Saturday, April 13, 2019

Last Call For You Keep Me Runnin'

As Matt Flegenheimer at the NY Times points out, Democrats in 2019 are learning what Republicans figured out in 2015: there's almost zero downside for a White House run you know you're going to lose.

There is no discernible mass groundswell for an Eric Swalwell presidential campaign. 
The case against: He is a 38-year-old California congressman of little legislative distinction. He would appear to have minimal running room in a deep and accomplished Democratic field expected to grow to 20 or so — large enough to fill two baseball starting lineups, with another contender or two left to heckle from the dugout. 
The case for: Why not? 
“We don’t have time for vanity things,” Mr. Swalwell insisted in an interview this past week, the morning after he announced his candidacy on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” pledging to anchor his bid in a call for greater gun control. “We’re doing big things.” 
That remains to be seen. But at the very least, if recent history is a guide, a run is likely to yield better things, perpetuating the victory-in-defeat incentive structure endemic to modern presidential politics. 
Today’s primaries tend to produce one nominee but many winners. Beyond the long-shot candidates effectively auditioning for cabinet positions or building a profile (and donor base) for future races, there are prospective books to sell and television contracts to sign, boards to join and paid speeches to paid-speak. Any setback is temporary, any embarrassment surmountable.

“There’s just absolutely no downside and only upside,” Antonia Ferrier, a longtime Republican strategist and former senior aide to Senator Mitch McConnell, said of quixotic presidential runs. “It is an industry of self-promotion. What better way to self-promote than run for president?”

The downside, as America found out 29 months ago, is that you might actually win when you have no business running a hot dog stand, let alone a country.

Sure hope our side actually plays to win instead of playing to lose.

A Sternly Worded Letter

House Democrats are giving Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin until April 23 to turn over Trump's tax returns or...well, they'll probably write him another letter.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) on Saturday sent a two-page letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig rebuffing Mnuchin’s statement earlier this week that Treasury would miss House Democrats’ initial April 10 deadline for the returns.

Mnuchin’s concerns “lack merit,” Neal wrote.

Neal’s latest letter sets the stage for a further escalation in the conflict between Congress and the White House, as legal experts have suggested that an outright denial of their request by Mnuchin could be followed by subpoenas or a lawsuit in federal court. Mnuchin so far has only postponed responding to Democrats’ request and said he would confer with the Justice Department, but not yet rejected it.

“Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal’s letter states.

Earlier this month, Neal wrote the IRS asking for six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns, which Trump has refused to release breaking decades of precedent for candidates for the White House. In his letter, Neal argues that the IRS has an “unambiguous legal obligation" to turn over the returns under section 6103 of the tax code, which states that the treasury secretary “shall furnish” a request from the congressional committees with tax oversight.

Congressional Republicans and Trump’s personal attorney, William S. Consovoy, have argued Democrats’ request risks weaponizing the IRS for partisan political gain, with Consovoy calling it a “gross abuse of power.” Mnuchin’s letter earlier this week said Neal’s request “raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of congressional investigative authority.”

Mnuchin revealed in congressional testimony that White House lawyers consulted with Treasury on Trump's tax returns.

“It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the committee,” Neal writes in his letter. “Judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the committee’s request.”

Let's get one thing straight right now: all the analysis about Stephen Mnuchin going to jail for violating the law is never, ever going to happen. When this nonsense plays out in ten days, we'll get to the part where Trump finds a federal judge or two to throw out an injunction on anything that might happen to Mnuchin while this goes to SCOTUS as slowly as possible.

This will be tied up in the courts until at least 2021, if not years later.

We will not see Trump's tax returns.

We're going to have to take care of Trump ourselves.

Number Five For Bibi, Number Two For Donny

Roger Cohen's warning for Democrats is simple: with Benjamin Netanyahu winning a fifth term this week while under criminal indictment for bribery and corruption showing Donald Trump the way, the Democrats will lose next November unless something fundamental changes in America within the next 18 months.

It was a referendum on him and he nailed it. Nobody can take that away from Benjamin Netanyahu. This summer, in his fifth term, he will surpass David Ben-Gurion as the longest-serving Israeli prime minister. Enough said.

His victory contains a warning for any Democrat still imagining that the 2020 election will bring an easy victory over Donald Trump. The Netanyahu playbook will be President Trump’s next year. Gather nationalist and religious voters in your camp, add in a strong economy, dose with fear, sprinkle with strongman appeal, inject a dash of racism and victory is yours — whatever indictments are looming.

It’s not that this could happen. It will happen, absent some decisive factor to upend the logic of it.
Netanyahu is savvier than Trump, but they share a shrewd assessment of how to control and manipulate the politics of spectacle, as well as a fierce determination to stay out of jail. They campaign ugly.

Exactly a century ago, Ben-Gurion said, “Everyone sees the difficulty of relations between Jews and Arabs, but not everyone sees there is no solution to that question.” Netanyahu’s solution is by now clear. He is a true believer in Greater Israel and will not give up one inch of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. There will be no Palestinian state on his watch. Period.

Many Israelis, weary of the chimera of a two-state peace, thank him for that — as they thank him for a strong economy, Trump’s support and a sense of stability. Netanyahu is a formidable politician adept in using hate and fear, the strongest currency in contemporary politics.

His victory was personal but it was also structural. Israel now has a structural majority of the right. This will almost certainly enable Netanyahu to form a right-wing government, even though his Likud party appeared tied with the Blue and White party of his upstart challenger, Benny Gantz, each winning 35 seats.

The Gantz performance was remarkable. It demonstrated the deep disquiet of liberal Israel over Netanyahu the King. But in the end Gantz took more votes from the left — the Labor Party and Meretz — than from the right. As Avi Scharf, editor of the English edition of the liberal daily Haaretz, put it to me, “Israel’s founding left is totally obliterated.

Obliteration is absolutely the fate of the American left in less than two years unless we get our shit together and find a way to stop Trump.  The two-state solution in Israel is dead.  Palestinian genocide is nearly guaranteed as tanks will roll into Gaza and the Golan Heights within months, if not weeks. America will do nothing until the survivors are forced to accept the peace of the grave at gunpoint.

And then our adventure down that road will begin in earnest unless Trump is stopped.

Very soon they will be able to "act" in the manner Trump wants them to act.  And then America's long history of genocide against the powerless will continue in an ocean of blood.
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