Today’s Edition: “Holding the fort.”

October 11, 2021

          Let’s skip to the end: These are anxiety producing times. Modest victories are achieved at great cost. Gains are temporary and margins are narrow. Governing is messy and criticism is easy. Predictions of doom abound. Here’s the thing: Somebody has to have the guts to stare those facts in the face and do something about it. That’s us. We must be realistic without being fatalistic. We must be a source of strength, comfort, and inspiration to others. Most importantly, we must never panic, and we must not confuse temporary setbacks with permanent defeat. The forces of democracy, tolerance, and decency will prevail in the end. If our job turns out be ‘holding the fort' so that future generations can achieve ultimate victory, that is a noble calling. Do not regret that role. Embrace it.

The ongoing insurrection.

          The House Select Committee continues to aggressively pursue the facts surrounding the January 6th insurrection. Good. Last week, Trump instructed former aids who helped foment the insurrection to ignore subpoenas issued by the Committee. Bad. Steve Bannon refused to comply with the subpoena, citing “direction” from Trump. According to Rep. Adam Schiff, the Committee is considering charging Bannon and others with contempt. To state the obvious, Trump was the leader of the coup. His instructions to co-conspirators to undermine the congressional investigation is another step in furtherance of the insurrection.

          Let’s hope that the Committee refers Bannon and others to the DOJ for prosecution. That referral should include Trump, who is (again) obstructing justice by asserting groundless objections to valid subpoenas. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo got it right in his editor’s blog, “Treat Trump Like the Common Perp He Is.” We are in this difficult mess of considering charging a former president with a crime because Republican Senators twice failed in their constitutional duty to convict Trump. As Marshall says,

          The decision on whether to charge a former President with a crime is a weighty one. The decision to conduct a proper investigation of one is not. There are no excuses this time. Trump is just another lawbreaker and target of an investigation. Vindicate the law.

          The failure of the Senate to convict Trump means that he is now a candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination. Whether he will succeed is unclear. What is clear, however, is that in the process of pursuing that nomination, he will attempt to destroy the legitimacy of the 2024 election. Over the weekend, he held a rally in Iowa—which will be the first state to hold caucuses for the 2024 presidential nomination. After Trump delivered GOP-talking points drafted for him, he went “off-script” to deliver his real message. Trump said,

          I’m telling you the single biggest issue, as bad as the border is . . . the single biggest issue, the issue that gets the most pull, the most respect, the biggest cheers is talking about the election fraud of the 2020 presidential election.

          CNN’s Dean Obeidallah described the rally as “the most alarming Trump rally yet” because Trump was accompanied by GOP members of Congress who condemned Trump only nine months ago. Those politicians included Senators Chuck Grassley and Iowa Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson. Grassley acknowledged his corrupt reason for accepting an endorsement from the only president to attempt a coup. Grassley said, “If I didn't accept the endorsement of a person that's got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn't be too smart.”

          No, Senator Grassley, you have it backwards. You are not “smart” for accepting Trump’s endorsement; you are a fool and a faithless son of America. By placing your political ambition ahead of the security of our democracy, you have demonstrated that you have lost whatever intelligence, honor, and decency you may have once held. As Obeidallah writes, “You don't need to be a historian to recognize the danger in a political party showing blind loyalty to one person.” And Rep. Adam Schiff hit the nail on the head with his statement on Sunday that the Republican Party has turned into “an autocratic cult around Donald Trump” that only cares about “maintenance of their power.

          As I noted in the introduction, do not panic. There is a vast difference between Trump running for the 2024 GOP nomination and winning it. For example, what do the following candidates have in common: Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bob Dole (2x), and Gerald Ford? That’s right! They are Republicans who won the Iowa caucus but did not become president. In fact, “since 1972, the only Republican candidate to have won both [a contested] Iowa caucus and the presidency is George W. Bush in the 2000 race.” Repeat after me: The fact that Trump is running does not mean he will win. We have a say in the matter. And we should do all we can to make our voices heard.

Mitch McConnell’s tantrum over Chuck Schumer’s statement chastising Republicans for holding America hostage to the debt ceiling vote.

          After Republicans scrounged up eleven votes to end the filibuster on the debt ceiling vote, Chuck Schumer took the Senate floor to castigate Republicans for having turned a non-partisan issue into a tool of partisan blackmail. Yes, Schumer’s timing was poor, but his statements were true. In response, Mitch McConnell had an emotional melt-down and wrote a letter to Schumer saying that never again would Republicans cooperate in helping the nation avoid a default on its debts. You hear that right: Republicans value their bruised feelings above economic chaos.

          The media beat up Schumer for making his comments. Readers have forwarded those articles to me. But before you pile on Schumer, I urge you to read Dan Rather’s take on this issue in his blog, Steady (on Substack): Spare Me! Rather writes, in part,

          The sheer audacity of feigned outrage is enough to have me, well, outraged. I am not surprised by the brazen hypocrisy of a man [McConnell] who has done more to sow discord and division in America's body politic than almost anyone in this nation's history. But we cannot let this kabuki dance of the absurd seep into the false equivalence lens that defines so much of our political coverage.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses (temporarily) injunction against Texas anti-abortion law.

          A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay of the preliminary injunction issued by federal district Judge Robert Pitman. The brief order is here: US v Texas,  No. 21-50949.  The DOJ has been ordered to file a response by October 12th. For a summary of the arguments advanced by Texas, see Law and Crime, “Appeals Court Allows Texas Abortion Law to Again Take Effect.” As Texas correctly notes in its emergency petition, Judge Pitman’s injunction was directed at the courts of Texas—which was the only way to effectively enjoin enforcement of the law. Texas takes great umbrage at the fact that its plot to evade judicial review was foiled by the breadth of Judge Pitman’s injunction. Stay tuned.

Rep. Adam Schiff’s new book.

          Rep. Adam Schiff has just published a new book, “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.” During a perilous time in our nation’s history, Adam Schiff carried the nation’s hope for democracy on his shoulders. I have not (yet) read the book, but I just purchased it and have moved it to the top of my list. As you know, I have criticized writers who see their role only as warning of threats to democracy without offering solutions or rising to its defense. Adam Schiff is uniquely positioned to raise alarm (in my opinion) because almost no one is doing more than Adam to defend our democracy. I will report back after I have finished the book.

Concluding Thoughts.

          As I reviewed the newsletter before hitting “send,” I realized that some readers may interpret my opening paragraph as suggesting that I have given up hope for 2022 and 2024. Nope! I was reacting to a slew of emails from readers who forwarded articles and podcasts by highly respected commentators who said (to varying degrees of certainty) that democracy will end in 2022-24 (for at least a decade). I may address those articles and podcasts in future newsletters, but my reaction to the articles remains the same: Accepting their dire warnings as true, what are we going to do about it?

          I assume that these respected writers believe Democrats are not taking the threat seriously enough and are trying to scare or shock them into action. I do not know any Democrat who is not worried sick about the imminent threat to democracy from the Republican Party under Trump. Reminding people over and over again about the dire situation we face may be the correct approach to scare them into action, but it is not mine. I assume everyone recalls that Trump attempted a violent coup nine months ago and understands that he is continuing those efforts up to the present moment.

          Our job is to do something about it. Here’s a thought worth contemplating: In the 2020 election, 80 million eligible voters did not vote. Let me repeat: 80 million eligible voters did not vote in 2020. So, rather than curl up in a ball the next time a commentor tells us that “all is lost,” think about whether we can reach enough of those 80 million eligible voters to make a difference. I say that we can. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

          Talk to you tomorrow!

Postscript: The weather has turned cold and wet in the Sierras, giving firefighters a chance to make progress against the KNP Complex fire, which has “stalled” in place. Four firefighters were hit by a burning tree and were hospitalized with broken bones and lacerations. All will survive. The immediate danger has passed, though the edge of the fire remains about 1.5 miles from our cabin. The fire will likely continue to burn until significant snowfall extinguishes it. So, I will stop giving daily updates and you should assume no news is good news. We are thankful to all of the firefighters who put themselves in jeopardy every day, and we wish the injured firefighters a speedy recovery. For those of you following the KNP fire, the link is here: CalTopo KNP Complex Fire.