My Dad Was Better Than John Kerry

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Former MA Senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is an accurate precursor for today’s 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls. Unbearably self-absorbed and phony, Kerry’s military career of was rife with controversy, surrounded by justifiable doubt regarding the legitimacy of his having been awarded three Purple Heart medals within a very short time span.  For what amounted to surface scratches incurred on three separate occasions, Kerry gleefully accepted the same citation given to real heroes who lost a limb or suffered a disfiguring injury while saving their comrades on the battlefield. Kerry should have sloughed off the very idea of accepting those Purple Hearts for injuries no worse than a shaving cut. He didn’t miss a single day of service due to those injuries. Not a day.

Unfortunately, the military does not distinguish between severity of wounds when awarding the Purple Heart. Regardless of how true or fraudulent Kerry’s Purple Heart claims are, the fact is Kerry’s having accepted the medals devalued and disrespected the serious, life-threatening injuries suffered by real soldiers in actual combat.

Critics claim that Kerry was a conniving, disingenuous shill from Day One, who always had his eye on a future political career. His preening, insufferable anti-military 1971 testimony in front of the Senate, complete with his pretentiously affected pronunciation of “Jen-Gis Con,” is so laughably transparent as to be unbelievable. Yet this dishonest, put-on, all-for-show snake-oil salesman somehow managed to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2004. He began his acceptance speech by awkwardly saluting and squawking, “Reporting for Duty!” as if anyone in the known universe thought Kerry or any Democrat had the slightest allegiance to anything with any connection to America’s military. Since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and continuing right through today’s 2020 Democratic contenders, Democrats have been virulently anti-military, viewing its funding as robbing them of vote-bribing social program dollars and condescendingly regarding military people—from enlisted personnel all the way to senior command officers— as nothing more than unsophisticated war-mongering oafs, incapable of grasping the finer points of civilized society.

Today’s Democratic Party does not care about the good of the country as a whole, nor does any current Democratic presidential contender care about the military or understand much about its role. The Democrats are simply interested in winning elections and attaining power, not in furthering the best interests of the country. They look at the country as a big collection of special-interest groups, to be singled out as victims whose salvation shall be delivered for “free” by a Democratic-sponsored Government program. Women, blacks, Hispanics, people below the poverty line, LGBTQ, college students, seniors, and minimum-wage workers are all regarded by the Democrats as simply pieces of the electoral puzzle, to be won over with a taxpayer-funded program crafted just for them. Beneficiaries of such programs will vote for the Dems, while well-heeled liberals will assuage their personal guilt and bolster their self-esteem by voting in favor of them.

The military doesn’t fit into this plan. Military funding does not alleviate the suffering of a special-interest group in a vote-winning manner. Foreign policy success does not convince the 25-year-old with $72k outstanding in college loans to vote for you. F-35s may unerringly destroy their targets in hostile airspace but they will never shatter that supposed “glass ceiling.”

The John Kerry Democrats exploit their military service (if they even serve at all) as nothing more than a political checklist, while demeaning and devaluing the very institution they’re using to further their own personal fortunes. It’s quite a contrast to the way the Greatest Generation served their country. Very few, if any, soldiers serving in combat in WWII publicly identified themselves as Democrats or Republicans, as liberals or conservatives. They were simply Americans, united by a common goal, loyal to the country and to each other.

So it was with my dad. He served in the 338th Field Artillery Battalion in Italy. My dad was an FO (forward observer). The FOs would go to the front lines and find a suitable hiding place. There, they’d use their binoculars to observe how and where their cannon fire was landing, and they’d radio corrective instructions back to the battery.

338th Field Artillery Battalion Insignia

Obviously, the Germans hated the FOs, since they were the ones responsible for directing lethal fire down on them. One day, the Germans spotted my dad’s small group, holed up in a small abandoned house on a hill. No one knows for sure what gave their position away—perhaps it was a glint of sunlight reflecting off a binocular lens. But whatever it was, the Germans spotted them and brought their own 88mm guns to bear on the house. The Germans leveled it, with many American casualties. My dad was struck in the head by a falling beam. The survivors managed to get back to base and my dad was sent to the backlines for emergency surgery, which included the placement of a steel plate in his head.

Want to know what my dad’s most urgent request was following surgery? He wanted to know how soon he could rejoin his buddies at “B Battery.” That was not an uncommon request. U.S. soldiers had an extremely strong sense of commitment and devotion to each other and to their mission. Soldiers would routinely lie about their condition, telling the medical staff they were better than they really were, in an effort to get back to the “boys.” After the war, my dad returned home, got a degree in Civil Engineering under the GI Bill, earned a modest, respectable blue-collar salary in the construction industry and raised his family. He never spoke of the war, he never boasted about his bravery under fire, nor did he ever try to leverage his near-death Purple Heart experience for any kind of personal gain. Like millions of other WWII vets, he was simply a quiet, class guy who did his job and expected no special treatment.

John Kerry accepted three Purple Hearts for wounds no worse than falling off a bike and skinning your knee, all with the duplicitous intent of parlaying a blatantly false, inflated record of military “heroism” into a lucrative future political position. Kerry is the prototypical modern Democratic politician who is all about themselves, all about looking for electoral advantage regardless of the truth, all about Party before Country. Whether it’s favorable international trade deals, treaties/agreements between adversarial nations (like the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accords, the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, etc.), border security or anything else, President Trump uses just one benchmark to determine whether the U.S. will continue or withdraw from an existing agreement or enter into a new agreement: Will it benefit America?

Today’s Democrats employ Kerry-like reasoning in every move they make, in every vote they take, with every press conference or interview they give: “How will this benefit my personal power ambitions?” If the truth and the country have to suffer in subservience to personal and Party ambition, so be it.

My dad was better than that. Much better.

Don’t Fight the Other Guy’s Fight

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s an old axiom in boxing that says you’ll never win if you fight the other guy’s fight. If he’s a slick boxer, you should try to pressure him, break his rhythm, force him to get into a punch-for-punch shootout.

Conversely if your opponent is a brawler, you should use fluid side-to-side movement and long, quick jabs to keep him at bay and prevent him from getting close. There’s a more colloquial expression for all of this: “Don’t hook with a hooker.”

Politics is no different. The winning side is the side that is most successful at framing the argument in terms more advantageous to their favored positions, the side that can convincingly present the talking points that play to their strengths while minimizing the amount of time and conversation spent in areas not to their liking. There are clichés that apply: Democrats don’t talk about building up the country’s military strength. Republicans would rather avoid the topic of race-based quota admissions.

Unless there is some immediate, unusual pressing emergency that forces an unwelcome issue to the fore, most of the time the candidate or party spokesperson can side-step it and not be forced into an uncomfortable defensive position.

There are times when talking about a “bad” issue are unavoidable: when cornered by a hostile media reporter during a press conference or interview, when a private citizen (a non-plant) manages to formulate an intelligent, informed question at a town hall, or during a debate when the opponent brings up a topic he/she thinks is going to make the other person look bad by forcing them to talk about what they don’t want to talk about.

What would be really effective would be if that candidate or spokesperson could turn their supposed weakness into a major strength. That would require that the opposition’s position/talking point was thoroughly analyzed, vetted, prodded and poked in advance, behind the scenes. Give it real thought, play Devil’s Advocate with it, defend it, role play with it, learn it backwards and forwards. The absolute worst thing to do is exactly what most politicians do now: merely dismiss it with a derisive wave of the hand, perhaps accompanied by a trite, sarcastic cliché.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s look at one issue. Democrats love this one. They get great mileage out of it. The “mushy middle” of inattentive, low Information voters is persuadable, being particularly susceptible to a message that is phrased simply and casts them—the voter—as a victim. When someone is told they’re a victim and I, your humble Public Servant, will come to your rescue, it can be quite compelling indeed. Elections are often won or lost by the effectiveness of messaging to this bloc.

The issue? Income Inequality. Message: Republican Fat Cats are overpaid. The implication: If the Fat Cats were paid less, that leftover money would somehow magically make its way directly into your pocket. Income Inequality is the source of all your ills. Greedy conservatives are unfairly given the money that should rightfully go to you.

That’s the Dems’ message. “Billionaires are immoral.” They push it hard and often. Republicans, to date, have had no effective counter to it. Nothing short, pithy and memorable. Nothing that is so true and unarguable that it shuts up the Democratic speaker—whether it’s a candidate, a party spokesperson or a liberal media talking head—and puts them into a state of open-mouthed shock, unable to speak.

“Conservative CEOs rake in millions of dollars in pay and stock options, bonuses, profit-sharing, etc., but the rank-and-file earns only $50k/year, 1/50th the CEO’s pay. All Republican policies are aimed at making the CEO even richer. Republicans love Income Inequality.”

The entire notion of “income inequality” is a farce, a non-issue, all-appearance/no-substance. When Republicans attempt to answer it, they’re doomed. They’re playing the Democrats’ game.

Ok, here’s the scenario: Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or whomever is the Democratic Flavor of the Month is going on and on about income inequality, how it’s worse than ever, how it hurts the ‘little guy,’ and what they say drips with the implication that if rich conservatives are paid less, then poor derserving liberals and swing voters will somehow get more money.  “How,” precisely, they get that money is never explained, but no matter. The liberal moderator eats it up and throws one softball after another for the Democrat to hit out of the park.

Usually, the poor, communications-challenged Republican is clueless how to respond, and more often than not, follows their Democratic opponent and the liberal moderator down the one-way no-escape rabbit hole. They get humiliated, tagged—again!—with the “Republicans are heartless” label. The cliché is confirmed once more.

Not this time. This time the Republican has something up his/her sleeve. It’s called “Easily-Understood Logic,” that most rare of conservative communications commodities.

“So, Senator Harris, you’re not rich, right? But you live a fairly decent life.; Your family has enough to eat, you pay the electric bill and you generally have no real complaints. Is that a fair characterization?”

She nervously agrees, fearful that something is coming.

“And your next-door neighbor on your street, they’re in roughly the same boat, right? Not outright rich, but no actual complaints. Things are fine. Is that right?”

Again, Harris nervously agrees, knowing that something is coming.

And here it is: “Now, Senator Harris, let’s suppose that tomorrow, your next-door neighbor hits the lottery for $500 million and all of a sudden they’re incredibly rich. Yesterday, Senator Harris, you and your neighbor were in the same financial boat. There was perfect income equality. Today, they’re totally rich and you’re not. Complete income inequality. Tell us, Senator Harris, exactly how does your neighbor’s new-found wealth prevent you and your family from living a perfectly nice life?”

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. People’s income and financial status are independent of each other. It’s not a zero-sum game: One person’s income doesn’t go down just because another’s goes up. The economic pie is continually expanding. It’s not finite, where the size of one person’s “slice” directly impacts the size of someone else’s “slice.” GDP in America has more than doubled since 1999. The pie is expanding. There’s more than enough for everyone.

The term “income inequality” needs to be called out by Republicans for what it is: a totally inaccurate, pejorative term invented by liberals, designed to make conservatives look bad to the liberal media and to inattentive, low-information swing voters. The correct term is “income sufficiency.” As long as someone has an income sufficient to provide for their needs, that’s all that matters.

Let your next-door neighbor hit the lottery. Let Tim Cook or Warren Buffet make another few million today. Their income is not what is holding anyone back. There may be other things—structural or not—that cause any given individual to not enjoy income sufficiency, but the financial success of another person isn’t one of them.

Of all the rhetorical scams perpetrated by the Democrats, “income inequality” is among the worst. Republicans need to stop chasing that phony slickster around the ring, swinging and missing at a non-existent opponent.

AOC is the Democrats’ Voice

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: Has there ever been a freshman Congressperson who has made anywhere near as much of a national impact in so short a period of time as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? She’s only been in office for a few months, yet it seems as if she’s in the news every day. Her commentary and progressive vision have certainly taken the Democratic Party by storm and she is the unquestioned de-facto leading speaker for her side. She’s also a media darling—on both sides—because of her fearless, flamboyant, often outrageous statements. She’s definitely newsworthy.

AOC, as she’s amusingly known, has made an astonishingly high number of notable proclamations and policy proposals in rapid succession. No subject is off-limits; there is no area of national importance where she hasn’t weighed in. She has an opinion about everything and is only too eager to share it. Significantly, she obviously feels that her take on the various subjects is important and worthy of serious consideration. Some would say she thinks her opinions should be accepted as gospel-like fact and carried out in their entirety.

Some of her more pointed declarations:

The Green New Deal:

‘The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.’

‘Like, this is the war, this is our World War II.’

 ‘Today is the day that we choose to assert ourselves as a global leader in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and charting that path.’

‘I’m the boss, I’m trying. If you’re trying, you’ve got all the power, you’re driving the agenda, you’re doing all this stuff.’

Medicare for all:

‘’The United States should be a nation that allows improved and expanded Medicare for all.

Blocking Amazon’s New York City headquarters:

Anything is possible. Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.’

 Abolishing ICE:

‘An agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime.’

The most meaningful aspect of AOC’s flamboyant presence on the national stage is not her never-ending stream of continually outlandish opinions on any number of important issues, which is certainly impressive enough. Instead, it’s the supportive, almost giddy coverage afforded to her by an incredibly sympathetic liberal media, as they use her nearly-baseless pontifications to promote their own favored viewpoints, but without having to present AOC’s opinion as their own. They get to present it as “news”—something a high-profile politician said today—and thus attempt to pre-empt any direct criticism of that media outlet taking sides.

Has the rise of the AOC phenomenon caused Nancy Pelosi’s standing as the Democratic Speaker of the House—the supposed official “leader” of the Democratic House majority—to be diminished or threatened? Is there friction or conflict between them? Are AOC’s almost-daily pronunciations causing a rift in the Democratic Party between the new ultra-progressive wing and the older, more-traditional liberal faction?

Probably not.

Unbeknown to her, AOC’s newness and youth are being deftly exploited by Democratic Party veterans. They simply run her extreme radical progressive ideas up the flagpole to gauge public reaction. If her ideas seem too extreme, the Pelois and Hoyers of the world can distance themselves from them and reassure the swing/independent electorate that AOC is full of youthful exuberance and unrealistic ideological enthusiasm, but she doesn’t speak for the heart and soul of the real Democratic Party.

Pelosi will attempt to subtly put forth the notion that her party—the real Democrats—love their country, embrace the capitalistic American Dream where anyone can become a success, and fully support a clean environment with commensurate sensitivity to business and jobs. However, they are more compassionate, inclusive and aware of the needs of individual groups (like women, minorities, LGBTQ, etc.) than those hard-hearted, inflexible, further-right-than-ever Republicans. “Don’t worry—you can still advance your career and live a very nice life; we’re just going to make sure everyone has healthcare, breathes clean air, pays their fair share of taxes and that there’s common-sense diversity in the workplace and in our schools. That’s reasonable enough for you to vote for us, right?” That is Pelosi‘s and her ‘traditional wing’ Democrats’ implied stance. Whether it’s believable or not is another matter, but that’s their line, their distinction from the AOC wing.

But…if a radical idea posed by AOC seems to have legs and takes hold, then the Pelosi faction will be quick to glom onto it and claim it as their own. This way, they can have it both ways: Let AOC put everything out there. If a proposal or stance is so extreme that the mid-line swing voters reject it, then Pelosi will dismiss it as AOC’s naïve inexperience getting the best of her. If an idea from AOC seems to fire the public’s imagination and appears to become mainstream thought, then the traditional Pelosi wing can adopt it as if they were in favor of it all along.

AOC is the perfect trial horse, a no-lose proposition for traditional Democrats who are too cautious to propose liberally-adventurous, ground-breaking ideas of their own. They will willingly let AOC charge into the machine-gun fire of public opinion and take whatever hits come her way, but they will happily go along for the credit ride if any of AOC’s ideas strike a favorable chord.

For seasoned political observers, the most entertaining aspect of this entire scenario is that AOC has absolutely no idea that she’s being used by her own party. That’s how seriously she takes herself.

As the House passes a resolution condemning a fought-over list of bigotries – including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy – with reportedly 23 GOP members voting no because of the inclusion of Islamophobia and white supremacy in what was originally supposed to be a Democrat-controlled response to Representative Omar’s remarks, there is an interesting idea for a further resolution.

Supreme policy wonk Mark Jacobs (who has burrowed deep and wide into the details of healthcare policy for the GOP) suggests in The Federalist that the GOP use a Motion to Recommit (a procedure whereby the minority in the House gets a final shot at amending a bill brought forward by the majority) to force a vote on the Green New Deal. This would be the flipside of the tactic used last week when the GOP used a motion to recommit to get moderate Democrats to agree to notify immigration authorities when illegals try to purchase guns. Supposedly we all want less guns because they say that means less violence, right? What’s not to like about that?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blew a gasket at a closed-door meeting, according to the Washington Post:

Ocasio-Cortez, the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election. Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said she told her colleagues that Democrats who side with Republicans ‘are putting themselves on a list.’

‘She said that when activists ask her why she had to vote for a gun safety bill that also further empowers an agency that forcibly injects kids with psychotropic drugs, they’re going to want a list of names and she’s going to give it to them,’ Trent said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So now by using a Motion to Recommit which entails a vote on the Green New Deal the GOP would be appealing to radical progressives in the Democratic Party to vote for the enormously expensive and poorly thought-out plan, and force moderate Dems to decide if they would really vote for this sort of top-down ecological Maoism.

Yes, it’s theatrics and it’s meant to prod and provoke and reveal the divisions within the Democratic Party. But the fascinating question is, how would AOC react? I have an idea it might go something like this:

If you think I’m letting a bunch of old white guys get to decide when and how we save America by banning the internal combustion engine and slaughtering farting cows and selling Amtrak to the Chinese so they can build high-speed trains where our highways once stood, you have no idea who you’re dealing with! This resolution is immoral because of who you guys are. Not because of what it contains! Don’t you guys get it?

That’s the thing about intersectionality. Hypocrisy disappears because it is now irrelevant. You see you can change an idea, or a policy stance perhaps based on evidence that has convinced you to shift your position. Or on the polls and the fact that now your party has the majority. But changing who you are is much harder (and more expensive) to do. And we the identity police will decide who you are. Not you. You don’t even have control of who you are. We do. Ha. Ha.

So, as delicious as Mark Jacob’s idea is, it won’t work. The Democrats who would actually have the decency to be uncomfortable with the blatant hypocrisy of not voting for a Motion to Recommit on the Green New Deal (which will supposedly save us from destruction) are now cowed into silence. It will be AOC and her Gang of Three who will explain why hypocrisy is gone, dead, vanished, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

When identity is everything, then hypocrisy is nothing.

Of course, AOC would vote against such a Motion to Recommit without a trace of guilt or discomfort. She’d in fact do it in a bout of righteous rage. It’s all about who she is and the crazed paradises she’s pointing towards, not what she says or how to get there.

It has been suggested that the Speaker of the House is not Nancy Pelosi, it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And if you could measure the role of Speaker by the amount of words unleashed while actually speaking (or tweeting to be a little more accurate), then it ain’t even close. AOC is House Speaker, threatening moderate Democrats with primary opponents if they ever vote for a GOP measure or add-on to a bill, tweeting furiously and unapologetically and gathering up her cohorts Tlaib and Omar in a sort of Gang of Three who are absolutely and completely and self-righteously sure of the supreme truths of their radicalism.

And it’s working for AOC.

Look at the recent flap over Omar and her supposed tropes about Benjamins (that would be the smiling face of Franklin surrounded by the number 100 on a crisp green surface) and dual allegiances. They were going to have a House vote to condemn anti-Semitism and by extension Omar’s words on the matter, which are not figurative but quite literal in intention and effect.

What did Nancy do?
• Say that she didn’t think the comments were: intentionally anti-Semitic, AND
• Express her doubt that a vote on the resolution to condemn anti-Semitism would actually take place

Here’s what AOC did.

Equate ICE with racism with a tweet that said: If we’re so concerned about implied tropes, why aren’t we concerned about this one? Where was the concern last week when 26 Dems voted for a GOP amendment to expand ICE powers rooted in the racist + false trope that Latino immigrants are more dangerous than US born citizens?

Then she aimed her bazooka at white people in general: When you don’t address them as a system and attempt to pick them apart as though they are distinct and separable issues, eventually the thing that gets advanced is white supremacy + classism.

Come on Nancy, when are you going to get control of these kids? They’re leaving you in the dust of delayed resolutions and broad-tent coalitions that used to bend to your will. Not anymore it seems. When AOC, Omar, and Tlaib (AO²C + T?) go out on a limb and saw it off they don’t worry about what’s below, unlike your own rather timid soul.

You have been exposed Nancy. You are not the sweet assassin like your daughter claims you are. You’re an older (I’m being old-fashioned and polite here) out-of-touch leader who’s desperately trying to figure out how to contain the rabid base that so loves AO²C + T without driving moderates into the GOP camp.

Not an easy task with honorary Gang-of-Three’er Linda Sarsour calling you a typical white feminist upholding the patriarchy doing the dirty work of powerful white men.

Maybe you should consult the Southern Poverty Law Center for some advice. Because it will take a miracle to get AO²C + T to shut up for just long enough to convince voters in rural Pennsylvania or Ohio or moderates anywhere that you still value their views, so you might as well join them, right?

Maybe Pelosi is an assassin and will exact revenge on them. Or maybe Pelosi is becoming like President Paul von Hindenburg outmaneuvered by the Gang of Three’s furious and radical oratory, seeing that Nazi analogies are so useful to the left nowadays, and is about to effectively concede the rule of her party to that radical fringe.

If she hasn’t already.

It seems that more than few commentators are not that miffed about the cancellation of the State of Union Address courtesy of Speaker Pelosi. The attitude among many conservative and libertarians seems to be: good riddance to the spectacle. Yes, I agree it’s a bit like the Oscars, if you’re one of those people (like me) who no longer watches them or only occasionally blips by them when they’re on. But I insist that the State of the Union does have a purpose and its cancellation for petty, partisan reasons is a shame and quite different from the reasons that many conservative commentators give for returning it to its Jeffersonian form of a written report delivered to Congress.

But now we have the next move in the battle of the border. And I must admit my reaction to Trump’s response upon reading the headlines was a loud laugh. Here’s how President Trump’s letter to Speaker Pelosi opens:

Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure that you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.

Look. Trump’s the guy, that without intending to, got a room full of belly laughs at the UN last September, so please forgive me if I guffawed heartily when reading about Nancy’s ruined jaunt to Europe, Egypt and to Afghanistan. Sometimes a good belly laugh is quite a healthy thing.

Yes, this is ridiculous. This is petty on a grandiose scale. This has become Gatsbyish pettiness, worthy of a great American novel. Tom Wolfe couldn’t write this. And if someone did write this, the editors would ask them if they could just please make it a little more realistic because for goodness sake, revenge in Washington doesn’t work that way.

It does now.

So, one has to ask: what sort of damage did President Trump do to the process of government and governing in America by cancelling Speaker Pelosi’s chartered flight to Europe, Egypt and Afghanistan? Aside from the fact that the latter is where America’s longest war – a war with precious little victories to show for billions in treasure and thousands in American lives – has been fought for the last 17 years, what was the purpose of the Speaker’s visit?

The Daily Beast has a piece that treats Pelosi’s trip as reverently as if it was Nixon heading to China or Reagan to Reykjavík:

For more than three weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her staff had quietly planned an international trip to Brussels and Afghanistan to check in on America’s longest war. Like most congressional delegations—“CODELs”—it was time-consuming work, involving coordination between numerous agencies, stakeholders, and international officials along with extra security briefings because of the danger of the destination.

Pelosi’s chief of staff worked with a liaison from the U.S. Air Force who was the lead in setting up travel arrangements and the itinerary for the trip. Senior officials at the Pentagon also had been read in on the speaker’s plans, especially those regarding her visit to war-torn Afghanistan, where extra security was needed for her time in Kabul. Two senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan said they received the itinerary for the trip, as they do other congressional trips, weeks in advance and held it close to the chest. Fellow members of Congress made similar accommodations as they prepared to accompany the Speaker on the CODEL.

Yes, you need to plan a little to make sure that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is safe and secure when going anywhere, especially where islamic terrorists would delight in assassinating her. But often these Congressional Delegations are undertaken to provide the soundbites for policies or positions they’ve already put in place back at home. While flustering low-level Pentagon officials might be a little rude, it is hardly a dangerous thing to do to keep the plane on the ground and Nancy at home unless she pays up for commercial.

Who can guess where this goes now? Nancy will be furious and desperate for her revenge in this increasingly personal battle (it’s been personal since Trump won the nomination, but this is on another level of animosity now) that’s about blunt hostility and polarized bases braying for blood.

But just for a moment, it was great to laugh. We now get to go back to the bickering and plotting. Oh yay.

Byron York has a piece in the Washington Examiner that analyzes Senator Cruz and President Trump’s transactional relationship. It’s fascinating and not necessarily for the reasons one would suspect. Yes, they were rivals, more or less friendly ones at the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, which means in the fall of 2015. Then as they emerged as the two top contenders for the GOP nomination, things got nasty starting in Iowa and coming to a head as Trump became nominee in the spring of 2016. Cruz lashed out at Trump and basically called him a vile narcissist who treated people – including Cruz’s feisty Cuban-born father – terribly.

Trump won the election, and things changed. And now Senator Cruz is not just an ally but a close ally of the President.

What a load of hypocritical horsesh!t right?

Maybe not so load-of-sh!tty, as a matter of fact.

Why so? Because of you. The voters. That’s why.

America is a republic. A democratic republic, with elected representatives who serve their voters. It is not an administrative state, as much as many in the beltway wish that ALL of America was one sprawling set of all-seeing agencies, and they could therefore go about their plans for a perfect, government-run state that takes care of all your needs and tells you everything you must and mustn’t do.

The reality usually sits somewhere between majority voters deciding every issue and that dystopian vision of how America should be according to the bureaucrats.

Seen that way, it is interesting how leadership nowadays is seen as the ability to ignore the unwashed majority’s demands and do unpopular things for their own good. Yes, that may have very well have been what the founders envisioned especially with regards the Senate. But the problem is that the good that is sought today is not what the founders would have called the good. The good today is a statistic. A compilation of statistics.

The Good, Plato’s fundamental cornerstone of what guides a just society, has now devolved down to what we call Big Data. Google therefore knows the good. Not you. And Google has the goods. On you. And to run all that data that tells the experts what is good and what isn’t – the rather narrow range of values that the global elites have agreed on for a couple of generations now – you need lots of administrators, don’t you?

In fact, the agencies in Washington are currently in a panic because their IT professionals are close to my age, which is nowhere near young. The administrative state and Silicon Valley are the same parts of an enormous blob that functions much more like old-fashioned oligopolies than their lean, disruptive, and innovative image that they nourish so carefully with the complicity of big media, would like you to think. And they need young blood to staff the blob.

So, the administrative state and its branches in tech and the media work around, over, and under the transactional relationship you should have with your representative. It’s one of the things that Trump is taking a sledgehammer to, and big Tech is pissed off naturally.

That means that transactional is an adjective that not only applies to foreign policy, or the relationship between Trump and Cruz, but also to the relationship between voters and their representatives. Voters enter into a transaction with any given candidate based partly on the candidate’s views (or ideology if you must use that frickin’ word) and on how they’ve voted once in office. With all due respect (which is very little) to Karl Marx’s coined phrase.

What gets in the way of that transaction between voters and their representatives is the administrative state. Yes, the Constitution itself sets up checks and balances to guard against the tyranny of the majority, but the administrative state is so deeply embedded within the executive branch itself, that it has flown under the radar of those checks and balances and only recently has it truly begun to be brought out into the light and attacked as undemocratic. From Justice, to the intel agencies, to the IRS and the EPA: the agencies that have accumulated so much power are at last a little more visible as to their ever expanding reach and thus more subject to voter anger.

Maybe that’s why voters lined up overnight to see the Trump-Cruz rally. They’re getting transactional with their elected representatives. They might even call it a grand bargain.

The Court’s One-Way Drift

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Brett Kavanaugh is still waiting to be appointed to the Supreme Court after perhaps the most contentious, histrionic, uncontrolled Senate hearings ever held for a Supreme Court nominee. Arguably not since Robert Bork’s Senate confirmation hearings in 1987 has a nominee faced questioning as politically-charged as this. The questioning was routinely interrupted by outside hecklers and protesters, often so disruptive that the proceedings had to stop momentarily. That some of these protesters were rumored to be paid Democratic political plants—unproven but certainly plausible given the rancorous state of our political discourse and the critically-pivotal nature of this appointment in the Democrats’ eyes—demonstrates the extreme lengths Kavanaugh’s opponents were willing to go to in order to thwart his confirmation to the Court.

Wannabe 2020 Democratic Presidential hopefuls like Senator Kamala Harris of CA and Senator Corey Booker of NJ assumed the starring adversarial roles and between them, managed to raise political grandstanding to new heights of ambitious, ego-fueled absurdity. It’s doubtful that we’ll ever see an exhibition that even comes close to matching Booker’s risibly inane “I am Spartacus” statement in our lifetime. Very doubtful.

Then Senator Diane Feinstein produced the 11th-hour, 59th-minute “letter,” the vague, inexact, bereft-of-specific-detail ace-in-the-hole penned by one Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleging some unspecified sexual impropriety committed by Kavanaugh against her during their high school days, some 30-odd years ago. Time? Location? Witnesses? Actual details? Real evidence? Please. Unnecessary luxuries in the must-automatically-believe #metoo era. Charges by a Democratic pro-abortion activist against a conservative middle-aged white male are more than enough, thank you, and no further discussion will be allowed. Even by Teddy Kennedy’s lofty behavioral standards in the 1987 Robert Bork confirmation hearings, Feinstein’s last-minute maneuver ranks as one of the most incredible political stunts of all time. Hats off.

The ironic aspect of all the hoopla surrounding Kavanaugh’s appointment is that the issue that Democrats care about the most—abortion (more than free college, the environment, gender rights/identity, Government handout programs/socialized medicine, diversity, open borders, the glass ceiling, or any other)—is not in danger of being “outlawed” by the Supreme Court. In the highly unlikely event that a direct ruling on Roe vs. Wade should even come before the Court, the Supreme Court will not “make abortion illegal” regardless of how it rules. if the Supreme Court ever overturned it, Roe v Wade would simply revert to the states. Realistically, the chances of a significant number of states (or even any of them) banning abortion outright are essentially zero. All this crazed protest by progressives about Kavanaugh’s position on an issue that even he has referred to as “settled law” betrays the astonishingly ignorant, disingenuous nature of the Democrats’ position with regard to any Supreme nominee by a Republican president.

But in any event the Democrats probably needn’t worry, if history from the past 30-40 years is any indication. For whatever reason, supposedly conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices have consistently shown a marked tendency to become more and more liberal the longer they’re on the Court. The opposite is not true—liberal justices rarely, if ever, vote in a conspicuously conservative direction on contentious issues. Like the Democratic Party as a whole, liberal justices are quite good at holding their ranks. Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotamoyor, Elena Kagen—none of them breaks liberal ranks on the high-profile Left vs. Right rulings. None of them is considered a “swing” vote. Ever. To the Left, the concepts of “open mindedness,” “tolerance” and “intellectual curiosity” only apply when a conservative justice agrees with the liberal stance, because it never happens the other way around. There is no mystery, no question as to how the liberal contingent is going to vote, every single time.

The same is not true of the so-called “conservative” justices. While Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch are seemingly reliable conservatives, the “swing vote” is always an erstwhile conservative. Sandra Day O’Connor was an uncertain vote before every big case. She was appointed by President Reagan in 1981 and thought to be a definite conservative-leaning judge prior to her appointment. David Souter, named by President Bush I in 1990, definitely ended up being a huge disappointment to conservatives. He regularly strayed from conservative orthodoxy in his voting record and sided with the Court’s liberal faction more often than not. Anthony Kennedy—the judge named in wake of Robert Bork’s arbitrarily politically-charged rejection—came to be known as the “swing vote”—a term not even in existence before him. Kennedy earned the lasting ire of conservatives because in many cases he wrote that the precedent of foreign law could and should be taken into account when deciding American legal issues. Traditionalists were outraged, feeling that the U.S. Constitution and American case law history should be the basis for making domestic legal rulings, and what France did or didn’t do 50 years ago should have no bearing.

However, there is no question that both the biggest surprise and biggest conservative disappointment in recent times came from none other than Bush II appointee Chief Justice John Roberts, in his stunning deciding vote to uphold the legitimacy of Obamacare in 2012, when he sided with the liberal justices to retain the individual mandate. His reasoning was that the penalty for non-compliance amounted to a tax and that “the Constitution permits such a tax.” Therefore, according to Roberts, it met the rules of accepted Constitutionality. Conservatives were certain that the ACA’s individual mandate clause would be shot down by the Supreme Court, starting a death spiral that would spell the end to the controversial measure.

But to everyone’s amazement, Roberts upheld the law with his deciding and hotly-debated vote, sending shudders of despair through conservative ranks, not only over the specifics of Obamacare’s survival but also for conservatives’ realization that Roberts was not going to be the dependable Right vote that they thought he’d be.

Kennedy, O’Connor, Souter and Roberts—all were justices initially thought to be conservative, but whose actual Supreme Court careers ended up being largely moderate-to-liberal. The Supreme “drift” is always in the conservative-to-liberal direction. Kavanaugh, whose practical, grounded opinion history and easy-going persona suggest that he was never an extreme Scalia-type conservative to begin with, seems primed for that same leftward drift.

The outcome of Kavanaugh’s confirmation has not been determined as of this writing. But having already scored their transparent-but-predictable grandstanding points and Republican brand-damaging objectives, one can assume that behind closed doors out of the public’s eye, Senators Feinstein, Harris, Booker and the entire liberal mainstream media machine are actually breathing pretty easy these days. Rejection = outright Democratic victory. Confirmation = likely long-term Democratic victory.





Does the US Postal Service qualify as an intelligence agency? If you work for the US Postal Inspection Service, it seems you might just in fact be a member of the intelligence community. That means that you have to fill out what’s called an SF-86 Security Clearance form. Abigail Spanberger is a former CIA operations officer who previously worked for the US Postal Inspection Service. She’s running on the Democratic ticket for Congress in Virginia and her unredacted SF-86 apparently ended up in the hands of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is Paul Ryan territory.

Evil acts of espionage were to blame if you believe other Democrat candidates with backgrounds in intel or the military like retired Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath who’s gunning for a seat in Kentucky. Here’s Colonel McGrath dressing down some anonymous, theoretically-GOP, n’er-do-well, good-fer-nuthin’ leaker:

If this was deliberately leaked, it’s a despicable act by a political party that loves to tout its national security credentials, but then goes after those who worked to provide it.

Who cares about Bruce Ohr or Glenn Simpson when you have Post Office security clearances ending up in the hands of GOP PAC’s?! This must be collusion! Let’s start impeachment proceedings against whoever is responsible for this!

Maybe not quite so fast. A day or so later, the USPS fessed up to making a clerical error – albeit an important error that sheds light on how government agencies, the Post Office included, have detailed and elaborate protocols on how to respond to FOIA requests for details on a candidate. Something that is standard practice in politics and has been for some time. It appears that someone screwed up in what information they released to America Rising. What seemed to have happened is an unredacted SF-86 with all of Spanberger’s sensitive personal details was mistakenly released to America Rising, who passed it on to the Congressional Leadership Fund.

America Rising is a conservative PAC that provides opposition research on Democratic candidates. A Red Fusion GPS if you wish, although Fusion GPS’s true colors are closer to green, with shades of blue and even a little red when necessary.

The Colonel from Kentucky is not impressed. And in Virginia, Spanberger is insisting that foul play was involved – despite USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer insisting that it was “because of human error.” Lawsuits are being launched and Spanberger, McGrath and others are doing their best to fan the flames of their own outrage in order to gain an edge. For example, in Virginia’s 7th district where Spanberger is up against David Brat – whose shock primary win over David Cantor back in 2014 heralded the voter rebellion in both parties that was to come in 2016.

So yes, a botched SF-86 in a FOIA request by a PAC clearly requires shock and awe tactics from a retired Colonel and a former spy. It just feels a touch manufactured, if you’ll forgive me. But hey, it might work and in a mid-term election that’s all about setting the groundwork for impeachment proceedings against a sitting president, anything that paints GOP/conservative PAC’s as scheming and underhanded is worth a shot.

We know of Peter Strzok’s firing because his lawyer, Aitan Goelman, has been kicking up a fuss in the media since Monday. There certainly didn’t seem to be a press conference by the FBI announcing the decision on Friday when Deputy Director David Bowdich handed down the decision. Was there even a press release somewhere maybe late Friday night? Do people in general even realize that Bowdich – more tough law-enforcement cop than ambitious Ivy League prosecutor – was appointed the new Deputy Director back in April?

The fact that for most of us, the answers are “no …” seems to suit the FBI just fine. This was a dismissal that seems to have more to do with desperately trying to rescue the agency’s tarnished reputation, something Director Christopher Wray clearly views as a priority. A quiet dismissal on a Friday in August, like a stealth drone hoping to avoid detection.

Good luck with that in DC, Bowdich and Wray.

So, the news is out and now the question is: does it change how Congressional Committees might view Strzok or how he might himself provide testimony at some point in the future? What will Strzok do, in other words? Remember, he’s the guy no one in the top brass at the FBI (of which he was arguably a part of, or just down the hall from) or the DOJ wanted the public to find out too much about. A guy who was key to every major event in the Trump probe up until he was demoted.

Consider his infamous text messages, especially the notorious “we’ll stop it” one that was a response to his ex-lover former FBI attorney Lisa Page. As Byron York mentioned in a column at the Washington Examiner back in late June, why did it take so long for those text messages to get revealed?

Perhaps one could ask: had the DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s servers and emails not included that one notorious reply – which is how we found out about it – would we have ever found out about it? Is it any wonder that Devin Nunes is desperately trying to get President Trump himself to authorize the release of as much documentation as possible regarding the Mueller and FBI probes before the mid-term elections in November? What else is there, and how might it tie together various actors in what might be the real collusion and conspiracy here?

I suspect Nunes is right to ask President Trump to authorize the release of the documentation. So far, no luck. One wonders who is whispering in Trump’s ear that that would harm national security because it would expose FBI methods to the bad guys (including sultry Soviet – oops Russian – spies, of course) and must be avoided at all costs.

But unless we have clarity on the swirling mess of accusations and counter-accusations and competing conspiracies and possible collusions, we will drift in a fog of suggestion and innuendo where any narrative might be true. And the result is that the FBI’s reputation has indeed been damaged.

But you wouldn’t know that from a significant part of the media. They stick with the obstruction-of-justice narrative where any criticism of Mueller or FBI agents or the DOJ or anyone else in government is seen as an evil conspiracy to shut down the truth.

There are a few cracks in their united front. John Solomon’s persistent investigative reporting on the contradictions and conflicts in the DOJ, FBI, and Fusion GPS’s official stories in The Hill, for example. The Daily Beast has even admitted there was zero evidence of collusion, but always then returned to suggesting that now, finally, oh-boy-here’s-that-smoking-gun-we’ve-found-it- … almost!

Unfortunately, The Hill now has a story on how a GoFundMe campaign is approaching mid- six-figures to help Strzok defray legal costs and to cover lost income from his demotion and then firing. Does contributing to the GoFundMe campaign give you dibs on Strzok’s royalties from his upcoming book? No?

So what else is out there, and what will Strzok decide to tell, do, and pubish? It’s instructive to go back and read Byron York’s column from last June. Horowitz’s investigation found the notorious text message by discovering that Strzok’s phone had a database on it (some special chip perhaps) that was collecting text messages that the FBI itself didn’t even seem to know about. This was after running the phone through a series of tests suggested by the frickin’ Defense Department! Please tell me that Stzrok’s phone wasn’t a Huawei.

In other words, it took a multi-agency-supported probe of a single cell phone to extract some very damaging text messages that were it not for Horowitz’s single-minded focus, would have remained undiscovered. And the question of whether the DOJ knew of that damning text message and left it out of documentation they provided to Congress is still unanswered.

Horowitz is the guy who got Strzok fired, in other words.

So, what else haven’t they had the time or the budget or sufficient luck to find?

So maybe “high crimes and misdemeanors” should be seen in a more flexible way, according to some. Streiff, at Red State, is all for widening the reach of impeachment, to such an extent that it would become another nearly-everyday form of public accountability, as regular as a mid-term election. Here’s what he wrote a few days ago regarding West Virginia’s state legislature and it’s attempts to impeach their State Supreme Court of Appeals over out-of-control renovation costs at the high court’s chambers.

As impeachment is a political and not a judicial act, wearing white shoes after Labor Day is an impeachable offense if a majority of the House of Representatives says it is. Eric Holder and Susan Rice should have been impeached in the last administration. In the current one, Rod Rosenstein needs to be impeached. The House fixating on what the Senate might do misses the point. A viable threat of impeachment and the possibility of having to face a trial in the Senate would have a moderating influence on a lot of bad actors. And, even absent trial and conviction, the impeached official would have their ability to functioned sufficiently damaged that they would probably either resign or be fired. In the case of federal judges, we lose sight of the fact that they only “shall hold their offices during good behavior” That “good behavior” is something the House has the right to decide. A district court judge or appellate judge who is regularly reversed should be assumed to not be exhibiting “good behavior.” In fact, I think the nation would be well served if Congress took a page from some high pressure companies and every year rank-ordered judges from top to bottom and impeached the lowest ten percent.

Which would certainly change the balance of power between the Legislature and Congress. Whether at the state level or at the federal level. Is this all Harvard and Yale’s fault? Is this sort of contempt for the Judiciary the inevitable outcome of an isolated and elitist class of lawyers and judges who go to a select few universities and who wield incredible power as a result? Not that West Virginia’s judges fit that description. Chief Justice Margaret Lee Workman was apparently born to coal miner parents and did her law school in-state. Robin Davis got hers at West Virginia U. Former Chief Justice Allen Loughry was arrested and convicted of fraud presumably for out of control spending on renovations and who knows what else. He went to law school in Columbus, Ohio.

Does this mean that the judiciary needs to be dependent on the legislature? A no-longer co-equal branch of government?

Consider this theoretical. Should the Taney Supreme Court which authored Dredd Scott as a sort of desperate attempt at a quasi-political settlement of a fundamental legal issue in America, have all been impeached? Looking back and comparing what they did to spending too much on furniture in West Virginia, the answer to commentators like Streiff should be at least, a resounding yes.

Or think of it this way, Hobbe’s gloomy vision of society (forged during England’s Civil War) led to his belief in the necessity of a Leviathan, an unquestionable authority whose will would bring order, even if sometimes iniquity rather than true justice would be a likely outcome. Locke later dispelled some of that gloom and helped lay the foundation for America’s constitution, but in some ways the independence of the Judiciary is a remnant of Hobbe’s pessimism: a hermetically sealed corporation that society places enormous power in the hands of, in the hope of interpreting the laws that the legislature writes, and of enforcing their particular interpretation through the state’s monopoly on violence. Stare decisis indeed.

With that view, then what Streiff is suggesting is the crushing of the authority of the Judiciary, because of what seems to be a feeling that they are not only corrupt and partisan, but incompetent.

What would America look like with the threat of impeachment constantly hanging over the heads of elected officials and members of the Judiciary? If getting re-elected is what drives Congress to pass off the details of their legislative duties to the Administrative State, then Streiff may find that he likes little of what would result from a weakened judiciary. But burning things down is in season right now.

This is a problem. Freedom Caucus House Member Warren Davidson of Ohio, when prodded about the upcoming mid-terms, said this:

The Freedom Caucus is strong, and we’re going to keep getting stronger. The organization doesn’t exist to use tactics, the organization exists to effectively be the Republican wing of the Republican Party. I think that will continue to be the case if we’re not in the majority.

So, some Freedom Caucus members are willing to say that a GOP majority might not exist come the 2nd week of November. And that possibility, aside from all the Trump-centric speculation about possible mid-term results, means that a Freedom Caucus as part of a House minority GOP party would be a very different political animal than what is has been since 2010. Not nearly as much leverage from their block of disciplined conservative representatives, when Democrats hold the Speaker’s gavel.

And it’s an interesting question, but it’s not just what the Freedom Caucus does if the GOP loses the House. It’s what does the GOP, specifically the House GOP, does if they lose the House? Because there seem to be several possibilities:

  • Blame Trump and lean the Koch’s way?
  • Blame the Establishment (meaning most of GOP members themselves) and lean Trump’s way?
  • Blame the media and hope Trump leans their way?
  • Wait to see what Trump says and then duck?

There’s been a sub-plot lately about how President Trump has been batting over 300 in the GOP primaries, aside from the strike-out in Alabama of course, (or should that have been an equestrian metaphor?). But the primaries are about the base, and elections are about independents and especially women voters.

It’s tricky not to fall into ridiculous labelling that does not capture the diversity of over one-half of voters in America, so college-educated suburban women might not be the key to the GOP holding onto the House. And it’s a regional and district-by-district thing as well. But it’s hard to argue that this is a demographic that the President is not offending and alienating.

So how does an almost entirely male Freedom Caucus (Arizona’s Debbie Lesko notwithstanding) appeal to college-educated suburban women and help ensure the GOP retains the House?

Talk about the economy. Talk about jobs. Talk about school vouchers. Talk about local issues. And avoid talking directly about gender diversity. Avoid the identity-politics circus that is waiting like a tattered lion in a cage, hoping to take their heads off. They will lose that battle every time, especially once the media amps it up. And that way the House GOP will find out what independent and women voters are looking for in this election. They may not like what voters tell them in November but trying to clap like a seal surrounded by clowns and still end up getting hooked off the stage is not the best way to stand your ground. Avoid the circus and talk about main street.

No Such Thing as “Democratic Socialism”

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The new darling of the Democratic Party and the liberal mainstream media is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bright-eyed, 20-something upstart who upended long-time House member Joe Crowley in a New York state Democratic primary a few weeks ago. In their breathless, frenzied rush to anoint Ocasio-Cortez as the next coming of the Savior of the Nation, liberals across the land have wholeheartedly embraced her call for “Democratic Socialism.”

Ignoring the fact that Bernie Sanders espoused essentially the exact same things in the last presidential campaign but was unceremoniously and dishonestly pushed aside by the Democratic Party in favor of Hillary Clinton, what exactly is this “Democratic Socialism” that seems to have everyone on that side of the fence so atwitter these days?

What Democrats think it is sounds good: Income equality, a fair living wage for everyone, plentiful employment opportunities, quality healthcare coverage for all, affordable college education for all who want it, easy access to affordable, quality housing, and a tax system where the so-called rich pay their “fair share.”

While they’re at it, the Ocasio-Cortez’s of the world would also abolish ICE while ending most immigration restrictions, end what they see as our destructive international interventionism and put a stop to Israel’s wholly unjustified occupation and oppression of Palestine. What these last three have to do with either “Democracy” or “Socialism” is unclear, but there it is anyway.

Implicit in the entire discussion of their prized new order is that everything about the American economy, way of life and culture that is to their liking would remain securely in place, unaffected by the transition to Democratic Socialism. That, of course, is preposterous. The aspects of daily American life that people like and take for granted—plentiful food availability at well-stocked supermarkets, instant access to news, sports and music, the ability to get product information, make purchases and have them delivered the next day, cheap and plentiful fuel availability, an uncountable variety of non-essential consumer goods, from toys to fashion clothing to jewelry to entertainment electronics and their associated services, and millions of other items—are all made possible by the capitalistic/profit-oriented structure of our economic system. If the private business profit incentive is removed, as is the case in a socialist economy, the underlying competitive impetus for providing those goods and services disappears. It’s a zero-sum game: the more “socialism” that is introduced into the economy, the less efficient that economy becomes, because lessened private competition results in fewer choices and a diminishing incentive to increase efficiency or reduce costs.

Proponents of so-called Democratic Socialism never actually explain where the money needed to pay for all the largess will come from. There is a limit to how much simply taxing the rich will produce. Taxes on services and sales transactions would need to be raised to a stifling degree, with a commensurate negative effect on economic activity.

Europe’s supposed nirvana of universal healthcare is, in reality, a boondoggle of smoke and mirrors, where the average person has limited access to what we would consider routine medical care, at a level far lower than the average American could ever imagine. In Italy, for example, patients usually bring their own metal eating utensils and towels with them, since those are often not provided. Toilet paper is often scarce in the hospital as well. For childbirth, expectant mothers usually bring her own topical medicines, sanitary products and newborn diapers. Visitors are not asked to leave by 8:00 PM as is customary in U.S. hospitals. On the contrary, patients are advised to have a visitor stay overnight with them, because nurse staffing levels are far lower, as a matter of normal course. Bedding is not provided for overnight visitors, however.

Patients do have access to doctors and medical care via the national health system, but non-critical conditions and injuries receive lower priority and delayed attention. If a patient desires American-style “on-demand” care, they must simply pay for it out-of-pocket, an option not possible for all but the wealthiest citizens.

I know this first-hand, from an American family member living there for fourteen years and having had three children in Italy. She is fortunate enough to live in a high-income household, well above the European norm. They get around the limitations of EU-styled universal healthcare by being able to pay for any extra care they need. But that access is simply not available to the average Italian, heavily-taxed $8.00/gallon gasoline notwithstanding.

Let’s look at one other fantastical promise of Democratic Socialism: affordable college for anyone who wants it. The government can’t make college “affordable.” When the government artificially corrupts the education marketplace by injecting billions of dollars into the mix in the form of aid, scholarships, stipends and the like, they don’t reduce the ultimate cost of college. They increase it. Secure in the knowledge that a very significant portion of their students get artificially low-rate loans and generous grants/financial aid, the colleges themselves simply raise their tuition, salaries and fees—at a rate far in excess of inflation—confident that the Government will be handing out money to the students so they can pay for a significant portion of their college expenses.

What’s needed in the education marketplace is less government involvement, not more. Government-provided funds distort and obscure the real cost of education. College pricing is higher, not lower, because of government money. Remove the artificial effect of the Government’s likely one-third or more share of the $70,000 cost at Boston University and virtually no one would be able to go there. If Government-subsidized financial assistance was removed from the equation, then colleges would be forced to compete with each other in the open market for their “customers” hard-earned money. College costs would go down and the services and value they offered would go up, as the free market imposed its ruthless, unapologetic competitive lessons on the various college “brands.”

Capitalism is the best answer for raising the standard of living and delivering greater opportunities to more people. The more government is involved—funded by higher and higher taxation—the more 6-month waits we have at VA hospitals, the more $70k tuitions we have at colleges and the more $50 hammers we have being purchased by the Pentagon. Capitalism is far from perfect and not everyone benefits to the same degree—but it’s fundamentally superior to everything else. It’s kind of like what Churchill said about democracy: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

“Democratic Socialism,” as envisioned by its proponents, doesn’t exist. Not in the real world. It’s just another pipe-dream fantasy with which hucksters like Ocasio-Cortez hope to fool unsuspecting, uninformed, entitlement-minded voters. Or worse yet, themselves.


Poor Marina Gross, a long-serving translator at the State Department. One wonders in the first place if the latest person to be caught in the well, cross-fire hurricane, had any idea that one day she would be – for a moment at least – such a public figure. One also wonders if Marina Gross is actually an interpreter which apparently is all by itself a very stressful job having to translate on the spot and verbally from one language to another. A translator usually has the time to check and correct what they do. Not so in the case of an interpreter.

Perhaps she is a translator rather than the latter and took copious notes at President Trump’s closed-doors meeting with Putin. And now Democrat Senators want those notes. At least in closed Senate session. Maria, the spy from Moscow, is already fading somewhat only 24 hours after she was indicted. Now Marina has taken her place. Because while Maria Butina might indeed have looked to cultivate relationships in all sorts of ways and perhaps develop back-channels – like many do in Washington’s foreign policy circles – she’s at least several degrees removed from President or then-Candidate Trump. And that might make for a good story, but when you’re gunning for the real bear – the one in the Oval Office – then you need to get a closer shot, right?

Hence a translator’s notes of a closed-door meeting between heads of state. This would set an awful precedent. Is there nothing that Democrats and Trump Resistance people will not poison in order to get any possible evidence that might lead to at least impeachment proceedings in the House, if not a supporting vote in the Senate? The intel community has had its reputation tarnished. Strzok’s appearance before the House Judiciary committee was feisty, obnoxious, deeply partisan and legally irrelevant unless the President himself allows all related documents to be released. Is this how the FBI sees itself and is this how we see them nowadays?

He deserves it, is the response of course.

The objective is – and has perhaps been since Trump was nominated in May of 2016 – impeachment. So, if Senate Democrats can parse the language of whatever was said – this is Trump after all – they will surely find some word salad that can be tossed a little to suggest whatever quid pro quo they wish to construct. And then if the House becomes Democrat-controlled in November, then impeachment hearings can get underway.

Devin Nunes lives, dreams, sweats, and sleeps this reality every day and is trying to get as much information out there as possible as he works against a stone-walling DOJ and FBI. But thanks to President Trump’s bigly blunder in Helsinki, Democrats now have the upper hand in terms of the news cycle. Who cares that the FBI or DOJ did in 2016?? Trump is a traitor!! They proclaim.

No, he’s not. Not at least until some concrete evidence suggests otherwise. Some compromising information that Putin’s men and women might have on him. But so far, nyet. What Trump is, is apparently unwilling to fully and completely and graciously acknowledge that Russia did indeed meddle and that his campaign had nothing to do with it. Without equivocating like he did Tuesday. And that he is the legitimate elected President of America and that he has been (or at least has allowed Congress to be) substantially harder on Russia than Obama ever was.

But he didn’t say that and even his walk-back was equivocal. And now we have a hard-working translator caught up in the storm. Ridiculous, but that’s where we are.

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist – who’s rather unmoved by this event unlike the overwhelming majority of conservatives – has a rather blunt theory on why Trump can’t say yes to meddling while saying no to collusion. His ego won’t let him. Is Domenech right? Is it that disgustingly simple? Is anything that points away from Trump’s protagonism swatted away by him like an annoying mosquito?

We don’t know. But what we should know is that allowing a meeting between heads of state to be carved up like a bad autopsy in order to look for any evidence of any possible collusion, is the wrong way for Congress to assert its constitutional role regarding foreign policy. Not to mention to possibly endanger the so-beloved national security that Democrats pledge such allegiance to. Leave Maria Gross alone and instead call for a reasonably swift conclusion to Mueller’s probe so that the evidence can be brought out for all to see.

Maybe it was the $43,000 soundproof booth. Maybe it was the mattress. Maybe it was aides picking up his hotel tabs and reportedly not being refunded for their out-of-pocket expenses. Call it Scott Pruitt’s high-maintenance sense of entitlement.

Which is a shame for those who agree on the changes he made to EPA policy. And a blessing to those who, like Democrat Senator Tom Carper (Delaware), feel that Pruitt’s time at the EPA:

has been marked by blatant rejections of sound science, proposals to undermine our country’s bedrock environmental protections and consistent efforts to personally profit off of public service.

Because he rolled back some of the EPA’s far-reaching regulations, he is considered a villain and a front for lobbyists who were looking for someone to listen to their worries about how the agency’s regulations hurt their ability to do business, or at times, to even be in business at all.

The Clean Power Plan. The Clean Water Rule. These were burdensome statist attempts to force businesses and property owners to behave in specific ways. A more-than-gentle nudge. So, Pruitt’s dismantling of these programs earned him enemies from the get go.

But he did he have to be so spectacularly venal? If there was one Cabinet Secretary who should have remained above the fray, it was Pruitt, seeing he had a target on his back from day one. He unable to be discrete and reasonable in his behavior, as Laura Ingraham stated:

If you want to drain the swamp, you’ve got to have people in it who forgo personal benefits, and don’t send your aides around doing personal errands on the taxpayer dime. Otherwise, you make everybody else look bad.

Yes, and you give a perfect excuse to those environmental activists who despise your policy agenda. They can point out your indiscretions and say: what did you expect? The guy is pro-business! He’s evil!

The President was careful to praise Pruitt’s achievements in terms of regulation rollback while being cautious on his EPA chief’s political future. That’s been decided for now, but it remains to be seen if the next head of the EPA is a more tactful politician who essentially follows the same agenda, or if they succumb to the pressure from progressive environmentalists and start to undo the rollbacks.

Key among those initiatives is Pruitt’s science transparency initiative that proposes shedding more light on the scientific methodology used in areas like global climate change. Environmentalists would love to undo that initiative and return to the good old cataclysmic warnings of impending doom. Watch for them to push for a rollback of the transparency in science initiative. Let’s hope they don’t manage to get the EPA to pullback on that one. Transparency on methodology is an area of reform that Pruitt, despite his scandals, should be applauded for.

Of course, they’re wont’ be much clapping for him as he heads to the door, but he did get a few things right.

We don’t really know who Justice Gorsuch will prove to be. Not truly. We have his track record in the lower courts. We have his careful statements before the Senate. We have a couple of decisions or opinions as a Justice, so far. But to suggest that we know how Gorsuch will rule on any attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade is premature. As is any suggestion on how Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy will rule.

A somewhat different question is: does Senator Susan Collins know – or think she knows – how Gorsuch (and Trump’s soon-to-be-announced pick) may rule? Or is she just giving hints to whoever Trump nominates that they will have to play that cautious footsie with the world’s most exclusive club to allow everyone to get what they want: a soundbite that supports their particular stance, among a range of conflicting stances?

In other words, will this coming confirmation process be a somewhat more rushed version of the usual confirmation kabuki theatre – including ring-kissing and excruciatingly sculpted responses – or will the raging brawl over abortion push and shove its way into the Senate chambers and strip things down to the basic, ugly confrontation between a mother and her unborn child?

What seems to be key in trying to decide what Senator Collins position will be during the hearings, is the concept – apparently dear to America’s legal system – called Stare Decisis or “to stand by things decided.” Also known as the doctrine of precedent. In Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises (yes, those guys) which was about a patent dispute surrounding a Spiderman toy, Marvel’s legal team defined Stare Decisis as follows:

stare decisis promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.

As Cornell’s Legal Information Institute goes on to say:

In practice, the Supreme Court will usually defer to its previous decisions even if the soundness of the decision is in doubt. A benefit of this rigidity is that a court need not continuously reevaluate the legal underpinnings of past decisions and accepted doctrines.

Which basically means: don’t keep pestering us with this issue guys, it’s been settled! For example, in the abortion debate. Even if legal scholars to a noticeable degree feel that Roe v. Wade is based on faulty reasoning as evidenced by Justice Blackmun’s flawed logic, it would take a lot to overturn the decision. And Susan Collins seems to be suggesting that Justice Gorsuch, for example, gives a fair amount of weight to Stare decisis in his opinions and rulings in the past.

The reason for avoiding re-litigating past decisions seems to be an attempt to isolate the Supreme Court, and the Judiciary by extension, from the swirling political environment which throws up these controversial cases. We shall rise above the fray, or sink below the surface and hope everyone has stopped shouting by the time we come up for air again.

Does it work, or do these controversial cases arise because the Supreme Court has – on more than a few occasions in the past – tried to settle a political dispute in the hope that the shouting goes away? Or the shooting. Consider Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 SCOTUS ruling that justified slavery with language worthy of apartheid South Africa, and which helped lead to the Civil War and eventually the 14th amendment. The Taney court (so legal minds tell the rest of us) invoked what is called ‘substantive due process’, where the court protects fundamental rights by placing them out of the reach of the rest of government. In this case, perversely they protected the rights of slaveowners by forbidding Congress from freeing slaves in Federal territories.

Interesting to use Dred Scott v Sandford to talk about Roe v Wade because both sides can (and likely will) claim they are (or more accurately, represent) the victimized heirs of that ruling: women who wish to abort and their so-called abortion rights, and those defending the rights of unborn children.

So, the question becomes: what would it take to overturn the Stare Decisis of over 45 years of Roe v Wade and would a Justice like Gorsuch and would whoever the president nominates over the next week or so, be willing to stare down Stare Decisis and overturn precedent?

Maybe Senator Collins is just covering her rear flank with her round of interviews over the past few days and ensuring that she wins her next election. Maybe she really is an old-fashioned purist who looks only to ability and character and then lets justice run its course. Or maybe she thinks it will be a lot harder to overturn Roe v Wade than either side realize.

And maybe we should all read up a little on Stare Decisis and the judiciary, in preparation for what will be a nasty confirmation battle.

For God’s sake Mitch, we should listen to Schumer and admit it’s a lot of tactical posturing as you yourself have recently said in an interview with the Washington Examiner where you justified your tactics on Garland’s nomination:

I said I … think the president’s going to send up a well-qualified liberal, you know he’s going to do that. I don’t think we ought to have hearings, or act on it because if the point is, who ought to make the nomination, then the issue of the nominee is irrelevant. And of course subsequently the president did send up a well-qualified person who would have moved the court to the left. But it wasn’t about Merrick Garland it was about who ought to make the appointment.

Sorry, of course it was about Merrick Garland who would indeed have moved the court to the left. The upcoming presidential elections was the perfect excuse to hold off and delay and hope that Hillary wouldn’t be elected president; that somehow Trump would win. A hope that grew stronger when later that summer of 2016 Trump issued his list of conservative judges he would consider in order to fill Scalia’s seat.

No one could accuse with any reasonable justification that the judges in that list were not well-qualified jurists. That’s. Not. The. Point. Who anymore possibly believes in a neutral, wise Leviathan-like judiciary? Let’s agree it’s hypocritical to not delay a vote on Kennedy’s replacement, but it’s a justifiable tactic that Democrats would have used and will use at some point in the future.

There may be exceptions and surprises in a Justice’s rulings. There almost always are. But please don’t tell me that it was impossible to predict the difference between Merrick Garland as the latest Justice, compared to a conservative like Gorsuch.

So, McConnell’s shtick about who should get to indirectly advise and consent – the voters who elect enough Senators in any given election to perhaps tip the balance in the Senate towards or against conservative or liberal or someday God forbid, rabidly progressive Justices – being more important than the nominee is nonsense, and the Majority Leader knows it.

But it’s also almost certainly the Senate’s biggest responsibility and leverage, advising and especially consenting to a President’s nomination for Justice of the Supreme Court. So, in honor of the upper chamber’s recondite and labyrinth-like rules, a little tic tac toe on the part of the Majority Leader is hardly surprising. But is it truly necessary? To pretend that this is about searching for the best Justice when nowadays almost any nominee is highly regarded, capable, and experienced?

Here’s another former senator, the late Charles Mathias who represented Maryland from 1969 to 1987, in an essay back a few years ago:

An independent judiciary demands that the nominee present no platform, expound no particular ideology, represent no constituency, and submit to no political litmus test. It also demands that those who nominate and appoint judges do not seek simply to affirm and perpetuate their political viewpoint in their nominations and appointments. A judge must take his seat on the bench confident that he is not expected to decide cases in any particular way because of the views of the leaders of either of the other two branches. Instead, he must emerge from the nomination process knowing that the president and Senate have confidence that he will preside with only one unalterable loyalty, to the Constitution, and with only one purpose, to assure the individual standing before him a judgment based upon the law of the land.

Do you believe that? In a political climate where to claim loyalty to the constitution is itself seen as a radical right-wing position? And if, like most people nowadays, you don’t believe Senator Mathias’ words, is that an argument for an even more independent judiciary? Or an argument for leaving aside the competence – unless a nominee is somehow truly second rate, intellectually and in terms of experience – and being honest about the partisan brawl that any Supreme Court nominee provokes in the Senate?

Alexander Hamilton split the nomination of Supreme Court Justices between the President’s power of nomination and the Senate’s advice and (especially) consent. Given the power of the judiciary over details of our lives like wedding cakes and trans students right to opposite sex bathrooms – perhaps the founders indeed could have imagined such things, but we will never know of course – Senator Mathias’ words seem quaint, or hypocritical.

But interestingly Mathias himself in his essay refers to Scalia’s unanimous approval at the hands of the Senate, despite – as Mathias seems to hint – Scalia’s ideological positions. Scalia’s intellect, capacity and character meant there was no way Senators could not consent to his appointment to the Supreme Court. Is something like that still possible?

It seems the Senate merely pays lip service to those qualities and then uses the process of advice and consent as a political stage, a media-frenzy theatre, to undercut or build up the nominee’s image, all because of strictly partisan reasons. Sticking with Maryland, imagine if the nominee is Brett Kavanaugh, a former Kenneth Starr aide and apparent protégé. Does anyone think that Senators like Schumer will question his competence? Or instead attack his record and his philosophy? The D.C. district judge, raised in Bethesda, clerked for Kennedy before also working for then Solicitor General Kenneth Starr on the Whitewater investigation.

His bona fides are impeccable. But that’s not the point of Senate consent in today’s world. It’s how Kavanaugh would vote on overturning Roe v Wade, for example. We’re in a cultural war. Should Supreme Court nominations be exempt? That’s not an easy question to answer. But it has to be asked at least.

Stephen Miller was of course a trusted aide of then-Senator Sessions before he moved to Trump’s team in early 2016. And hardline views on illegals were something he, Senator Sessions, and Candidate Trump agreed on wholeheartedly. So, it’s hardly a surprise that Miller seems to be taking credit for the zero-tolerance enforcement policy that went into effect this April and which apparently has resulted in heart-breaking scenes of young children taken from their parents.

If you listen to AG Sessions, this zero-tolerance application of the law is a good in and of itself and is so because of moral reasons. Quoting Romans 13 – the 13th chapter of Paul the Apostle’s letter to the Romans – Sessions stated:

I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

In other words, it is righteous to obey the law because laws ultimately flow from God’s authority. This has, of course, unleashed a flood of criticism from both sides of the aisle and from Presidents past and even their wives. And even some cautious criticism from within the White House, on the part of people like Kellyanne Conway. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced concerns of children “exposed to irreparable harm and trauma” and the Southern Baptists Convention has called for family unity to be a priority of urgently needed immigration reform.

At National Review, Dan McLaughlin, a Catholic, delves into Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and links chapter 12’s ending to the beginning of chapter 13 to underscore the limits of Christian submission to earthly authority.

The problem is, to President Trump the separation of children from their parents when they cross the border between the official border crossings (at the actual border crossings you reportedly can ask for asylum and you will not have your children separated from you as your request is processed) is not a moral problem, but rather a tactical weapon to force Democrats to bargain with the White House and pay up for a border wall and further measures to tighten enforcement.

This is classic Trump double-down and hit back harder tactics. Will it work this time?

It may resonate with some of his base, but it seems he has picked the wrong target – young, helpless children – to try and gain leverage for his goal of greater border enforcement. While crimes committed by illegals that have been released back into the community, or that have been deported and have returned multiple times, are stories that tend to gain support with many conservatives, populists, and some independents, screaming and terrified children do not fit that bill.

This is a godsend to Democrats, and a bit of a nightmare for Republicans. One assumes that this story will dominate – which Trump doesn’t seem to mind at all – and one assumes that polling will not be favorable to the President. But there’s another factor at play, just as in the case of the DACA deadline back in March that suddenly became irrelevant, and that’s because of the courts.

Will a lawsuit produce an injunction ordering the White House to undo its executive order (whether there was an actual order or not) that started requiring zero-tolerance application of the laws? Or is Nancy Pelosi busy on the phone begging her pals on the Ninth Circuit, and is Senator Schumer pleading to any other Circuit that will listen to him, to please NOT rule on this for at least a few months until mid-terms are almost upon us?

Of course, Congress could rewrite immigration laws and the Senate could gather across the aisle to pull together enough votes to make their immigration reform law veto-proof. Which is kind of what the Constitution suggests should happen. Unfortunately, with politicians focused on getting re-elected, it seems much more likely this will end up very quickly in the courts. The question is, what will this issue do the GOP? Good luck with the vote on the two immigration bills. Speaker Ryan’s work has been blown up real good by the President.

But that, in the end, is the point. Immigration is a very divisive issue for America, and only the GOP is really showing both sides of that debate. The Democratic party, on the other hand, has long settled on one side of the immigration debate. Will this still be an issue by Labor Day? It very well could be, despite the unending roller-coaster ride through one issue after another with this administration.

Or will Trump somehow turn pictures of wailing and helpless kids, separated from their parents by uniformed officials, to his advantage? A ridiculous possibility. But not impossible.

Some North Korean Summit Advice for President Trump

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The long-anticipated, on-again/off-again/on-again summit with North Korea is fast approaching, this coming Tuesday, June 12th, in Singapore. Here, President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea will sit down and see if they can actually come to some agreement regarding the nuclear weapons status of the North. Past administrations, from Clinton to Bush to Obama have utterly failed to halt—or even slow—the North’s efforts at developing nuclear weapons. The prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of an unpredictable, unstable regime like Kim Jong-un’s will radically change the balance of power in the Pacific Rim and it has worldwide implications, since cash-strapped North Korea is likely to sell their nuclear technology to rogue nations across the globe.

Past efforts at curbing other nations’ nuclear ambitions have proven vexing indeed. Pakistan and India have them, Iran is very close (mostly because of the amateurish and insincere efforts of the Obama administration) and Israel has them. Saudi Arabia is thought to have the technical wherewithal, should they begin development, as does Japan. Since 1945, keeping global nuclear ambitions under control is indeed like a genie that is frustratingly reluctant to stay in his bottle.

Current-day Democrats have consistently shown little real interest in international or national security issues, except as those issues impact and affect their political fortunes. The Pelosi’s, Waters and Schumers of the world are not really concerned about North Korea’s or Iran’s nuclear ambitions or illegal immigration, unless they can somehow leverage those issues into making Republicans look bad and thus bolster their own electoral fortunes.

So it is now with Kim Jong-un and the Singapore summit. All of a sudden, Senate Democrats—after complete silence on the matter—have issued a “checklist” of requirements and demands for President Trump to accomplish at the summit. It’s such a transparent political ploy: Fabricate arbitrary, difficult-to-achieve, difficult-to-verify “goals,” and then when (in their view, in the immediate aftermath of the summit) their “goals” haven’t been met, issue a very public “Aha! He failed!” statement.

The Democrats issuing a checklist for the North Korean summit is laughable–like the Democrats actually care about national security, N. Korea or anything along those lines at all. With each succeeding Democratic administration since Kennedy in 1960—LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama—the Democratic Party has oriented more and more of its policy objectives towards domestic issues, with an ever-increasing emphasis on pure electoral success, abject media manipulation and demonizing their political opposition. Considering the Obama administration’s near-total shunning of international considerations—from abandoning American personnel at Benghazi to declaring the war on terrorism is “over,” to allowing Russia to simply annex part of the Ukraine without penalty to failing to keep Assad accountable for stepping over the ‘red line,’ to undercutting Israel at every turn to gifting $150 billion to Iran while allowing them to keep their nuclear program—modern-day Democrats have summarily rejected national security/foreign policy issues in favor of concentrating on domestic identity politics: Identify a special interest “victim” group (blacks, women, LGBT, Hispanics, environmentalists, etc.), then craft a tax-funded Government policy to solve their problem (in other words, buy their votes), all the while enlisting the liberal mainstream media to do their bidding for them. That is the modus operandi of today’s Democratic Party.

Now, all of a sudden, we’re to believe that Chuck Schumer and his cohorts suddenly have a deep and abiding interest in the national security interests of the United States and its foreign policy strategy? This is so transparent it’s even obvious to the most casual observers: The Democrats simply want to set a political “Gotcha!” trap for President Trump, while keeping themselves perfectly inoculated from any judgment or accountability themselves. So they produce a highly-publicized, serious-sounding letter. Quite clever on their part.

Here’s what President Trump should do: He should take Senator Schumer along with him to the summit. He should very publicly state that he appreciates Schumer’s obvious expertise and deep, thoughtful analysis of the situation and he’d welcome his invaluable assistance in the negotiations.

It’s a win-win for Trump: If Schumer is there and the negotiations fail to achieve any meaningful results, Schumer doesn’t get to criticize from afar, unaccountable, since he was there and part of the process. Part of whatever blame is assigned will be his and the Democrats’.

If the summit is a smashing success, then Trump gets to thank Schumer for his help, he gets to say that America has achieved a great thing for global peace and stability by coming together, Republicans and Democrats, and showing the world what can be accomplished when “We reach across the aisle in pursuit of goals bigger than small-time partisan politics.”

Regardless of the outcome, if Schumer is there, Trump wins.

There would be few things in life more priceless than the expression on Chuck Schumer’s face as he boards the plane for Singapore.





The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, one could argue, helped give birth to the administrative state, although it would take progressive presidents like Woodrow Wilson and his income tax, and FDR’s government works to really kick start the bureaucratic leviathan. Regardless of when it truly became a force in American political life, the administrative state is now and has been for some time a de facto branch of government. Separate for all intents and purposes, and if perhaps not quite equal, nonetheless often surprisingly powerful.

These past few days, then, have seen some major skirmishes – perhaps even battles – played out between Congress, the Executive and the Administrative State which theoretically and constitutionally should be a subordinate part of the Executive. Oh yes, and the courts too. A play in 3 acts one could say.

  • Act 1 & 2: The Supreme Court has sided with contractually based compulsory and binding arbitration as stated in the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, and ruled against an employee of Epic Systems Corp of Wisconsin in the Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis case. A ruling in favor of collective bargaining rights would have held that the case should have been decided not under the Federal Arbitration Act but rather under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, passed by FDR’s Congress in order to boost union power and collective bargaining rights. It needed an independent agency to administer it’s quasi-judicial functions and so the National Relations Labor Board was born at the same time. The Supreme Court decision means that individual arbitration as enforced by employer contracts supersedes collective bargaining rights. It was a 5-4 split decision with the dissenters apparently bitterly opposed to the majority, and with Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. A blow to the power of quasi-judicial independent agencies like the NRLB.
  • Act 3: On Monday President Trump signed a Congressional resolution that negates an administrative guidance – it didn’t even rise to the level of a regulation – issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It dealt with dealer mark-ups in car loans and apparently was meant to correct what was seen as racial bias on the part of auto dealers when establishing rates for car loans. The industry objected and said the studies (one by the CFPB itself) used dubious methodology. Despite just being guidance the CFPB enforced their guidance with an avalanche of lawsuits to ensure compliance. In Congress, Republicans and some Democrats used the Congressional Review Act from 1996 to vote to repeal the guidance under a simple majority. Here’s what Sylvan Lane wrote in The Hill:

The move caps off an unprecedented use of congressional power, as lawmakers had never before passed such a resolution to revoke informal guidance from a federal agency.

Ok, just a second. Yes, maybe it’s unusual given Congress’ propensity as of late to hand off the details of legislation to independent agencies and to let the courts eventually rule on the matter. But unprecedented? It seems more like a case of Congress returning to it’s original precedent. Debating and passing the nation’s laws, in as much detail as necessary to make the laws function and be understood by voters.

And of course, the Mueller probe is increasingly becoming about how independent the Department of Justice – created by Congress and part of the Executive power and therefore beholden to the White House – really is rather than whether there actually was any collusion with Russia. And also how partisan the FBI – which operates under the jurisdiction of the DOJ – has become.

So, it could be that some 135 years after the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act – which was meant as a way to prevent patronage in government appointments – has found it’s bookend, marking the end of its useful life. Of course, it will live on for years, but at least now it’s usefulness can finally start to be questioned.