JOE AND BARACK: SOMEHOW THEY MADE IT WORK
They are both Democrats. They both wanted to be president someday. They were both devoted to their families. But, aside from that, as politicians, Barack Obama and Joe Biden differ in almost every way possible.
Biden loves mixing it up with people and taking selfies. Obama can’t wait to get back in his limousine. Biden thrives on debating details of legislation and making deals. Obama couldn’t be bothered. Biden shoots from the lip, often ending up with foot in mouth. Obama carefully measures every thought before expressing it. Biden’s impulsive, Obama’s cerebral. Biden’s hasty, Obama’s cautious.
Yet somehow the two of them melded their differences and formed one of, if not the most, effective working relationships between president and vice-president in history. It’s all spelled out by New York Magazine’s Gabriel DeBenedetti in his new book, “The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama.”
It wasn’t love at first sight. Biden was blown away by Obama’s keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention, but worried he was just a show-horse. Still, Biden helped Obama get a sought-after slot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chaired. But Obama considered Biden too long-winded and a hopeless believer in the kind of bipartisan Senate cordiality which no longer existed.
Nor was Obama impressed with Biden’s 2007 presidential campaign - until he cinched the nomination and realized that someone with Biden’s experience, legislative savvy, foreign policy chops, blue-collar roots – and grey hair! – was just what he needed to appeal to working class Democrats who might not be eager to vote for an inexperienced college professor with a name like Barack, who also happened to be Black.
At first, Biden was interested in becoming VP. He’d been his own boss for 40 years. When Obama did approach Biden about the job, assuring him it’d be the capstone of his long career, Biden shot back: “Not the tombstone?”
Biden finally told Obama he’d consider the job, based on four conditions: he’d attend every intelligence briefing; he’d have an open, wide-ranging portfolio; they’d have a weekly lunch; and he’d be the last person in the room with Obama before he made major decisions. To Biden’s surprise, Obama accepted every one of his conditions. In return, Biden pledged to stay completely loyal and publicly support every decision Obama made, even if he privately disagreed with it. Deal made, and deal honored for eight years.
It wasn’t always a smooth relationship. Obama rejected Biden’s advice and sent 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Biden one-upped Obama by coming out strongly for same-sex marriage, before Obama had made up his own mind. But, with Biden working Congress while Obama worked the public, they developed both an effective public partnership and close personal relationship.
Not exactly a bromance, as many in the media described it. Obama, an avid golfer, invited Biden to join him only once. And even though they spent an average 7 hours together every day for eight years, in all that time Obama never once invited Biden and his wife to the White House residence.
Nevertheless, they grew so close and depended so much on each other that, toward the end of his term, Obama surprised Biden by awarding him the Medal of Freedom at a tear-soaked ceremony where the president declared Biden “the finest vice-president we have ever seen. And I also think he has been a lion of American history.”
Even after that, there were bumps in the road. In 2015, while Biden was struggling with the death of his son Beau, Obama snubbed Biden’s interest in running for president in 2016 and, instead, did everything he could behind the scenes to encourage and assist Hillary Clinton. And again in 2020, rather than help Biden in the primary, Obama stayed on the sidelines, even flirting with Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, before accepting the inevitability of Biden’s nomination – after which, ever eager to protect his own legacy, he went all out to help Biden.
The irony is that, in just two years, Biden has accomplished more major legislation than Obama did in eight. But, through it all, the partnership between Obama and Biden has not suffered, it’s just grown stronger. As Biden summed it up when he welcomed Barack and Michele Obama back to the White House for the unveiling of their official portraits, “We grew to be family for each other, through our highs and our lows. I imagine there may have been other relationships like this. None comes to mind.”
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It all depends on whose loans are forgiven!
Even in the halls of Congress, where the decibel level's always high, seldom has such squawking been heard as last week, when every single Republican joined a chorus of outrage over President Biden's announcement that he was fulfilling a campaign promise to forgive $10,000 in student college loans.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell denounced Biden's move as "student loan socialism." House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called it a "Social Democrats plot." Donald Trump, who never had to worry about paying his tuition, condemned it as "another election enhancing money grab." Ted Cruz claimed that the average benefactor was a "slacker barista" who wasted years "studying useless things." And Congressman Jim Jordan insisted Biden's plan would only "benefit wealthy elites" from Yale and Harvard.
Seriously? It makes you wonder whether Republican politicians actually pay consultants big bucks to make them say such dumb things or whether they were just born that dumb. If only they'd taken five minutes to think before spouting off, they might not have made such fools of themselves.
A quick check and they might have remembered, for starters, that Joe Biden wasn't the first presidential candidate to promise to forgive student loans. Donald Trump was. As president, he even announced his own plan to forgive federal student loans, with the support of Republican leaders in Congress. The only difference? Trump never came through. But Joe Biden did. Whereupon Republicans suddenly changed their position and attacked Biden for actually delivering what Trump had only promised.
Another quick check and they might have realized that forgiving student loans is not a gift to sons and daughters of the wealthiest of Americans enrolled at Yale or Harvard. In fact, it's just the opposite. Biden's $10,000 loan forgiveness plan is targeted to those making less than $125,000 per year, or couples making less than $250,000. The Department of Education estimates that nearly 90 percent of eligible borrowers earn $75,000 a year or less. Ivy League graduates make up less than 1 percent of federal student borrowers nationwide. And, as the New York Times reports, "the people eligible for debt relief are disproportionately young and Black."
Some Democrats criticized Biden for taking so long to deliver on his promise, but in the end he went further than anyone expected. In addition to the basic $10,000 forgiveness plan, he offered $20,000 in relief to recipients of Pell Grants, which are limited to undergraduates of low-income families. His plan would also limit many borrowers' loan payments to 5 percent of their discretionary income, so they're no longer buried in accumulated interest costs.
According to the University of Pennsylvania, the middle fifth of income earners - households earning between $51,000 and $82,000 a year - will reap more than one-third of benefits from the Biden plan, more than any other income group by far. In other words, rather than "welfare for the rich," the Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Program is probably the largest government relief program for the middle class since Social Security.
What that means is that millions of young Americans, with oppressive student loans finally off their backs, will be able to get married, buy a home, start a family, and start their climb into middle class and higher. And you can bet that many of them are Republicans. Biden's plan doesn't distinguish between D's and R's.
It's especially hard to believe Republican politicians would condemn direct assistance to middle-class Americans when they were so quick to accept government handouts themselves. As the White House revealed, several Republicans who condemned President Biden's student loan forgiveness program were first in line to seek forgiveness for loans they received under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established to help small businesses survive the Covid pandemic.
That list includes: Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), $183,504 forgiven; Vern Buchanan (R-Fla), over $2.3 million; Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), $482,321; Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), over $1.4 million; Kevin Horn (R-OK), over $1 million; and Mike Kelly (R-PA), $987,000. Funny. We never heard any widespread condemnation of that program. It turns out that Republicans aren't opposed to forgiving all loans, it just depends on whose loans are forgiven.
In the end, Republicans oppose forgiving student loans at their own peril. In its latest poll, NextGen America reports that 47 percent of young Americans are now "more motivated" to vote in the midterm elections. If $10,000 in your pocket is not an incentive for young people to vote, what is?
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The mother of all document dumps
There've been so many conflicting reports, charges, and countercharges, it's hard to know what to think about the FBI's search of
Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8. So, this week, let's take time to sort it all out.
One. Is this a big deal? Yes! Because, according to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, enacted by Congress in response to Richard Nixon's attempts to take all his papers with him to San Clemente, presidential papers belong to the American people, not to the president, and must be preserved in the National Archives. That's the law. No president or White House staffer has authority to unilaterally overrule or make exceptions to the law.
Two. Did other presidents follow the Presidential Records Act? Yes! Without exception, every Republican and Democratic president since Nixon - Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama - all set up ongoing procedures to protect documents and turn them over to the Archives. Except Donald Trump, who insisted that all documents belonged to him.
Three. Did Trump actually take White House documents with him to Mar-a-Lago? No doubt about it. We still don't know how many, but 15 boxes were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago by the National Archives in January, another batch was turned over by Trump aides in June, and 26 boxes were removed by the FBI on August 8. There could be more.
Four. Were these important papers? Again, no doubt about it. So far, out of all documents returned or seized from Mar-a-Lago, archivists have discovered 300 documents, totaling more than 700 pages, marked as classified - some with the highest level of classification, "top secret/sensitive compartmented information," reserved for nuclear secrets and dealings with foreign powers. This is a matter of national security.
Five. Did Donald Trump himself know what was going on? Absolutely. As reported by the New York Times, during his presidency Trump resisted staff efforts to preserve documents for the National Archives by insisting that all documents were "mine." He declared that any document he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence was automatically declassified - an authority he did not have. He personally dictated which boxes went with him to Florida. And in 2021 he sorted through piles of documents at Mar-a-Lago before deciding which ones would be turned over to the Archives in January 2022. Trump himself created this mess.
Six. Was the FBI search justified and legally conducted? Yes, and yes. Alarmed by the number of top secret documents found in the first 15 boxes and unable to secure the cooperation of Trump staffers to return additional documents which they knew to be in Mar-a-Lago, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to step in. The FBI conducted its own investigation, found probable cause that a potential crime had been committed, filed a detailed affidavit with a federal judge, and obtained a valid search warrant. All done by the book.
Seven. How serious is it? Very serious, indeed. On my podcast, the BIllPressPod, Former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig told me there are three statutes that the DOJ found probable cause to believe Trump violated: the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to be negligent in the handling of defense-related material; the Presidential Records Act, which makes it a crime to destroy government property; and obstruction of justice. Note: All three are potential criminal offenses. As Craig wryly observed, "This is not just spitting on the sidewalk."
Eight. Is Trump legally vulnerable? Absolutely. In his defense, Trump's lawyers argue he's protected by "executive privilege," seeming to forget that their client's no longer in the Oval Office. Today, as Greg Craig noted, like anybody else, if Donald Trump is suspected of committing a crime, he can be charged and convicted. "Once you're out of office," Craig said, "if you've committed crimes, while you've been in office, you can be prosecuted without a doubt."
Bottom Line. The issue of presidential records stashed away at Mar-a-Lago is serious business. Trump has skated so far. But after evidence of collusion with Russians in the 2016 election, after being impeached for trying to bribe the President of Ukraine, and after being impeached again for unleashing an armed mob on the Capitol, how ironic if, in the end, it's boxes of classified documents that finally bring Donald Trump down.
That would be especially ironic, given it was Donald Trump who wanted to put Hillary Clinton in jail for having classified information on her emails. I can already hear the crowds chanting: "Lock him up!"
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Trump helps Democrats in key Senate races
For the last 12 months, Democrats, who wallow in a perpetual state of gloom anyway, have been almost catatonic about the midterm elections. Most Democrats were convinced they would overwhelmingly lose control of the House and Senate, thereby setting themselves up to lose the White House in 2024.
But suddenly things are looking up. The tide is turning. Not so much for the House, but definitely for the Senate, where Democrats not only have to hold onto all 50 seats they now control, but pick up at least two more in order to offset the influence of West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, who too often qualify as DINO's, or Democrats in Name Only.
Ironically, the improvement in Democratic Senate prospects is due primarily, not to anything Democrats have done, but to the shenanigans of Donald Trump, who has saddled the Republican Party with a slate of Senate candidates it's hard for anybody to take seriously. It makes you wonder whether Trump endorsed these candidates, not because he wanted to win back the Senate, but because he wanted to deny Mitch McConnell the chance to regain the post of Senate majority leader. If so, he could not have done a better job - for Democrats.
Georgia's Herschel Walker wins the prize of dumbest of them all. Not even his most ardent supporters could argue that Walker, who claimed as recently as June that there are 52 states, is qualified to be a U.S. senator. His campaign staff acknowledged he's a "pathological liar" (no wonder Trump endorsed him) after Walker told them he has only one child, when, in fact, he has four - three with women he never married. Which is hard to square with his criticism of absentee fathers.
Walker also falsely claimed to work in law enforcement and undergo training by the FBI. He's lived in Texas since 2011, and only re-registered in Georgia when he filed for Senate. And he's hounded by accusations of a former wife, that he once held a gun to her head and threatened "to blow my brains out."
On the issues, Walker's a walking gaffe machine. He insists the jury's still out on evolution: "At one time, science said man came from apes, did it not? ... If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it." And his analysis of climate change is LOL funny: "Since we don't control the air, our good air decided to float over to China's bad air. So when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then - now we got to clean that back up..."
For worst candidate of all, Walker faces stiff competition from Mehmet Oz, whom Trump forced on Pennsylvania, even though he's a longtime resident of New Jersey. Trump endorsed Oz because he's a TV celebrity, unconcerned that a 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that over half the medications Oz promoted on "The Dr. Oz Show" were fake.
On the campaign trail, Oz is a colossal embarrassment. "Saturday Night Live" never aired a funnier skit than Oz's campaign commercial last week, where the befuddled candidate appeared in a Pennsylvania supermarket lamenting the price of vegetables and a jar of salsa he was buying for his wife's "crudite." Oz got everything wrong. "Crudite" is not exactly a middle-class Pennsylvania specialty. As Democratic opponent John Fetterman pointed out, if Pennsylvanians serve anything like it at all, they call it a "veggie tray." And nobody serves "crudite" with salsa. Oz even got the name of the supermarket wrong.
Oz also attempts to appeal to middle-class voters by insisting that he only owns "two homes," when, in fact, he owns 10 houses, including an $18 million mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and a condo in Turkey.
Democrats have three other promising chances of flipping a Senate seat. In Wisconsin, Trump sycophant Ron Johnson, who promised not to run for re-election, is trailing challenger Mandela Barnes by seven points. In Arizona, Trump-endorsed Blake Masters, who's backing a nationwide ban on abortion, is far behind incumbent Mark Kelly. And in Ohio, author J.D. Vance's candidacy has withered in the face of an aggressive campaign by Democrat Tim Ryan. Icing on the cake: New Hampshire's Maggie Hassan, once considered the Democrats' most vulnerable incumbent, now looks secure - thanks again to a likely extreme Trumper opponent.
For Democrats, chances of winning the Senate look stronger. Now, two more months to work on holding the House.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of 10 books, including: "From the Left: My Life in the Crossfire." His email address is: email@example.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
To charge or not to charge?
For months in Washington - whether over breakfast at the Four Seasons, lunch at The Palm, or dinner at Cafe Milano - the only topic of conversation has been: What's Merrick Garland up to? Is the Justice Department conducting its own investigation of possible criminal activity related to Jan. 6? And, if so, how high would it go? All the way to Trump? Why hasn't he already filed charges? Or is Garland, afraid of making the department look political, just holding back and leaving it up to Congress?
Nobody knew. And Garland only deepened the mystery with his sphinx-like pronouncement that "no person," not even a former president, is "above the law."
This week, we finally got some answers. Washington's sleepy, summertime media exploded with first, the rumor, then confirmation, that none other than Marc Short, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, and Greg Jacob, Pence's former chief counsel, had met with a federal grand jury looking into possible criminal charges related to the failed insurrection of Jan. 6.
Now we know for sure: The Justice Department, having already filed charges against more than 855 people who took part in the violent assault on the Capitol, is moving up the chain of command - is already inside the White House - investigating who in the top tier of the Trump administration is responsible for summoning and inciting the mob. And we know that the DOJ was, in fact, conducting its own investigation even before receiving any request to do so from the January 6 Select Committee. That's big news.
But that news has also re-ignited another old debate in Washington: No matter how outrageous his conduct before, during, and after Jan. 6, should Merrick Garland even file charges against Donald Trump? Many leading attorneys, including CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, with whom I usually agree on everything, have urged Garland not to act. Their arguments are wide-ranging: that such a case is complicated and might not succeed; that prosecuting a former president's never been done before in this country; that that's how autocracies work, not democracies; and that charging Trump with a crime will only give him another opportunity to paint himself as a political victim in a trial that could drag on for years.
And so the question of the day has become: To charge or not to charge? Frankly, I can't even believe we're having this debate. It's a no-brainer. Of course, Donald Trump should be charged with crimes he committed as president. There's no good argument for not doing so.
Granted, this would be the first time a former president faced criminal charges. But why? Because we've never had a president like Donald Trump before. No other American president tried to bribe the president of another country; refused to accept, and then tried to overturn, the outcome of an election; asked a state official to "discover" 11,000 more votes; encouraged his lawyers to create slates of fake electors; summoned a mob of supporters to Washington and, knowing they were armed, directed them to storm the Capitol and prevent Congress and his vice president from carrying out their constitutional responsibilities.
Plus, the evidence is clear. Trump is guilty as sin. The January 6 Committee has made the case. Trump's guilty of violating the law against rebellion and insurrection. S2383 strictly prohibits anyone who "incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto." That's exactly what Trump did leading up to Jan. 6.
And, among other possible charges, Trump's guilty of obstructing justice, according to which it's a crime "to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding or attempt to do so." Which is exactly what Trump did on Jan. 6.
There's also the matter of fairness. There were two different sets of players on Jan. 6: those who carried out the attack, and those who planned and organized it. It would be a gross miscarriage of justice for the DOJ to prosecute only the members of the mob, and not the man who sent them.
Finally, it's important to hold Trump responsible in order to send a message: In this great country, anybody has the right to complain about the outcome of an election. But nobody has the right to overturn the government and destroy our democracy in order to stay in office. That's an attack on the United States of America.
For those reasons, Merrick Garland must file criminal charges against Donald Trump. The sooner, the better.
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On Thursday evening, Jan. 21, the Select Committee on January 6 wrapped up the season with a blockbuster hearing, its eighth, into Donald Trump's role in the violent insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. Netflix could not have produced a better series.
Like bookends, its first and last hearings were especially powerful. On June 10, the committee opened by showing never-before-seen video of the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In this week's finale, the committee closed by documenting what Donald Trump was doing at the White House for 187 minutes, while that violent attack was taking place.
The answer? He was sequestered in his private dining room for over three hours, watching Fox News. Which, as members Adam Kinzinger and Elaine Luria pointed out, doesn't mean Trump was doing nothing. He made a conscious choice not to do anything to stop the violence. He called Rudy Giuliani. He called Republican senators. But he did not call the Pentagon, the D.C. Metropolitan Police, or the Department of Homeland Security to ask for help. He didn't even call Mike Pence, whose life was literally on the line.
Why? Because Trump didn't want the violence to stop. He liked what he saw on television. This was his last chance, the final plank of his seven-part plan to overturn the election and stay in office. As Stephanie Grisham, former White House press secretary, relates in her book "I'll Take Your Questions Now," while Trump was "gleefully" watching television on Jan. 6, he kept saying out loud: "Look at all those people fighting for me." In Trump's sick mind, the armed mob wasn't trying to hang Mike Pence, kill members of Congress, or destroy the Capitol, they were fighting for him. He was just sorry the Secret Service wouldn't let him join them.
Among all the evidence of Trump's "missing in action" on Jan. 6, there were several highlights. Most shocking of all: the radio traffic among Secret Service agents, trying to figure out how to get Vice President Pence to a secure location. Even though heavily armed themselves, they were clearly nervous and afraid for his life and their own. Some even made goodbye calls to loved ones. Again, while Trump did nothing.
Another highlight: the outtakes of Trump's video message on Jan. 7. All day long, staffers and allies in Congress and the media had been imploring him to make a statement condemning the violence of the day before. Otherwise, they warned, Cabinet members were about to invoke the 25th Amendment. Finally, late in the day, Trump agreed. And yet, 24 hours after the siege on the Capitol and two months after the election, he could still not bring himself to utter the words "The election is over" - and refused to do so. In fact, he still won't utter those words today.
My favorite highlight, I must admit, was the slow-mo video of Sen. Josh Hawley running out of the Capitol to escape the mob - the same mob he'd saluted earlier with a fist pump while walking into the Capitol. That clip produced howls of laughter inside the committee room. Some have criticized the committee's use of the video as a "cheap shot." But, as the first senator to say he'd vote against certification of the Electoral College and a constant critic of the Jan. 6 committee's work, Hawley deserved it.
This last hearing wrapped with two powerful closing statements, both of them by Republican members of the House. No matter how hard Trump tries to dismiss the hearings as a "witch hunt," Adam Kinzinger pointed out, Trump's actions leading up to and on Jan. 6 transcend politics: "Whatever your politics, whatever you think about the outcome of the election, we as Americans must all agree on this: Donald Trump's conduct on January 6 was a supreme violation of his oath of office and a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation."
And, as usual, it was Vice Chair Liz Cheney who closed the hearing with a bombshell. After noting that all committee witnesses were Trump's own appointees, friends, campaign officials, staffers, and family, not political enemies, Cheney raised the most important question of all: "Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?"
The answer is: Of course not. Republicans have lots of other choices. Especially after what we've learned from these hearings, Donald Trump should not even be on the list.
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It's the laziest form of journalism there is, yet you see it everywhere, on every media platform, after every major event: "Five Take-Aways." Reporters breathlessly list their "five take-aways" from a Biden speech, Supreme Court decision, primary election result, latest opinion poll or golf tournament. And, true to form, without any serious analysis, many also trotted out their favorite five of the latest hearing of the January 6 Select Committee. All of which may make for quick copy, but bad journalism.
Let's cut to the chase. There were no "five take-aways" from this week's hearing on Jan. 12. Nor from the other six hearings. There's only one possible take-away from all seven hearings so far: Donald Trump should be wearing an orange jumpsuit. Or, at the very least, he should have already been charged with federal crimes.
Granted, the committee's not a federal grand jury. Members of Congress are not federal prosecutors. Congressional hearings are not a criminal trial. But these hearings are, in effect, the preview of a federal trial, laying out the crimes for which Donald Trump should be charged. And the list is long. The evidence so far is overwhelming.
Election Fraud. On this count, Donald Trump's in deep trouble on two fronts. In Fulton County, Georgia, where he's under criminal investigation for personally pressuring Georgia election officials to commit election fraud. "I just want to find 11,780 votes," he told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump's also being investigated by the Department of Justice for attempts to convince state election officials to create fake slates of electors in battleground states won by Joe Biden, and the DOJ has asked the January 6 Committee to share all testimony they've received on that score.
Obstruction. As reported by Philip Bump in the Washington Post, Trump got away with obstruction of justice twice before: in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, where Mueller's final report detailed 10 incidents where Trump tried to derail their work; and in his second impeachment trial. This time, maybe not. On March 28, federal judge David Carter ruled that Trump likely broke the law by "corruptly" attempting to obstruct the certification of the election of Joe Biden on Jan. 6. And the country, Carter warned, must pursue "accountability for those responsible."
Inciting Violence. No doubt about this one, after the stunning testimony of former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Backstage at his rally on the Ellipse on the morning of Jan. 6, Trump was told that many of his supporters were carrying weapons. He nonetheless urged them to storm the Capitol, thus endangering the lives of the vice president and every member of Congress and resulting in the deaths of nine people, including five Capitol Police officers. Brad Parscale, Trump's own campaign manager, blamed the death of supporter Ashli Babbitt on Trump's heated rhetoric.
Witness Tampering. This was the bombshell of the Jan. 12 hearing, dropped by Vice-Chair Lynn Cheney in her closing statement: the fact that Trump himself called a witness due to appear before the January 6 Committee, clearly in an effort to influence that person's testimony. Let's just hope there's a recording of Trump's call. "Let me say one more time: We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously," Cheney warned, noting that the committee had already informed the Justice Department of Trump's call.
Sedition. It all boils down to this. After Dec. 14, when the Electoral College certified the election of Joe Biden, Trump engaged in a four-part plan: lying to the American people about election fraud; filing phony claims of fraud in court (he lost 60 out of 61 cases filed); pressuring state officials to send phony electors to Washington; and summoning his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6 and prevent Congress from doing its job. Why? To stage a coup. To launch another Civil War. To overthrow the government of the United States and replace it with an illegitimate, unelected government. Above all else, Trump must be charged with sedition.
In order to preserve our democracy, Attorney General Merrick Garland must charge Donald Trump with attempting to overthrow our government. If not, we might as well put back up all the statues of Confederate generals, erect a monument to Robert E. Lee on the Washington Mall, and give the Medal of Honor to Benedict Arnold. Trump's as big a traitor as all the rest of them. They didn't get away with treason, and neither should he.
Democrats blame everything - on Joe Biden!
It should come as no surprise for you to learn that I am a lifelong Democrat. And proud of it. I've walked precincts for Democrats, raised money for Democrats, worked for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California, run for statewide office as a Democrat in California, and served as chair of the California Democratic Party.
So let me say this as clearly as I can: There's only one of two words to describe the Democratic Party today: either "DUMB" or "SUICIDAL."
For months, we were worried that Democrats didn't have a clear strategy leading into the midterm elections. Well, the good news is that Democrats have finally come up with a strategy. The bad news is they could not have come with a worse one. They're doing what Democrats do best: forming a circular firing-squad.
The Democrats' strategy for 2022? Here it is: BLAME JOE BIDEN - FOR EVERYTHING!
The glaciers are still melting. Blame Joe Biden. The Supreme Court killed Roe v. Wade. Blame Joe Biden. Russia invaded Ukraine. Blame Joe Biden. People are still getting COVID. Blame Joe Biden. Republican senators block any meaningful gun control legislation. Blame Joe Biden. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema refuse to change the filibuster. Blame Joe Biden. The grocery store's out of my favorite flavor of yogurt. Blame Joe Biden. And, mind you, this drumbeat of criticism is coming from Democrats, not Republicans.
Here are three headlines that appeared on the morning of July 6, less than 48 hours after the mass murder in Highland Park, Illinois. Politico: "Dems want more from Biden after Highland Park." The Hill: "Frustrated Democrats express alarm over Biden's powerlessness." CNN: "After string of Supreme Court setbacks, Democrats wonder whether Biden White House is capable of urgency moment demands." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that "some Democrats" think Biden "risks a dangerous failure to meet the moment." The next day, the New York Times trumpeted: "Biden Promised Calm, but Base Wants a Fighter."
Biden critics complain that his language isn't tough enough. Yet, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank reports, Biden called the Supreme Court's abortion ruling a "terrible, extreme decision" and the "realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error." After the Buffalo mass murder, he deplored the "murderous, racist rampage" and again called for a total ban on assault weapons. After Uvalde, he raged: "When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?"
Ironically, a few months ago, when Republicans blocked voting rights legislation, Biden said the real issue is "Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?" - and Democrats accused him of being too mean!
Seriously, what are Democrats thinking? How can they be so stupid? Don't they realize that by eating their own they're just helping Donald Trump? At this rate, Republicans won't have to work hard to win the midterms. Democrats are giving Republican candidates all the anti-Democratic ammunition they need.
Granted, Biden's not the perfect president. He's no soaring orator like Barack Obama. He still thinks he can work with Senate Republicans. He's not that exciting. But, surely, whatever Biden lacks in star power pales compared to the existential threat facing this nation were the Trump Republican Party ever to triumph in November: the rolling back of women's rights, workers' rights, LGBTQ rights and, with the help of red state governors and state legislators, a direct assault on our democratic system of elections.
Faced with that threat, the answer is not to dump on Biden. The answer is for Democrats to learn from Republicans about party loyalty. Band together. Don't fight each other, fight the enemy. Put the blame where it belongs. Not on Joe Biden, but on Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy. And then do what Biden urges in every speech: direct our outrage and anger into a historic voter turnout in November, especially among young people. The only way to get this country back in the right direction is getting rid of every Republican officeholder who's taking it in the wrong direction.
In the end, the folly of Democrats dumping on Biden was best summed up by former congressman and Biden aide Cedric Richmond. Criticism that Biden now faces from fellow Democrats, Richmond told CNN, is "the same foolishness that got us Donald Trump. 'Hillary wasn't good enough.' 'She's not fighting hard enough.' That's what got us Donald Trump. And that got us Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Case closed." Amen!
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We know Donald Trump's spreading a big lie. But he's not the only one. So's the Vatican.
Trump's big lie is that he won the 2020 presidential election, which he did not. The Vatican's big lie, which it's been spreading since World War II, is that Pope Pius XII did everything he could to stop the Holocaust, which he did not. He did nothing.
The truth about Pius XII's role in World War II finally comes out in a blockbuster new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author David Kertzer - "The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler" - based largely on secret Vatican World War II Archives only made available to researchers by Pope Francis in March 2020.
Kertzer's book is authoritative, well-documented and well-written. But I also found it profoundly shocking, because it contradicts everything I'd been taught in Catholic high school and college about the Vatican's role in World War II.
In a recent interview with Kertzer (up soon on my podcast, "The Bill Press Pod," I began with three basic questions. First, did Pius XII ever publicly condemn Hitler or Mussolini? The answer is No. In fact, as Kertzer documents, the Pope signed a sweetheart deal with Mussolini whereby he would not criticize the fascist government as long as Mussolini didn't interfere with the church. Consequently, Pius XII never publicly criticized Italy's antisemitic laws, which banned Jewish children from public schools, threw Jews out of the military and civil service, dismissed all Jewish schoolteachers and university professors, and barred Jews from working in banks or insurance companies. Privately, the Pope only asked one favor of Mussolini: that he spare Jews who'd been baptized Catholic from his government's crackdown.
Diplomatically, Pius XII also maintained good relations with Nazi Germany. He ordered the Vatican newspaper not to publish anything critical of Hitler's government. As Bishop of Rome, he presided over Italy's Catholic priests and bishops, who held masses in support of an Axis victory over the Allies. The Pope was seen as such a good friend of Germany that, even as late as March 1944, when it was clear the Allies were likely to win the war, Ernst von Weizsacker, Germany's ambassador to the Vatican, cabled Hitler: "The Pope is working six days a week for Germany, on the seventh he prays for the Allies."
My second question to Kertzer: "Did Pius XII know the Nazis were relentlessly rounding up Jews in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, and Italy and sending them to death camps? And did he ever condemn it?" The answer is Yes, he knew all about it. Church and government leaders from every one of those countries kept the Vatican informed of the ongoing slaughter of millions of Jews and begged him to speak out. But No, he never condemned the Holocaust. He maintained his silence throughout.
Third question: "Did Pius XII know about the round-up of Jews in Rome, in the shadow of the Vatican, and did he do anything to stop it?" Again, the answer is
Yes and No. Kertzer tells of one chilling episode on Oct. 16, 1943, when over 1,000 Jews were arrested and held for two days near the Apostolic Palace before being shipped off to Auschwitz. When informed of the men, women, and children marked for death waiting just outside the Vatican, the Pope directed his secretary of state to express his "concerns" to the German ambassador, but didn't do anything to help them.
Over the years, the Vatican has put forth many explanations for Pius XII's silence while the Holocaust, which he was fully aware of, was underway. To this day, they argue he wanted to appear neutral, so he could be an eventual peace broker; he feared even more innocent lives might be lost if he spoke out; he was trying to protect Catholics in Germany and Italy. But none of those excuses hold up. Unwilling to antagonize either Hitler or Mussolini, Pius XII kept his mouth shut in the face of the greatest moral outrage of our time.
Meanwhile, forces inside the Vatican are still trying to rush Pius XII to sainthood. In 1990, in declaring him "Venerable," Pope Benedict XVI urged waiting until Vatican Archives were released before deciding if Pius XII should be declared a saint. Well, now we know. Pius XII was no saint, he was a coward. As David Kertzer boldly concludes: "As a moral leader, Pius XII must be judged a failure."
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