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The demise of the GOP.
August 23, 2023
For the first time in months, Donald Trump talked about something other than himself and his quiver of grievances. Per the Washington Post, Trump told Fox Business personality Larry Kudlow last week that he favored a universal 10% tariff on all goods imported into the US:
“I think we should have a ring around the collar” of the U.S. economy, Trump said in an interview with Kudlow on Fox Business on Thursday. “When companies come in and they dump their products in the United States, they should pay, automatically, let’s say a 10 percent tax … I do like the 10 percent for everybody.”
Per the Post’s reporting, Trump and his advisers are developing the idea of a universal tariff on all imports as “a central 2024 campaign plank” in Trump's bid for a second term. See Washington Post, Trump vows massive new tariffs if elected, risking global economic war. (This article should be accessible to all.)
Tariffs are generally a bad idea (I am not referring to targeted tariffs designed to address unfair trade practices). A 10% universal tariff would be an economy-destroying debacle of generational proportions. As one expert said about Trump's support for a 10% universal tariff,
[T]he idea [is] “lunacy” and “horrifying” [and] would lead the other major economies around the world to conclude the United States cannot be trusted as a trading partner.
The problem with tariffs is that they are a hidden tax that is ultimately paid by US consumers. Worse, they inevitably result in retaliatory tariffs on exports, harming US farmers, small businesses, and major manufacturers. See Pablo D Fajgelbaum, et al., The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Return to Protectionism (2019).
Proposing a universal tariff betrays short-term thinking and the inability to anticipate foreseeable consequences. US imports in 2022 approached $4 trillion. If that 10% universal tariff was passed through to consumers (as it would be), the tariff would impose $400 billion in price increases on Americans already struggling with inflation.
So, as Republicans attack Biden for inflation, they are proposing the worst idea possible for consumer prices. And let’s recognize that tariffs are regressive taxes on the poor. Lower-income consumers spend a greater share of their income on imports than higher-income consumers.
Here’s the point: It is easy to focus exclusively on Trump's authoritarian, anti-democratic tendencies. But he is also profoundly ignorant and guided by brute emotions. His presidential policies damaged US foreign relations, national security, climate security, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology. We should not forget that fact. Hopefully, farmers and manufacturers have not forgotten the pain inflicted by Trump's ill-fated tariffs against China in 2018. See The Guardian, (12/02/18), US farmers' troubles over tariffs show the value in looking ahead.
The reasons for not electing Trump are manifold (reproductive liberty, national security, climate, energy, job security, retirement security, medical care, LGBTQ equality, and tariffs!). Let’s be sure to include those reasons when we work to convince our fellow citizens that Joe Biden is the only rational choice in 2024.
“TELL THE TRUTH.”
As a set-up for this article, I want to tell a story about my practice as a lawyer. Over my forty-year career, I prepared thousands of witnesses to testify at trial, in depositions, in arbitrations, and before the SEC and grand juries. I had a standard protocol for preparing witnesses to testify. I always used a whiteboard, posterboard, or a computer and projector to outline the “rules of the road” for testifying truthfully (which I distilled to five basic rules). Above those five “rules of the road,” I always wrote—in all caps—“TELL THE TRUTH.” I told witnesses that if they remembered only one rule, it should be to “Tell the truth.” And I told witnesses the only thing they could do to make things worse for themselves was to not tell the truth.
I tell that story not to hold myself out as a paragon of ethical virtue. To the contrary, I learned that preparation protocol from my mentors, who learned it from their mentors. I believe that my procedure for preparing witnesses represented the nearly universal approach of lawyers with whom I practiced.
The investigations and indictments relating to the attempted coup and insurrection have revealed that dozens of lawyers were willing—even eager—to ignore their ethical duties. Among the egregious acts committed by attorneys hired by or paid for by Trump is the apparent counseling of witnesses to lie—or to refrain from responding to the full extent of their recollection—when testifying under oath.
The first example we saw was Cassidy Hutchinson, who initially told January 6th investigators that she didn’t recall certain facts—at the direction of her lawyer. She later switched lawyers and provided the January 6th Committee with dramatic and damaging testimony.
Sadly, it appears that a second witness has reversed his testimony after dumping his Trump-provided lawyer for a different lawyer. In the defense secrets case in Florida, the Mar-a-Lago IT director dramatically changed his testimony before a grand jury after he fired his Trump lawyer and engaged a public defender. See Politico, Prosecutors: Trump Mar-a-Lago security aide flipped after changing lawyers.
The aide — described as “Trump Employee 4” in public court filings but identified elsewhere as Yuscil Taveras — held the title of director of information technology at Mar-a-Lago. He initially testified to a grand jury in Washington, D.C., that he was unaware of any effort to erase the videos, but after getting the new attorney “immediately … retracted his prior false testimony” and detailed the alleged effort to tamper with evidence related to the investigation of the handling of classified information stored at Trump’s Florida home, the new submission said.
The lawyer who previously represented Taveras—Stanley Woodward—still represents other witnesses and defendants in the Mar-a-Lago defense secrets case.
The attempted coup and insurrection have revealed deeply disturbing problems in the legal profession that demand a candid self-examination by the American bar association and state bars. If those organizations care about the trust of the American people in the legal profession, they should be engaging in a high-profile reckoning ASAP.
What if the GOP held a debate and no one watched?
I wrote yesterday that I would not be watching the “GOP presidential disinfotainment program” hosted by Fox on Wednesday evening. After an exchange with a reader in the Comments section today, I want to elaborate on my reasoning. The reader noted that he would watch the debate because he believed he should be as informed as possible about the upcoming election. Kudos to the reader, both for his intestinal fortitude and his devotion to being informed. I won’t try to dissuade anyone who agrees with the reader.
But here’s my view about watching the disinfotainment program: Most of the participants will be lying about most things most of the time. This isn’t speculation. They are doing so every day. While politicians lie a lot, the GOP candidates will be lying about the reasons for holding Trump accountable for the coup and insurrection and about Trump's conduct on January 6th. These lies are dangerous to our democracy. I do not want to reward Fox with increased ratings for providing a friendly platform to people who are actively undermining the strength of our democracy.
So, for those of you who—like me—can’t stomach watching the Republican primary debates, I plan to hold a “Substack chat” from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday. The “chat” function in Substack is a text-based feature (like texting). Anyone can join. To do so, go to your profile photo (or icon) in the upper right corner, click on the three horizontal bars and scroll down to “Chat” and search for me—Robert Hubbell. Let’s keep it respectful but fun and informative!
More on the upcoming budget impasse.
A reader commented on my note yesterday about the impending budget impasse. Reader Jerry Weiss predicted that a bi-partisan majority would emerge to pass funding bills—and then file a “motion to vacate the Chair” to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. Weiss writes,
Republicans will go through the motions of appeasing MAGA/Freedom Caucus extremists, because Speaker Kevin McCarthy owes them. But eventually, the same bipartisan majority that raised the debt ceiling in the Spring will pass funding bills to keep the government from shutting down.
At that time, the bipartisan majority can also pass a "motion to vacate the Chair", and elect a moderate Republican like Don Bacon (R-NE) to the Speakership. So long as Mr. McCarthy is Speaker, this on-going assault on the House of Representatives will continue to be repeated.
On cue, members of the Freedom Caucus have begun threatening a challenge to McCarthy’s Speakership. See The Hill, Republican says threat to McCarthy’s Speakership ‘inevitable’ if he doesn’t meet conservative demands.
But if McCarthy is removed, who will—or can—replace him?
Jerry Weiss writes a Substack blog called Feathers of Hope, that proposes an answer to that question. Feathers of Hope describes its purpose as follows:
Feathers of Hope is a network of ordinary citizens committed to advocating for the removal and replacement of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House, thereby diminishing the power and influence of MAGA extremists in the chamber.
We have been urging moderate Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives to form a temporary bipartisan majority voting bloc for the purpose of passing a motion to “vacate the chair” and elect a new Republican Speaker who owes nothing to the minority MAGA group.
Check out Feathers of Hope if the mission statement appeals to you!
Reminder to Founding Members regarding Monthly get-together.
As a reminder to Founding Members, our monthly Zoom get-together is (fortuitously) on Wednesday, August 23 at 5:00 PM Pacific / 8:00 PM Eastern.
I have sent a reminder email with the Zoom link. Check your inboxes!
If you are a paying subscriber and would like to upgrade to Founding Member and join our monthly discussions, click on the link below.
Upgrade to Founding Member to join our monthly discussions!
The “disinfotainment event” masquerading as a Republican debate is a remarkable moment—because of what it confirms about the Republican Party. Trump has not only refused to attend, but he is running “counter-programming” via Tucker Carlson on TwitX. If there was any doubt before this point, it is now clear that Trump has broken from the Republican Party and is running a third-party insurgency from within the GOP itself.
The scenario is reminiscent of parasitic wasps that implant larvae in an unsuspecting host (like a spider). The host continues to operate as usual while the larvae gestate. But when the larvae hatch within the host, the host is killed—with its remains serving as food for the newly hatched parasites. So, too, with Trump and the Republican Party. Trump injected the GOP with MAGA extremism. For six years, the GOP served as a host to a parasite that is preparing to feast on the remains of the now-useless husk of the former Republican Party.
Trump no longer needs the Republican Party or Fox News. Indeed, he is taunting them both. They can only stare in disbelief at the monster they have created—a monster that has now turned on his creators.
None of the above suggests that we can let down our guard in 2024. But it should encourage us to reach out to Independents and bewildered Republicans who no longer recognize the party that has been overtaken by a parasite that is destroying it from within.
Against the distressing demise of a once-respectable participant in a two-party democracy, Democrats are led by an experienced and decent leader who has accomplished more in three years than most presidents have in eight. In short, we have every reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent!
Talk to you tomorrow!