our democracy in 2025 and beyond.