Thursday, December 05, 2019
"Yes, transitioning to a more equitable system might eliminate some jobs. But the status quo is morally untenable.
Life expectancy continues to rise in other wealthy countries, but not in the United States, researchers just reported. Some of the blame for that can be attributed to our dysfunctional health care system.
Life expectancy continues to rise in other wealthy countries, but not in the United States, researchers just reported. Some of the blame for that can be attributed to our dysfunctional health care system.Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
Won’t you spare a thought for America’s medical debt collectors? And while you’re at it, will you say a prayer for the nation’s health care billing managers? Let’s also consider the kindly, economically productive citizens in swing states whose job it is to jail pregnant women and the parents of cancer patients for failing to pay their radiology bills. Put yourself in the entrepreneurial shoes of the friendly hospital administrator who has found a lucrative new revenue stream: filing thousands of lawsuits to garnish sick people’s wages.
And who can forget the lawyers? And the lobbyists! Oh, aren’t they all having a ball in America’s health care thunderdome. Like the two lobbyists who were just caught drafting newspaper editorials for Democratic state representatives in Montana and Ohio, decrying their party’s push toward a “government-controlled” health care industry. It’s clear why these lobbyists might prefer the converse status quo: a government controlled by the health care industry. If we moved to a single-payer system, how would lobbyists put food on the table, and who would write lawmakers’ op-ed essays?
Welcome to the bizarre new argument against “Medicare for all”: It’s going to cost us jobs. Lots of jobs. Good, middle-class, white-collar jobs in America’s heartland, where Democrats need to win big to defeat Donald Trump.
The argument is specious and morally suspect. Last week, health researchers reported that American life expectancy is declining for the first time in half a century, and some of the leading causes have to do with the ruinous health care system. Even if it is the case that reforming American health care might eliminate some jobs, it would seem to be a good trade for the likely benefit: More people might gain access to affordable health care and get to keep living.
But I worry that the jobs argument might sway moderate politicians, centrist pundits and much of the establishment, because it plays on one of the major fault lines of health reform: that in fixing the system so that more people benefit, those who now enjoy a privileged slice of American health care might end up worse off than they are today.
As a matter of ethics and equality, this should be O.K.; sticking with a system that is the source of so much death, debt and financial ruin just because you like your doctor or your insurance company or your medical-billing job is not really a defensible position.
On the other hand, in America, “I’ve got mine and I don’t want to lose it” is always pretty good politics.
The jobs argument goes like this: There’s a lot of fat in the American health care industry, and any effort to transform it into a simpler system in which everyone is covered would necessarily eliminate layers of bureaucracy and likely reduce overhead costs. Every year Americans collectively pay about $500 billion in administrative costs for health care — that is, for things like billing and insurance overhead, not for actual medical care.
These costs are significantly higher than in most other wealthy countries. One study on health care data from 1999 showed that each American paid about $1,059 per year just in overhead costs for health care; in Canada, the per capita cost was $307. Those figures are likely much higher today.
Wouldn’t lowering overhead costs be an obviously positive outcome?
Ah, but there’s the rub: All this overspending creates a lot of employment — and moving toward a more efficient and equitable health care system will inevitably mean getting rid of many administrative jobs. One study suggests that about 1.8 million jobs would be rendered unnecessary if America adopted a public health care financing system.
So what if some of these jobs involve debt collection, claims denial, aggressive legal action or are otherwise punitive, cruel or simply morally indefensible in a society that can clearly afford to provide high-quality health care to everyone? Jobs are jobs, folks, as Joe Biden might say.
Indeed, that’s exactly what Biden’s presidential campaign is saying about the Medicare for all plans that Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are proposing: They “will not only cost 160 million Americans their private health coverage and force tax increases on the middle class, but it would also kill almost two million jobs,” a Biden campaign official warned recently.
Note the word “kill” in the statement. That word might better describe not what could happen to jobs under Medicare for all but what the health care industry is doing to many Americans today.
Last week, the medical journal JAMA published a comprehensive study examining the cause of a remarkably grim statistic about our national well-being. From 1959 to 2010, life expectancy in the United States and in other wealthy countries around the world climbed. Then, in 2014, American life expectancy began to fall, while it continued to rise elsewhere.
What caused the American decline? Researchers identified a number of potential factors, including tobacco use, obesity and psychological stress, but two of the leading causes can be pinned directly on the peculiarities and dysfunctions of American health care.
The first is the opioid epidemic, whose rise can be traced to the release, in 1996, of the prescription pain drug OxyContin. In the public narrative, much of the blame for the epidemic has been cast on the Sackler family, whose firm, Purdue Pharma, created OxyContin and pushed for its widespread use. But research has shown that the Sacklers exploited aberrant incentives in American health care.
Purdue courted doctors, patient groups and insurers to convince the medical establishment that OxyContin was a novel type of opioid that was less addictive and less prone to abuse. The company had little scientific evidence to make that claim, but much of the health care industry bought into it, and OxyContin prescriptions soared. The rush to prescribe opioids was fueled by business incentives created by the health care industry — for Purdue, for many doctors and for insurance companies, treating widespread conditions like back pain with pills rather than physical therapy was simply better for the bottom line.
Opioid addiction isn’t the only factor contributing to rising American mortality rates. The problem is more pervasive, having to do with an overall lack of quality health care. The JAMA report points out that death rates have climbed most for middle-age adults, who — unlike retirees and many children — are not usually covered by government-run health care services and thus have less access to affordable health care.
The researchers write that “countries with higher life expectancy outperform the United States in providing universal access to health care” and in “removing costs as a barrier to care.” In America, by contrast, cost is a key barrier. A study published last year in The American Journal of Medicine found that of the nearly 10 million Americans given diagnoses of cancer between 2000 and 2012, 42 percent were forced to drain all of their assets in order to pay for care.
The politics of Medicare for all are perilous. Understandably so: If you’re one of the millions of Americans who loves your doctor and your insurance company, or who works in the health care field, I can see why you would be fearful of wholesale change.
But it’s wise to remember that it’s not just your own health and happiness that counts. The health care industry is failing much of the country. Many of your fellow citizens are literally dying early because of its failures. “I got mine!” is not a good enough argument to maintain the dismal status quo."
Opinion | The American Health Care Industry Is Killing People - The New York Times
"It is worth exploring the election system in this country and who benefits from it.
Kamala Harris entered the presidential race with a bang.
She announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Day and not only raised $1.5 million in its first 24 hours, according to Politico, but also “in the first 12 hours made $110,000 in revenue from its online merchandise store that sells T-shirts, hats and tote bags — breaking the single-day, single-candidate record for sales by the vendor, Bumperactive.”
Her campaign material used similar colors and typography as did Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to see a major party nomination for the presidency.
Soon after her announcement, FiveThirtyEight published a story under the headline, “How Kamala Harris Could Win The 2020 Democratic Nomination,” with a linked analysis by the site’s Nate Silver, who built a model of each contender’s “ability to build a coalition among key constituencies within the party” and wrote that “the coalition-building model has made me more skeptical about the chances for Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, for instance, but more bullish about Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker.”
About a week after her announcement, Harris held her kickoff rally outside the Oakland City Hall, and 20,000 people showed up and packed the plaza.
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Harris’s campaign was ablaze with potential and possibility.
Now, less than a year later, Harris has suspended her campaign. And, the inevitable autopsy articles are flying, attempting to diagnose what went wrong, or what her campaign did wrong.
But, it seems to me that the questions here are bigger than missteps, real or perceived. Every campaign has missteps. It is hard to look at this field of candidates and not remember a cascading list of missteps. And many of them have things in their past for which they have apologized. But one question is why missteps are fatal to some campaigns and not others.
It is fair to ask what role racism and sexism played in her campaign’s demise. These are two “isms” that are permanent, obvious and unavoidable in American society.
It is fair to ask how those features impacted media coverage, or the lack of coverage.
It is fair to ask about the Democratic debate rules and how they prioritize donations in addition to polls, thereby advantaging the opinions of people who can afford to give over those who can’t.
It is fair to ask about the Democrats’ schedule of caucuses and primaries that begin with two states — Iowa and New Hampshire — that are overwhelmingly white, so that candidates who poll best there get the benefit of momentum even before a ballot is cast and also before the contests move to states with more minorities.
It is fair to ask why, as of now, only white candidates have qualified for the next debate, even though the field began as one of the most diverse.
All of this must be explored and discussed and learned from.
But there is something else that we learn — or relearn — from Harris’s run: the enduring practicality of black voters. They, in general, reward familiarity, fealty and feasibility.
Joe Biden just fits that bill for the plurality of black voters. When it comes to picking a nominee, black people don’t adhere to racial tribalism, broadly speaking. They want their votes to matter; they want to pick a winner.
It is possible for these black voters to be exceedingly proud of the presence of candidates like Harris and Booker while simultaneously supporting another candidate as their first choice.
It is possible to feel a profound sadness that Harris would have to leave the race before Iowa and simultaneously believe that other candidates were likely to win the early contests.
This practicality has repeatedly been on display in presidential politics. In 2008, Hillary Clinton held a 24-point lead among black Democrats over Barack Obama before Iowa, but after Obama won the state he held a 28-point lead over Clinton among black voters. He had proven his viability. Harris will never get that chance.
If Harris had Biden’s level of support in the polls among black voters she would still be in the race. But, they chose a different course, in part because the system increasingly appears stacked against her, making her candidacy look more and more like a long shot.
But also, white people made a different choice. Everyone seems to have settled, for whatever reason, on the notion that a white person has the best chance of beating Trump, that a racial minority is too risky this time around.
But, that is a horrible place to be: courting the voters who abide racism rather than trying to excite the voters who despise racism.
There is absolutely no reason Harris should be out this race so early.
You can blame her exit on her past and her execution of her campaign, sure, but if you do so without examining the system the Democrats have built and the way that even black people feel that it’s stacked against the black candidates, you are not being honest."
Opinion | What Kamala Harris’s Campaign Teaches Us - The New York Times
"WASHINGTON — When times turn tough, presidents can hop on Air Force One to escape the country for a while and stride purposefully across the world stage. But the world stage was not so friendly this week for President Trump, who landed back in Washington on Wednesday night to confront a grim couple of weeks ahead.
Mocked by peers behind his back at a NATO meeting in London, Mr. Trump abruptly canceled a news conference and bolted early, only to fly home to a capital in the throes of judging whether he is fit for office. After hobnobbing with the queen, the president now faces the daunting likelihood that by Christmas he will become the third president impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
The NATO meeting had seemed like an opportunity to demonstrate his global leadership like Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton sought to do with overseas trips during their own impeachment struggles. Scheduled long ago, the meeting allowed Mr. Trump and his allies to assail his domestic foes as “unpatriotic” for proceeding with an impeachment hearing while the commander in chief was overseas and gave him a chance to boast of his success in pressing the allies to invest more in defense.
But the visit was soured by a contentious meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France and a hot-mic video that captured other world leaders making fun of Mr. Trump. In response, a sullen president said one of the leaders caught talking on the video, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, was “two-faced,” and then slipped out of town without the scheduled wrap-up session with reporters, seemingly intent on not further spoiling the image of a successful visit.
[Politicians have a long history of being caught saying impolitic things. Let’s roll the tape.]
“The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to belittle my VERY successful trip to London for NATO,” he wrote on Twitter as Air Force One streaked across the Atlantic. “I got along great with the NATO leaders,” he added, claiming credit for persuading them to increase their military spending, although wildly inflating the actual numbers. “No increase for U.S., only deep respect!”
Quarreling with foreign leaders, of course, never troubled Mr. Trump before and in some ways has domestic political appeal with a Republican base that cheers on his defiance.
“The president has never been much bothered by shaking up international conventions, so tussling with foreign leaders, by those standards, isn’t a bad thing from his perspective,” said Antonia Ferrier, a former aide to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader. “For many Americans, having their president stand up to foreign leaders is a sign of strength.”
Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Mr. Trump, said the optics of the London visit would appeal to different elements of his base. “He held contentious press conferences with world leaders who are disdained in conservative circles while also getting the all important 10 Downing Street visit and greeting with the queen at Buckingham Palace, which always plays well with mid and high income voters,” he said.
Still, Mr. Trump seemed bothered by the conversation between the other leaders. Mr. Trudeau seemed to deride Mr. Trump for going off schedule to answer questions from reporters on Tuesday. “He was late because he takes a 40-minute news conference at the top,” the prime minister told Mr. Macron, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Princess Anne.
“You just watch his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Mr. Trudeau said at another point in the video, expressing astonishment at Mr. Trump’s behavior. The other leaders are seen smiling in seeming sympathy or adding their own unheard comments to the discussion.
The overheard conversation came after Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron had engaged in a somewhat testy public session earlier in the day. “Let’s be serious,” Mr. Macron chided the president at one point during a discussion of Islamic State fighters.
At a separate session with reporters, Mr. Trump had complained that Mr. Macron’s recent comments bemoaning American disengagement with NATO had been “very, very nasty.”
The joking may have touched a nerve with Mr. Trump, who has long resented elites he felt did not show him proper respect or welcome him into their circles, whether it was Manhattan business titans or Washington political veterans. He visibly seethed in 2011 when President Barack Obama ridiculed him from stage during a black-tie Washington dinner.
“Trump doesn’t just want to be in the club, he wants to be the unquestioned leader and center of attention,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. “It had to be both humiliating and infuriating that the other heads of state who were mocking him were untouchable by tweet or insulting nickname, but no doubt he was already calculating the next round of tariffs he would send their way.”
Foreign trips were a relief for Mr. Nixon and Mr. Clinton at similar points in their presidencies. As Watergate bore down in the summer of 1974, Mr. Nixon traveled to the Middle East and then the Soviet Union, reinforcing his peacemaking initiatives. Mr. Clinton similarly headed to Russia and Northern Ireland just after a grand jury appearance in 1998 and then later in the fall to the Middle East.
But in both cases, any relief was short-lived. Mr. Nixon ended up resigning weeks after getting home, and Mr. Clinton was impeached by the House only days after his return. The complaints about impeachment interfering with foreign policy rang loud then as well; Mr. Clinton was in the midst of bombing Iraq for defying international weapons inspectors even as the House took its vote.
There is no escape for Mr. Trump either, not in foreign cities, not in the Oval Office and not on the television he stares at upstairs in the White House for hours each day. His presidency is tethered to impeachment, his legislative agenda mostly on hold, his foreign policy overshadowed, his re-election on the line. He takes refuge in the boisterous and jampacked campaign rallies he holds and in the morning and evening lineups on Fox News.
While in London, Mr. Trump defiantly declared he would not watch the opening of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings because he would be too busy conducting affairs of state, even as he lashed out at Democrats as “deranged,” “sick,” “nuts,” “crazy” and, in one case, a “maniac.” But while his blue-and-white jet headed back to Washington, he (or aides operating his account in his name) nonetheless blitzed out a couple dozen tweets recirculating posts from Republican allies castigating the hearing as it progressed.
At the White House in his absence, the atmosphere was somewhat surreal. The televisions around the building were tuned to the various news networks, especially Fox News, as they broadcast the hearing, but the volume was usually muted and aides sought to go about their business.
The White House refused to participate in the hearing, arguing that the process has been rigged by partisan Democrats, but it did send a couple of aides to sit in the hearing room and monitor the proceedings.
The assumption there, as elsewhere, was that the hearing changed no minds and the course of the next few weeks is already set — the House will probably vote by the end of the year to impeach along party lines, and the Senate will then hold a trial in which the president will not be convicted, setting him up to litigate the case during his re-election campaign.
“While I wouldn’t say impeachment is a good thing for the president, it is a highly divisive and partisan issue breaking down on party lines,” Ms. Ferrier said. “It has not changed people’s minds on the president. His approval ratings are remarkably consistent, in particular with Republican voters, and he clearly relishes a fight.”
But some who have been through this before said it was hard to put it aside. Dennis Ross, a foreign policy specialist who accompanied Mr. Clinton on his trip to the Middle East days before he was impeached, said that an impeachment vote remains part of a president’s legacy, even if it does not lead to his removal.
“Even though he may feel that he will be acquitted in the Senate because Republicans will not break ranks, and however much he tries to turn this to his advantage at a later point, the truth is no matter how you slice, it you can’t run away from the fact you were one of the few presidents who was impeached,” Mr. Ross said. “He obviously likes to be singled out, but not like this.”
Mocked Abroad and Assailed at Home, Trump Returns to Face Impeachment - The New York Times
Wednesday, December 04, 2019
Chris Matthews on world leaders laughing at Trump: He’s a joke now. He has been a joke since he built that tacky, tasteless building at 725 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022. My friends and I laughed at it when it opened. It just did not fit. We knew Trump's parents never exposed him to art or architecture.
What if Democrats Have Already Won Back Enough White Working-Class Voters to Win in 2020? Since the 1980s, Democratic candidates have proven that they can win elections while losing whites without a college degree by a significant margin.
‘In September, Cook Political Reports elections guru David Wasserman argued that Democrats would be foolish not to court non-college-educated white voters in 2020. That group may make up 45 percent of the electorate nationwide, he wrote, but it represents a majority of the electorate in key battleground states—Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania—and casts almost half of the ballots in North Carolina.
That set off another round of debate about whether and how the Democrats should “win back” the non-college-educated whites who played a crucial role in delivering the Rust Belt, and ultimately the Electoral College, to Donald Trump in 2016.
Some analysts argue that progressives who urge Democrats to focus on turning out their core base—people of color, unmarried women, and younger voters—are too cavalier about the consequences of continuing to lose less-educated whites. Those progressives in turn worry that the pundits and moderate Dems who obsess over working-class whites rarely define what appealing to those voters would look like in practice. Does it mean shifting the party closer to the center and putting less emphasis on issues that matter to the base, like discriminatory policing, reproductive health care, and LGBTQ rights?
But these debates miss quite a bit of evidence, direct and indirect, that Democrats have already “won back” enough white working-class voters to compete next year. Since the 1980s, Democratic candidates have proven that they can win elections while losing whites without a college degree by a significant margin. Obama won 36 percent of their votes in 2012. Bill Clinton averaged 41 percent in his two victories. And in 2020, the candidate will likely need to win a smaller share of white people without a degree, because that group has long been declining as a share of both the electorate and the broader population. According to Gallup, their share of the population has declined by three percentage points since 2014. And a study released by the Center for American Progress in October projects that next year their share of the electorate will be 2.3 points lower than it was in 2016.
The reality is that the Democratic candidate is unlikely to do as poorly with this group as Hillary Clinton did. In 2016, despite winning the national popular vote by a significant margin, she won just 28 percent of these voters, according to Pew, and that wasn’t enough to deliver Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. According to a data set that combines survey and voter registration data with election results, Clinton lost non-college-educated whites by a 28-point margin in 2016, significantly worse than Obama’s 10-point deficit in 2008 or his 21-point gap in 2012.
A similar analysis looking back further found that Al Gore lost working-class whites by 17 points in 2000, and they went for George W. Bush over John Kerry by 23 points in 2004. Clinton also fared significantly worse among this group in 2016 than Democrats did overall when Republicans crushed them in midterm waves in 2010 (by 23 points) and 2014 (by seventeen points).
There are three reasons to believe that Clinton’s performance with non-college-educated whites in 2016 was an outlier, and that Democrats’ support among this group has already reverted to its longer-term trend line—one of gradual decline that has been offset by demographic shifts in the electorate.’
"LOS ANGELES — In late November, the president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels, told students that he will soon “be recruiting one of the rarest creatures in America — a leading, I mean a really leading, African-American scholar.”
“Creatures?” a student asked. “Come on.”
“It’s a figure of speech. You must have taken some literature,” Mr. Daniels said. “One of the rarest, let me say, rarest birds, rarest, rarest, rarest phenomena.”
In just a few sentences, Mr. Daniels seemed to question the possibility of sustained black excellence. In response to the uproar that swiftly followed, he complained that he had “never felt so misunderstood” and that he had simply used a “figure of speech.”
When I learned about Mr. Daniels’s words from another African-American scholar on my own campus, I felt indignant but also constrained. The standard etiquette for college presidents, like me, is to let the remarks of another leader pass on by.
I can’t do that. The idea that scholars of color are rare is a damaging fiction. Yet it’s pervasive in academia, causing untold damage. It allows some faculty deans to simply throw up their hands and give up on their recruitment efforts. It leads to small recruitment budgets for minority candidates.
It means some disciplines structurally ignore the presence of brilliant candidates of color, believing, contrary to their own eyes, that none exist. It means that another generation of younger scholars may think it’s impossible ever to lead. It means lost creativity, delayed discoveries and fewer transformative ideas of the kind our world desperately needs. And for those who want to maintain the status quo , mission accomplished.
It’s true that the number of black scholars is smaller than one would like. But they’re also suppressed by the fiction that black leadership is an impossible dream — a rare bird.
After Mr. Daniels’s remarks, Purdue faculty members said in a statement that “the idea that there is a scarcity of leading African-American scholars is simply not true.” Indeed, one might look to scholarly societies for leading figures: Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council; Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation; Cecilia Conrad, a managing director at the MacArthur Foundation; and Claude Steele, chair of the board of the Russell Sage Foundation. Or leaders at American colleges and universities like Jonathan Holloway, provost of Northwestern; Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell College; and Michael Drake, president of Ohio State University.
Figures of speech matter, because they may shape our thoughts, set our expectations and quickly lead us to dangerous places as a society. When a group is stripped of their humanity through language, they are easier to exclude or hate.
I know my colleague intended only to make a single point. But which point? There are truly leading African-American scholars. There are in fact whole societies of African-American scholars who work on just about every area under the sun. Take Andre Fenton, whose work in neuroscience explores the mechanics of memory; or a rising star like Sanmi Koyejo at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose work on neural networks has been recognized by the Kavli Foundation. Political science? Omar Wasow at Princeton. Math? Edray Goins at Pomona. Or on the rise, John Urshel at M.I.T. Literature? Saidiya Hartman, Columbia. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard. Art history? Richard J. Powell, Duke.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of leading African-American scholars, but I have to stop somewhere. The talented scholars leading historically black colleges have underscored this point for nearly 200 years. As colleagues, we must commit to an honest and rigorous review of the evidence before us and, as scholars, we uphold a simple standard: When we don’t know, we have the curiosity and humility to ask.
As an English professor, I also know that metaphors are intended to have multiple meanings and that hurt and belittling are among them. Animal metaphors can simultaneously assert the dominance of the declarer while diminishing the declared: Women? Dogs. Black people? Monkeys. Immigrants? Vermin.
Pointing this out is not an exercise in hypersensitivity. Telling the truth — without hiding ugly realities in polite silence — is the very thing that some critics of higher education claim to do. However, speaking out is only the beginning of an education. The most insidious metaphors have a way of getting into the walls, corners and attics of our discourse. The least we can do is switch on the lights.
G. Gabrielle Starr is the president of Pomona College and a professor of English and neuroscience.
Opinion | Black Scholars Are Not ‘Rare Creatures’ - The New York Times
"Like Nixon, Trump is accused of many things. But only one matters.
The summer of 1998 was not an auspicious time for me to start work as a young White House lawyer. I was in the Office of Legislative Affairs — but all legislative work had ground to a halt with President Bill Clinton facing impeachment in the House. Instead, we compiled a daily catalog of statements by members of Congress about Mr. Clinton’s actions and their possible consequences.
While it wasn’t a great way to start a career, that experience offered an accidental insight into the current impeachment process — and a warning about overreach by the Democrats.
Back in 1998, House Republicans put together a fairly straightforward case against the president: Mr. Clinton was accused of having an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and then lying about it. The Republicans took full advantage of this simple story to advance their claim that a president of questionable morals should not remain in office. The statements we tracked divided into easy categories; some members thought the affair was enough to sink the president, while others thought the lying was the impeachable offense.
President Trump’s White House no doubt has a similar operation. But while our job was simple because the narrative of Mr. Clinton’s sins was easy to grasp, today’s allegations are all over the map and could amount to a lengthy list of articles of impeachment.
Unfortunately for House Democrats, the complexity of this story does not help their cause. Mr. Trump has destroyed so many norms, has been credibly accused of breaking so many laws and has otherwise engaged in such a dizzying array of possibly impeachable behaviors that any intelligible story line has been blurred, if not obliterated. The enormity of his alleged transgressions works, perversely, to his advantage.
Right now Democrats are debating whether to focus articles of impeachment solely on the Ukraine scandal, or to add multiple other charges, ranging from obstruction of justice and other illegal or unethical actions detailed in the Mueller report, to personal enrichment in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The latter, however satisfying, would be a mistake.
Even though it means leaving out actions many members believe independently merit removing this president from office, which would frustrate many, there may be virtue in keeping the focus narrow at least in how they talk about the case against Mr. Trump.
The impeachment case of Richard Nixon offers a fruitful example. There are many obvious parallels between Mr. Trump and Nixon, including their venal behavior, demonization of the news media and the fact that both investigations have included evidence of break-ins into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Both presidents also sought to persuade a foreign power to interfere in our elections — Mr. Trump with Ukraine and Nixon with South Vietnam.
The list goes on, and yet the impeachment case against Nixon was founded on a simple, straightforward story: his role in the cover-up of the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington.
What made the public sit up and take notice was the release, on Aug. 5, 1974, of a transcript of the so-called Smoking Gun Tape, which made it impossible for Nixon to argue that he was unaware of and uninvolved in the cover-up. The president’s support in Congress crumbled. Representative John Jacob Rhodes, a Republican Nixon loyalist who served as the minority leader in the House, stated it most directly: “Cover-up of criminal activity and misuse of federal agencies can neither be condoned nor tolerated.”
Donald Trump is the master of diversionary tactics. Every day through tweets and press statements, he spreads falsehoods, attacks his opponents on made-up grounds and sometimes even gives congressional committees new avenues of illegality to follow for impeachment or prosecution. Each of these new story lines must be ignored. The best story line is the simple one: Mr. Trump tried to bribe a foreign official with American government dollars to announce an investigation of unfounded charges against a domestic political rival. There is more, much more. But that’s enough."
Opinion | Democrats, Don’t Overreach on Impeachment - The New York Times
"She was crowned the perfect Democrat for 2020. Here’s what doomed her campaign.
On Tuesday, Senator Kamala Harris, who began her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in the top tier, withdrew from the race.Damon Winter/The New York Times
OAKLAND, Calif. — Just as California is so often viewed from afar as either glittering paradise or dystopian disaster, so Kamala Harris was crowned as the perfect Democrat for 2020.
Like her state, Senator Harris’s story up close is both more prosaic and more nuanced than the shiny image built in part on misperceptions about California. Now that she has dropped out of the presidential race, the legacy of her campaign may be what the candidacy illustrates about the complexity and reality of politics in the Golden State.
From her roots through her rise, Ms. Harris’s trajectory reflects touchstones of California. Her parents emigrated from India and Jamaica, drawn like so many to the world-class public university at Berkeley, where they became active in the civil rights movement. Ms. Harris was born in October 1964, the same month as the Free Speech Movement. After college in the East, she started law school in San Francisco in the fall when Californians overwhelmingly adopted English as the state’s official language. She entered politics amid the anti-immigrant fervor of Proposition 187 and came of age in the first large state where whites became a minority.
California has had, by design, weak political parties, epitomized by the current system that replaced traditional primaries with an election in which voters choose the “top two” candidates, who then face off on the November ballot. San Francisco is an anomaly, the one metropolis where politics is a sport. Political machines have flourished in the city since the late 19th century, when Christopher Buckley, known as the Blind Boss, consolidated power from the back room of his saloon by establishing a patronage system. A century later, Kamala Harris rooted herself in the political establishment and forged connections with help from her longtime mentor and onetime boyfriend Willie Brown, the powerful Assembly speaker and then San Francisco mayor.
Those connections helped the young prosecutor become a boldface name in the society pages and in the copy of the legendary columnist Herb Caen. Ms. Harris won her first race in 2003, unseating the incumbent district attorney, with support from law enforcement unions, The San Francisco Chronicle and the political and social elite of San Francisco.
From the small city with outsize visibility, she built a national profile. In 2008, Ms. Harris was California co-chairwoman for her friend Barack Obama; within days of his historic victory, she announced her candidacy for California attorney general, a race still two years away. Oprah Winfrey put her on O magazine’s “Power List.” A column in USA Today pronounced her “the female Barack Obama,” “destined to become a commanding presence in the political life of this country.”
Perhaps one of the greatest fallacies about California politics is the assumption that its Democratic leaders are by definition die-hard liberals. By necessity, Democrats who win statewide have actually been moderates. That remains true even in an era when no Republican has won statewide since 2006. Last year, for example, Senator Dianne Feinstein trounced her liberal opponent, despite his endorsement by the state Democratic Party.
Even Gavin Newsom, the most liberal governor in decades, got his start in San Francisco by defeating a Green Party candidate for mayor, the same year Ms. Harris unseated the city’s progressive district attorney by running a tough-on-crime campaign. In her 2010 race for attorney general she arguably ran to the right of her Republican opponent on some issues. He championed efforts to ease the state’s three-strikes law and later supported a successful ballot initiative to that end; Ms. Harris, by then attorney general, declined to take a position.
As attorney general, she disappointed California liberals through both actions and the lack of action. That did not hamper her ability to burnish her national credentials. She addressed the 2012 Democratic National Convention in a prime-time slot. Her name was floated as a potential United States attorney general, even a Supreme Court justice.
Yet she remained largely unknown in California — a function of the staggering size of a state of almost 40 million where the principal way to gain exposure requires television ads in a dozen media markets, at a cost of upward of $4.5 million a week. When Ms. Harris ran for the United States Senate in 2016, six out of 10 registered voters had no impression of her, although she had been attorney general for almost six years. In recent polls, about a quarter of voters still had no opinion.
That reality undercut a key argument cited by pundits who labeled her an instant front-runner when she entered the presidential race. Their scenarios assumed she would do well in the delegate-rich California primary, moved up to March to have more impact on the race.
With weak party allegiances, Californians are notoriously independent voters, as many politicians have discovered. Jerry Brown won the California Democratic primary in his 1976 presidential campaign but lost the next two times he tried. His father, Gov. Pat Brown, ran as a favorite son and planned to turn the state’s delegates over to John Kennedy at the 1960 convention, only to be humiliated when almost half insisted on casting ballots for Adlai Stevenson.
And then there is the role of California in the age of President Trump. His victory coincided with Ms. Harris’s election to the Senate and fueled a sense of inevitability about her candidacy. She was the prosecutor who could take on the president. From the state that had become the heart of the resistance came the candidacy fueled by anti-Trump anger and California glitter.
At her January kickoff in Oakland, a huge crowd of all ages and races waved flags, pumped fists, teared up. They cheered her passion, her toughness and her rhetoric. But above all they were cheering for a woman who would take on the man whose name she never mentioned.
This, too, was not quite what it seemed. It was easy to conflate antipathy to Mr. Trump with support for Ms. Harris. By the time she appeared in Oakland eight months later at a low-key event to open her campaign office, the questions were about polls that showed her running a distant fourth in her home state, fourth even in the Bay Area, where they knew her best.
Her candidacy appeared to have no real rationale and no clear constituency. The penchant for zigzagging that marked her policy positions carried over to strategy, as she veered from positioning herself as the fallback candidate for the left, when conventional wisdom suggested the front-runners might falter, to fashioning herself as the option for moderates when that appeared a more likely lane. Her carefully crafted image crumbled under the scrutiny of a national campaign. The bright beacon of hope in a dismal time dissolved into sound bites and bumper sticker slogans. “Justice is on the ballot.” “Dude gotta go.”
Candidates come and go. California will continue to defy the Trump administration because the fights are about issues central to the state’s identity — the environment, immigration, women’s rights. Those are causes that historically have not only united the broad spectrum of California Democrats but also transcended party politics. Republican governors were environmental leaders.
Ms. Harris, the state’s junior senator, will gain greater recognition from her 2020 quest; whether that enhances her political future depends on what lessons she takes from her own campaign. If she emerges with a clearer sense of her own priorities and values and an ability to articulate them with conviction, she may be better equipped to navigate the complicated calculus of politics in her home state, at a time when California matters a great deal.
Miriam Pawel (@miriampawel) is the author of “The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation” and a contributing opinion writer."
Opinion | Did We Ever Know the Real Kamala Harris? - The New York Times
Tuesday, December 03, 2019
Trump cannot be investigated, prosecuted or impeached, even if he shoots someone, the president’s lawyers say - The Washington Post
"No, the following headline is not from the Onion. “In court hearing, Trump lawyer argues a sitting president would be immune from prosecution even if he were to shoot someone,” The Post reported Wednesday. This is an even more shocking assertion of executive impunity than it initially seems.
The hearing involved Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s attempt to obtain President Trump’s financial records from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. The president’s personal lawyer William S. Consovoy argued that Trump should be shielded from investigation and prosecution on the part of federal and state authorities for the duration of his presidency, calling this principle “temporary presidential immunity.”
The Post reports:
Judge Denny Chin pressed Consovoy about the hypothetical shooting in the middle of Manhattan.
“Local authorities couldn’t investigate? They couldn’t do anything about it?” he asked, adding, “Nothing could be done? That is your position?”
“That is correct,” Consovoy answered emphasizing that the immunity applied only while Trump is in office.
Implicitly or explicitly, lawyers who make arguments such as these rely on the notion that there is another, proper way to punish a criminal president: impeachment and removal from office. But Trump himself rejects the legitimacy of impeachment. He has called the Democrats’ exercise of their authority to conduct impeachment proceedings — a power the Constitution plainly grants the House — a “coup,” “crap” and a “lynching,” declaring Monday that “it’s so illegitimate. This cannot be the way our great founders meant this to be.”
This is not just Trump freelancing before the cameras. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the president approved a plan among ultra-partisan House Republicans to storm a secure impeachment hearing, which they did on Wednesday, stopping the testimony of a Pentagon official. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), White House counsel Pat Cipollone declared earlier this month that the executive branch would not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry because “the President cannot allow your constitutionally illegitimate proceedings to distract him and those in the Executive Branch.” Cipollone argued that the president’s actions have been so “completely appropriate” that the House could have no legitimate reason to conduct an impeachment inquiry.
So the president’s position, as described by his and his administration’s lawyers, is that law enforcement at all levels of government may not investigate or prosecute him and that the president gets to decide when impeachment proceedings against him are constitutional. In other words, there are no checks on presidential behavior between elections every four years.
Then again, Trump has also joked about seeking an illegal third term. So who knows what he would say if he lost the 2020 election. He has effectively declared that the United States has an elected king. He is not far off from claiming that he gets to decide whether an election result is legitimate — or the product of “fake news” and massive, invisible voter fraud."
Trump cannot be investigated, prosecuted or impeached, even if he shoots someone, the president’s lawyers say - The Washington Post
Monday, December 02, 2019
House Judiciary Committee will begin to frame articles of impeachment this week. Republicans won't go quietly
Impeachment: We're drawing near the endgame — and, man, is it gonna get ugly | Salon.com
“By Bob Bauer Dec. 2, 2019, 6:00 a.m. ET
Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”
It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.
The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”
As the self-proclaimed embodiment of the American popular will, the demagogue portrays impeachment deliberations as necessarily a threat to democracy, a facade for powerful interests arrayed against the people that only he represents. Critics and congressional opponents are traitors. Norms and standing institutional interests are fraudulent.
President Trump has made full use of the demagogic playbook. He has refused all cooperation with the House. He lies repeatedly about the facts, holds public rallies to spread these falsehoods and attacks the credibility, motives and even patriotism of witnesses. His mode of “argument” is purely assaultive. This is the crux of the Trump defense, and not an argument built on facts in support of a constitutional theory of the case.
Of course, all the presidents who have faced impeachment mounted a political defense, to go with their legal and constitutional case. And it is not unusual that they — and, even more vociferously, their allies — will attack the process as a means of undoing an election.
The difference in Mr. Trump’s case is not merely one of degree. Richard Nixon despised his opposition, convinced of their bad faith and implacable hatred for him. But it is hard to imagine Mr. Trump choosing (and actually meaning) these words to conclude, as Nixon did, a letter to the chair of Judiciary Committee: “[If] the committee desires further information from me … I stand ready to answer, under oath, pertinent written interrogatories, and to be interviewed under oath by you and the ranking minority member at the White House.”
Mr. Trump has instead described Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as a “corrupt” politician who shares with other “human scum” the objective of running the “most unfair hearings in American history.”
These remarks are not merely one more instance of Mr. Trump’s failure to curb his impulses. This is his constitutional defense strategy. Mr. Trump’s White House counsel, informing the House of the president’s refusal to cooperate, declared that the impeachment process is unconstitutional and invalid — a “naked political strategy” — and advised that the president would not participate. It matters that the president’s lawyer, in a formal communication with the House, used rhetoric that might have been expected from the hardest-core political supporters. Once again, contrasts with past impeachments are illuminating. Bill Clinton’s White House counsel Charles Ruff testified before the House Judiciary Committee, pledging to “assist you in performing your constitutional duties.”
The demagogue may be boundlessly confident in his own skills and force of political personality, but he cannot succeed on those alone. He can thrive only in political conditions conducive to the effective practice of these dark arts, such as widespread distrust of institutions, a polarized polity and a fractured media environment in which it is possible to construct alternative pictures of social realities. Weak political parties now fall quickly into line with a demagogue who can bring intense pressure to bear on party officials and officeholders through his hold on “the base.” As we have seen with Mr. Trump, the demagogue can bully his party into being an instrument of his will, silencing or driving out dissenters. Republican officeholders know that Mr. Trump can take to Twitter or to Fox News or to the podium at rallies — or all of the above — to excoriate them for a weak will or disloyalty.
This is how the Republican Party has become Mr. Trump’s party. It is also why that party will not conceive of its role in impeachment as entailing a constitutional responsibility independent of the president’s political and personal interests. It has come to see those interests as indistinguishable from its own. In this way the constitutional defense of the case against Mr. Trump and the defense of his own interests become one and the same. As another fabled demagogue, Huey Long of Louisiana, famously announced: “I’m the Constitution around here now.”
The implications for the constitutional impeachment process are dire. Until Mr. Trump, modern impeachment has ended with some generally positive assessment of its legacy. Nixon’s resignation appeared to indicate that serious charges could bring the parties together in defense of the rule of law. “The system worked” was a popular refrain, even if this was a somewhat idealized and oversimplified version of events. The Clinton impeachment suggested that the standards for an impeachable offense required a distinction between public misconduct and private morality, and Congress reclaimed its responsibility for impeachment from an independent counsel statute that was allowed to lapse.
The Trump impeachment is headed toward a very different summation. A demagogue can claim that Congress has forfeited the right to recognition of its impeachment power, then proceed to unleash a barrage of falsehoods and personal attacks to confuse the public, cow legislators and intimidate witnesses. So long as the demagogue’s party controls one of the two chambers of Congress, this strategy seems a sure bet.
When this is all over, we will not hear warm bipartisan praise for how “the system worked.” The lesson will be that, in the politics of the time, a demagogue who gets into the Oval Office is hard to get out.
Bob Bauer is a professor of practice and distinguished scholar in residence at New York University School of Law and served as a White House counsel under President Barack Obama.“